My wife and I spent the afternoon on a restaurant patio with friends today. It was a glorious September day with a near perfect temperature, a peaceful location amongst large trees and various greenery. Of course, the tables were covid-spaced for safety and wearing a mask was irrelevant since one had to eat.
The staff were courteous and helpful, I’m sure somewhat relieved to be working. I noticed the number of closed restaurants on the way to this one and felt that sadness that is a constant companion these days. Sadness over the loss of businesses and the dreams of their owners; sadness over the livelihoods of staff vanishing with seemingly no hope of their ever returning; sadness over the destruction of lifestyles, work relationships, and the possibility that this pandemic will be with us for a very, very long time.
All this was part of my inner life when we met with our friends, whom we hadn’t seen since before covid changed everything. It was a joyful reunion with lots to discuss. The main topic was where we all want to live as we enter our retirement years. We all shared the desire to put a big city behind us and find a smaller, quieter place to be. So there was lots of talk about houses, towns, selling, buying, real estate markets, etc. And while all these details were important, it was the being with friends part that was most enjoyable.
“Of all the means to insure happiness throughout the whole life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.” – Epicurus
Indeed, the above quote from one of my favourite philosophers rings as true today as it ever did. Friends are “people who know you well but love you anyway” (can’t recall where I heard that one). These ideas were poised in the back of my mind as our conversation developed. There was genuine yet unstated concern for each others’ well being as a large life decision was being bandied about. I really want our friends to be able to make the right choices and find themselves in a happy situtation for their retirement years. And I sensed a reciprocal feeling from them.
And this is the key to the matter. We are each individuals, and as couples, we each have our own lives to live. This is tacitly understood while we all felt that genuine desire for others to do well and be happy. It is that desire, combined with the acceptance of our individual choices that seems to be a hallmark of real friendships. Further, we can be apart for months at a time and find that combination of care and acceptance of difference to be just as it was when we last saw each other.
Imagine a world in which there was genuine care and concern for others combined with an acceptance of their decisions. That is the example of fine human relationships that friendship can highlight.
And after being isolated in our homes for months at a time, to get together with people and experience such friendship is a real joy!