Westonia Mine 2013 viewing deck. Afternoon of the weekend road trip and Jon’s bucks weekend full of dinners, toasts, rock climbing, campfire, BBQ, late nights and more, a great time of camaraderie, a veritable esprit de corps. It was one of those weekends where conversations were both surface and deep, fun and meaningful. We were so relaxed and enjoying each other’s company, as it should be. There were no rules, no expectations, but we all managed to get along fine, even joking at each other’s expense on occasion, because, as we acknowledged, no one is perfect.
Camaraderie doesn’t just pop out of a packet (if it did it would be on the market by now), it comes as a result of humour, tears, anger, intimacy, trust, love and more. Camaraderie is the result of raw life, people learning to be with each other, learning about the other. Great feats can result from camaraderie because there is a strength in it that enables us to excell. But more than that, there is a tenacity too, there are many stories of people who survived amazing trials and struggles and who credit their friendships as the reason they got through. Stories of surviving the Holocaust, war, the Killing Fields, famines, earthquakes, cyclones … not just because certain ones were strong individuals (and they were) but also because they had networks, circles, friendships that enabled them to get through.
Simon and Garfunkle sang “I Am A Rock”, although on the surface it seems to be glorifying indivduality, the last words are ironic “And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” In that song there’s a sadness about lost friendship, the rebuttal of friends in preference for painless solitude, neutrality, yet gaining a particular loneliness and isolation. The poet John Donne wrote in the seventeenth century:
No Man Is An Island
No Man is an island,
entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or thy own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore necer send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
A sensational poem that speaks today (despite its masculine language), that no one can exist as singular, no one can flourish alone. The last line (which Ernest Hemmingway borrowed as a title for a book) simply means that the bells toll to announce a death, and at the same time they also announce that a part of us has died as a result, such is the connectivity of all living things. Camaraderie is honouring a natural connectivity, a vitality, of human thrive and flourish. We are stronger for it, less arrogant, more rounded, appreciated, accepted and accepting, given voice, given place. Identity is not lost in camaraderie, it is sharpened, matured. I often dream of a world where that connectivity would be the true mark of humanity.
A distant bell chimes you have gone through the dark vale but you are my cloak ©Paul Cannon