Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Ones Who'll Help You Move the Body

I wrote this past Monday about Agnes's ongoing project for her digital scrapbooking and journaling course in which she had to develop a two-page spread about herself based on the supposed characteristics of her Zodiac sign. Well, the drama continued yesterday evening as she called me into her nest to look at an online, two-page list of adjectives that could be used an individual, and asked me to pick out the ones that applied to her.

Not being stupid, I (to paraphrase the great W. C. Fields) rejected those words that might, if misunderstood, end up eliciting the attention of the coroner, and offered a careful selection which included the word friendly.

This led to a discussion of the concept of friendship which - to Agnes - is a word not to be taken lightly. And, on reflection, I have to agree that she's right.

There's an old saying that an acquaintance will help you move, but a friend will help you move a body. This is a crude, yet accurate statement of a difference we don't often think about much in the Facebook era, where we collect "friends" as if they were Hummel figurines, beer cans, or decorative paperweights. You may recall this cartoon from two weeks ago on Cartoon Saturday ...

It makes a statement that Agnes reminded me of as we talked about the implications of the word friend. If she were introducing someone from her office to me, for instance, she'd use the term co-worker, where I might have loosely described the individual as a friend from the office. The difference is ... or, at least, should be ... profound.

If I think of a friend as someone I can share my innermost thoughts and secrets with, someone I can turn to for help at any time and know that he'll drop everything to come to my aid, someone I'm completely comfortable with in any setting, I can only think of one person out of the many hundreds I might loosely describe as friends. I have 119 friends on Facebook (the average number is actually 120, according to the Facebook blog), but I would probably describe only one of them as a true friend according to the definition earlier in this paragraph (yes, he's the one friend I mentioned above).

There are a great many people I consider friends in a looser fashion ... people I care about and whose company I enjoy. Most of my dancing acquaintances and many of my co-workers fall into this category. But real, honest-to-goodness, help-me-hide-the-body friends ... just one.

The concept of true friendship was summed up in one of my favorite poems - The Thousandth Man, by Rudyard Kipling ...

One man in a thousand, Solomon says.
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.

But if he finds you and you find him,
The rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man he's worth 'em all
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight
With that for your only reason!

Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot - and after!

Just so that I'm not misunderstood, let me emphasize that I care about all my friends, of whatever degree. But there's only one ... and I think you know who you are ... that I would ask to help me hide a body.

And the thought that I have even one friend that close is a very comforting thought.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

There definitely is a devaluation of the meaning of the word "friend," partly due to Facebook and Cheezburger. It's led to the phenomenon of "friend shopping."

Another flawed usage: "we're only friends, not lovers...." Implying that friendship is kind of a consolation prize.

Amanda said...

I'm not sure that I even have one friend that will help me hide a body. Thats sad isn't it?

Mike said...

I saw a PBS show yesterday about this very subject. An author(?) wrote a book saying that the average number of actual friends for most people is 4.5 .

Banana Oil said...

Whew! Rudyard Kipling had some high standards for what is a true friend.