Friendship in the Age of Social Media

 Friendship, today that word seems to have taken on a new meaning. We have “friends” on Facebook, we are connected through Twitter and Instagram, I have followers of this blog as well as followers on the other social media platforms, yet, are they friends? Friends in the true sense of the word, the classic dictionary definition:

A person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance. A person on the same side in a struggle; one who is not an enemy or foe; ally. A supporter or sympathizer. Something thought of as like a friend in being helpful, reliable, etc.

 When I read the definition, I cannot say that I have many “true” friends on social media, while some are real in the classical sense of being a friend, most are acquaintances, people I have known in various stages of my life, but not close, not intimate. I could not share my inner thoughts with many, I could not share my own struggles and doubts, and recently I cannot even share my own political views. 

 I began really thinking about friendship after going out last evening with two of my oldest and dearest friends, Bill and Bob. It was Bob, Bill, Mike, Ted and I who formed the our small but close group. Our friendships began long ago when we were in high school at a time of peer pressure, the desire to conform, yet to also rebel, a time when one is trying to figure out the confusing signals that come with teenage angst. Bob, I have known since the third grade and he came into my life at a time when I was having difficulties in adjusting to a new school, new people, and also the lingering effects of tragedy at home. Our third grade teacher was, to put it mildly, was my Gorgon. In my imagination she was evil, a witch, a dark shadow that over whelmed all that I tried to do. Going to school then was my journey into Mordor and I was the Hobbit just trying to survive by keeping my head down. It was during this turbulent time that Bob and I became friends, hanging around together, going to each other’s homes and generally being boys. Mike, I would meet in our Freshman year at Framingham South as part of the Class of ‘69. He was one of five boys and his dad was a career Navy man so it was his mom who ruled their home. Mike and I would get together at his home after school, watch Dark Shadows and consume several cans of Hi-C fruit drinks. It wasn’t long after that when Bob, Mike and yours truly began hanging out together and by the time we reached our Junior year, Bill and Ted became part of our crew.

 Throughout the years we have all grown, Mike, Bob and I, all joined the Army together after we graduated in 1969. After basic we went our separate ways, with Mike and I ending up in Vietnam and Bob being stationed in Alaska. Bill and Ted went to college, where we lost contact with Ted, but the four of us remained close. We shared our joys, our struggles, our lives with each other. Even as we moved along, getting married, having kids, choosing our vocations, we remained close.

 There are so many stories to be told about our friendship, some funny, some sad, but all of them born out of our deep affection for one another. Now as we grow older, move into new phases of being grandparents and re-defining our lives, our friendship shows little or no sign of going away. Sure, distance, family and life do get in the way, yet, each of us knows that when called upon we can be assured that they will be there to support, give comfort and be that friendly ear.

 As I sit here and write, I feel a sense of loss in these deep friendships. With the advent of social media, and the accumulation of acquaintances rather than friends, I feel a deep sense of loss. Most of my Facebook “friends” are good folks, I like them but I could never share with them on the same level as I do with those four. Being an introvert and never one to put myself out there just to have friends, I find the whole thing, depressing. 

 Is it a part of the aging process? I don’t think so, having time alone, to read, write and be in that blissful state of solitude has its own reward. I also have that most beautiful of friendships with my partner and spouse, someone I can be me with, who knows my many foibles, yet, still loves me as I love her. 

Anniversary

Okay, Wendell Berry says shun the electrical wire

find a quiet place, a place of solitude and peace

there, in the quiet let the words flow out from you

write them down as you picture the projected scene

capturing the sights, sounds, smells and textures

remembering the feelings that each evoked.

The sweetness of that first tentative, nervous kiss 

the birdsong that emanated from the meadows and fields

as we walked along hand in hand, warm sun shining

remembering how the heart felt when love entered

into the very depths of my soul and made me yours.

Sitting here now in the silence, in solitude, remembering

I write the scenes I see on the screen of my mind

trying to shun the electrical wires and mechanical noises

that drown out the soft sounds that lie deep within the heart

sounds of the Spirit that sighs too deep for words,

the still small voice heard in the deep silence

the mystical root connecting me to you and you to me.

Hey! Snowflake

You’re called snowflake

as if you are weak,

blown about by the winds

melting away quickly.

Yet, they do not know

that each snowflake is unique

a one of a kind

crystalline form,

a complex geometric pattern

that floats on the wind

to be caught on eager tongues

of children laughing.

Shaped by nature’s hand,

when combined 

a force that closes cities

stop trains, 

forcing us to slow down,

to remember 

we to are unique

one of a kind,

complex geometric patterns

that will one day

melt away

leaving only the green

planted so long ago.

Keeping the Faith in the Dark

I’m out of place

in the wrong time

in the wrong world.

My life barrels along

yet no progress is made

I seek comfort in words,

but only find a blank page.

Prayer is my hope

but the words are dry

no miracles this day.

The pews are empty

the people scoff

come down from your pulpit

that cross you bear,

they all say.

Even the faithful

mock my every move

we’re too busy 

to listen to you.

I try each day 

to recall those words

the ones I heard

in the silence of my heart,

when you sought my life

and called out my name

even if I wasn’t smart.

So I followed you

dropping my nets

along the shoreline

and into the wilderness

I walked,

that lonely path.

You are the Way,

the Truth and Life,

how can so many

prefer death?

The nails are hammered 

the sound loud on the coffin

of the life I’ve chosen.

I believe, I cry!

Help my unbelief.

Now there is only silence

as I listen for that voice

in the depths of the darkness,

leading me to the light.

Thoughts on a Saturday

There is that sense of being outside

not part of the inner circle

always sitting on the periphery

looking in while looking out

never feeling left out

living in the imagination

of what is wrought in my mind

walking worlds that don’t exist

breaking free from the bonds of reality

that seek to control this wayward soul.

Meditation

Sitting in the darkened church

all is silent the only sound my breath

flowing in and out from my body

my eyes are closed, as I kneel there.

In this silence I feel your presence

as I whisper prayers into the air.

I’m only a simple man, not a prophet

I only seek to write the poetry

that lives deep within my heart

the words placed there at creation

that yearn to be freed from the dark

to see the beauty of this world 

in the very simple things of life.

To smell the sweetness of the forest

as the wind passes through the trees

watching as the sun rises in the morning

the sky afire with the promise of a new day.

The world is full of fear and anger

there is a deep joylessness 

that infects the hearts and minds.

My poor poets words seek to pierce 

through the gloom and despair

to find hope and joy once again.

Here in this silence I seek your Word

here in the darkened church

I kneel before your altar

within my soul I hear your voice calling,

“Oh man, arise and see the light,

give voice to the words you hear

write with the heart of a poet,

be not afraid for I am with you.”