Lost Friendships Can Hurt : A Government Health Warning

May 3, 2015

Friendship, Mores

Lost Friendship

I have always wondered where lost friendships go. A reference I discovered in a copy of the Necronomicon, which I consulted in the Library of Babel, led to the discovery that most lost friendships eventually find their way to what physicists call five dimensional space. Here, some of them end up in libraries where they are frequently cataloged by age, quality, intensity and texture. The rarest specimens are matched lost friendships, and these are avidly sought after by collectors, museums and university libraries. Students spend endless hours pouring over these lost friendships for insights into the human condition, and ways to inoculate people against the angst and pain of loss. These studies have become increasingly relevant as it has now become politically incorrect to cultivate deep friendships unless they are for the purposes of long term pair bonding and reproduction. It is generally thought that nobody should suffer unduly from the loss of a friendship, and instead, everyone should have numerous low intensity friendships so nobody feels excluded.

University administrators have been busy changing codes of behavior so that students can only appear with two or more friends so as not to give the impression of partiality. Even language appears to be changing to accommodate this new-found sensitivity. It is no longer correct to talk about my ‘friend’, only about my ‘friends’. Legislators are looking for ways to protect people against the potential abuse of deep friendships, which, by revealing vulnerabilities and weaknesses, opens up the possibility of emotional exploitation. As a result, lost friendship archives are being mined by lawyers for use in future trials. As a humorous aside, a group of theologians at the Southern Evangelical Seminary was caught debating the subject of how many lost friendships can fit on the head of a pin, and Congress is seriously considering a law to prohibit tandem bicycle rentals without proof of marriage.

Philosophers have been treating the subject with more respect, for example, trying to capture the phenomenological experience of a lost friendship, documenting how the various elements fit together, and how they eventually find themselves returned to the friendship pool for recycling. So far the lost friendship field has resisted the idea of extending the concept to include pets, trees, places and inanimate objects, but it seems inevitable that sooner or later the incentives for intellectual imperialism will become too strong to resist. Philosophical ontologists have been exploring the nature of lost friendships, are they material or non-material, are they an example of epiphenomenalism or biological hypophenomenalism?

The future seems bleak. There has been a wave of attempted suicides following the onset of depression caused by friendship loss. As a result psychiatrists have been experimenting with powerful new drugs to find ways of expunging selected memories. Some lawyers have tried to take advantage of the situation by blaming the victim’s former friends, accusing them of thinking too much about their prior relationship, and somehow tapping into pathways not yet fully understood. It is thought that the first class action lawsuit on behalf of friendship loss victims cannot be too long in coming.  Finally, the Government claims it has successfully infiltrated a small group of students and anarchists who have been meeting secretly to rediscover the experience of deep friendships. The subversive nature of this behavior has been recognized by the Government, which has announced that these groups will be subject to the full force of the anti-terrorism laws.


“The sword wounds the body, but words wound the soul. These are the wounds I received in the house of my friends.”  Zechariah

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About Malcolm Greenhill

Malcolm Greenhill is President of Sterling Futures, a fee-based financial advisory firm, based in San Francisco. I write about wealth related issues in the broadest sense of the word. When I am not writing, reading, working and spending time with family, I try to spend as much time as possible backpacking in the wilderness.

View all posts by Malcolm Greenhill


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32 Comments on “Lost Friendships Can Hurt : A Government Health Warning”

  1. insanitybytes22 Says:

    Well said. Makes me want to both laugh and cry at the same time. You have a dark sense of humor.

    On a more serious note, there really does seem to be a concerted effort to separate people from each other. There are studies showing we tend to trust each other less today. In spite of technology and social media, we’re actually lonelier than we’ve ever been before. People move away from their families for economic reasons and that sense of community is getting lost. Commitment is also losing value. The whole of society is changing into this somewhat disposable, nomadic existence. Unfortunately people tend to also rely more their government than their friends in times of trouble.

    I’ve lost so many friends over the past 20 years or so, death, geography, disagreement, that I’ve taken to just trying to be grateful for the short time we had together and to try and perceive each relationship as a blessing, although a temporary one.


    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      “Makes me want to both laugh and cry at the same time.”

      IB, thank you. That’s exactly the reaction I had hoped to elicit. I started off with the first line of the post and then just let the muse take me where it wanted. It took me way off base from my usual type of post but I enjoyed the freedom of just letting rip and seeing what would emerge. Losing a friend is sad but humor always helps.

      However, I found it interesting that you drew some serious and valid points from the humor and validated the appearance of what I had playfully described as “low intensity relationships”.


