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Warmth • Posted: Dec 12, 2008 10:48:43Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Who has not felt winter's chill and had their thoughts turn toward a warmly comforting special someone? It's a simple notion, a visceral notion, and very very human. But beyond familial recognition and congenial warmth, what is it that makes or breaks an intimate friendship or, for that matter, any relationship?

Countless books and articles have been written on the subject of relationships. It's a sustaining staple of the publishing trade. Probably half of talk radio is preoccupied with the subject. And almost all of fiction is woven of its fibers. Yet, with so much attention paid to the subject, why do we still not fully understand? Are we really that stupid? Or is the subject just too daunting in its myriad variations for us ever to come to grips with?

Science, I'm sure, offers some insights. But as to who's analysis concurs or refutes my humble assertions, I cannot say. My reading is very much not up to date. What experience has led me to conclude, however, is that people know who they are and what they are doing each day by running little stories through their heads, little narratives in which all the actors have been pegged and all the actions have been scripted. Yes, there is always room for disappointment, success, and a bit of serendipity, but for the most part all the possibilities for the various outcomes have been dutifully charted, optimists that we are. True dissolution and hurt sets in when real events just do not conform to our expectations.

Within that framework, friendship begins to occur when two people discover the little narratives within their own heads more or less match up with the little narratives inside the other's head. Intimacy occurs when those separate narratives begin to become both enveloping and comfortably complementary. Intimacy and friendship eventually breaks down when those little stories start failing to match up or complement each other.

Is there a remedy or proscription for narrative disjunction? In a larger sense, yes. On an intimate level, no. The little stories we tell ourselves will always be, in the larger sense, uniquely private. It is a special person who can insightfully and empathetically delve into and appreciate all the uniqueness that makes us us. And a very special person, in deed, who can sustainably return the favor. However, biological and cognitive growth almost ensures the eventual breakdown of friendship. Then again, the possibility for making new friends is equally almost never absent.

May you always find the warmth of friendship when you most need it.

Sunday, December 10th, 2006