“Beneath our modern guises we all long to belong to one tribe or another which would help us face not just the problems of our nation but of our individual lives as well…the reason lies deep in our evolutionary past as a communal species.” Sebastian Junger in The Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
“And so it has ever been. In ancient history and prehistory, tribes gained comfort and pride from familiar fellowship, and a way to defend the group enthusiastically against rival groups. It gave people a name in addition to their own and social meaning in a chaotic world…The drive to join is deeply ingrained, a result of a complicated evolution that has led our species to a condition that biologists call eusociality. “Eu-,” of course, is a prefix meaning pleasant or good…” E.O. Wilson in Newsweek from The Social Conquest of Man
It’s always an adventure when something sets me to thinking. This past week several separate strands of thought braided themselves together to lead to this post.
First: Last week on Senior Salon, a linking site for blogs that I participate in hosted by Bernadette from HaddonMusings, I read a blog that started me thinking. Jodie asked her blog readers what we thought we should call bloggers we get to know well enough through their posts that we feel we really know and like them. (The general consensus was “blog friend.”) And she asked the bigger question: “What is a friend?” (link to Jodie’s post http://www.jtouchofstyle.com/what-is-a-friend/)
I might add a corollary: What does it take to be a friend? Do we have to regularly see friends (as in occupy the same space), or can we have friends we rarely or never see?
The Second thought-producing occurrence last week: There is a blogger I have come to feel a connection to, in addition to liking her blog. She seems a kindred soul, someone who shares similar sensibilities, activities, sense of humor, and even many life experiences with me. Just before I read Jodie’s post with the question about “blog friends,” I had suggested to her that she felt like a friend. I did worry if I was being inappropriate or invading her space. The trouble with a virtual friendship is that there are no facial clues, no spacial nuances, that say, “Hey, want to meet me at the coffee shop, talk for a while, and see if we can be friends?” or conversely, cues that say, “back up, you’re moving too far too fast.”
Ironically, though I have blogged for years, I only recently explored other’s blogs deeply. I used to like posts, but now I comment on them, “talk” back and forth. In life, while I think I’m personable, I do not tend to reveal my deeper self very readily. Yet, while I still have a number of “secrets,” I have shared myself through my writing at levels I don’t always. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, it’s that a blog is a bit like a diary that other people sometimes find and enjoy. I suspect that is part of it, but that there’s more. I think that blogging connects us to communities of like-minded people. Also, it makes me ask, can you really like people’s writing without growing to like them?
That brings me to the third thing that provoked thought last week; I read a New York Times review of Sebastian Junger’s new book which I quoted above. He really made me think about our need for connection, for relationships of meaning. His book, which I know I’ll buy, is largely about the intense bonding characteristic of military platoons and how veterans struggle when they return to civilian life where this kind of bond is largely absent.
So I started researching and found E.O. Wilson who put it this way in Newsweek: “Today, the social world of each modern human is not a single tribe but rather a system of interlocking tribes, among which it is often difficult to find a single compass. People savor the company of like-minded friends…yearn to be in one of the best tribes—a combat Marine regiment, perhaps, an elite college, the executive committee of a company, a religious sect, a fraternity, a garden club—any collectivity…” Yes! The Executive team of my agency, my Program Directors team, the staff from the programs we ran, my church, the choir I sing in, Master Gardeners, Senior Salon….my tribes!
The fourth thing that led to this post was a (real live, face to face) conversation with a friend. I brought up the questions to her…can you be friends with people you never see? What is a friend?
As we talked about this, she suggested the best thing to call “blog friends” might be ‘puter pals. She reminded me when we were kids schools created “pen pals” between students in different states. She lived in Tennessee and wrote to a pal in Maine. I lived in upstate New York and had a school pal from Pennsylvania. But my best pen pal was my cousin, Paula, who lived in Buffalo. We wrote to each other for years and were life long friends. Writing her created perspective, and an amazing and deep connection.
So where does this all end up? Two last quotes: “There are some people who make you laugh a little harder, smile a little bigger, and live a little better.” and “True friends don’t live next door, they live in the heart.”
I always think of “frenemies” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who dying on the same day, rejoiced in the idea that the other lived. They had very different viewpoints, had been friends and adversaries, but kept their deep relationship vibrantly alive in letters. I think Blogs are like that.
In fact, they are like life. They bring people together. Sometimes, that will be like those people we meet and never see again, other times the result will be fond acquaintances we connect with occasionally, and lastly, the select few will become friends, real friends, who coalesce around shared interests, similar ideas, and comparable values.
So to all of you, acquaintances, Senior Salon members, ‘puter pals and friends…I am so glad to have met you. I hope we’ll visit often and get to know each other better. We are members of the blogging tribe, and friendship is a gift we give each other, one I love sharing with you. And though we don’t live next door, I am only a click away. Thank you for making me laugh, and smile, and be a better person.