Writing is an Itch. This is a place to scratch.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tolkein Friendship

By Rattus Scribus©

I've been thinking about friendship lately. Especially since the possibility of friendships has both expanded exponentially as well as changed dramatically as a result of instantaneous communication via the worldwide web.

Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, blogging, email and other forms of social networking have created the largest pool of personal contacts from which friends can be made in all of human history. I have heard or read people say, "I have 600 friends on Facebook," like they were collecting merit badges to put on display.

Some people claim to have thousands of "friends." THOUSANDS OF FRIENDS! I get exhausted just thinking about it. I wonder if that is even possible, and then I realize: "Duh! We obviously have different conceptions of friends and friendship."

I read somewhere once something J. R. R. Tolkien said about friendship and I have a close affinity with his view. Friendship is not a term fitting for someone you recently met. That is a "recent acquaintance," though of course friendship can develop, perhaps quickly, from that initial meeting. Nor is friendship automatically applicable to someone you have "known" for a long time. That is simply a long time acquaintance. I have had dozens of colleagues over the years that I have been teaching, and some of them are wonderful human beings. But the people I count as friends are far fewer in number.

Tolkein said something like this (and I am paraphrasing): a friend is someone who SEES YOU. Or to put it another way, a friend is someone who SEES WHAT YOU SEE. They may not agree with every thing you see. But they see it; they see you; they "get" you. And of course -- and this is critical -- a friend is someone who will "stand with you" come what may.

Hobbits Hiding from Ringwraith, by Gary Cook, 1998.
Based on scene from LOTR animated film,
Ralph Bakshi, Dir. 1978.

This SEEING and STANDING aspect is what I call "Tolkein Friendship," and it is clearly depicted in the myth-master's magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings.

Merry: "You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin–to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the ring. We are horribly afraid–but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds." (LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring)

Scene: Fellowship of the Ring,
Peter Jackson Dir. 2001

This statement by Frodo's friend Merry Brandybuck (speaking also for the other friends Sam Gamgee and Pippin Took) reveals that friends are people that have loyalty to each other, but (and this is important) "without subservience," as one author put it.
(Have you ever known a person who calls you their "friend," but only on their terms, only based on your subservience to them in some way? Friends they most decidedly are not!)

Friends are, without equivocation, equals and responsible to each other.

So the person who says that he/she has thousands of friends on the web cannot possibly mean it in the same way that these four hobbits meant it. For a friend is someone who becomes nothing less than family, indeed, sometimes closer than individual blood relatives. Sometimes disagreeing with them. Sometimes frustrated, even mad at them. Sometimes separated by time and great distance. But ever attached by the bonds of affection, regard, respect, concern and good will.

It is this Tolkein Friendship that is a major theme running throughout the LOTR trilogy, and The Hobbit before that. It is Tolkein Friendship that helps to supply the bearer of the One Ring what he needs, what he does not have by himself, for his epic journey.

"[Frodo] saw his friends' faces more clearly again, and a measure of new strength and hope returned." (LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring)

Sam carries Frodo. Scene: Return of the King, Peter Jackson, Dir. 2003

I have read some writers who think that the development of internet social networks has created a culture in which millions of people are constantly in contact with everybody and know nobody.

While I think this is certainly true for some. It is definitely not true for everyone. Anita and I have made what we feel are nascent and nurturing friendships in bloglandia. Some of you are "blood" family who are also dearest friends.

Others are people we have come to know through many blog correspondences, comments, team story telling and a general sharing of silliness. A few of you we have actually had visits with face to face. Others of you we dream of meeting some day, even if we have to fly half way around the world to do it.

And so, to all of you whom we have enjoyed so much in our journey through bloglandia:
Blessings to you, our Tolkien Friends.

The Golden Girls, NBC sitcom, 1985-1992

In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends.

— John Churton Collins

No one ever won an argument that lost a friend.
— Unknown

No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are throughout persuaded of each other's worth.
— Robert Southey

No miles of any measurement can separate your soul from mine.
— John Muir


Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

This is stunning and so close to my heart dearest friend. It takes a lifetime of work to be a friend and I am up for the task. Blessings of the highest order to ALL OF YOU, OUR DEAR FRIENDS! Anita

Marie said...

