Only yesterday evening I was sitting with friends in the sun room, eating homemade hummus with mushroom and cauliflower toppings by candlelight. We talked about books we’ve read recently and those “ear worm” songs that we can’t get out of our heads. When considering our desire for urban escape and distance from the digital hamster wheel, we talked about Jon Krakauer’s book, Into the Wild.
It is the true and tragic story of the young dropout Christopher McCandless. In it, Krakauer quotes something Chris wrote, which made us think: “Happiness is only real when shared.”
This quote articulates the insight of a young man who has turned his back on achievement-oriented society, burned all bridges behind him, and sought his peace in the absolute seclusion of the wilderness in the far north. The insight that one cannot be happy in absolute loneliness is something that Chris only gains from his uncompromising avoidance of human society, and was a realization that came too late: Chris McCandless ultimately starved to death in a rusty, broken-down bus that served as a makeshift shelter in the wilderness.
What can we learn from Christopher?
Although Christopher’s story ended so tragically, we can learn a lot from it. Or rather, it can remind us not to unlearn certain things: above all friendship! The ability to feel a sense of connection with others is something we were born with. Aristotle wrote: “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies,” and we follow this principle unconsciously from childhood.
The choice of the first friend is completely intuitive, free from social values and rankings. A friendship between children is something completely pure, something fun and diverting. However, since children are not yet able to put their own needs aside, a friendship can sometimes last only one day.
And here I bring us back to Christopher McCandless: Although he does not completely abandon the principle of friendship, he seeks the ultimate solitude in an irreconcilable break with society. He lacks the spirit of compromise that makes friendships possible in the first place. Children find each other so that they don’t have to play alone – a compromise! Adults come together to have conversations, seek understanding, find encouragement and comfort – that, too, is a compromise.
Getting through life is easier in pairs
“Happiness is only real if you can share it,” Chris McCandless realizes before he dies. He also left us this statement as a reminder to all who are in search of themselves and want to escape the hustle and bustle of the postmodern world. For we all need – to some degree – the exchange with others. It is just as vital as the food we eat and the air we breathe.
We need friends for our personal development: “Real friendships help us to become the people we are,” says French psychoanalyst Saverio Tomasella. We need the mutual influence to develop ourselves further. Of course, this may also involve possibly outgrowing each other or moving away from each other. But we can talk about our doubts and concerns with satisfaction. And we can also share our joys, which shine even brighter as a result.
So let us celebrate the International Friendship Day with photos of people who like each other. Our photographers regularly delight us with social motifs and photos of close friendships, often real-life situations. We have put together a selection in our Friendship Lightbox.