Friends I

June 28, 2008

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve decided to reread some Hermann Hesse books lately: would they be as stimulating as they were in high school or college?

I started with his first novel, Peter Camenzind. In it, I see how nascent artistic youths (esp. young men) might be truly inspired by this book. There are themes of leaving home, going for long walks, discovering wine, discovering women, discovering art, debating religion, debating suicide, being arrogant and discovering who YOU are — all testosterone driven impulses of a young man.

One part of the book has stuck with me: the act of finding a friend. Peter came from a small town where everyone dead and alive was a Camenzind. So, he evidently decided that a friend who is related is a different kind of friend from one who is not. His passion for finding a friend was touching. And this was not a homosexual desire, rather a homosocial one. He wanted a male best friend.

The most haunting part of the book was the part where he implies that he has no friends. This state seemed bewildering to me. The state of having NO friends. Trying to imagine this has made me realize and appreciate my thousands of friends. With each one of my friends, I, at some point, decided that I wanted them to be my friend, and they me. Having that articulated felt good.

Looking at Peter Camenzind at age 55 feels differently than it did when I first read it at age 19 –– been there, done that, but it still resonates with me.

It occurs to me that the decision to be someone’s friend is an integral part of MySpace and Facebook.

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