Saturday, May 06, 2006

Friendships of Convenience

I lived off campus for the first time this past school year. It was an interesting phenomenon. I learned very quickly that in the IWU community, if you are not a part of the immediate (on campus) portion you are quickly forgotten. This is not the fault of any individuals in particular nor am I saying this to elicit pity. It is the reality of the beast. When things happen at IWU, they happen on campus. If you're not on campus, you miss things. People don't see you everyday and in some ways they forget you're still around. Yet I have had some fantastic interactions/conversations with some of my friends and have grown in friendships despite my social-disability due to off-campusness. Interestingly, this year has also allowed me to reflect upon the relationships that are formed at this university, and to an extent, how relationships are formed in general.

I have expressed my ostensibly cynical attitude to some about the basic life pattern that many of us find ourselves upon. We spend our early life growing up and being educated with people who become close friends. Yet when high school graduation arrives, people go their seperate ways and most of the friendships formed there will be radically altered in some way. Some students enter university life, where they spend another four years being educated, forming bonds with others, and then leaving to pursue jobs or graduate school. Many lose touch with their college friends and only a few close contacts remain regular. For those of us who opt for graduate school, we settle down in another educational atmosphere and begin the process anew of creating meaningful relationships. As the cycle becomes incredibly repetitious, we graduate and lose contact with many of the people we became quite close to.

Granted, that is a vast generlization of the pattern which ensues in many of our lives. But it is a pattern that perhaps ought to be considered seriously. The question which has arisen for me is what type of relationships are we forming? Has the sporadic course of our early lives truncated our ability to form relationships which last beyond our circumstances? In other words, are we merely founding friendships of convenience? I have noticed at the WU (and I'm sure other collegiates could give similar experiences) that the web of friendships shifts somewhat dramatically from year to year. Certainly people retain the most significant of these friendships and those friends grow gradually closer as the four years of university life progress. But as housing arrangments change, so do friendships. The people you live with become your closest friends. This is perfectly understandable and natural. Those who I lived with last year and those on the RA staff quickly became my steadfast and loyal friends. As corny as it sounds, we laughed together, we studied together, we held each other accountable, we stayed up late talking about girls, or most often, problems with girls. We even (literally) cried together. My friends and I were truly a band of brothers, brought together in a bond that is closer than some siblings.

I cherish those people to this very day, and those experiences. The normative shifts, though, have occured and people go their seperate ways. Some connections are still strong. Other are waning.

Life, it seems, is consumed by relationships. It is relationships that hold cultures and societies together. It is the relationship God has initiated with his Church that promises hope for this world. Even the Triune God by nature is relational. What it seems to me is that relationships are a large component of what it means to be a human; created in God's image. Then why do so many of the relationships we form become obsolete? Why does this cycle of life changes draw us apart? As we become busy with the next aspect of our life we tend to forget how we even arrived there in the first place. As aforementioned, there are many exceptions to this. Many friendships will indeed last a lifetime, and continue into eternity. But why do so many relationships errode and dissipate? Do we truly rely upon convenience as the basis for our relationships? If so, I'm surprised we keep any deep relationships; and I am as guilty as anyone.

I want my life to impact others. I want the relationships I form to be ones which are continuously efficacious even amidst seperation. I want relationships to last longer than my housing vicinity.

Perhaps this post seems odd. It does not follow the typical subject matter or writing style that accompanies me. These are my random thoughts and do with them what you will.


Aaron said...

You're a good kid Ben

Ben Robinson said...

And you're a good friend. :) I miss you buddy.