Webster defines friendship as “the state of being friends”. Unless we are clear on what a friend is, that definition is not particularly helpful. Webster here provides a more helpful definition of “one who is attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion“. So we can say that friendship then is the state of being attached to another by affection or esteem; having favored companions.
Think for a moment about the friendships in your life – what affection or esteem attaches you to those individuals? What is it that links our lives with the lives of others? Paul Cézanne painted a series of paintings called “The Card Players” that visually explores some of these connections.
Here, we see two gentlemen engrossed in a card game. There is no money on the table, thus indicating that they are not gambling but are simply engaged in a friendly game of cards. The background is ill-defined, perhaps because it doesn’t matter where they are, or perhaps to further place these men in the spotlight of the painting.
In other works in the series, the crowd of men grows:
And in one, even a child is included:
In all of these paintings, the card players themselves are the focus. How long have they gathered to play cards? Why do they gather to play cards? Cézanne used local farmhands, some of whom worked on his family farm, as his models for these paintings (and numerous sketches that were completed prior to the paintings. The relationships between these men may have been little more than co-workers, yet here we see them spending time together, sharing a mutual affection for cards. So is this friendship?
I often hear folks make a distinction between “friends” and “acquaintances”, in order to clarify that simply knowing a person and being in proximity to them does not guarantee a friendship exists. As someone who has moved several times in my married life, I definitely agree that just knowing people doesn’t mean I have a friendship with them. I might even play cards with them, but friendship, that requires something more – more time, more effort, more risk.
What is Friendship?
I was recently invited to be part of a launch team for a new book by Christine Hoover entitled Messy Beautiful Friendship. I’ve only just begun reading the book and I’m excited to see what she has to say. She begins with crafting a new definition of friendship – one that requires us to let go of our assumptions that friendship is really just about me and finding people with whom I “click.” But what if friendship wasn’t about me and what I gain from it? What if developing friendships was more like creating art – more about the process and the delight of the recipient and less about my own needs and insecurities? Can we even conceive of what that might look like?
The book just released on the 18th of April, and I’m eagerly trying to finish it. Stay tuned for another post once I’m done. In the meantime, tell me about some of your most treasured friendships – what is it that makes them so valuable?