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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Friends

In the Lord of the Rings, there is a point where the small company of companions who are tasked with destroying the Ring of evil power are trapped outside the mines of Moriah. In frustration they wait and get anxious and grumpy until finally Frodo realizes that the lock on the door is a riddle and the answer to the riddle is "friend." They all walk through, companions all, perhaps not all great friends.

I wanted to use this example because oftentimes, and especially in this day and age, it seems as if friendship, and the way in which we relate to one another in healthy and good ways, is somewhat of a riddle too. Why is that?

I have heard numerous times, even from myself, that "I just want friends." I think what we mean by that is that we'd like someone who understands us and our interests and likes, and will walk with us to the ends of the earth in pursuit of those things because they are just as interested in them as we are. The trouble that we encounter when we expect these kind of friendships to appear seems to come from a couple different problems. First, it seems that, as a society, we are under the impression that it is our right to be befriended and understood. Personally, I think that from a certain point of view, friendship has been given to us as a privledge if not a right, but before we can take advantage of that privledge we are stopped by the second problem. The second problem is movement. C.S Lewis talks about this at length in his book, The Four Loves. He says that friendships are based on mutual interest and attaining a common goal, which is clear enough, but also that it is about a common journey; separating yourselves in a sort of rebellion from an established way of thinking and setting off on your own in search of a goal.

The characters in Lord of the Rings who were trapped outside Moriah all had something in common: they were going to help Frodo destroy the Ring. Their companionship revolved around that single thing, despite all having different motives as to why they personally had to go. The possibility and opportunity of converting companions into friends was present as long as they were together. There were some, like Aragorn and Legolas or Frodo and Sam that were even farther removed from the general group because they found a more kindred, common ground between them. They were, therefore, better friends, but all of those that went with Frodo were on the same journey and had closely related interests; the opportunity was there.

All this to say, I think it is the journeying together that we miss so often in the modern age of friendship. I lie on the side of the road and hope for friends, while the only friends really worth having are already walking on the road to their destination, intent on the journey. I must get up and start my own journey, moving towards what I believe to be right and what draws me toward it. If I have any hope of finding like-minded people, I will find them on the way. Lewis expresses this point so deftly when he says: "Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers."

I think to truly enjoy friendship and the friends waiting to be made we must stop focusing on finding friends and instead, focus on the journey, content with knowing that there are a few fellow travelers going the same way.

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