I’m going to wade into a debate here that anyone with more common sense than I have would avoid like the plague.
Well, sort of.
First I’m going to say something here to those involved in the debate who may read my post: Friends are hard to come by; I have friends on “both sides” and my intent is to keep it that way. On the other hand, good friends are even harder to come by and this post may result in my finding out whether my current circle is bound to yield more, less, or any.
I count the following among my friends: Scott Greenfield, Norm Pattis, Brian Tannebaum, and “Gideon.” I have high hopes for a number of others I’ve recently met on the Internet, including (but not limited to!) Mirriam Seddiq, Mark Bennett, and several others who recently joined with Norm, Mirriam and me to try out a new project called BCOTUS.
One thing I’ve learned in my 51 years of life — soon to be 52, assuming I can hang in there another month or so — is that I need more than a couple of friends. I actually need more than a couple. Sure, I enjoy having lots of friends, too.
I’d enjoy even just one friend. For what can bring greater happiness to a life than knowing there is someone who will share a thoughtful conversation and, at the end of it, even if the conversation was “unhappy,” will still be glad to call you “friend” when the dust settles.
Yet I need more than one friend because — well, because I appreciate more than just the enjoyment that comes from having someone to value who also values me. I appreciate that people are different and that the experiences I have and the things that I learn — particularly the ways in which I can become a better and more interesting person — are enhanced by these differences. One person reminds me that I need to push myself harder and to remember not to just go with the flow; another reminds me that I should occasionally stop and marvel at the flow and how it structures the more mundane tasks of life, so that I can focus on other things. One friend’s focus causes her to pull my attention to this thing I would not have noticed on my own; another’s focus brings to my attention that thing I and my other friend missed.
No matter what you hear, there’s no such thing as a “self-made man.” Or woman. We are all influenced by our interactions with others. The more frequent and deeper the relationship, the more we are influenced.
And so I am ever on the quest for friends both for the enjoyment it brings to life and for the opportunities it gives me to grow and learn. I am forever floating trial friendship balloons.
The Internet and my sometimes infrequent but irrefragable drive to write have allowed me to float a number of trial friendship balloons that would not have been possible otherwise. I discovered the blogosphere, or, as some lawyers prefer, the blawgosphere. I have read the blogs and blawgs of and started getting to know a number of really cool people on the Interwebs. Thank goodness for tubes!
But while the Interwebs have made possible contacts that were unthinkable just about 15 years ago, they can also be difficult places to find solid friendships. IRL — “in real life” — people rub up against one another and, when they find themselves disagreeing with one another too much, when they find they too-frequently rub one another the wrong way, they avoid one another. Balloons, of necessity, have thin skins. They pop; the friendship ends. You go your separate ways. And if some of your friends hang out with your former friend, well, it’s not usually a problem because knowing your feelings, they’ll be unlikely to discuss it around you and you may not even know they still associate.
But Interwebs are stickier.
And I’m deliberately mixing metaphors because it’s my blog and I can do that if I want.
Some people whom I like and respect quite a bit have gotten into a tiff. I guess I can call it that. (For you youngsters, we aren’t talking about image file types here. And I’m not Canadian, so I didn’t even think about Toronto!)
One group I deeply appreciate has a pet peeve about the Interwebs and lawyers who use them in certain ways. In particular, they appear to dislike the use of the Interwebs for marketing purposes. They think that people who use the Interwebs for marketing purposes are hiding a deeper inability, lack of skill, or other weakness which makes them not the best material for becoming good lawyers. Or perhaps they think that if one focuses on becoming a good lawyer instead of marketing oneself, the clients will follow. Maybe all the above.
They might be right. I don’t know.
There is a growing group that thinks the single-mindedness of the first group is — shall we say? — misguided.
The Interwebs being what they are, there have been a few barbs traded here and there over the issue. (Issues?) Some balloons appear to have been popped, or are at least in danger of being popped.
Myself, I don’t want to see this. I value all my friends and potential friends. The danger from watching the balloons pop and fall from the sky is that it makes me want to come to the rescue. But people don’t always want you to try to salvage their friendships from the wreckage of a popped balloon.
I can respect that. Some friendships are just not meant to last. No matter how sad it makes me to see these things happen, each person has to decide which, how many, what kind of — pick your flavor — balloons they wish to keep aloft.
Another danger comes when Person A sees that my own friendship balloons are still aloft, and one of the passengers is Person B who has fallen from Person A’s balloon. Sometimes this can make them question where my “loyalties” lie.
Let me interrupt my thinking for just a moment here. (Thinking, by the way, is exactly what’s happening here. Like Scott Greenfield, I’m a true believer in the Shakespearean theory of writing.) Lest anyone become confused, no one has yet questioned my loyalties. No schoolyard games of “if you like him, you can’t like me” have broken out. Yet. I’m simply talking about the dangers that can happen as balloons begin falling from the sky.
And I’m writing this post specifically because, if I can’t stop others from sacrificing their own balloons, I want to keep all of mine intact. If no one takes anything else away from this post, I am hoping they will at least take away that fact. Because I’m not a piece of property — nor is my friendship — to be “owned.” Nor do I have limitations such that I can’t be friendly with multiple people, some of whom may not completely enjoy one another’s company.
Grow up in a family like mine and you get used to differences of opinion, taste, attitude, idiosyncrasy, or what-have-you.
If it happens, in the course of our friendship, that I say I disagree with your point of view, or that I agree with another’s point of view, or — god forbid! — I don’t agree with either of you, this does not mean I’m hoping to pop our balloon. Being your friend does not mean that I will always agree with you, any more than you will always agree with me. Being your friend means that I will always value you. Or maybe I should say, I will always value you. For there is enough about you aside from whatever views I may find disagreeable that I nevertheless am glad I know you.
So, please. If you must pop one another’s balloons, let’s keep ours intact.