What Jacques Derrida Understood About Friendship

What Jacques Derrida Understood About Friendship:

ecrituria:

Modern life, theorists say, is full of atomized individuals, casting about for a center and questioning the engine of their lives. As a practical matter, friendship is voluntary and vague, a relationship that easily slides into the background of life. For some, friendship is enduring and rhythmic; for others, it’s a sporadic intimacy of resuming conversations that were left years prior. There are people we only talk to about serious things, others who only make sense to us in the merriment of drunken nights. Some friends seem to complete us; others complicate us.

The intimacy of friendship, Derrida writes, lies in the sensation of recognizing oneself in the eyes of another. We continue to know our friend, even when they are no longer present to look back at us. From the moment we befriend someone, he argues, we are already preparing for the possibility that we might outlive them, or they us. Of the many desires we attach to friendship, then, “none is comparable to this unequalled hope, to this ecstasy towards a future which will go beyond death.”

[…]

It’s taken me years to read “The Politics of Friendship.” As I’ve inched my way through it, lines here and there have sent me to Derrida’s other writings, or have spurred my mind to chase random memories. I fix on the parts that sing, and I try to catch the gist of the parts that are too complicated for me. The book’s main appeal is the opportunity it provides to follow along as someone grapples with an ephemeral part of human experience. Doing so has come to feel more and more poignant as I have made my slow progress. At times, it seems as though Derrida is describing a bygone way of being, one racked with less anxiety about the bonds that tie us together. In an era of social media and fluid, proliferating channels of communication and exchange, the idea of friendship seems almost quaint, and possibly imperiled. In the face of abundant, tenuous connections, the instinct to sort people according to a more rigid logic than that of mere friendship seems greater than ever.

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