  2. NicoLite Великий Says:

    Long time no see, Malcolm. Or has Cthulhu hacked your account? If he has, then no, you can’t have my mind, but I’ll give it to you piece by piece. If not, then…

    If a friendship is good, then it is not lost, but suspended. There are friends who I haven’t (or hadn’t) met or talked to in years. Those who I have reconnected with never stopped being my friends. And I am confident that the people who I haven’t talked to in a long time remember me as fondly as I remember them


    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Nico, I’m so glad someone picked up on the Lovecraft reference although I was not aware that either of us had been away from the blogosphere for long. Your comments about good friendships never being lost are wise and well-taken, although sometimes fate intervenes in such a way that it prevents the friendship continuing, even though the sentiments are still strong.


  3. Daniela Says:

    An interesting take on a very topical question … the idea of ‘low intensity friendships’ is particularly current. Once upon a time; an interaction with another human being who we might like to see again because they share same/similar interests to ours would have been termed ‘acquaintance’ from which a deeper, more sharing and caring form of relationship termed ‘friendship’ may or may not evolve. Accordingly, term friendship was reserved for those special, usually developed over the period of time relationships.

    But all that seems to be an outdated concept today, when so called cyber/face book friendship are established as quickly as disestablished. They are as brief as they are meaningless. Nobody wants to find time/energy/commitment required to develop and even more importantly maintain meaningful human connections, sometimes out of fear (irrational as it is) that by investing time/energy in one relationship, we might miss out on something better, more exciting elsewhere … I dare say an attitude developed and driven by sheer consumerism, which in turn is driven and driven powerfully by contemporary capitalism. As history has shown us numerous times – economic environment shapes societies which in turn shape human behaviour.

    The same question/discourse could be of course mounted about other forms of human interactions; such as love and romance … what happened to them in the world of cyber/speed dating where ‘next please’ seems to be the norm -:)!

    As you can tell – I did like the post -:)!


    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Daniela, it’s so interesting to see what you made of this unusual post of mine. Like IB you also picked up on the “low intensity” relationships and you make some astute observations although I do think blogging friendships can be very close and intense. There is a magic in words that is missing from more glamorous media and what is left unseen is completed by the imagination. The mind boggles at what we would have lost if Thomas Jefferson and John Adams did not write to each other the letters they did, but used Instagram or YouTube instead. It was certainly their letters that brought them back together.


  4. campfirememories Says:

    As the author of a book with the subtitle “The Forever Friendships of Summer” this really cracks me up. You are truly the master of wit and sublime. I’m so tempted to reblog this, if only I could be sure my readers would get it.;)


    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      “the master of wit and sublime”

      Nancy, thank you. That’s quite a compliment from you.

      “if only I could be sure my readers would get it.;)”

      Oh dear. I understand your ambivalence. It was one of my more unusual posts 🙂


  5. Bonnie Marshall Says:

    And then…you so aptly quoted Zechariah. Cherry on top of a delicious Sunday writing.


  6. Dalo 2013 Says:

    Deep friendships, in the world of social networking is such a thing even possible these days?!? 🙂 An enjoyable read as this is very thought provoking.

    The benefit of being somewhat older than the youths of today, I suppose, is that we grew up experiencing life together as small children exploring life with people who while we’ve lost contact over the years…I can return back to a friend after not seeing them for 20 years and it feels as if not a day has passed 🙂 Friendships that do not die, but remain dormant for rebirth later in life.

    Of course, I love giving the younger generation a hard time (as do you I see with this post). Deep friendships seem to be a thing of the past in our modern times. It is a bit bizarre that incredible friendships that we do develop, important ones such as with a girlfriend or wife can become so acerbic to the point where the ‘opposite of friendship’ occurs, now that is something I will never quite figure out.

    Actually, I suppose there is nothing new here, except that these days perhaps everyone is so self-centered these days that we see simple differences as attacks against who we are (and how we define ourselves)…thus many lost friendships are just the way life will flow for many. I like the thought of friendships that never ‘die’ but rather lay dormant for awhile so if there is a need the friendship can regenerate later in life. Of course, that may be too logical. I suppose once the government and lawyers step in, well then that will clear everything up 🙂


    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      with a girlfriend or wife can become so acerbic to the point where the ‘opposite of friendship’ occurs,”

      Well, it’s not our fault, is it Dalo? I mean it can’t be men’s fault. Even the Bard had Hamlet call women “frailty” because of their inconstancy, and he knew what he was talking about. Now, men are a much more solid bunch 🙂

      I can certainly relate to your remark about returning to a friend after 20 years and still being friends, although these tend to be chums we shared a formative period of our life with. As you can see from the post I also share your positive view of government and lawyers! Thank you for commenting on my unconventional post.


