THE BLOG

When Friendships End, the Grim Reaper and My Bigotry

24/04/2014 10:28 BST | Updated 23/06/2014 10:59 BST

When friendships end

The end is just the beginning. There is no end and no beginning. The morning after the day before. You get the drift. In language we have verbs which represent time. Today, now, is the present tense. Tomorrow, the future. Yesterday, the past. If we could, we would abbreviate the conditional tense into the present (the conditional state being famous for our saying 'we would if we could' rather than 'we will'). Friendships are like love affairs- they begin. They end (and both those words are firmly in the present). I have had many good friends in my life but I have lost just as many. I cannot describe it any other way except to say that I am an independent mind sadly too used to looking after myself. If I were to dwell on all the hurt people have caused me I would simply vanish off a cliff. It is best for me to say my goodbyes politely- always in a voice echoing with sadness and so I disappear for good. Conflict is a dreadful thing, the purview of illiterate, uneducated types who rant and rave. I prefer silence- more eloquent than an entire dictionary.

The benefit of being in the second half of my life is that I can look back- I see reams of experience enough to cover thousands of pages. Consider all the people we have met, acquaintances, those we bumped into in the street, those we knew only for a season. The canvas of a life is a vast thing and by the end of it, has been filled dozens of times over. There are layers to our existence that we suddenly recall but we struggle to remember our reaction; then as now, we have changed yet again. Like the metamorphosed fly or butterfly- we become something entirely different to what we were then. Our feelings remain the same. Those feelings which shaped who I am, I cannot deny or forget so easily. Those friendships that mattered but ended still endure as a fond memory. Beware though: even time can segue into the sheerest of illusions- blink and you might not see it at all. Are memories therefore, all we are?

The human condition is farcical, tragic, horrid yet ecstatic and over-the-top-wonderful occasionally. I am reminded of our insignificance by observing nature. I am seeing the same cycle over and over again now in a spring already fading. The cuckoo pints that have re-arisen and are almost flowering, the wild garlic has returned to proliferate in the same place in the woods, the scent of laurel flowers, the robins feeding their babies, the blue tits that flap about in the bird bath, like clockwork each day. Yet this return signifies an end- soon the spring will turn to summer etc. It is therefore almost inevitable that friendships like love affairs cannot last. We cannot keep up the same momentum ad infinitum. The best marriages, they say, are the ones where long after the passion has died, you get used to his awful habits or choose to ignore them completely.

The sages teach detachment- a peaceful demeanour accompanied by a rigor mortis smile that denotes a certain numbness. When we cease to react the blood would have surely stopped coursing in our veins. My passionate nature cannot be restrained - a strong will hates to be confined, controlled or shunted into a corner. Can the wind be forced in a different direction?

Nature demonstrates that all things must end. It is sad. It hurts to say goodbye. It feels terrible when the soul yearns for stability, for harmony, for somewhere to lay its weary head. The IChing has a phrase for it: The Travelling Stranger. One who forever is condemned to being a stranger, although hopefully not to oneself.

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The hound and I, Photo copyright S. van Dalen

The Grim Reaper

A workaholic friend calls me like clockwork every time a relative, friend or acquaintance passes on. "I must spend more time enjoying life,' he wails, 'life is too short!' and then he resumes his daily routine as he has always known it- addicted to working hard to prove that he is good at what he does. Sales figure up- bravo! More money coming in- fabulous! One cannot force a horse to drink- the same applies to us all. Every one of us is on a different path and not all of us are at the same stage of enlightenment. Quite simply, it is pointless trying to change anyone or tell them what to think.

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Bluebells in the woods where I live, Photo copyright S. van Dalen

I used to be a bigot

Hard knocks teach one to eat humble pie and so it was that my bigoted attitude towards homosexuality changed too: I am privileged to have gay friends who have taught me a thing or two about love, compassion and good old fashioned values. If that sounds like an oxymoron, too bad!

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An immature pine cone, Photo copyright S. van Dalen