Two Questions from Jim F (1)

October 19, 2004 | 12 comments
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A year ago I met a French philosopher, Michel Juffé, at a conference on Levinas and psychology at Seattle University. In August of this year, I took part in a conference on loss that he sponsored at Cerisy-la-Salle, in Normandy. Sunday Professor Juffé stopped by Provo on his way to a second Seattle conference on Levinas and psychology (which I was disappointed not to be able to take part in). I picked Professor Juffé up from the airport Saturday night and took him to the West Desert, the Salt Flats, and Temple Square on Sunday. Monday morning he gave a talk on Descartes and Spinoza, then we went for a ride in the mountains so he could see some of the variety of geography we have here in Utah. Today he went on to Seattle.

While in Provo, Professor Juffé stayed with Janice and me, and we had a great time visiting with him. From his responses to things, I think he too enjoyed his stay. Though we have only met a few times, I felt real friendship for and from him.

His visit prompted two thoughts. To keep the threads separate, I’ll make them two separate posts, but the context is the same for each. First question: What explains why we quickly become friends with some and not with others? Professor Juffé and I share the fact that we both like philosophy and we both like teaching philosophy. But I am a Mormon and he is a non-practicing Catholic. He is French and I am American, and though I love many things French and he loves many things American (especially American cinema), there still remains considerable difference between the French and the Americans. I don’t speak French all that well; he doesn’t speak English all that well (though I think his English is better than my French). It wouldn’t be difficult to make the list of our differences fairly long, but you get the picture. Nevertheless, I think we really did become friends? Why? How?

Go here for the second question.

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12 Responses to Two Questions from Jim F (1)

  1. Clark Goble on October 20, 2004 at 4:22 am

    I think it tends to be tied to practice. Our friends are determined by what we like to do. When we do things together we have a strong friendship. The more we do together, often the stronger the friendship, with the strongest friendships involving doing things that are most close to our hearts. We drift away from friends when we don’t have things to do together.

  2. Melissa on October 20, 2004 at 9:41 am

    I’ve thought a lot about this question myself lately. A few weeks ago I met someone with whom I quickly and easily fell into several hours worth of conversation. Almost overnight this person has become a good friend. On the surface it is rather strange—we are not remotely close in age or experience or situation, but to my surprise our friendship blossomed.

    I wonder if our preconceptions of people play a role in whether or not we become friends?

    Jim, you met Professor Juffe at a conference on Levinas and psychology. On one hand this means that you had some interests in common, but it also meant that you had certain preconceptions of what this person (a person who would come all the way from France to attend such a conference, for example) might be like. We aren’t always aware of our preconceptions of others, but I think they can lead us towards or away from people. I’ve certainly had people befriend me because of very basic knowledge they had about my interests, education or life history, for example. But, I have also had people who have never met me avoid me like the plague because of my interests, education or life history.

    Furthermore, I think temperament or disposition is important here. Contrary to Clark, I think one’s disposition in some ways more important than common activities. Of course, there have to be some shared practices. But, I find myself drawn to people (regardless of their hobbies or profession) who have similar temperaments. This is not to say that their temperaments are similar to mine. But there is a pattern in the dispositions of my closest friends.

  3. Kevin Winters on October 20, 2004 at 9:45 am

    Clark,

    I don’t know if mutual interests is entirely the issue. There have been times when I’ve developed a close friendship with people who’s interests *by and large* differ from my own (essentially, we shared one interest that initially brought us together, but after that there wasn’t much). I wonder if it is a more subtle thing than the more blatent social activities. Maybe we could appeal to Joseph Fielding Smith’s ‘spiritual memories’ for part of it; but maybe another aspect could be spoken of in terms of energy–that the people share a sort of dynamism or ‘pulse of life’ that initially finds ‘sync’ with the other. I’ve had times where a ‘bond’ or ‘connection’ occurs with another that is sudden and unexpected, but doesn’t seem to be from any easily cognizable external cues (i.e. it wasn’t necessarily because they were cute or had a ‘fun personality’). Maybe it’s genetic?

    Kevin Winters

  4. Rosalynde Welch on October 20, 2004 at 10:11 am

    Jim, you undoubtedly knew him in the pre-existence and made promises to find him and befriend him. :)

    I once read an article distinguishing male homosociality (that is, friendship) from female with the proposition that men like to do things together whereas women like to feel things together. While I violently disagree with this kind of thinking, it would (annoyingly) explain the difference between Clark’s and Melissa’s positions.