  7. Kate Loveton Says:

    Friendships wax and wane, some only fit for a season. Sad, but true.

    Then there are friendships that develop haphazardly and yet endure. Friendships can travel past circumstance, geography, age, economic status. The heart finds its own (I know that sounds corny, but hopefully you know what I mean).

    Reading Dalo’s good comments above, I can tell you that close friendships can be made and maintained via social networking. I’ve made a very close friend through social networking.

    Another interesting post, Malcolm – and amusing, as well.


    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Thank you Kate. This was a cathartic post, written to help heal myself from a lost friendship. As you know writers use their craft for all sorts of reasons, healing being just one of them. Somehow this post went into the absurd and then the comic, but that was OK because that was exactly what the doctor ordered. Some situations are so absurd that you are forced to laugh, because otherwise you will cry.

      It’s a great point that friendships can travel past all circumstance and I would probably add religion to your list as faith is so often portrayed as a cause of division, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I also agree that deep friendships can be formed online and maybe the frequent waxing and waning of online friendships is just a function of the large number of people one meets online.


  8. rung2diotimasladder Says:

    Can I post this on Facebook? 🙂


  9. Holistic Wayfarer Says:

    I wish the health detriments were amenable enough to elixirs like Kombucha. =) Or even encouragement from fellow bloggers. But you speak of suicide. Years ago in my other life (back East) I enjoyed deep friendship with a woman who became a soul sister. She was 10 yrs older but acted like the younger one between us and was loads of fun despite (or bc of) her emotional volatility. She ended up turning on me, even to the point of accusing me of things that were entirely out of my character, that I had to leave the relationship. We had been so close, it felt like a divorce. Life is relationship. And so it is often a rough road. I hope all the heights you have conquered backpacking have left you in better stead than the rest of us to navigate these broken paths.

    “Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.”

    “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one…Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

    Lewis: The Four Loves


    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Thank you HW. I think I would prefer Guinness to Kombucha 🙂 I have always liked the Stoic way of handling the loss of people we love and care for. The Stoics ask us to treat these individuals as if they are on loan to us and can be taken away at any time. That way we learn to appreciate every moment with them and are not devastated by regret when they leave. Of course it does not stop the pain of loss but it does make it manageable. I was sorry to hear about your friend. As you say, it’s often a rough road. I love the C.S. Lewis quotes, particularly the last one.


      • Holistic Wayfarer Says:

        Kombucha comes in a variety of (actually organic) flavors. I’d pour you some strawberry, which my husband now fights me for, but I know the alcohol content is too weak in this case. :/


        • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

          “Kombucha is a lightly effervescent fermented drink of sweetened black and/or green tea that is used as a functional food.”

          I appreciate the offer HW but I think I would prefer the pain of loss to drinking a glass of Kombucha flavored with strawberries 🙂 Now where is that Guinness?

        • Holistic Wayfarer Says:

          *chuckle* I thought MG was more adventuresome than that. I’m just glad Stoicism allows you the sweet comfort of Guinness. =)

        • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

          MG is adventurous, just not masochistic 🙂

  10. D.G.Kaye Says:

    I quite enjoyed this dark, yet humorous post. Nowadays the word ‘friendship’ has many connotations. Friend is used lightly as in acquaintance, as it is used in a solid relationship. Only the ‘friends’ know just how deep their friendships are amongst themselves. Many friends are for life, remember, we don’t get to choose our relatives, and friends are the family we choose. 🙂


  11. Andrea Stephenson Says:

    I’ve lived long enough now to realise that we have many types of friendship – the ones that are long-lasting even though we may not see them very often, the ones that are intense and you think they’ll last forever but then you lose touch. And then the type of friendship that didn’t exist when I was young – the online kind – though I did have penfriends, which is very similar, one of whom I’ve now been friends with for 30 years. I think there’s always a sense of grief for a lost friendship, whatever its kind or how it ended.


  12. Hanne T. Fisker Says:

    Enjoyed this very different style too, Malcolm 🙂 Always interesting to see where we might be taken if we let the reins lose (loose, I never know when it’s one or two o’s)

    Someone once asked me: ” how do you know if someone is a friend?”
    The answer that appeared to me without thinking was: “When the question doesn’t arise”


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