A Note on Personal Friendship and the Urgency of Leisure (9/8/14)

One way of looking at the ‘personal’ tension that has emerged between J. and me is to view it as an outgrown ‘philosophical’ friendship. I can no longer find any genuine nourishment or stimulation from our conversations. I seem to have moved in a direction with my thinking that does not speak to him or really interest him. Actually, this has been the case for some time, but because I had no one else with whom I could share my new, deeper interests, I continued to invest time and effort in that ‘tapped out’ conversation relationship. I recognized at some point that any sentiment or natural affection I may have developed for J. over the twenty-year span of our friendship is insufficient, in itself, to sustain my interest in him personally. I have discussed this before, so I won’t go further into this here. What all of this ticklish-prickly business with J. has taught me is that a conventional ‘buddy’ type relationship makes very minimal appeal to me at this stage in my life. I had that sort of male friendship in my youth and later, as an adult, with P. and J.—and to a lesser extent with S. But, as with passionate-erotic-romantic involvements with women, which I also enjoyed/suffered in abundance, I feel I can no longer justify significant investments of time and energy in such pursuits. And yet I still want the sort of spiritual-intellectual companionship I described earlier.

Perhaps all this analysis—and these careful discriminations—will help me to put these outgrown relationships to rest, once and for all—thus, clearing the way for the new sort of philosophical friendship I am looking for.

I suspect that anyone who is a proper candidate for the sort of philosophical-spiritual-dialectical friendship I’m seeking will probably be master of more or less the same amount of leisure that I presently have at my disposal. The ‘busy-ness’ that afflicts the lives of virtually all of my conscripted friends’ lives is a definite obstacle—if not a complete deal-breaker—when it comes to philosophy and the spiritual life. Lots of leisure time for study and contemplation and meditation is needed if we are to be tamed and properly conditioned for the careful, unrushed and uncompelled creative-destructive work that is essential to the philosophic life. This sort of leisure—which also keeps mere ‘entertainment’ down to a bare minimum—is almost impossible to come by these days. Lots of smart, decent persons with promising potentials seem to be unaware of just how much injury they are doing to their souls by conforming to this busy, harried tempo of modern life in the city. And once they’ve become accustomed to this unnatural, frenetic tempo, they gradually lose their capacity for appreciating stillness, silence, lento, and true leisure. They fear they must keep moving or else they will lose their place and, in one sense, they are absolutely right. They will draw negative or critical attention to themselves. They may become objects of concern and of gossip. Fear of these alarming possibilities only bolsters their commitment to the busy, competitive pattern of modern professional, academic, and social life. Little by little, they are reduced to servitude to these rule-bound systems—so that life outside of these conventional, social, corporate, and ideological systems becomes all but unimaginable—unthinkable—a terrifying prospect. Of course this is precisely what the ‘higher ups’ who design, tweak, and exploit these various systems are banking on—literally! They want their servants and functionaries to feel so fortunate to have been chosen—to have been ‘welcomed onto the team’—that they cannot help but look upon persons like me (who have remained aloof from the system) with a peculiar mixture of derision and (perhaps) perplexed envy. At any event, once they’ve become fully inducted and they have acquired a stake in the system (and a measure of leadership over the incoming recruits who will need to be properly assessed and broken in for optimal exploitation—with all the appropriate salary and promotion enticements that come with subservience to the system), their life-trajectories are set. Soon they are so thoroughly dependent upon the hive-like structure of duties and benefits that life outside this hive, though unprotected by the hive’s enclosing walls and by the collective spirit of one’s fellow drones, will occasionally seem as tempting as the Serpent’s apple, but a hundred times scarier because of the ‘fall’ that will almost assuredly take place once the first bite is taken. What happens after these system-servers have spent years adapting themselves to the comforts and the benefits provided by this ‘Great Mother’? Doesn’t it become harder and harder to imagine having one’s nakedness exposed in the garden beyond the protective walls—with those ample, milk-oozing, mama-tits waiting around every corner if and when you need a little ‘pick-me-up’ to restore your ever-flagging strength within the buzzing, drone-packed hive—serving the big fat fertile mama-queen lying at the heart of the whole shebang?

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