What is True Friendship?

I grew up as a homeschool kid in New Jersey, under the wings of two very conservative Evangelical Christians. For 18 years, I had a singular primary social context for how the world worked, and how I interacted with others. The idea of a “friend” or “best friend” was not often discussed, because we were all “brothers” and “sisters” based on our relationship with God and Jesus. We were all part of a flock that supposedly believed in a few basic tenets about relational love for others. These “rules” about how to treat a sister or brother-in-Christ were often broken, in my own household growing up, and at church.

This left me confused about relationships in general. I found it hard to relate to people in college, as I strove to mimic my parents’ behaviors out of habit, and ignorance. I began to deceive my friends as my parents deceived people; I downplayed my emotions until they either became a drama volcano or a breakup. Sometimes it was both. Everyone around me in college had to deal with this, and as a result many of them don’t speak to me. I would be sad to hear what they had to say about my behavior almost 10 years ago now, but I would accept it. I was not a good friend. I did not know how to be a friend.

This decade-old quest to understand how to interact with others and how to relate to them, plagues me. It dogs the steps of every friendship I have. So lately there’s this big question on my mind.

What is a True Friendship?

From Gilgamesh the King, by Ludmila Zeman

First, I have many mythical or literary comparisons to answer this question. There are countless examples of True Friendship* in fiction. The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is a great example of true friends. Enkidu dies for his best friend and adventure companion, so that Gilgamesh can seek eternal life. Another favorite example of True Friendship are the March sisters in Little Women. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are some of the sweetest and most honest young women I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. They sacrifice themselves for one another daily out of real, gritty love, in a time of darkness and death.

Of course, I could go on for quite some time about great literary and mythological True Friendships. Eustace and Jill, from The Silver Chair. Sam and Frodo, or Legolas and Gimli, or Gandalf and everyone, from The Lord of the Rings. Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, the Weasley family, and countless others from the Harry Potter series. These are people who fight and die for each other. They are honest with one another, and when they are not honest they regret it. There are no hidden agendas, no unspoken feelings. These people, fictional though they may be, have given me something to aspire to. They have shown me what True Friendship really is.

Friends

Nora and I hanging out in Maine

Some of my friends have shown me what a True Friendship is. A few people have lasted decades with me, despite all of the struggle, change, grief, and joy we have both gone through. I have best friends, newly made in the last seven years, somehow glad to put up with me and I with them. A True Friendship gives me a place to stand that makes me feel true to myself. These folks make me a better person, and I hope I improve their lives, too. The freedom to be ourselves tugs at our souls, and emerges within that open bond between two people.

This also highlights the consideration of relational connections that are not True Friendships. These humans are still friendly, and I will still support them. Perhaps we are even acquaintances. I enjoy their company, and enjoy hearing their stories or following their interesting lives. When I have the emotional capacity, I try to be sincere, and kind. I try to be honest. Sometimes, they need that kind of love from me, the same way I need it from others. Other times, my friendly advances are met with a closed door. That is OK. Everyone cannot be True Friends with everyone else. That is something special.

I wonder, what is an individual’s responsibility in a friendship? I think I have more responsibility towards a True Friendship than a basic, relational connection with someone. What do you think about friendship, and friends? What has your experience been with your fellow humans?


Glossary

True Friendship – A term used to describe an intimate mutual, relational respect and candor between two creatures.

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Horizon Zero Dawn

I’m not a gamer. I just play games I like, a lot. Usually it has to involve a specific type of gameplay, a good story, and archery. I like to joke with friends that I don’t like a console game unless it involves archery. So far, some of my favorites to date are Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Far Cry Primal. So you can imagine that when I saw someone sharing their screenshots of Horizon Zero Dawn, and heard it compared to Tomb Raider and Far Cry Primal, I was intrigued. I grabbed the game on Friday last week at Bullmoose, and proceeded to spend most of last weekend playing it.

Horizon Zero Dawn has captured my interest not only with its singular fantasy/sci-fi/speculative/dystopian story, but with the level of mystery as well. Often you’re helping Aloy solve all kinds of weird mysteries surrounding her birth, her world, why there are Machines everywhere, and how the different peoples of future Earth interact. The cut scenes are gorgeous and filled with information. You can talk to almost anyone in the world, and choose your response to people in complicated situations.

Aloy, the playable character in Horizon Zero Dawn

You can make Aloy someone who is kind, and helpful, or someone who is terse and bitter because of her status as an outcast.

The cast of unique characters is remarkable. Another thing I’ve noticed about this game is its intense diversity. It’s great to see peoples of every color in every tribe. The nations are not established by race, but by tribal groups, rituals, and laws. It’s incredible the detail that the developers have put into all of the non playable characters. It really make the game worth the interaction with others. You never know what clues you can pick up from the NPCs.

The detailed landscapes and topography in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Landscapes

The landscape is another thing that has struck me as absolutely stunning. At any point in the game I can stop and look at the world around me. It is rich with different kinds of wildlife, different Machines in different environments, and all kinds of topography. Some of the landscape is reminiscent of the landscape that crawls along the Sierra Nevadas, as you can see in the background here. Other locations look like Utah, and the Arches. Still other places remind me of the Southwest and the Northwest. Since it’s “future Earth” and everyone speaks English, I’m assuming I’ll eventually discover where she’s supposed to be. I can’t wait to find out.

