Sunday, February 21, 2016

The perils of having an invisible friend

O, a slightly whimsical idea for you, inspired by a comment I heard at church today:

If I were completely invisible, would you still be my friend?

No, not inaudible (wouldn't that be nice), nor intangible either -- so I'd still blather on, and if you happened to bump into me you'd make contact. I'd be the same person I am now; I just wouldn't register on the visible spectrum in any way.

Yeah, I know, if you're blind or if you only interact with humanity via the Internet, for all you know your friends might already be invisible. But setting those specific examples aside, consider what it would take to maintain an everyday, face-to-face friendship with someone you can't see. You couldn't make eye contact, you wouldn't be able to read my body language, you'd never feel wholly comfortable talking about me behind my back, you might worry about whether I was spying on you (nope; even the idea of spying on friends is creepy and revolting), you might even start to wonder whether I was reading a book over your shoulder ( guilty).

But all these would be minor problems compared to the biggest issue of all: having strangers and passersby think you're a complete nutcase, as you appear to talk to the wall, laugh at nobody and put your arm around empty space as you walk down the street. Would it still be worth it to have me as a friend, if you had to pay the social price of having everyone else assume you were crazy?

And what if your close friends were skeptical of my existence? As they say, seeing is believing. If they could hear but not see me, well, that could be a trick. It's possible to wire up a sound system in such a way as to create a convincing auditory illusion of an invisible person, so that's not proof. And as far as being able to feel me, I'll bet that too could be faked. (Of course, that also makes me wonder -- how many people do you actually socially touch over the course of a day? As an American, I'm most comfortable touching family members and a few very close friends, but I know scores of people -- friends, even -- whom I've never touched. For all the experiential proof I have, lots of other people could be intangible.)

You might be tempted to say that you don't care what other people think (if so, let me introduce you to a fun little book by a curious character), but for most people this isn't as true as they imagine. Human beings are social creatures by nature, and we usually do worry even what strangers might think of us. (Have you ever walked by two people having a conversation in a language you didn't understand, or been seated near a few people whispering to each other, and wondered even for a fleeting instant whether they were talking about you?) At some point in your life (likely middle school), you probably ended a friendship or were dropped by a friend -- not because you didn't like each other, but because one of you wasn't popular at the time. A friendship, even a very warm and close one, which causes strangers to give you a wide berth or shoot you the stinkeye is going to put some serious social strain on you in a very short time.

So I put it to you again: if I were invisible, would you still be my friend?

Just something to think about.


Candice said...

This is a beautiful question about friendship. It leads me to other questions like, do I love my friends because pride or ego benefits from them? Or do I love them with who I really am, unselfishly? Am I paranoid that other people are out to judge and compete with me socially, to judge me if I befriend outsiders and those who are invisible to circles of seeming social importance?

My grandmother had a dream when suffering with depression in which she stood with others in a cave and saw a stone sculpture of Christ laid in a casket. A crowd surroundeded it, mocking it, saying, "he's only a statue." Suddenly the Christ's eyes opened, but apparently only she could see this. He arose, become living flesh and she took him by the hand. She looked into his face, and saw it change to look like many different people from one moment to the next. Together they climbed out of the cave and up a mountain, the crowd behind them. She asked, “Why is this, when our steps are no longer and we walk no faster, that we have come so much farther than the others?” And He said to her, “It is because you walk with your hand in the hand of Christ!”

The statue motif reminds me of your question too. There is secular knowledge and evidence of Christ among us. There are representations of him in our cities, but knowing his spirit for ourselves is a different kind of knowledge and experience, and these experiences in our lives are sadly invisible to many people around us that we care about. However, just as my grandmother felt comfortable sharing this dream with me, I'm grateful for the sacred moments that do come when I can share of and rejoice in the closeness and connection with him that we feel, the help/miraculously lengthened strides we can observe.

Helena said...

I just wanted to let you know that Tacoma Opera is doing Threepenny Opera at the end of April. I thought of you because of the pirate song. :)

Soozcat said...

Arr! Piratey goodness! :)