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Monthly Archives: May 2006

I’ve been ruminating on my favourite subject of soliloquy, that ubiquitous institution that is friendship, with its nuances and complications, and I’ve come to some understanding that explain a little more to me and make me feel that I’ve got some tools that help me understand what I perceive to be as anomalies in some of my deepest and longest friendships. I’ve come to the understanding that there are three components at play in a friendship. They are history, trust and interaction.

The trust component is the simple how much you trust and would share with the other person, it reflects how open you are to them and how much mutuality there is in the relationship. It’s a great measure of how strong the relationship is. The second component of interaction is a more mediate component. It’s about how and how often there is interaction and what kind and of what quality it is. The final one of history represents a more prosaic concern. It’s about how the passage of time cements both these attributes, and eventually becomes self sustaining and enduring in and of itself. By time, I do mean significant time. Four or Five years are probably on the quick side of the time periods I’m talking about.

How all these tie together is instructive, because I believe that you can have a friendship that is based on only one of these attributes, and not as I was under the mistaken interpretation that they must be coexistent to have an enduring relation. The reason this is the case is that they are actually all self sufficient and enduring grounds for friendship, but they do not give rise to the same quality of friendship and friendships that are based on different grounds fade away and die in different ways and at different rates.

I have friends who I have long history with, people I have known well since I was in primary school and who are a constant fixture in my life, but in reality these relations while nostalgic and encouraging when they are renewed are largely just that, the historic sparks of a fire that has in reality faded and is not nearly as potent as it was once. We’re friends but probably only because no one really expects that the word still contains any meaning, we’re following the paths because they’re comfortable. The true interaction is limited, and the trust is circumscribed because the person has changed and my reliance on them is no longer sustainable or perhaps never was.

There are friends that my interaction with is diminishing and my history with is short, but the trust quotient is high and enduring. We don’t talk very often, and we don’t get to talk very long, but there is a qualitative difference in this interaction that means that just a half hour of this quality is sufficient to keep me running for long enough to live months on, and to revel in the strength that they give me. They are the friendships that are of the most interest, and are the one’s that you want to keep alive and enduring, because they are necessary to make life worth living and enduring. These are the friendships where doing stuff together is not necessary, the person’s company is more than sufficient to make the day, and the conversation and interaction with the person becomes of itself the goal.

Finally there is the interactive relationship. These are the ones that are made up of the people that you are dealing with in every day life, and are the growing and developing relationships. Everyday interaction, or connection causes a connection that can grow into the highest quality of friendship, but they are developing relationships and are tentative in their own right, neither viable nor long term yet, and it’s a matter of doing things with people that build the common experiences that can build a bond. These are the friendships where you have to ‘do’ a lot of stuff.

I understand that these are interrelated factors that can change. They connect to each other, and are mutually interlinked. One person can have different weighting in each of these categories, and people fluidly move from one to another. This just gives me some of the conceptual tools to understand what’s going on with my friendships, and why some of them are going in different directions and while they are heading in different directions.

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Walking has always had special connotations for me, especially because of the way it has woven itself into the very fabric of my Hong Kong existence. There were very few times that I ended up making a significant journey from point to point on foot without a companion to share the journey with me. My best friends are defined by walks, Hunaid by the weekly trek to Wyndham Street, Craig and Mubaraka by the meandering walk along Bowen Road, heading towards home after a long school day. They were the defining friends of my life, and their walks are for me a special way of recollecting them and what they have given to me.

Recently I had the opportunity to deal with a walk in the more abstract sense. I had a pleasant bus journey in contemplation from Oval station to home, and the bus was a long time in coming. I decided to take the alternate route to the unpredictable wait for the bus, and to walk towards home. It was an experience that I’ve really missed in the recent bike bound speeds that have enveloped my life, given that with a bike distances become small and time compressed.

Walks are a chance to slow down life. There isn’t much thinking required in walking down a path, we can navigate and avoid people without engaging any of the higher faculties freeing up the mind in a way that is not very often available to us in the modern world. We live in a dynamic fast paced worlds. Opportunities, we are led to believe, zip by at an instantaneous pace, decisions must be taken rapidly, and reflection is sin for which the penalty is great. Walking is a rejection of all that.

There’s a wonderful sense of freedom and casualness that encompasses this opportunity to think and interact. There’s a sense of a truly interactive moment. You get forced to interact as they are the only way to deal with the enforced interaction of company. There’s no movie to watch, no show to disguise your anti-social inclination. A relationship lives or dies in a long walk. Without doubt it is put to the test.

The relaxing chance to think is also invigorating. The mild exercise, the chance to see so much in the world around, stimulates all sorts of random ideas into the field of play. There is not much time to gain real clarity and add the necessary organizational structure to thoughts that help you spot trends and notice the flaws. You understand things that are worth recording in their own right, and help explain ideas and concepts that you have little chance of inadvertently stumbling on without the chance to reflect. For a little while life gets simpler.

Walking has been a fundamental part of my life, and I should really do more of it. The chance to shut down all non-essential functions and cruise without worry is an invaluable blessing in modern hectic life. Here’s to many more of them.