Machines

The Machines are pretty damn cool. I still don’t know how they came into existence, but there are huge machines that “match” different real life animals that aren’t in the world any more. There are machines that behave like velociraptors, rams, giant cats, giant crabs, roadrunners, longhorns, horses, and even more. The farther I get into the game, the scarier and larger the Machines become. Aloy can hide in tall bushes when a large herd is nearby, but it’s tough to avoid a group of five or six Machines that are all hunting her. It’s really interesting when a new Machine comes into play. Yesterday I discovered a Machine that is like a giant hawk. I didn’t even realize there were flying Machines!

Aloy crouches behind a tree and observes some Watchers.

Aloy can also “override” Machines, which is another creative feature in the game. Get her close enough to the machine, override it, and ride it through the lands. It’s a lot faster than running. The Machines don’t stay “loyal” for long, but in the game Aloy will become more capable of overriding bigger machines as I play. I’m excited to try to ride a Sawtooth (giant cat, basically) at some point… If that’s possible.

Gameplay

Reviewers weren’t kidding when they said it plays like the new Tomb Raider and Far Cry Primal put together. It’s definitely an adventure game, and definitely a story game with some really long cut scenes and conversations. But it’s also a hunter-gatherer/survival game, which is what I enjoy about the aforementioned titles. I like the idea of slowly building up a character’s capabilities and personal growth. It’s more like “real life” although I don’t have to survive nearly as hard as Lara, Takkar, or Aloy. It adds adventure elements to the story that don’t just involve battles and bloodthirst. Sure, I want to kill some bad guys. But I’d rather do it cleverly, than do it bluntly.

I’m about 16% into the game according to the PS4, but I’ve also missed a lot of training quests I need to go back and do this next weekend. I haven’t checked out Hunting Grounds or Cauldrons yet, and I know both of them will help me level up and be able to handle some of the Corrupted Machines I’m having a hard time with now. Right now I’m with Erend in Meridian, trying to figure out what’s going on with his potentially dead sister Ersa. (That’s not really a spoiler because I don’t know much about what’s happening anyway)

Thanks for reading! Have you played Horizon Zero Dawn? What kind of games do you like to play? Got a favorite console? Or are you more of a Fruit Ninja person? (I am too, even though that game is “outdated” I think it’s a classic) Tell me your story in the comments.

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Ammona, Part 5 [Short Story]

Bunk Room 942 wasn’t quiet for long.  Ammona scrolled through a media feed on her PTD while she lay on her back, left arm behind her head. She tried hard not to listen to the conversation Hian and Barrett were having, but it wasn’t easy.

“So, where you from?” Barrett inquired, while he attempted to play Tetris with his belongings and the locker he had chosen.

“Not really from anywhere,” said Hian, “My parents were military when I was a kid.”

“Not anymore?” Barrett asked, pushing a dark jacket into his locker.

Ammona scrolled past a news video about the Prime Minister of Celestial Affairs. The caption said there will be more restrictions on civilian spaceflight after a series of passenger craft accidents. They no longer seemed like accidents, said the caption. Of course millions of people were commenting on the video. Ammona kept scrolling.

“Nah, they’re retired now. That’s one thing military gets you: early retirement,” Hian answered Barrett.

you make it to the ship? A message from Drea popped up on the PTD. Ammona closed the media feed and flipped to her messaging app.

totally. stupid dude in my bunk room tho. truly hope i have 0 classes with him. She typed back, and tapped the Send arrow. saw some cool magnorcycles in the cargo hold. She added, and hit Send again.

“That sounds like a good deal.” Barrett was busy replying to Hian. Ammona heard the computer voice outside acknowledge someone else, and moved to sit up on her elbows. As always, she was curious about who the last of their bunk mates was going to be.

“Sometimes,” said Hian, and then fell silent as they also realized someone was coming through the door.

“Hey there folks,” a dark-haired person stepped through the door. He was tall, probably over six feet. He looked like a boy that Ammona had been to high school with, but she didn’t think it was him. This person’s face was narrow, his eyes set back, his nose like a beak. Ammona thought he looked like a very intelligent bird, though the way he stood reminded her of a cat. She shook off her initial judgments and sat up all the way.

“Well, hi!” Barrett greeted him warmly. “What’s your name?”

“Romero,” he replied, pulling his backpack off his right shoulder where it had hung carelessly a moment before. With one fluid motion, he flung it up towards the other top bunk, across from Ammona. The bag landed on the pillow, perfectly cushioning its fall.

Show off. Ammona thought. Her PTD buzzed, and she realized she still had it in her hand. She looked down at the screen to see a reply from Drea.

the journey won’t be long. find stuff to do, you’re good at that. you’ll barely see him. 

She’s right. Ammona admitted to herself.

“I’m Hian, and that’s King,” Ammona heard herself being introduced.

“Hi,” she looked up. “Nice to meet you.” Romero met her eyes, something she wasn’t used to.

