There is an aspect of human behaviour that goes beyond basic needs. OK, we come from animals that perpetuated their forms by finding food, reproducing, and avoiding danger. But it seems that friendship extends beyond all of that.
Families, at their most basic, can certainly become machines for finding food, reproducing, and avoiding danger. Hence, I suppose, some people’s political obsession with the family as a basic unit of safety and consumerism. If that’s what you believe, then that’s what families may become.
But once the basics are taken care of – once there is a safe building to live in and food to eat – then what is there?
WIDER CIRCLES OF FRIENDSHIP
As children grow up, they seek out friendship and influence outside the home. They investigate areas of life that their parents are incapable of discovering, or unwilling to discover. And they expand their circle beyond the narrow confines of the family.
In this middle ground, humans have become good at forming gangs, groups, teams, companies, organisations, clubs… intermediate points between the original family and the wider universe, where individuals can explore their tastes and discover new ones. A community or culture contains within it more than an immediate family can. That includes new friendships, for good or for bad.
As adults develop, they may realise that the expanding circle can go on for ever. If you can relate to a family, you can relate to a community. If you can relate to a community, you can relate beyond that community to other ones. If you can relate to the whole human race, you can relate to other species. If you can do that, then you can relate to the whole universe.
At that point, friendship becomes something else. Instead of being a narrow-minded fulfilling of mutual needs, selfish and inward looking, it generalises, and becomes an ability to act together in sympathy with the wider universe. It’s scary, because the wider universe doesn’t necessarily protect individuals in the same way as the old narrow pacts did. Some people will go back to preferring the old-style families, gangs and clubs.
If you are able to relate widely enough, everything, in a sense, becomes a friend. Once you have escaped from the usual patterns of selfish living, then you have no reason to distinguish between different beings, or even different things. You can find some kind of home anywhere, with anything. If you think about it, this is the ultimate in non-discrimination – the ability to accept everything.
To those who are used to relying on close alliances to survive, this will seem fanciful and strange. But to those who have spent a lifetime learning not to be afraid, it can look like perfect freedom.
Next time you walk down the road and see someone with a faraway look in their eye and apparently not a penny to their name, remember who they might be. Yes, they might be poor and unattached. But they might also have escaped the narrow confines of local prejudice, and be friends with everything. If you genuinely believe in being non-prejudiced and accepting everything, isn’t that something to aim for?