Best Friends (for Life)
boy scouts boys brotherly love camping friendship men video games
Building a Friendship
Our friendship was built on video games, but that doesn't make it less valuable. Some of you may remember the N64 games, GoldenEye 007, which was a revolutionary first person shooter and featured memorable multi-player support. We spent hours sneaking around various maps trying to find ways to kill each other, but our true lasting bonds were created in cooperative video games. It's amazing how little needs to be spoken between two guys who are connected by the cables of their N64. We learned each others' habits, how we respond under stress, how to best support one another in hard times (being surrounded by Elites with plasma rifles), and how to celebrate shared triumphs.
The other main activity we shared was Boy Scouts. It's amazing how much bonding can occur over figuring out how to get a fire going in the dead of winter so you can boil an egg for a silly survival contest. Again, discussion of life issues was limited; we mostly discussed methods for burning things, tying things up, climbing things, or moving heavy things. It wasn't until about two or three years into our friendship that we actually started talking about our problems, dreams, and, of course, girls. Since then, we've had to learn how to respect each others' vastly differing views on life and morality.
Learning from our Friends
One of the most significant things I learned from my friend is that two people who see eye to eye on almost nothing can still get along. We differed on some pretty basic tenets of morality, or so it seemed to us as kids. I went through a period when I decided I could not be friends any longer and remain true to my own ideals, but quickly gave that up. I learned the lesson that we can hang around, and even love, others who don't live up to our standards. Better, I learned not to hold other people to standards that weren't their own.
A funny thing happened then. Slowly, our values began coming together. He stopped making fun of my various experiments in diet and himself became a dedicated vegetarian. I stopped being so uptight about dating and learned to appreciate all his advice on girls. I used to see us as polar opposites, and attributed our friendship to that, but looking back, I realize that we were always more similar than different, at least at a foundational level.
A Little Bromance
I am blessed to have a number of really close male friends, all of whom have taught me a lot. Most of them came out of my time spent at camp in Minnesota. I will never forget the day I showed up for dinner wearing a button down shirt, actually buttoned up and tucked in. My friend (a different guy, also like a brother to me), took me aside, told me I was at camp and to loosen up, and proceeded to untuck and unbutton my shirt, roll up my sleeves, and in two minutes taught me my favorite way to wear a shirt, for my whole life. It's little things like that which define a relationship. Just as my first friend inspired me to exercise more and challenged my ability to debate, this friend inspired me to learn guitar and to really delve into music, helping define who I was and became as I grew up.
Warriors do sometimes work alone, but if we return to the tribal model, they are part of a class. They are the young defenders of the people, and so they must also work together when the task at hand is too large for one of them alone, or they simply help each other prepare for the challenges to come in life. All great Warriors have a band of close friends, either to aid them in battle or to help them get their head on straight. These friends are not mentors - they are often of the same age group and thus cannot really guide the Warrior forward - but they do provide some direction. These friends are those in the same situation in life as the Warrior, and thus can share their perspective on similar experiences.
I have been extremely lucky in this day of shallow male friendships to have found such amazing friends. I have learned so much from these guys in my life, my band of brothers in spirit. I have gone months, nearly a year in one case, without speaking, and we have always been able to pick up right where we left off. Actually, we pick up as if we'd never left off in the first place. Somehow, time and space seem trivial to such strong bonds. I know that, for as long as I live, I will always be able to head off into the woods on a camping trip with any of these guys (that is one thing that we all have in common) and spend a week just the two of us, and not get on each others' nerves. We might then never see each other again for years, but when the time comes, we will always have that connection, forged in the heat of (virtual) battle and the quiet solitude of the wilderness.
Do you have any friendships that have defined you and defy all of the ways travel, school, and distance pull people apart? Feel free to share in the comments.
Image source: spamily on flickr