In these cloistered days, while I was dusting the library, my gaze fell on a book by the famous, sociologist and essayist Paolo Crepet who, in 2012, wrote “The Praise of Friendship”. I was particularly struck by the following sentence: “We must start with courage to challenge what we have taken for granted and too often trivialized and vilified: friendship”.
As this is a subject of a certain depth, I decided, as usual, to discuss it with my friend Alessandro Bigarelli.
After nearly forty minutes of videoconference during which we reflected on the importance of this feeling of mutual loyalty between two people, we shared some common thoughts.
With the regulations that led us to forced confinement, the social distance necessary to contain the Covid-19 epidemic has radically interrupted social interactions and interpersonal contacts, essential dynamics for friendship and socialization. We feel the importance of the question in a corner of our hearts: what about friendship? The most obvious first answer looks like this: the deeper the friendship, the stronger and more vivid the feeling.
We are born with an innate propensity to socialize. Being together with others is an attitude of the human being who, from an early age, begins to seek the friend of the heart. Friendship has always been the basis of daily existence and psychic balance. Customs, values, ideals change, friendship always remains essential to social coexistence which receives from it the full and superior sense of self.
Achilles and Patroclus: the protective and loving presence of one give meaning to the inflexible harshness of the other and to senseless war. Loyalty, blind abnegation, unconditional confidence, pure and platonic love in the medieval sagas of chivalrous poems where the sense of honor, solidarity with the weak and aid to the needy also emerge. Literature around the world is full of examples of absolute friendship.
Each generation has an exemplary couple of friends in their hearts. Yes, but has the lock-down for the pandemic, forced loneliness, finding yourself willy-nilly with yourself and your ghosts, in any way changed your idea of friendship? That of friendship with the capital “F”, that which is expressed in unconditional acceptance, in altruism, in solidarity, by listening and helping the other?
Internet 2.0, and even more so social networks, have long contributed to reducing the concept of friendship to a sham. Everyone is friend of everyone, in appearance, and not by virtue of this presumed and fictitious friendship. Internet users break all educational and emotional attitudes and rush to express mostly reckless judgments on others, discovering that after all it is not about friendship.
Friendship on social media is like a continuous round of masks. Like any deep human relationship, to be true and concrete, loyal and sincere, friendship should go through presence and encounter. Sitting behind a screen shows a sense of power and arrogant superiority. The ego increases enormously but the person remains as small as he or she is. The gap between the real and the virtual, in the period of confinement, has become even more acute. The network was overloaded with presences: everyone looks for everyone, everyone socializes, exchanges opinions, laughs in a group but always and only on a virtual level and whose sharing becomes repeated imitation for an image or a music, and for all that the pretty icons available are enough. Besides that, a feeling of mortification and defeat that we pretend not to see. An emotional and united support helps, made of a hug when it is sufficient, of a material contribution when it is necessary.
There is no ready-made recipe for establishing and maintaining a beautiful friendship. But after the trauma of the forced confinement, after the isolation of ailments, loves, and friendships, it is good to remember these behaviors that help us connect with others and become good friends. Let us speak by looking each other in the eyes, with deep respect. Let’s talk without mutual interruption. Let’s formulate our requests with kindness. Above all, let’s never forget that friendship is loving but also doing good to others.