Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Long Time Ago We Used To Be Friends

You've been gone so long
Where ya been for so long?
I went to places unknown
Rented a room
And I forgot my pen
Shook my twin
And I had to find the feeling again


I recently tracked down an old friend I hadn't seen or heard from in close to a decade. Luckily, it turned out she'd been keeping a blog the last few years, so reading that helped save a lot of time catching up.

She was always one of my favorite email correspondents, a great, entertaining writer whose voice came through clearly. I always thought of her as basically New Agey/spiritual, but she was never annoying about it. Some of that manifested itself as a supremely pleasant, laid-back, "it's all good" attitude, though I always had a sense that she was trying to talk herself into feeling that way as much as anything else, as if she were trying to grow into her own rhetoric, hoping that by envisioning a state of philosophical equilibrium and talking about it repeatedly, it would actually start to seep into her bones eventually. I don't say that to be snide; she had a horribly turbulent life growing up (with plenty more hardship recently), so who could blame her for wanting some mental peace finally?

To my astonishment, it turned out that she had been a Mormon the entire time I knew her, yet she never once said anything about it. I know we talked about religion along with everything else under the sun, but somehow she kept that to herself. I'm almost sure I must have said something offensive at some point about religion in general, but I never got any sense of disapproval from her (though I may have taxed her patience with my foul mouth at times). I don't recall her being much of a political animal, but nowadays, she's very right-wing in her politics, supporting things like Arizona's draconian anti-immigrant laws, Romney for president in 2012, and most galling of all, she's a big fan of Caribou Barbie herself. I almost don't have the nerve to find out what she thinks of Glenn Beck, a Mormon himself.

Anyway, it turns out that she and her family are planning to move back to the area soon, and she was even asking me about the town I live in now, as they had been considering it as a possible destination. I'm really looking forward to seeing her in person again, even as I dread knowing how many topics of conversation will possibly have to be off-limits, or at least approached like one would a minefield (and no, I didn't think it wise to tell her about my own blog; not just yet, at least).

I don't have any grand conclusion about all this. I just think it's worth keeping in mind how there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, a lot of room to maneuver between personality and ideology. People can believe some crazy or even ugly things while still basically being good-hearted people. It's absolutely worth striving for intellectual consistency and self-awareness ourselves, even if it is a Sisyphean task in the end, but it's also important to not overlook how many people are worth knowing even if they never do so themselves. She's still my friend in ways that have nothing to do with any cerebral reason or justification.

4 comments:

Shanna said...

I too, had a rather pointed lesson the other day that "people are complicated", but it's always hard to juxtapose that lesson with the people you were once close with.

I hope some of that closeness can be regained, or at least that it doesn't hurt too bad if you find out it can't

The Vile Scribbler said...

It's a glass-half-full situation for me -- I'm just glad for the chance to see her again, especially since I was resigned to the idea that I never would. I'm pretty sure both we and our circumstances are too different now to ever really be close friends, but who knows...

noel said...

That's a tough row to hoe. I don't want to be an idealogical purist, but it sure is hard to overlook some things. There has to be a limit, like a Jew can't be expected to befriend a neo-Nazi. But we should all be respectful and forgiving of others, as we are none of us perfect.

The Vile Scribbler said...

Yeah, there are some people whose personalities combined with right-wing ideology make them absolutely unbearable (I speak from experience here). They could be vegetarian Unitarians and still find a way to be obnoxious about it.

With the friend in question, I find it difficult to imagine her becoming strident or zealous in her personality at all, so it'll be interesting to see just how deeply rooted these opinions are.