Saturday, August 20, 2011


And throughout all eternity
I forgive you, you forgive me.
                      William Blake  (from My Spector)

All day today I have been reading about friends and friendships---and about the loss of friends and friendships.  I've also been reading about forgiving and forgiveness.  I have been reading on these topics in an effort to come to terms with my personal reality around these remarkable--borderline essential--aspects of Life.  
In the past month or so, some really good, long time friends removed me from their friendship list.  They stopped including me in their social events.  They told mutual friends that I was now persona non grata in their book. Why?  Because we turned up on different sides of an important and volatile socio-political world issue:  The Palestinian/Israeli issue.  I've also been "unfriended" on facebook by a good buddy who e-mailed me--after the fact--and told me that he could no longer tolerate my sympathetic posts about Gaza.  And just tonight, coming out of a movie theater, two staunch and unyielding Zionists---long time friends with whom I have traveled, celebrated, danced and broken bread---saw me, made eye contact and turned away in a snub-like fashion! 

 ...I walk to my car, unlock the door, sit with my head and hands on the steering wheel and cry...not because I feel snubbed; not because I realize I won't be among the guests at their lovely parties anymore but because I am filled with a familiar, yet confusing sense of existential sadness about everything---including the film I have just seen.* 

Perhaps some older, sentimental readers might remember a book from the 60's called  A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You.  I'm thinking of it now.   It is a very small format gift book that one might give to a friend or a child.  It is profusely illustrated with images of sweet-looking people performing kind acts--like smiling or bestowing a kiss on a forehead or presenting someone with a bouquet of wildflowers...Actually, I made that part up.  I don't recall any of the slim text nor any of the illustrations.  I only remember the title...

Is it possible for a "friend" to like you---but not to like what you do or what you believe?  I think the answer is sometimes...some friends...                    

When I returned from Gaza in 2009, I learned that a close friend had called me an anti-Semite.  Ouch!!  I called him immediately and arranged to meet and talk.  He came to the Gallery.  Because we have been friends for decades, we took time to speak and listen to one another.  We acknowledged and explained our feelings, our opposing points of view.  After a brief conversation, my friend--a creative and successful older Jewish man--embraced me.  He said, "I know you're not Anti-Semitic...I know if they come to get me you will hide me."  "Yes!  I will hide you, I will hide you." I told him.

Yes, of course I would hide him.  I would defend him and protect him with all that is in me...if they came to get him...if they came...

I think about his words and I recall the tremble in his embrace.   My Palestinian position had wounded him.  It wasn't so much a disagreement about politics.  It was an absence of understanding about a soul issue.  In the presence of his authentic, marrow-level fear, a piece of my ( perhaps narrow) point of view slipped off my know-it-all shoulder and fell away.  My friend has something I do not have (never have had):  a sense of belonging to something profound.--albeit, in my friend's case, the profound was profoundly painful! 

My friend harbors an indelible fear of something shared by his "tribe":  a deep dread of what might happen to him based upon what happened to his Jewish relatives in Germany, Poland, Hungary...He lives with this  fear and from time to time it flares afresh--unsummoned--triggered by something as seemingly innocuous as  reports of a friend's journey to  Gaza---and her subsequently published  cri de guerre. My quoted words triggered something in my friend, caused him to imagine that what happened in Europe, during the war, might happen again, might happen to him.   The power of the "cry" we all know and repeat and associate with the horror of the Holocaust "Never Again, Never Again" holds no comfort for him.  His truth  trumps my experience... 
I have no deeply imbedded personal, generational family history.  I have never had a particular religion.  I have never bonded with my Scotch-Irish ancestors.  Sadly, in my family there were no stories of our Irish relatives and forebears (except the one about Uncle Buzzie, whom I never met and who was found dead in a Philadelphia flop house---having drunk a can of Sterno).  I never bonded with my "white bread" ethnicity nor with the Protestant-style "Sunday School" I attended where I memorized Bible verses and Jesus songs, nor with my race nor even with my family.  Directly put:  I don't bond well. 
                             "...Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,
                                  red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight,
                                  Jesus loves the little children of the world."    

Until recently, I assumed that I bonded well enough with friends---but now, I doubt it. (dubito ergo sum).  I'm not certain I understand friendship in the way  friendship is meant (?) to be understood.  Solitude and meditation and loneliness (three daily components of my current life) can elicit thoughts of doubt in a person!  On the totally positive side: I am beginning to understand LOVE.

It's only partially true that I don't bond well.  I bond with the disenfranchised and with those who are hurt or stuck or vulnerable or oppressed.  I bonded with the women and children of Palestine for example--and with their sons and brothers and fathers whose frustration leads them--not towards peace and comfort and safety---but farther away.  And I bond with those who stand up to injustice---regardless of the consequences.  I bond with those who work and pray for solutions to poverty, ignorance, powerlessness...wars.  I bond with ideals more than with individuals. 

I love whoever I'm with.  When I'm not with them (not writing to them, talking with them, lunching with them) I file them away.  I hardly think of them.  Instead, I think of how to find cures for the socio/political diseases of our times...and how to mend the broken friendships in our world.  

I confront my abiding sense of loneliness by embracing opportunities for friendships; all kinds, everywhere.  I know that "nothing lasts forever."  I understand that  I am not the "decider" of how friendships should be...and I realize that I am frequently unsuccessful in presenting the true reasons for my search for friendship and acceptance and understanding. 
 I believe that  we ALL are alone...and that "we are one"...and that no man (woman) is an island...and I understand the essence of the statements: "to each his (or her) own"...and don't judge anyone until you walk a mile in their shoes and...and...
and I guess it's true that "a friend is someone who likes you"...And I want to be that someone. 

Every day, I move closer to being one who likes everyone...If I can't like them because of some personal hurt or slight I've experienced from them (real or imagined) or because of some "wrong" they have done or I have done, then...I will  LOVE them.  

I practice a personal love action when I am alone in a public place with lots of people moving this way and that---like in an airport or a market.  I direct my gaze toward them as they pass in front of me...and I project these words at them (without moving my lips) "I LOVE YOU".  It's surprising to discover how difficult it is to sustain the practice.  Pretty soon my mind is wandering into petty judgements about their posture or their weight... 

I struggle in these difficult times to find a meaningful place for myself--a meaningful and positive way of being in this world.   

What kind of friend am I? 
I wonder.  Is there any friend to whom I would give a kidney?  What do I do to make friends, support friends, love friends? 

As I write this, I realize I'm not certain what I mean by friend or friendship...I notice that I really want to get away from this keyboard...make some tea or watch something on television and not think about people I've hurt or people who have hurt me and what--if anything--can be done about it. In fact:  I'm going to save what I've written so far and go outside for a few minutes.  It's raining here in the desert and I want to get wet...

* The Help

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