Today is Matt’s birthday. He’s pretty old—I mean, not really, not in the way these things are really counted. I don’t think he’s even old enough to have muscled any number of people through the wilderness yet, though he is doing a good job with the beard. He says he feels old, however, even though he far outpaces all of us in energy and drive. So here
are five fun things One Fun Thing for Matt on his birthday.*
As I said, I’ve been trying to write about Spiritual Friendship, and it’s been kind of a bear, because the subject is somehow both particular and vague, if that is even possible. Like, what, exactly is a proper definition of Friendship? Except that you know it when you have it, and you know it, even more, when you don’t. And what about Spiritual? In this day and age, that could mean anything.
As far as I’ve been able to glean from reading, it seems a sort of amalgamation of two dispositions about friendship. The first is that of being genuinely related to one another in Christ as all Christians should be. The second is the idea of being drawn to some people rather than others, through that mysterious business of chemistry, or charisma, or even serendipitous circumstance. Anne of Green Gables—that great philosopher—was always looking for Kindred Spirits. The problem with this second kind is that it sometimes wanders over into the wilderness of romance, or at least it shares many properties with that other kind of love. That certain spark you feel with someone you hope will be your friend is similar, some of the time, to the spark you feel when you fall in love, and many people today don’t want to be able to tell the difference.
So anyway, in the literature, as they say, of Spiritual Friendship, these two are joined together in some sort of nebulous marriage, where the Christian part seems to be subsumed under the “I’m super attracted to you” part. In this way, and this is my long-winded point, regular friendships, as well as those with just a hint of eroticism, are “spiritualized” or turned into a very holy idea, and nobody must question them. At the same time, we are told that marriage should take a back seat. Marriage is a “myth.” It’s not really possible for a man to be friends with his wife, at least not in the way that he might be friends with his friends (of course). To which I can only say:
All kidding aside, of all the things I am grateful for (and there are many) the most essential one is that I am able to be friends with the person I’m married to. It is true that a lot of cultures write this off as a myth, a total impossibility—why would you want to be friends with someone so unlike you, so incomprehensible, so strange? That is contrary to all sense. Better that your wife occupy one part of your life–the hearth–and that your true friends are there for you under the Baobab, waiting to commiserate with you in all of your hardships, especially those you endure as a result of having to live with your wife.
What many people in this culture don’t factor in when they idealize the situations of others is that in those cultures, a person wouldn’t be so foolish as to leave any of this up to chance. The wife is arranged for you, but so also is the friend. It is a formal affair, in which the whole community has a say. The spark–that little something that you look for but is always so elusive–is no more at your fingertips there than here, and sometimes a man even finds it with his wife, though he would be loath to admit it even to his closest friends.
Which is why people resort to divine providence to explain those strange moments when the arrangements of us poor creatures are superseded and the match, as they say, is “made in heaven.” Which is how my friendly marriage is. I am more fortunate than everyone else, and I’m sorry for you, but it can’t be helped.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my regularly scheduled interruptions.
*I’ve been writing this since five this morning and have been so interrupted that all the ones I was actually working up to—especially this one:
have to be for another day. Sorry!