“Nice to meet you, too,” he said. “I think we’re about to take off.” Ammona looked down at her PTD. She quickly typed a reply to Drea.

you’re probably right.

Ammona closed her PTD.

“It’s about time,” said Hian, “I got on board way too early.”

“When did you get here?” Asked Barrett, as he shut his locker and returned to his bunk.

“Pretty much first thing this morning,” replied Hian. Romero climbed up to his bunk and sat against the wall.

“I didn’t know I was going until the last minute,” said Romero. “I’m pretty sure they held the ship for me.” There was laughter in his voice, and he chuckled to himself after he spoke, like he had made a joke. Ammona could see something behind his eyes, boldness, and entitlement. For a moment she thought to herself that this was very much like her, when she was younger and she had not yet experienced the crushing weight of adulthood and brokenness. She shook off the feeling and focused on what he had actually said.

“They held the ship for you?” Ammona couldn’t help herself. Who is this dude? She wondered.

When Romero laughed, his whole face became a laugh. The laugh wrinkles near his eyes compacted into a sea of future crow’s feet, high cheekbones raised themselves when he grinned into the full laugh. Hian and Barrett laughed too, seemingly for no reason. There was something catching in it. Ammona was annoyed and intrigued. “I’m just kidding,” said Romero, “Well, half kidding. There was another kid they were shuttling down here, but it was just he and I left when we got on board.”

“I see,” said Ammona, “Lucky you made it.”

“Luck doesn’t have anything to do with it,” said Romero, grinning. Ammona didn’t know what he meant. She looked down at her PTD. No reply from Drea yet. She wondered what her best friend was doing.

The sound of an electronic bell rang on the console attached to the wall, near the door. Ammona looked up, and so did everyone else.

“This vessel will depart in 5 minutes.” Said the panel’s speaker. “Please remain on your bunk or in your bunk room until it is safe to roam about the ship. Do not delay in returning to your bunk.” Another bell played on the console, and the screen flashed red with words in white. Ammona couldn’t read it from her vantage point on the top bunk, so she assumed it said the same thing the panel had just said. The bell played again.

“This vessel will depart in 5 minutes,” the speaker began the recording again.

“Oh, hush,” said Hian, “We all have ears.” Barrett laughed, and Romero grinned.

“…or in your bunk room until it is safe to…” the speaker continued. Hian rose from their bed and went to the panel. Barrett followed and stood behind them. Nosy as always, thought Ammona. They both tapped the red screen in a few different places. Hian tried some gestures.

“Do not delay in returning to your bunk,” the recording insisted.

“I don’t think that’s something you can disable,” Romero began, “I’m pretty sure the security on an Academy transport ship is pretty tight.” The recording faded away after the last bell sound, and Ammona laid back down on her bunk.

“Don’t count on it,” Hian said, and the two of them kept trying.

I hope this thing takes off soon. She thought, and checked her PTD for the time. I should’ve checked what time that recording played. I don’t even know if it’s been five minutes yet.

The other two had still not returned to their bunks, but Ammona said nothing. Romero was also quiet. He had fished out his PTD and was typing on it. Habitually, Ammona pulled out hers and checked it again. Still no message from Drea. Maybe that was her fault.

“What about this button on the side of the panel?” Ammona heard Barrett ask.

“Either non-functional or the functionality’s been shut off,” Hian’s voice replied.

The whole ship moved suddenly, and Hian and Barrett both almost lost their footing.

“Don’t delay in returning to your bunks,” said Barrett, as he lowered himself to his bunk.

The whole world was moving then, as the spacecraft lurched out of the Orb’s docking station. Everything shook uncontrollably, as if the planet gods had turned the craft into a tuning fork and tapped it against a celestial object. Vibrations, that was all Ammona could see. She had to put away her PTD. Her whole body was shuddering. Everything she saw looked a little fuzzy, moving back and forth through a million tiny iterations of itself, quivering like a child in a snowstorm. Yet nothing was cold to Ammona.

Forgot what this was like. She thought, and noticed that all her bunkmates had fallen silent. Something, something about being hurled through a canister into the darkness and hoping it all works out. Ammona thought of Drea, of the funny things she said sometimes. She thought of how she might not see her for years. She thought of how Drea hated space travel. She’s scared of so many things. Ammona thought, and she tried not to be angry with Drea. She knew in a way that Drea felt abandoned, but something in Ammona felt abandoned, too.

Sure, she thought, as she became used to a shuddering world, as the vibration became normal and her physical components chose to accept it. She’s the one who is too scared to go out on adventures. She’s letting her fear trap her. That’s why she feels abandoned. But I feel abandoned by her, because she chose a safe cage over me. We are so weird. Ammona shook off the thought and looked at the ceiling several feet above her.

The world still shook as the spacecraft took off, and Bunk Room 942 was quiet for a moment while its inhabitants waited patiently to travel through a starry void.


Previously, with Ammona:

Ammona, Part 1

Ammona, Part 2

Ammona, Part 3

Ammona, Part 4

Collage and story created by Corissa Haury


Glossary of Acronyms

PTD – Personal Tech Device

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