A perspective on friendship


color people

I heard a perspective on friendship that rang bells for me. It was in the context of a discussion about acting and friendship and support.
Friends not only call or contact you when you are going through difficult times. They also follow through. Friendship is all about follow-through.
Back to the drawing board.
Because many people feel the need to “strategise” their friendships, friendships become more and more positional.
How do I “stand” according to this friend or that friend? What did he or she “mean” by this or that comment or deed?
Positional friendships are like business alliances; they are based on relationships derived from the wish to have a “win-win” outcome. “You help me and I will help you.”. Alfie Kohn in his groundbreaking book “Punished by Rewards” points out that the “do this, and you’ll get that” culture of reward and punishment, ultimately leads to a separation between inner commitment and more external calculating behaviour that ultimately alienates us all from each other. Love becomes a strategy aimed at realising certain aims and goals, even targets. You are my friend, not because of who you are, but because of what I (secretly) think  you can do for me.
Even where friendship is born of a deeper connection, it is overlaid with this calculating behaviour. Of course, in the world of performance, such fakery is almost an art, where, in a world where there is so little well paid work and so many people chasing it, friendship is faked almost as a necessity in order to “get ahead.” The corruption of the casting couch where you sleep your way to the top (mostly but not wholly a stereotype of novels and movies) is replaced by much more subtle pseudo-friendships based on extremely clever fakery and positioning.
The problem I have with it is that it works. In a competitive paradigm, it seems almost the obvious strategy. What we end up with is actors doing more acting in real life, off the stage than  on it. “I loved your play, do keep me in mind for your next production.” The two-faced soul, the positional friend, the strategising lover. It is all very functional. And yet the functional success of it hides a deeper malaise that is killing the warmth that, in the long run, allows a life story to be looked back upon with genuine satisfaction and a sense of it all being worth it.

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