Dedicated to M.G.D, M.F. and Z.R
Building relationships with other people is no easy matter. While some of us learn through experiences, others prefer to see them accidental, giving green light to potentially harmful communications that inevitably result in disappointments. How much of a relationship failure is rooted in our own behavior and perceptions and how much of it is affected by those of others?
Throughout my whole life I struggled to establish a lasting connection with creative and talented people I was particularly drawn to. In the majority of times I failed and, looking back at those failures, I can see how much they originated from my, at that time idealistic, perceptions of people. I am not the one to advice anybody on how to make lots of good friends – I haven’t reached that point of enlightenment and doubt I ever will. However, mistakes, observations and stories of the others have led to a few insights which in many ways helped me to build a circle of close friends I dreamt so much about. What took me so long to understand are, in fact, banalities from the Captain Obvious.
- Consumption preferences do not equal to personal values
In my younger years I had a habit of idealizing cultured people. I sincerely believed a well-read person must necessarily be deep, honest, considerate, and compassionate. How can a person so seemingly drawn to high culture be other than wonderful? How can a vegan yoga instructor who only consumes organic food and hand-made recycled clothes can be other than an angel on earth? They can be. It took me years to realize that consumption preferences are attributes of a particular social layer rather than indicators of the true depths of inner self.
- Awareness of something does not equal passion for it
Be it visual, performance or written, art is a language that is not spoken and understood by many. For long “books were the emblems of a secret brotherhood” to me. Until at some point it got clear that neither the number nor the titles of books, read or displayed, mean the reader treats them as dear friends. That number by itself, in regards to personal depths and values, is as valid as a number of sandwiches consumed for breakfast. The law of the transformation of quantity into quality does not necessarily apply here. While knowledge deserves respect of its own, it does not always translate into virtues. It takes time, attention and respect to individual human experiences to understand whether works of art have made an impact on one’s state of heart and mind. There are no shortcuts to figure that out.
- Admiration is not enough to be friends with everyone you admire
Communication with gifted people is inspiring. However, no matter how outstanding and beautiful is the world they create in their works, gifted people do not always possess the qualities to be our close friends. In other words, admiring a work of art does not have to extend to admiring its creator. Personal disagreements, on other hand, should not prevent us from appreciating works of our opponents and vice versa, being friends with someone does not mean we ought to flatter and approve each other all the time.
- Intelligence and talent do not justify disrespect
A few years back, I believed intelligence and talent justify any kind of ill behavior towards others. Truly intelligent people, I thought, could not be evil. Thus, against all odds, I kept justifying disrespect, envy, arrogance as eccentric and inevitable side-effects of intelligence. I could not be more wrong. Arrogance and lack of respect is a choice and for that reason highly intelligent people have even fewer excuses than anyone else.
- Honesty and openness to individual human experiences are the core qualities of a genuine person
It is well-known that a lasting relationship needs a common ground to grow on. Our close friends do not oblige to be original, extra talented, enormously well-read, exceptionally culturally aware or entertaining. Having a strong interest in anything external to self unites people with different backgrounds and interests. With time I learnt that honesty, openness to unique human experiences and humility are among the rarest and most exceptional qualities one can possess. They might not manifest themselves in exquisite clothing style or shelves full of books. Although unmistakable, these qualities need attention and time to be recognized.
It is an utter banality to state once again that we all are imperfect, that we all deserve a true friend and that a unique connection takes time to grow roots. An even greater banality is to admit it is the way we treat one another that says most about who we are. It seems, truth disguise itself in banalities.