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What can cure most ills?... Friendship.



Painting: Friendship Artist: Itzchak Tarkay

I must admit that I am lucky enough to have many friends of all different stripes and colors. I’m an Aquarian, so what can I say? The importance of friends is part of my astrological DNA. You may not buy into the validity of Sun Signs but here is one pretty clear definition of the way those born January 20th to February 18th are:

Aquarians highly value a good friendship. They believe in long-term friendships and hate people who cannot keep their promises. Aquarians are always honest with their friends and never offer any wrong advice just to avoid rocking the boat.

Bored to death yet with all this astrological mumbo jumbo? Thinking this is all a bunch of malarkey? Never mind! Any way you cut it, I do believe friendship is a critical ingredient for having a fulfilling life.

Think of it: Friendships can be our most enduring and important relationships. We can live without lovers or spouses. We can live without our primary families, but most of us cannot live happily without friends.

Here are a few true statements about friendship:

Whenever I’m sad, you’re there. Whenever I’m having problems, you are always there. Whenever my life

seems out of control, you are always there.

Let’s face it, you’re bad luck.

or

A friend is someone you call when you need bail money.

But your best friend is sitting right there beside you saying, “The party’s not over until the

mugshots are taken.”

or

Friendship must be built on a solid foundation of alcohol, sarcasm, inappropriateness

and shenanigans.

or

A true friend stabs you in the front.

Finally,

Friendship is not a big thing.

It’s a million little things.

In all seriousness, turns out that most of the studies about health and relationships are focused on romantic partners. We so often think that just finding the right person will make us happy and fulfilled. But many researchers have found that our friendships actually have a bigger impact on our health, our psychological well-being and our longevity than even family relationships.

Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow and author, has studied the habits of people who live in regions of the world where the people live far longer than average. He found that positive friendships are a common and crucial theme in these regions.

Good example: In Odinawa, Japan, the life expectancy for women is around 90 (!!), the oldest in the world. There, people form a kind of social network called a moai – a group of five friends who offer social, logistic, emotional and even financial support for a lifetime.

As usual, I like to look at friendships from a spiritual perspective as well.

Alan Cohen says that each of us lives on an island of people who match our intentions, interests and habits of thought. These are not real islands but islands of thought and consciousness. That is why we keep attracting the same kind of person in romantic relationships, work or friendships. Your mind magnetizes people of like configuration, for better or worse.

Plato said:

“True friendship can occur only

among equals.”

Cohen says:

“If you like the kinds of people and situations you are attracting, amp up your signal. If you

do not like them, change it.”

Karen Casey, a long-term student of A Course in Miracles and

member of AA says:

“Perhaps you’ve never considered just how perfect your circle of friends is. No one has joined the circle accidentally. And each lesson you need has been brought

to you by someone in the circle already or

perhaps someone who will join it soon.

How exciting to think of our friends and all of our ‘lessons’ in this way. We have need of one another.

And this will continue to be true until our

journey comes to an end.”

Another spiritual concept about friendship:

We are not on parallel paths by accident. We are the

students and the teachers each of us needs to grow.

So what are the key qualities of a good friend?

Empathy: must be able to put yourself in the other’s shoes.

Loyalty: must stay faithful to your relationship in good times,

bad times, forever and always.

Trust: must be able to share personal struggles, challenges

and problems.

Honesty: must be able to speak openly from the heart and

to tell the truth.

Respect: must celebrate and honor whatever

each of your accomplishments are.

Personally, I must add two of the most significant qualities of a good friend in my book: the ability to laugh at each other and with each other AND to talk about everything under the sun.

Coincidentally, while I was writing on the topic of friendship today, an old friend of mine sent me a snippet of a video (see below) that she made in our dorm for a film class during college over 55 years ago. There's no sound on it. She captured my dear friend, Easter, and me at the age of 18 years old, laughing hysterically as we veritably tortured a cat! I can't remember any of it and certainly don't know what possessed us to be tossing this little adorable kitten back and forth -- I'm mortified by the very idea!

If you swear not to report us to the Humane Society, I’ll let you in on the fact that a) dark brown is the natural color of my hair and b) polka dots are NEVER a good fashion statement.

And remember that, as Charlie Chaplin once said:

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

And the motto by which I live is:

“I just want to spend the rest

of my life laughing.”


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