I have these two friends that I am systematically travelling the world with. It's not something we planned but something that kind of just happened. Back in 2012 we went on a group holiday to Italy. There were eight of us in total embarking on a fleeting tour of Italy. Finding friends you can travel with successfully is almost as rare as finding friends you can live with. The exception being that you know the holiday is going to end in two weeks or less but you've probably committed to that lease for at least a year.
Before this Italy trip I was already forming a close bond with the two girls that would become my best friends, travel buddies and two-thirds of The Triangle, but I think (they might disagree with me) that it was in this trip that our friendship evolved from what could have been another fleeting acquaintance in a passing stage of our lives to what I truly believe will be a life long camaraderie and support system. It took us approximately two days to realise that what we constituted as a well-spent vacation didn't necessarily line up with what the others constituted as a well spent vacation. Whilst they slept in, rode Segways and drank beer in the park like fourteen-year-olds we went exploring and got lost. Even when we rejoined the group we were apart from them. The three of us had developed a language the others didn't understand. We got lost in the places they found weary and weary in the places they got lost. We became those loud and obnoxious tourist, drunk on nothing more than sunshine and good company and they eyed us suspiciously wondering what we were talking about half the time.
A shift had occurred in which the three of us had found people with which we no longer had to try hard to be accepted. We'd found people who we could turn around and say, with joyous grins on our faces, "you get me". I think, if I remember correctly, that it was in Rome, sitting at a table drinking cocktails that we named ourselves "The Triangle". I think it came about from us being in the inner trust circle of friendship or something and then there were three of us and there's one other vital reason that I will come back to.
C.S Lewis (one of my favourite writers) writes that friendship begins when two (or more) people look at each and say "What? You too? I thought I was the only one". Friendships seem to happen so organically that you rarely stop to think about the moment you formed the friendships you have. But recently I've found myself in situations where friendships haven't been formed so easily or organically and so I have to ask myself why. Thinking back to the origins of The Triangle I think it came about, as many great friendships do, from the feeling of being different from the other people in the social community we were a part of and finding solace with others who were different too. Ours happened to be church. That's not to say there weren't other people in the church I didn't like or count as my friends; I wouldn't have gone on holiday with the other five people if I didn't see them as friends (but curiously I haven't gone on another holiday with any of them since). But with the girls in The Triangle I found women with common interests and goals and ideas as myself. In short, they get me.
The main reason we are called The Triangle (by ourselves mainly nobody else calls us that, I don't think) is because of our ethnic diversity. Again it wasn't something that came about consciously. One of us is of African descent, one of us is Indian, one of us is Anglo-European all of us are British. We met in London, the hub of ethnic diversity in England, but what's funny is that growing all of us were the minority. Yes, there are parts of London were white people are a minority. We recently had a triangle vacation to Edinburgh and as welcoming and friendly as the Edinburgh people were they were also pleasantly surprised to hear that we were friends who had travelled there together. They couldn't wrap their heads around where the three of us would have met and formed a friendship. The beauty of friendship is that it's a bond formed from nothing more or less than common experiences, ideas and a common goal. "Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest." Friendships will break the invisible man-made barriers of race, gender and sexuality easier than any other relationship because the only thing needed in a friendship is a mutuality of character and a common interest or goal.
Growing up I used to worry that I didn't have a lot of friends, now I know how blessed I was to have even one. I was very blessed because I had more than one. At our smallest we were just two, at our largest we numbered up to seven. I still speak to most, three of them regularly. There is something unique and special about friendship above all other relationships that we can often disregard. Everybody wants to fall in love hoping to find a best friend in their spouse but, whilst your spouse should be your best in friend, don't disregard the importance of a best friend from whom all that is required from them is to play the role of friend.
It's dangerous to assume that once friendship reaches a certain point of intimacy there must be a sexual element to it. Look at the analysis' and parodies of Samwise Gamgee and Frodo's friendship in The Lord of the Rings or of Steve and Bucky's friendship in Captain America. For some reason our society finds it difficult to accept that the intimacy of friendship is a valuable intimacy in and of itself. The assumption that a close friendship must lead to "something more" undermines the value of friendship. Or you have chick flicks and Rom-coms were friendship is thrown aside for "love". Friendship is love, and an an important part of it.
I've been working in the performing arts industry for six years and I still have people ask me when I'm going to get a real job. I have friends who have been in the business for many more successful years, who have played leading roles on the West End whose parents still feel the need to validate their child's career in performing arts with the the fact that they also teach - the assumption being that teaching is a proper job and being an artist is not. Saying that two close friends must have sexual feelings for each other is like saying that an artist needs a real job. Being a performer is a real job and the love of friendship is a real love.
Friendship is unique from other relationships because there is no obligation involved. You have to love your family because they are your blood. Evolutionary speaking, if you don't protect your family then your bloodline is lost and your presence on this earth forgotten. You have to love your spouse because they are your means of procreation and continuation of your bloodline. Notwithstanding the fact that you stood up in front of God, your family and your nation's law committing yourself to this person for better or for worse. Your friends however have no obligation to remain your friends. You have no ties to their DNA, they made no declaration to be your friends forever (minus a few private ones in the playground) and whether you win or lose makes no evolutionary or economical difference to them. Yet they remain; not because they have to – they never have to – but because they want to.
Lewis writes that friendship, like philosophy and art is unnecessary. "It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival."
Just like a beautiful painting or poem will show you parts of a person that couldn't otherwise be expressed, a good friendship with bring out parts of a person you never knew were there. Friends have an unspoken authority to build you up in ways that family can't and pull you down a few pegs when your lover doing so would only aggravate or damage your relationship. Because the only goal of friendship is friendship the level of mutual trust is unheeded. It is friendships that change the world. Sexual love can only involve two people, compassionate will go far but it won't sustain you, friendships both feeds you and feeds out and it can involve whole groups of people. It is friends who will join together to change the world.
One of my favourite passages in the bible is when Jesus says "I have called you friends." Yes I love that I am God's daughter, I love that I am his bride but I love, really love, that I am his friend. That friendship suggests a level of disclosure and intimacy that a father can't have with a child and sometimes a husband can't have with his wife. In the same passage he says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you.." I need God but he has chosen me. It's great to be needed but isn't there something special about being chosen.
sources cited: Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves, John 15:15-16