Wabi Sabi is the Japanese aesthetic of appreciating the beauty of impermanence, appreciating the beauty of cracked pottery or a broken tree or perhaps even deep wrinkles on a face. The billion-dollar fashion industry promotes instant Wabi Sabi by the cutting or tearing of brand-new jeans, but actually, Wabi Sabi takes time.
Friendship doesn’t necessarily take time. It can emerge in a flash of connection, in that moment of honestly “seeing” another person, or of feeling Mother Earth, or even understanding a bit about oneself. This flash of honest connection happens more often as we age, if we are open to it, if we are aging with intention.
Next month I’m having lunch with a small group of people with whom I attended elementary school and graduated high school. I’ve “lost touch” with most of them over the intervening 50 or so years, yet I still consider them my friends.
They’re still friends because, back then, we spent time together almost every day for more than 10 years, and I remember those days. I remember my insecurity, my confidence, my vulnerability, all in the context of these people. Going to the Senior Prom with Karen or raising the American flag every morning in sixth grade with David or struggling to hit Bobby’s Little League pitching.
For my whole life, while my mother was alive, she always reminded me with a smile how until the age of 6 I called that early circle of people “my fwendge.”
I guess there’s a spectrum of friendship, a spectrum that includes time as well as intensity. Just spending time with somebody doesn’t automatically make them a friend, like just having more birthdays doesn’t automatically make a person wise.
One of the benefits of aging with intention is the possibility of future friendships. Re-framing aging can allow us to be more present. The theory of gerotranscendence holds that older people who age with intention often value meaningful, quality connections and find decreased interest in superfluous social interaction. This perspective can lead to new and enduring friendship.
As we age, we are prone to a diminishing circle of friends. That’s just one of the inevitable changes in our lives. And that’s a good reason to consciously reach out and keep making new friends of all ages and stages. In this way, we keep changing as we age, and so does our new pool of potential friends.
The warmth of a good friend’s embrace remains felt even when they are not physically present. Distant friends often remain a source of comfort — their support is not conditioned upon proximity or visibility.
Even if we outlive all our friends, they’ll still be with us. Friendship is a bond that connects people at a level beyond what is immediately apparent. The emotional connection, unspoken understanding, empathy, shared memories and mutual influence contribute to the transcendence of friendship beyond disappearance or impermanence.
The intangible, powerful force that is friendship can be with us our entire lives, deepening and extending our time of conscious aging.