Simon Fowler's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Encounter, Time and Place. Neighbors become friends.

Posted by Simon on November 2, 2012

Our neighbors are leaving.

A~ and K~, and their children, T~ and L~, are moving to North Africa.

We love them and we’re desperately sad they’re going.

Movie nights; pasta-making nights; sharing tools; shopping favors; book-lending; baby-sitting swaps; recipe-swaps; music-swaps; car-lending; taking both sets of children to the playground; doing multi-family yard sales together; kids’ sleep-overs; kids trashing each other’s places; sharing stresses of work or lack of work; easter egg hunts from the age the kids could only just walk; singing Happy Birthday in English, French and Spanish; A~ jabbing our daughter with an epipen to save her from an anaphylactic reaction to nuts; meals on their back deck; bbqs in our back yard; chats on their stoop; chats on our stoop; chats while snow-shoveling; chat’s beside storm-blown trees; chats beside fire/police/ambulance visits; chats about God, science, history, the future, family life, everything; sharing in grief of losing my dad; K~ sharing story of losing his dad; welcoming each other’s visiting parents, relatives and friends; keeping M~ partying to 4am on New Year’s Day; learning California Stars on the guitar. And so much more.

That’s the both the substance and the fruit of the friendship that’s grown over the years. Friendships are emergent. You can’t decide ahead of time who is going to be your close buddy. You’ll totally freak people out if you do. And not every person needs to become a ‘friend’. There is plenty satisfaction and reward in a simple, cordial relationship. But we’ve had the enormous pleasure of real friendship grow over the years.

It’s not that complicated. Friendship or just good relationship can emerge from simply being around – a combination of encounter (face to face meeting), time (frequency and continuity) and place (meeting in different contexts). That’s all we had really, none of us set out to make friends of each other. But encounter, time and place were the foundation upon which reciprocity, a bit of risk taking, reasonable boundaries, shared and divergent interests bore fruit in a deep affection for one another.

Along with our other amazing neighbors, they’ve given us such a sense of belonging to somewhere, of mattering to someone. It’s been so rich, and so unspeakably fulfilling, to live life on this street with A~, K~, T~ and L~.

God bless you, friends.


Posted in Continuity, Directness, Multiplexity, RelationalProximity, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Snapshot of American Relational Life

Posted by Simon on February 9, 2012

While considering Americas relational life recently I pulled together the following facts. I wonder what you make of them? If you see a problem, what do you think the essence of the problem is?

Note: of course it’s easy to cherry pick facts or extract them from context to make a point. And I always have questions about research methods and controls and correlation/causation confusion. But on the face of it, the situation looks pretty grim.

Americans have too few relationships About one in four Americans has no one with whom to talk about weighty matters, and nearly half of the population is one close friend or family member away from being socially isolated. (National Conference on Citizenship

Americans have too many relationships The average American has 634 ties in their overall network, and technology users have bigger networks.

Note: in case you wondered if there’s a limit consider “Dunbar’s Number”: according to Robin Dunbar, the size of our neocortex — the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language — limits us to managing social circles of around 150 friends no matter how sociable we are.

Lenders and borrowers are further apart:

  • geographical distance: local lending institutions no longer make a significant proportion of the loans that are originated.
  • transactional distance: there little direct contact; instead intermediaries such as mortgage brokers, appraisers, insurers, and closing officers, separate the principals.
  • financial distance: many borrowers have no equity (or negative equity) in their homes, and due to the securitization of loans through the secondary mortgage market, few originating lenders retain a stake in the loans they create.

From “The Structural Causes of Mortgage Fraud” James Charles Smith, University of Georgia Law School

More Americans are incarcerated
Adult Correction Populations
Bureau of Justice Statistics

Americans are having fewer encounters (over last quarter of 20th Century)

  • 58% drop attending club meetings
  • 43% drop family dinners
  • 35% drop having friends over
  • 10% more people bowling, but 40% fewer bowling leagues

Couples are committing to each other less, and staying committed less.

  • Since 1970 the number of Americans living together outside of marriage has increased more than 1,000 percent, with such couples now making up about 10% of all couples” (NMP Cohabitation Report 2008)
  • 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. (NMP, “Evolution of Divorce” Wilcox 2009)
  • Cohabiting couples have a significantly higher dissolution rate than married couples. One recent study found that “children born to cohabiting versus married parents have over five times the risk of experiencing their parents’ separation.” (NMP Cohabitation Report 2008)

Posted in American Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

rLiving Day 9: Time (Directness)

Posted by Simon on May 8, 2010

Exactly. There doesn’t seem to be enough of it, does there. It’s also the ultimate disposable item. You use it once, and then it’s gone, and you have to use up some more. We spend a third of our lives asleep (if we’re lucky). And our time will come to an end at a completely unpredictable point. So we’d better choose wisely what to do with it.

Relational Proximity Dimension #1 is “Directness”. Our relationship with someone is better and healthier if we actually encounter one another face to face rather than our relationship be contingent upon something or someone else.

People I know: I have 231 friends on facebook. I follow 409 people on twitter (followed by 374). I work with about 100 people worldwide (plus another 100 in our extended Resource Network). I think I have almost 500 people in my email list, but it must be more than that. My church, of which I’m an elder – one of 12, basically like an elected leader on a board of trustees, except it’s a church! – has almost 2,000 regular people (the irregular ones are banned! 🙂 ). I don’t know how to count people I knowI have six sisters, six brothers-in-law, and 14 nephews and nieces (none of whom live in the US). I used to know by name over 100 homeless men and women in London. I was in a church there for several hundred too. I don’t even know how to count my circle of friends back in London and now in Boston.

Time: Today I spent about 2 hrs 45 minutes “on my own”. I spent an hour praying this morning, and another hour doing some work. Then I spent about 45 minutes in the car on my own, shopping and going to and from helping someone move house. The rest, about 12 hrs, I spent with people; my wife and girls, with the girls swimming, with some friends helping them move house, and a little with the neighbors (“Adrienne” & “Keith” and their children) when they popped over. So that was one day of my life with, say, 8 of my family and friends. I’m sorry about the other two and half thousand people.

My gut tells me that spending more time with fewer people is a good idea. And probably best also to spend it with people I can actually see and touch. Let’s say we want to deepen our relationships with a few people, say, ten. If it’s true that encounter relationships are stronger, healthier, more satisfying, then we probably need to make some sacrifices of other relationships in terms of time spent. That’s because to spend time with some, especially face to face, you’re necessarily not spending it with others. There’s a choice to be made. And if you’re going to keep meeting regularly (continuity), do a bunch of different things together so you get to know the full dimensions of each other (multiplexity), then that’s gonna eat up a whole bunch of time and it’s most likely going to need you to be in the same physical space.

My main point is about time, obviously. I think we’d do well to make better decisions about spending more time, face to face, with fewer people. But it’s obviously not that straightforward because most of us have dear friends we can’t see face to face often. And we want to deepen those. I want to and need to spend more time on the phone or skype or email with my family and friends across the pond and around the world. But the main point of all this is about relationships, and relational health. And I think we think we can just keeping adding people to our lives without detriment to present relationships. But a lot of us are lonely with lots of friends.

How does the way you spend your time correlate with the quality of your relationships?

Posted in Directness, first-follower, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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