Swirling beneath the surface or deeply embedded within the spoken word is yet another meaning, an additional understanding or interpretation that is dependent upon the receiver’s frame of mind or point of reference in accepting that word. The paths that the person has traveled in his life will have an impact on the message’s content as well. Often, trusting that the speaker has the same state of mind or set of references that he does, the receiver will take the word for its surface value, not thinking to look into the current that carried the speaker into giving it…or not.
Those additional meanings could also exist because those spoken words were wrought in deception as a ruse, to mislead, to cover wrong-doings and hidden or veiled thoughts. They were presented to protect others or the self or bring unjust scrutiny where it is not needed, diverting inspection from where it is due. Gossip, lies, and rumors bred to undermine, to make others feel secure in their own estimation…to shake foundations and crumble established ways of thinking, perceptions, and values. Visible or imagined circumstances are mated with ill-conceived thoughts and a new ‘truth’ is born. It breathes with a life of its own, spread and passed-along as righteousness…contextual and circumstantial truths that reek in filth and deception until they are discovered and ripped apart with the knife of examination, eviscerated under the light of explanation and detail…but the damage is still done, the seed was planted and doubt has grown, sprouted and thriving in another life with its germinal droppings carried by the wind of conversation and whispered in hushed tones of ‘Have you heard?’
How many of our lives’ courses have been steered aside by a single phrase or the circumstantial pairing of words? What lashes across the back have been felt because of either ill-spoken words or ones that were found to be false? What taste of blood was brought to mouth because of an offense, a broken bone or ringing of ears caused by a violence that spews from hands evil with wrongdoing; might over weakness, forcefulness over fearfulness; the victims’ souls splayed open by the sharp tongue. How many lives and reputations in past and present have been sullied by murmured falsehoods and contrived deeds?
But words also nurture and bind and comfort and heal and uplift and encourage and inspire and lead many from sickness to health and from self-doubt to greatness and success…love-spoken words can be salves that heal our wounds and reveal truths that wash-away the scourge and disease of the bitter tongue…that fortify, that vanquish evil and doubt and failure…and stir to a greatness unimagined. And sometimes, too, these soothing and healing and uplifting and inspiring words are lies bound in sweet hope that they will be believed and acted-upon and taken to magnificent ends…causing the receiver to believe the words and dig into themselves to make them true because the speaker said they were true so they must be true and that makes them become true…and that lie has become truth…and then.
And other times the utterances become opiates that relax our diligence and dull our senses, calmly deceiving and betraying us with Delilah’s alluring promises before robbing us of our strength or resolve, seducing us, leading us into temptation and delivering us unto evil where we ransom our souls and happiness and futures and eternities for ideas and notions and feelings and…in other times and circumstances we escape with and through them, these words, into our fantasies and beliefs, conjuring imaginings and hopes, falling prey to our lusts and desires…whispered in sinful darkness they feed our longings…and we covet what we have not…we resolve to tell stories of deeds done and then, twisted mysteries that complicate and turn like worms in our guts when trying to remember what happened or not as we weave that tangled web. Their partial truths and half-lies stringing us along and telling us in bits what we need to know…in power and ruse against us, controlling and subordinating and enslaving or making us free, causing us to rise indifferent to blood and ties.
Skillfully spoken with temper and might, those spoken symbols can cause us to rise-up in defiance against our natural selves and believe ghastly things about others, to strike-out with deadly consequence or they can inspire us to love and nurture others at the cost of our own lives, can lead us to unbelievable heights and lengths to sacrifice ourselves and others for a cause, sometimes just and sometimes not and so…and someone said that someone said that He said “I am that I am.”
Between friends they are casual, words of comfort and ease, gentle conversation about anything or nothing, rambling and disjointed wonderings and plans and hopes and disappointments and promises to do better and live stronger and try instead of not…and they know the sacred and the secret, the hallowed and irreverent…jingling jangling juggling jumbling jabbering and tossing about in the mixing of anything and nothing and sometimes the learned stumble for a lack of the right one and the not-so-learned has it in picture form and simple and more beautiful and from the earth or the tugging inside the heart and in the hum of nature and in the tick and tock of the silent passing on the pendulum’s path and so…to speak in word form.
