what makes a friend a best friend?

i want, then, simply to say the names of things...
Gouache on paper, May 2010

Labels have always been a tricky topic for me. On one hand they limit, in the same way a photograph limits a memory. They put boundaries or definitions on something that, really, cannot be bounded or defined.

On the other hand, there is something lost when something is not called by its true name, in the same way something is gained when a true name reveals itself.

We are always wary of putting labels on romantic relationships–dating, exclusive dating, MU, boyfriend-girlfriend, friends with benefits, “it’s complicated”–and often I’ve wondered whether all these options are really necessary. Or if they are truthful. Or a more pressing concern, if they are self-fulfilling. Maybe relationships these days are complicated precisely because we’ve created spaces for these complications, by giving them names!

Friendships, in contrast, are simpler, and less debated. I’ve written about the freer dynamics of friendship and how it “marks a life even more deeply than love,” and I still love rereading that post.

Julian Sleigh, in his lovely book “Friends and Lovers”, writes:

There are warm places in every person’s soul.

These places can be filled with feeling for others, and those others can be aware of this feeling.  Something passes between persons who carry in themselves a warm feeling for each other: Feeling itself flows through those souls and unites them.  And openness towards this power of feeling enables the warm places in each person to be alive and active.

Friendship can only exist in such warm places.

A basic yet warm and fuzzy definition of a friend. Someone you’d share hot cocoa with on the quietest of Christmas mornings, when soulful conversation and affection are most valued:

* “something is weaving between you and me”
* “I feel good in your presence”
* “I feel reassured by you even when you are not near”
* “there’s something radiating in us which I like and cherish”
* … and this “something” can’t be explained… we “see” each other; we have mutual “regard”, you enable me to feel valuable

* “You meet me but do not invade me”

We long to be met, even more than to meet… and this allows us to accept ourselves and to open ourselves to our own inspirations, personal inflow of ideas…and in this state of reassurance, we have a healing experience.

But what makes a friend a best friend? What else is there between two friends whose friendship will withstand time, separation, and the lowest of lows?

Be aware of karma and when debt is released– a moment of joy! a chance for a friendship that is free and not out of obligation, based on love! This is friendship in the level of spiritual essence of a person, deeper and more constant than the personalities of the friends, and not jeopardized by daily circumstances and passing fancies.

That last part is critical, because I think romantic love or a young friendship stays in that lower realm–personality-based, flighty, very changeable with every passing fancy. A deeper love (some would say, the only real love) is something more constant, explained further below:

* deep relating, person to person
* meeting and being met
* “I” to “I” in safety
o in unwavering loyalty
o in deep understanding and support
o in full regard for the eternal in each other
o in total reliability

* possible to men and women who are free individuals, self-actualizing, rounded personalities, congruent yet aware of their shadows and weaknesses
* able to soar in their truly spiritual selves to the heights of nobility and love, and touch the truth in each other, undisturbed by sexual and emotional self-indulgence,
* and then descend from the heights bonded by a covenant they will never break: for they have dared to meet the good in each other, and the beautiful.

A best friend is someone you feel safe with, someone you can do the most stupid things with, launch the most insane ideas to, and still feel whole, respected, and not judged. There is no mommy-ing the other–you are both adults, each in your own stage on your journey, each going at your own pace.

This kind of intimacy, this sharing of self, Sleigh calls spiritual love, and its only agenda is tohelp a person to be free to be himself:

I like you as you are, with your personality…the most important gift I can give to you is to believe in your own true self and never to let it fade from my mind. When life is tough and when you are feeling down, I will try by my very closeness to reassure you of your infinite value–to me, to the world, and above all to yourself. And I know you will do the same for me.

Who can you say this to, sincerely?  Who do you already say it to?