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Illumination is a perpetual work in progress, so please pardon our dust. The intent of the place is to provide space where I can lay down my thoughts and observations about the world around me and the things I do. That means it could be filled with nearly anything, from silly accounts of my gaming antics to thoughtful political discussion and anything in-between.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thermodynamics (on Friends)

[note: for appropriate musical accompaniment of this piece, the author recommends “Wish Me Well (Go To Hell)” by The Bouncing Souls.]

Friends are troublesome things. They make demands of us that would seem ridiculous from anyone else, and we largely put up with it because… they’re friends? We tolerate their antics for reasons I suspect few people could articulate; I know I can’t. We exert energy on them; they exert energy on us, and somehow the entire system holds itself up.

Friends, for all the long suffering we generally endure because we’ve decided these people are important to us, can sometimes repay the demands they put on our time and resources by expending their own on our behalf. The benefits having friends in the right places can provide are remarkable and what often seems like “luck” is more often having resourceful people on your side.

But this isn’t about the benefits of friends.
This is about what happens when they leave. It is the crux of my last couple of weeks, because speaking of luck, mine’s what you’d describe as “extreme.” With me, it’s feast or famine; drought or deluge. There is no middle ground. So, when I’m fighting off a cold and buried up to my ears in a project with a short deadline that will not come together in a manner that pleases me, that is, of course, the moment one of my friends decides it’s time to slam a proverbial door in my face.

Really, this has happened often enough that it should no longer surprise me, but it manages to catch me off-guard every time it happens. It’s my own fault, I suppose: I was once told a cynic is a person who knows exactly how beautiful the world can be and refuses to settle for anything less… which means I tend to put a lot of stock in people I’m actually willing to call friends [1] [2], which usually leaves me at a bit of a loss when they decide it’s time to take a powder.

I’ve lost friends before. I’m sure I’ll lose more in the future. Life’s a revolving door, and often people step into your life with no warning… and leave it just as abruptly. Sometimes you move half a world away; sometimes you get hit by a bus. Sometimes it’s a decision you make; sometimes it’s one that gets made for you.

Some of them think they’re doing me a favor; protecting me from some horrible fate or sparing me a waste of time. Most of them think their sudden absence is going to utterly crush my world, forever leaving a gaping hole in my life where they used to be. Dramatic, I know, but that’s what I get (extremist, remember?).

I’ve yet to have any of them realize how wrong they all are.

Friends come and go. It doesn’t matter how close they thought they were: when they go; they go. I might be upset for a couple of days because they’ve still got my X-Box or because the RPG we were in gets canned, but I’ll get over it, break out the PS3, find a new game to play. I don’t have time for long regrets, and I don’t have time for absolutes.

What I don’t like are ultimatums [3]. I’ve never reacted well when people tell me I “can’t” something. “Can’t” do that. “Can’t” go there. “Can’t” be friends… I think not.

Can’t? That’s either a challenge or an insult. If you want me to tip my hat and ride off into the sunset, don’t tell me I don’t have a choice, because that’s the last thing I’ll do. If you want a quiet exit, make a quiet exit or ask me politely. By the same turn, if it’s a war you want, have the courtesy to say so.

This is becoming a rant, and ultimatums are really a topic I should save for a rainy day (Rainy day? Hah! Annual Seattle Rain Festival: Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st), so I’ll cut this short here and get to work on the Dramatis Personae Rogue’s Gallery. Ta.

[1] – “Friend” is actually a spectrum, with only the top bit actually deserving the name. In roughly ascending orders, the others are: Minions, Scapegoats, Porch Monkeys, Couch Monkeys (also Dish Monkeys), Mafia, and Accomplices. There is a super-category that exists above the standard scale, but it is currently unoccupied.

[2] – In whatever form they may take. The nature of technology means that “community” is the people you associate with, not the people you live near; and physically boundaries have become almost entirely meaningless. Friends can be text on a screen as easily as flesh and blood, and I see no difference between the two.

[3] – Tell your silly chook that I’ve never been a threat to him or what he wanted and had. Hell, I’ve been encouraging him for years. He ought to be smart enough to figure that out, but sometimes people need to be reminded of the obvious.

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