What aspect of our being hasn’t been touched by the spoken word? Is there a single step in this labyrinthine effort that is a stranger to the audible thoughts and contrivances of verbal communication? I dare to offer that near every color of life’s prism has been and is painted by and with every manner of uttering by the human tongue – those simple expulsions of breath, twisted and rolled, compressed and urged through the vocal cords, throat, teeth, and lips to become the shouts and screams and soothing whispers and encouragements or curses that propel us through our collective existence.
Really, what does it mean that you and I are friends, or you and anybody else, or me and the same or different anybody else? What does it mean? Does it mean that we happened to be in the same class together and thought the same joke was funny and laughed at the same time, and then we laughed again, or rolled our eyes at the same thing later in the day or week or semester or whatever? Does it mean that we started working at the same place on the same day or within the same week and formed something like a ‘traumatic bond’ after enduring the same experiences as ‘the new guys?’ Does it mean that we just happened to find ourselves in the same circumstances and discovered something similar in each other that we liked and have taken that something similar and made it grow by talking, sharing, and otherwise finding more and more similar things that we liked, enjoyed, disliked, or hated? We found some commonality and enjoyed it in the other person…something like that? Maybe it’s indistinct…maybe it just happened; we don’t know when, but it did. Maybe it’s like what author James Boswell said – “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” It just happened.
And then it starts to grow…that germinal moment or instance of something similar begins to grow in our sharing and time together. Not only do we share experiences, but as time wears on, maybe we share emotions and dreams, hopes and disappointments. Maybe our lives become more similar as we spend more time together and our experiences become shared, and our thoughts become shared, and our emotions, our reactions, our wants, dreams, likes and dislikes, and finally our spirits…our spirits that join somehow in the sharing of those many things and others. We begin to possess such similar thoughts that we can finish each other’s sentences and ideas for the other…our homes might become more familiar to each other, our cars, our children’s backpacks, and our coffee mugs…we are becoming, or have become part of each other. If we’re females, older girls or women, maybe our monthly cycles have even adjusted to the same schedule…and consequently, we’re impatient at the same time, sad, bloated, hungry, not hungry, intolerant, more emotional…or none of those things, but in sync with each other nonetheless. If we’re males, maybe we experience something similar with our biological rhythms the same way women do with their cycles, maybe.
What if we’re different? What if it was the things that were not the same that brought us together, what if they were our opposite characteristics? Some people say that opposites attract…people of different backgrounds and circumstances or personality traits, finding themselves together, whatever the event or situation, may feel a drawing together that is based on sharing what they don’t have in common. People who are suddenly working elbow to elbow, brainstorming on projects, plans, or whatever, their differences pique an interest in the other and they begin sharing and sharing…and maybe even finding things in common that weren’t at first apparent…and friendship blooms. Their differences become complementary, not ‘complimentary,’ as in “Hey, I like your shoes,” but ‘complementary,’ in that one’s strength enhances what might be a weakness or emptiness in the other…like in the movie Jerry Maguire, “you complete me.” The one makes the other a whole person…they are or become what the other was missing in their life…in friendship or love.
