This morning, as is my tradition, I opened my computer to check for overnight email. There was one from a funeral home in my hometown (I follow the obituaries), another from the Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot (I subscribe to the list of latest products) and one from a friend, Michael Tweedie, whom I have known since the late 1960s. Michael is a long-standing friend.
There is for me, as no doubt there is for you, only a small parcel of long-standing friends. Invariably those are people with whom, for whatever reason, one sustains an unidentifiable interest, purpose and attraction. My long-standing friends and I all share a common denominator; that is, each of us was at one time part of the same educational institution, whether prep school, undergraduate or graduate studies. It is a narrow window which in my case spread from 1963 to 1973. Pointedly I do not include those whom I met for example afterwards in 1974 – 1975 at Osgoode Hall when taking the bar admission course for the reason that each of us was then devoted so assiduously to personal ambition that idle but meaningful relationship was impossible. And while at that same time I met some terrific people when I was a Don at Devonshire House, University of Toronto, their acquaintance had already surpassed that limit beyond which entitlement to the distinction of long-standing had expired. Which is to say while one can most certainly develop good and valuable friendship at any time, the element of long-standing is a singular virtue.
When I moved into the business world the scope of friendship translated predominantly to what were parasitic relationships between professional and client. It is an understandable denomination but one from which I have learned with time to distance myself. It also characterizes the significance of the casual nature of a long-standing relationship; that is, undistinguished by imperative or expectation. And while it is true that some of the long-standing friends later shared the nature of a commercial or professional alliance, most often the long-standing bloodline persists. Seldom if ever is the long-standing friendship tainted by equally long-standing dispute or disagreement.
There is another feature of the long-standing friendship that is notable; namely, its extension can be interrupted for long periods. This quality is most often promoted by physical distance as for example when one of the parties moves to another city or country. Once again it is pardonable that the friends should in such circumstances become disconnected. Yet just as often it is not unsurprising that the long-standing friendship can reignite in a moment to its former standard of import.
What I like in particular about my long-standing friendships is the instant capacity for openness. There is no prescription for what one must instantly think or may informally observe. I find too that in spite of whatever translations may have overtaken a long-standing friendship by potency of marriage, occupation, distance or time, we always pick up where we left off as though nothing had changed. Indeed it speaks to the great philosophic conundrum of life that the elemental features of one’s being are inalterable.