Sunday, March 29, 2009

Notes on Sociality

When out with a friend I was asked, 'So, what's the secret to life?'

Now my friend has a great sense of humor and I reckoned I best respond to it with humor:

'Ah, right. Let's see. Do what you love. Be highly demanding of high quality of company in your life and never, ever, compromise on qualitative relationships. Never skip breakfast. Call your parents often. Don't start up a fight in the evening and don't go to bed angry. You know, the usu.
Dude, your hair looks weird today. Switched shampoos? So, what are you ordering?'

Subsequently, we both laughed as the end of the chunk was as a good a way to finish my bit as any and while I thought I'd just make a joke out of the question, I ended up giving a candid reaction.

I feel strongly about the importance of rooted sociality as, I find, it relates to much else of significance in life. When speaking with a younger family member I waxed philosophical again and apparently observed the following: 'When you make new friends, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Are they going to help me become a better version of myself? If not, that's why language has terms like: neighbor, colleague, riding buddy, acquaintance, someone I run into when I pick up my cleaning, my significant other's friend, my brother's best pal, friends, pals, buds, et al. ' To my surprise, the younger family member did not gift me with a rolling of the eyes. Instead what I got was: 'Yeahl Like so-and-so is fun but I wouldn't say we're like good friends, you know?'
"I know."

My poet grandfather used to say: 'Tell me who you go with and I'll tell you who you are.' And I believe that fully, too. Most certainly not out of familial obligation but out of sensible sincerity. I am of the thought that qualitative living is predicated upon conscienteous screening and careful examination of the quality of company in our dealings.

An examined existence is a qualitative existence and it needs to be preserved unapologetically. Call it a life philosophy, if you will. Tell me who you go with, I'll tell you who you are.

Bamber, an excellent blogger over at Prettier than Napoleon, writes:

"How involved do you get with your friends' lives? Do you support them in their time of trouble with a "there, there"? Take their side against all comers? Become emotionally invested in their struggles with third parties? I have a friend whose partner tired of her discussing the trials and travails of various friends and their drama, and sometimes I wonder if I too am too consumed with the interpersonal struggles of others. Does that consumption show that you're relatively caring and empathetic? Or is it just a waste of mental energy?"

Now, to answer Bamber's questions, I am of the opinion that involvement in friends' lives needs to be in accordance with the kind of intimacy and familiarity you mutually share. I believe in a hierarchy of emotional investment which is congruent with the level of intimacy that's bestowed upon the people in that hierarchy.
Being highly discriminative of one's emotional efforts and where they go is, to me, a sign of human maturity.
At least I hold this to be true.

Tip of the hat to Bamber for the food for thought.

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Tina said...

'Tell me who you go with and I'll tell you who you are.'
Amen, grandpa!!
I appreciated this. I also get peeved by people who refer to me as their friend when I don't know, or care to know, the first thing about them.

What was that phrase you used to say re: new friends "I'm not hiring, sorry!'

Jokes aside, I got it. Thanks.

aflo said...

What I like to say is that who you are is who you attract. Thus, "Tell me who you go with and I'll tell you who you are" :-)

Becca said...

I agree with the premise.
I also get annoyed when pursued by those who have no business pursuing me. It's insulting and even degrading.
Yes, humans are equal.
Equality, however, is something that needs to be examined closely.
Good post.

Unknown said...

I cracked up at this.
I agree. Having standards, unapologetic standards is key to healthy sociality.
I appreciate this!

Unknown said...

You guys seeing Jenny Lewis?

Brooke said...

Yes. It's a concern of mine, too. I don't get it why so many people insist on self-defining as 'friends' of so-and-so when there is no genuine intimacy between the parties involved. It's another sign of an uber-superficial culture that celebrates fluff over substance.

"..involvement in friends' lives needs to be in accordance with the kind of intimacy and familiarity you mutually share."
I concur. To your place be true. Cool spot, B.R.

Anonymous said...

It all boils down to g-pa's old adage.

Sra said...

I agree, particularly with the emotion bit. I've been on both sides of unbalanced emotional connections, and they are just a bad idea. I like to think now I'm pretty good at moderating that. I think sometimes I keep myself too closed off from non-friends, though.

Nat said...

Nothing gets on my nerves more than people who impose their 'friendship' on me. And I don't even know the first thing about them.
It's vexing.

Liam said...

i like the distinction of "qualitative living". i also appreciate the list of acceptable terms for those people with whom one interacts yet might not consider "friends". it seems people often forget such terms and qualification.

B.R. said...

Def. seeing Jenny Lewis. We love her! See the most recent post.
I do believe in the importance of distance from non-friends because the little energy one has left needs to be invested rightly on the meaningful relationships in one's life. First, the partner, then the family and close friendships. I don't think, social hierarchy is that novel a concept.
And that does, I find, lead to qualitative living. At least, that's how I roll.
The few get it all, the rest get a smile. :)

Will said...

Without a hierarchy of emotion, how can one rightly relate to those that matter? I agree with the premise of this as it's what I tend to do, too. I also get annoyed by unsolicited attention or unwanted intimacy and familiarity. I would go so far as to say, I find it degrading.
This gave me more 'food' for thought. thks.