So what does it mean that we’re friends? We’ve already become friends and now we are friends, still, after all we’ve been through…whatever that can and/or might be. As Aristotle suggested, have we become two bodies sharing one soul…or two seeds of the same or different types of plants that came to grow in the same spot of earth…two hearts growing as one? In our backyard, we have a fan palm and a date palm that have been growing together in the same pot for upwards of 15 years. I obtained the date palm from a friend’s back yard and put it in a container with dirt from the friend’s yard and brought it home and placed it in my yard and watered it and kind of ‘forgot’ about it. The plant was in the spray-range of one of the sprinklers, so it got the water it needed and continued to grow without much effort or assistance from me. There was a fan palm seed in the dirt from my friend’s yard that sprouted and began to grow in the pot that the date palm was in…and it’s been so many years and I never separated the plants…they grew larger than the plastic pot, split its sides and bored their roots into the ground, joining, intertwining…becoming one living rooted mass with their trunks and branches upwards of 15 and 20 feet in height. To separate them would likely kill or severely damage at least one or both of them…they are two distinct plants but share an intricately woven root system…like people who have been friends for a long time…or brothers, sisters, lovers, spouses, mates…maybe…. These people’s lives have become enmeshed, intertwined, and/or overlapping…maybe they really have become one. Or…maybe our friendships haven’t become this involved and serve different purposes and fulfill other needs.
Some of our friendships can be and are more compartmentalized, as they exist in particular places or arenas of our lives and not in others, either intentionally or because that’s just the way they’ve existed…so far anyway. They are enriching and sustaining in specific contexts and don’t overlap with the other areas, except where they permeate our thoughts or people the stories we share. We might have friends who are family members, our children or parents, maybe; friends of other family members, like our children’s or parents’ friends; work friends that are co-workers, or subordinates, or even our boss, or none of these; gym friends; child-hood friends; military or war-buddies; college friends who were classmates or professors; chess-playing friends from the internet or the city park; blogging friends or writing-group friends; dog-park friends; grocery-store friends; next-door-neighbor friends; and soft-ball or bowling-team friends, or racquetball friends. Some of these relationships can be or might be more intimate or close than others and some might extend from one realm into another as they become closer and more involved in the whole of their lives…work friends become family friends – or even family members, gym friends become girl-friends, wives, and mothers of our children, next-door-neighbor friends might become family friends and in-laws… and then some of our child-hood or college friends might become the best friends in our long lives. An old professor and friendly acquaintance of mine once explained that people sometimes enter our lives for a while and then go away just as freely or casually as they entered them. These friends or significant people join our paths for a time, share wonderful events and experiences with us, learn and grow together, and then slowly fade apart…and then they go away – the relationship doesn’t end badly, it just ends, inexplicably…somehow. They add flavor to our lives for a season, as we do to theirs, and then we each go our separate ways. The substance of the friendship didn’t have to be enduring, and it wasn’t.
For those relationships that are more than temporal, that last through the ages in their varied contexts, what makes them do so? What is the substance, the basis, the explainable part of why we’re friends? As I mentioned above, is it because we endured a hardship together, were baptized by the same fire, got our sea-legs together, fell into a carpool together, started class at the same time…and whatever else…and began to share of ourselves, finding pleasant similarities or intriguing differences along the way? And now that we’re friends – again – what does that mean? I think it means that we probably trust each other, look forward to seeing each other, miss each other when one is away, help each other in random or specific ways, use each other as a sounding-board, feel free enough to vent our deepest angers and frustrations, help each other in times of crisis, cry on each other’s shoulders, celebrate in joy at the successes, encourage each other in the challenging times, admonish each other when we’re out of line, we accept each other to the point that our differences are as binding to each other as are our similarities; they have become part of the glue that keeps us together, we cause each other to think about things we wouldn’t normally be concerned with, force each other’s minds to consider other perspectives, validate the other’s concerns, we mean it with the entirety of our souls when we say “I’ve got your back,” and with everything that entails. We depend on each other and we take each other for granted sometimes too and we understand the other’s manner of speaking and we’re comfortable being silent together and we can share a glance or moment of eye contact and understand the words that don’t need to be spoken and we can touch the other’s hand or offer an easy hug or handshake and those moments of contact are dear and speak from the soul, from me to you and then.
When we say that we are friends – you and I, or you and anybody else, or me and the same or different anybody else, it means that we have connected somehow, in some context or another, and that we enjoy and want to nurture and maintain that connection, that relationship – that friendship…somehow it enriches our lives…or completes us.