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  • How many friends do you have?

  • Most of us would rush to think of a high number.

  • To have to admit to having very few is, in our societies, a marker of shame and failure.

  • But what if being lonely were actually a sign of being something else? An interestingemotionally sincere and thoughtful person.

  • What if, in a world of superficial friendshiplonely was just what a more serious person tended naturally to be?

  • With this in mind, we might take an unusual test that seeks to explore how few friends we might actually have.

  • (1) What do most of your so-called friends not understand about you?

  • You might have many friends, but how well-aligned are they really once you take off a sentimental lens?

  • How many things are there that you wouldn't dream of mentioning?

  • How much of your life has to go on in secret, because no one understands?

  • (2) Who might you turn to if you were disgraced as a result of an error on your part?

  • If a large slice of the world were to turn against you, would there be anyone who would continue to see you as you, and not just as the weirdo or loser that society made you out to be?

  • Who could see you as both guilty maybeand still worthy of kindness?

  • (3) Who would you be able to tell if there was a big problem in your relationship?

  • What if, for example, you had an affair or were drawn to the idea of having one?

  • What if your love had cooled despite there being three small children in the house

  • Who could tolerate your destruction of society's cherished ideals of love?

  • (4) With whom (if anyone) could you discuss your true insecurities or complexities around sex?

  • Although society, at least in certain parts of the world, likes to present itself as immensely open,

  • it's a radically different matter when it comes to our erotic lives:

  • it's tricky to be an elegantly dressed Dean of the Business Faculty who wants to

  • or a tank commander who... or a mother of two delightful children with a longing to...

  • (5) Who likes the idiot in you?

  • Anyone can like the sensible version of us, who can tolerate the idiot who lurks in all of us

  • the one who is up late at night doing silly things, who spills things down their frontwho messes up at work and says strange things to themselves to stay calm.

  • Such questions deliberately set the bar for friendship far higher than usual.

  • We might have taken this test, realize that we have very few friends indeed, perhaps even none at all.

  • This is no matter for panic or shame.

  • Many of us are, in fact, in the very same position.

  • And the more of us can realize it, the more we can stop pretending that friendship is as common as we say it is,

  • the less isolated we can feel for not believing in the sentimental picture we presently have of friendship.

  • The readier we can be to one day build a friendship truly worthy of the name.

How many friends do you have?

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