    While I am socially adept and enjoy conversation and association, I don’t easily form intimate friendships. But when I do, it’s usually based on a common sensibility–something different from either taste or opinion. We share responses not necessarily to the big things in life, but to the small things.

  5. Keith on October 20, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    Jim,

    In terms of moving inexplicably, quickly, yet naturally into a friendship, what about the passage in D&C 88: “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light” and so on? I’m probably guilty of taking that a bit out of context, but I think it still fits. With all the differences the two of you had, something of shared intelligence, truth, virtue brought you to friendship. Though I can’t put my finger on it exactly, this cleaving, receiving, embracing, is something deeper than finding you are friends because you like the same sports teams or have similar tastes in books, restaurants and the like.

    Of course, there is probably a difference in the oneness and fellow-feeling one may have for a variety of the people one knows in a ward, a community, at work and so on and the experience of close friendships (though clearly there will be similarities). And then isn’t there something of a difference in those friendships in comparison to family relations (which also have there own variety). We could say all these relationships are marked by oneness and love, but that this will take into account the differences. In other words, I’m one with my wife differently than I’m one with a member of my ward, one with a long-time trusted friend differently than a cousin I might not know well.

    It may be that we are built for oneness–that is, when we are who we are–living in/as spirit (or in the Spirit if you like), our tendency is to be one with others. “If you are not one, you are not mine.” The experience of fellowship, oneness, Zion, etc., seem to be both the means and the end of holiness or of spirituality.

    All that said, I don’t know why some friendships blossom like they do, where others don’t. We can chalk another one up to grace and give thanks (even while we try to understand).

  6. Keith on October 20, 2004 at 1:11 pm

    By the way, I apologize for obnoxious grammatical and typographical errors in my last couple posts (and others as well). I did look them over, but probably sent them off too quickly in an effort to get to things I should be doing. Strange how I can see them once they are forever set in stone at T&S.

  7. David King Landrith on October 20, 2004 at 9:34 pm

    Darn! Someone already made the pre-existence joke.

  8. Jim F. on October 21, 2004 at 12:07 am

    If I get to pick, I choose Melissa’s and Keith’s answers: temperment and, what may be the same, shared “intelligence.” (I assume that Keith was using that in something like its LDS sense rather as that to which IQ supposedly points.)

    But Keith’s raises another interesting phenomenon of friendship: I have several good friends in our ward who are inexplicably my friends–except for the fact that we are in the ward together. We have no interests in common (again, “except” for the Church). Our temperments are quite different. But something about being together in this ward for more than 20 years has made us friends.

  9. Clark Goble on October 21, 2004 at 12:45 am

    I think church, as a common interest and place of action, is a rather significant commonality.

  10. J. Stapley on October 21, 2004 at 1:55 am

    If I may apply a musical metaphor: Let us say that an individual is note. The frequency and harmonics of the note are a function of what an individual values (e.g., I value the carnal security of a hot tub). The timbre of the note is a function of temperament a la Mellisa.

    Those individual/notes that harmonize well enjoy a strong relation. Interesting and novel harmonies are often surprisingly satisfying. Potentially promising harmonies are often left unsung because the timbres are simply incompatible (imagine a French horn and an electric guitar). On the other hand, many banal harmonies are sublime for the compatibility of timbres with which they resonate. Interests then, play no real part.

    Jim F. your mention of the 20 year acquaintances that you consider friends. If it is neither harmony nor timbre maybe an individual just becomes accustomed with time to other individuals? Also, this whole metaphor is a nod to your thesis.

  11. Jim F. on October 22, 2004 at 12:36 am

    J. Stapley, I think your musical metaphor is much better than my line and point metaphor. I will probably steal it for my classes. Thanks.

  12. J. Stapley on October 22, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    I’ve actually been thinking about this metaphor quite a bit since posting it. When I posted it I hadn’t had a chance to really flush it out. If I may add some more thoughts….

    Some may say that a common level of intellect or intelligence would lead to a strong relation. I submit that the level of an individual’s intelligence potentiates what one can value. That is, there are certain things that one can value only if one has the intelligence to have a capacity for such.

    Interests are a function of what one values, so they do not need to be considered.

    Another aspect of waves that is potentially applicable is that of amplification and interference. It is possible to have a wave or note that is completely cancelled out by a corresponding wave or note (as happens in those neat Bose headsets). On the other hand it is possible to increase the energy of the note by adding a complimentary wave.

    If we look at an individual as a note with the frequency of the harmonics as a function of the things to which value is ascribed, when one ascribes value to things that are contradictory to other values, interference occurs. As far as relations: It is possible to have a relation between individuals where more interference than amplification occurs.