February 25, 2008

"human being" as a verb ?

One of my dearest friends and I have a theory about the friends in one's life and the friends we miss (or don't) when they aren't around. This has come up in more than a few conversations in the past months as all us 20-somethings figure out with whom we connect and then how much of our limited time and energy we want to invest in creating a friendship/relationship with a particular person.

The theory has two parts, which go like this:

part 1: at any given time in one's life where one is somewhat stable (ie staying in a single place for at least a year) there are certain types of friends that one needs in order to be happy.

The specific types of friends that one needs are different for each person, but they are generally like "the friend I run with" "the friend I see bad chick flicks with" "the friend I call in a crisis" "the friend I go out dancing with" "the friend I talk about politics with" etc. And people tend to fill these roles, more or less, wherever they are, with the people around them. Not that each friend necessarily corresponds to only one role - in my experience friends tend to play several roles at once and often have changed the roles they play over the course of our friendships.

And this does not mean that these friendships are insignificant, on the contrary, these are the basis of most friendships -common interests and shared life experiences- and as each vital role is filled by a different person, that person alters all future expectations and standards for that role and by doing so changes the way in which one processes interactions and events from that point on. That's the stuff of personal growth.

part 2: Some of these friends only stay in our lives for a few weeks, a semester, or a year, some for many many more than that, and then there are the special few who although they also start as a specific role (or roles), through shared experiences and unique interactions, they alter their role into one that differs from anyone who occupied that space in our lives before them until they are the only ones capable of filling it. And this is when a relationship becomes one that goes beyond mutual experience and growth to a connection of souls.

"Ubuntu: a noun to speak about the essence of being human; umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (a person is a person through (other) persons); you can't be human in isolation"
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"Human being is much more a verb than a noun"
-Rachel Naomi Remen (in Kitchen Table Wisdom)

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