Friday, March 03, 2006

One Uplifts the Other in Learning

Some of my favorite notions of friendship come from C.S. Lewis. Yeah, he's the one that wrote the recently-popularized Narnia books, which, up until Disney got ahold of them, were these secret chests of imagery I felt I was part of an elite few to know. When not writing books about children, Clive had some fascinatingly profound things to say:

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one!"

This morning I got up to a rather normal day off in the life of Jen, which usually consists of a numerous amount of "you shoulds..." piling up at my feet. "You should" bike the trails at UBC. "You should" go running. "You should" finish that article for the heritage gardening site. "You should" go grab an americano at your favorite Vancouver coffee shop, and visit your friends there. And so I did.

There seems to be a trend developing. I almost have Fridays off, and I almost always venture down Commercial Drive for a coffee. Last week I started up a conversation about cameras with the man sitting next to me on the Turks patio. Turns out he's a freelance writer in from Japan, and he recommended a great writing website for me to check out. (Thanks, wherever you are!) Today, while waiting in line for Kyle's perfectly pulled espresso shot, I ran into Kat, from my salsa dancing classes back in December. She's a pretty cool cat, pardon the pun, and all you locals should check out her concert review blog. (Guess who just figured out the quick way of doing active links? Oh, me me!) I love days that surprise you. Days that make you say with conviction what I said over the counter moments prior: "Yeah, me and Life are getting along pretty well these days." The hours melted into hours, leaving coffee-stained rims on the metal table; and I was reminded by her of why I write, why I moved here, why I am happily unsettled right now, and of the sweetness of instant connection.

I don't know why I am so surprised when I meet people so much like me. I mean, there's only so many ways a person can be, right? They are infinite, yet limited. By processess of socialization or molding or whatever term you may give it, our "raw matter" is shaped into the creations we become. Meeting someone who is a lot like you--liking the colour green, with similar music tastes, reading the same book(s), a "dabbler" of the many rather than honer-of-the-few. . . can startle you into the notion that somewhere along the chain of each of your development something happened to produce these twin qualities. It's like looking into a semi-fogged mirror; certain things remain clear while others are completely blocked out, unknown, underexposed.

Our little table brought Brandy, Lara, and Jen over, (a girl I had Thanksgiving dinner with in October and haven't seen since!) and I was reminded by Lara how Lent can become just like Valentine's day, Christmas, and New Years. A time where we are sort-of "forced" to love, to give, to resolve. Shouldn't we be striving for these things at all times and in all places? Shouldn't we always be looking to rid ourselves of the trappings that hold us? So, as a result of this conversation, I've decided to do a week-by-week Lenten journey. Each week I'm going to give up something different. This way I will achieve a greater breadth of renunciation, a greater range of asceticism. (Extravagant of me, I know.) Starting today, it's no alcohol. (Strategically placed during the week before Mark comes. I like drinking beer with him. . . ) It won't really be that hard, but I'm sure there will be times I'll just have to be strong. Like this weekend, for example! We'll see what no no's next week brings. I'm open to suggestions, or if you want to live your giving-ups vicariously through me. (This could get dangerous!)

Tonight's Gathering meeting is on Time. I just finished listening to Dee Carstensen's Time in preparation. For those of you not familiar with her angelic harp-laced folk melodies, here's a snippet of the chorus: Time gets me wound up like a clock inside my head/Time gets me spinning my own wheat/and when I think that there ain't one more inch/this worn-out heart can give/Time's gonna teach me how to live/ Time gets you wound up like a clock inside your head/Time gets you spinning your own wheat/and while you're losing what you've found you're finding out that's what you need/Time's gonna teach you how it feels.

So back to the theme of friendship which I somehow lost along the way, I'll finish with an observation I wrote last Friday in my new Moleskin journal (the legendary journal of Hemingway, Chatwin, and Van Gogh . . .good omens, think I):

The concept of friendship is stil unbelievable to me. The miracle of progression from acquaintance to mutual enjoyment to die-hard loyalty leaves me breathless. Looking around at pairs of companions, I wonder about the time those two chattering mothers, pushing their strollers now on a sunny afternoon, had only a cursory knowledge of the other. There is a light that breaks through, exposing our cracks, when friendship is found. We cannot plan for it. We can scarcely name it. We do not know when it will drop down on us. All we can do is raise our hands to the sky--perhaps the most honest gesture towards the Divine we can manage--and say "thank you."

(Yeah, and picture is again taken from Jordan Bent. I just really really like him. Entitled One Uplifts the Other in Learning. Acrylic on canvas. Sweet.)

1 comment:

Mark said...

I'm glad to hear the the beer fast is strategically timed.

I already made my suggestion of what to give up in the last post, but I'll reiterate. All music from both your computer and your iPod.