Ruben, Yes, friendship is a word that is often used too freely. I'm certain I have more aquaintances than friends and possibly for some who have so many FB "Friends", it's nothing more than a comfort to know so many would like to call us friend. I know who the "real" friends are, they express their friendship without my asking and yes, many are more family than just friends. I'm grateful that God has put those people in my life. I'm grateful for you, dear cousin.

Angelsdoor * Penny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Ruben
I am so glad I came by this evening. Your words are so very true and I so agree with Tolkien. I have always felt that one who is not there in time of need, but only in "smooth sailing" is what I would call a fair-weather friend. I have known many, as I am sure most people have.
My father always said, If in your life you have one true friend, you are blessed. I find this to be true. I believe everyone knows who their real friends are. I have been blessed with the precious gift of real friendship. And now I have had the sheer pleasure of actually meeting you and Anita…
You both have brought joy into my life and I am truly thankful for that.
Beautiful post Ruben.
Warm regards,

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Hello you....thank you for visiting my post....it means a lot to me when you visit me. BISES!!! moi

P.S., isn't Penny just a doll?

Martina said...

Ruben, it's all so true what you say about friendship. Real friendship is so precious - after all, we're social beings and we're nothing, just on our own. And it's most amazing that we are able to recognize friends - even if we know them only in blogland. Yet a certain energy is there! Each true friend shows us a new facette of our own being, a new angle or color, which is so wonderful! Let's just take the best of FB, blogland and real life - and leave pretense to those who need it. Have a lovely evening, Anita and you! Kind regards, M.

Martina said...

Dear Ruben, thank you for visiting! Yes, the thing is, KidsLife is a project, but i'm an artist. I studied art and started out as an artist - a painter, to be exact. Alas, since we have 2 kis, it's hard to provide a certain stability only doing art - so, my husband and i started a magazine. It went well first but due to huge crisis in economie and specialy in media right now, it's difficult as well. That's my personal dilemma! I'm still in a personal quest to find the way, which is genuine and true for me. KidsLife is a good magazine - but it takes all of me at the moment - which is too much! Well, we'll see! It's good to know Anita and you :)

The Dutchess said...

The Miracle of Friendship
by Anonymous

There is a Miracle called Friendship
that dwells within the heart
and you don't know how it happens
or when it even starts.

But the happiness it brings you
always gives a special lift
and you realize that
is God's most precious gift.

Blessings my friends..T.D

M.A.the2nd said...

Hello Ruben ... I have just visited your blog for the first time and was instantly taken by the Tolkien references. I am an avid follower of your lovely wife, Anita's blog and I now would love to follow yours. J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my favourite authors and "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" were my favourite books growing up. I have read all of them at least 3 times! The concept of friendship in these books is so compelling and I believe so true! I know what you mean about many people confusing acquaintances with true friendship. However, I do love the fact that through these channels we can actually find other people who "get it" and that is a wonderous thing. I have more to say but it is very late here and I best get my Georgiana to sleep!
Thank-you for reminding me of how great Tolkien is!
Frances aka M.A. the 2nd

LiLi M. said...

This could have been my text! You are absolutely right. You just need a few real friends, all the others are usually 'Hi'-sayers!
Enjoy your weekend!

Fete et Fleur said...

Dearest Brother,

You have stated this beautifully. I've really disliked the follower button since it came out. It seems superficial and in may ways, way to competitive for my taste.

I feel blessed to call you friend.


Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe said...

Thank you for this post. This strange new social definition of 'friendship' is something I've been thinking about a great deal recently and you hit the nail on the head, here. Real friendship is so rare and precious...it is a treasure beyond price. x

Jacqueline said...

You stir my soul Ruben. You make me think...and ponder. I want to think hard about this post and come back to you with my thoughts...

Gretta...have you seen my thinking cap? Darn, where did I put that blessed thing when I need it?

Jacqueline looked behind the couch, through Lens closet of comics and then she found it! Sitting behind the box of prunes! She lifted the thinking cap and under it was her imaginary friend Gretta. True to her soul, and just like Jacqueline. Under the thinking cap we go to find some thoughts and answers.

Bonnie said...

Exactly, Ruben!


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I have very recently discovered Anita's blog & was blown away by the pure delight of it. I see why you two are together, you make an excellent circle. Thank you for your charming work, I will return often.

Cheers! Leslie

PS I'd like to thank The Dutchess for her lovely poem.