Okay, not an actual Ode, but that doesn’t matter I’m trying to arouse an image…hehe, I said aroused! hehe…ahem.
So, to take a break from my usual modus operandi of criticizing published and successful writers from my seat in the peanut gallery, I’ve decided to make a philosophical and somewhat somber post. You’ve been warned.
Okay, are you ready for this? Good.
Friendship is really the core of our humanity, because it’s through friendship that we express the best qualities in ourselves and illicit the best qualities from others. Often the best works of fiction all featured a deep friendship between two people and explored the intimacy that two people can share that often seems to have an almost spiritual or ephemeral quality to it. Not necessarily romantic intimacy, though that can be present, but merely the bond that can be formed between two people. In fact one of the first works of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, written on a series of stone tablets over 5000 years ago is an epic that deals with the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. When Enkidu dies Gilgamesh is so devastated he remains by Enkidu’s body in mourning for three days and constructs a bronze statue in his honor, that’s what you call loyalty. Though Gilgamesh’s story doesn’t end there, he then delves into another of mankind’s primal emotions: the fear of death, as Gilgamesh tries to become immortal (I’ll tackle death at another time), it was his legendary friendship with Enkidu that made him famous. He’s not remembered as the King of Uruk, not as a Demi-God akin to Hercules, and certainly not as the man who tried to conquer death. He is remembered, first and foremost, as the man who was Enkidu’s friend.
Despite the story being over 5000 years old, parts of the story missing and being translated from old Bablyonian cuneform to English, it still remains one of the most memorable scenes in the history of literature. I very nearly cried when Enkidu died, and I’m such a cold hearted bastard that my heart resembles a black hole inside a black hole. The story has been adapted, rewritten and re-imagined in every artistic medium from paintings to sculptures, from movies to video games. That’s how powerful the idea of friendship resonates within the human psyche, and though the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu were one of the first they were by no means the last. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer was a friendship that made Mark Twain one of the most noted literary figures on the 19th Century. Julius Ceasar conquered Gaul and was an unparalleled military leader for his time but what is the first thing people think of when he’s mentioned? That Brutus, his best friend, betrayed and killed him. Sherlock Holmes was a fascinating character in his own right, but would there really be any story without his faithful friend Watson to tag along?
Someone once said that no man is an island, and in some ways that’s true, every life affects the other in an incomprehensibly vast network of shared emotions and experiences. But in someways, we are all islands, because even though we are connected by water, it’s a cold and impersonal thing that leaves us isolated and alone if we don’t stuff a message in a bottle and throw it into the water and hope it washes up onto another island nearby.
And of course, what I mean by that is that you have to get out there and live. You can just float on the ephemeral seas of civilization, content to remain relatively isolated and perhaps some even prefer it that way, but the joy in our lives rests in learning about another’s life. To be able to help someone other than yourself and to know that, at least, in some small measure, you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Or better yet, that they’ve made a difference in yours.
Look at that face. Is he about to greet you? Or is he going to kick your ass so hard you’ll be wearing your buttocks like a hat the rest of your life? That was the enigma of Bobby, a mysterious old guy who may or may not have worked for the CIA while he was visiting a great many places in the former Soviet Union. He fought in World War 2 as a medic during some of the most vicious battles of the pacific theatre and then became a highly influential member of a top newspaper company (which may or may not have been a cover for his true CIA identity), and was generally so badass that he made John Wayne look like an effeminate rockstar.
I’ve been trying to write the story of my friend Bobby since he died on June 11th, 2009. However, every time I try I get my proverbial ass kicked by a horrendous dose of grief and bitterness, because like so many other people I never told Bobby what he meant to me when he was still here(or asked him if he was ever in the CIA). Though perhaps words are unnecessary and its our actions that speak for us, I hope that’s true. I will, eventually, write about Bobby and what he meant to me. That he was not just a badass, not just potentially a ex-CIA spook, and not just a man who saw more hell than most. That he was, first and foremost, my friend.