I met up last Monday with a friend I haven't seen in four or five years. Before that, the only time I met her in real life was on her debut (imagine meeting a person for the first time was on her debut!). All our interactions aside from that were limited to short talks in chatrooms, and the ocassional text message (back in the day when I was sending text messages to every *cute* girl I knew every night). During our conversation, she probably said it best why we're still friends: "You remind me of my childhood."
I will be the first one to admit that yes, as much as I want to claim that I'm familiar with people, that's simply not true. My friend, along with probably half the people who I've linked online (whether via this blog or in livejournal), are people who are a total mystery to me. In a way, that makes the meager interactions we have more meaningful. Because there wasn't much to begin with. Unlike being with someone you're familiar (sometimes too familiar) with, you haven't gotten to the point where they annoy you because of their quirks, or their opinions clashes with yours. In a way, it's easy to love a stranger, because you don't really have negative memories of them. Instead, we exaggerate and modify our few experiences with them: a simple comment (a "good luck" for example) might be interpreted as a full-blown support for his/her current crisis. And perhaps the best part is that strangers can't hurt you (well, they can, especially those armed with pointy things, but not the emotional side of us). There's simply not enough emotional investment. For those who have an inflated friend's list in livejournal (such as me), ask yourself, if one of those people suddenly disappeared, would you notice? Obviously, some people, the ones we're close with (or they simply don't post), we'll miss. But when you have over a hundred friends, there's bound to be someone there that you know little about, aside from their name, their work, and that they make the occasional positive comments at what you write (yes, I'm guilty of this).
And then we have memory. Sometimes, we simply like people because of the memories we associate with them. Just take a look at last year's presidency. Candidate Fernando Po Jr. (FPJ) seemed to be well-loved by a lot of people. Sure, he was an actor, but the clincher was he played the hero in a lot of memorable movies such as Panday (which, I might add, was based on Filipino comics). And people usually associated him with that. When people voted for him, they voted for their hero in Panday. I don't think they voted him because of who he really was, FPJ as a person instead of FPJ the myth. Did we really know what FPJ was like, when he wasn't acting? What he said to greet his friends, what his mannerisms were, what his favorite food was? I'm sure his friends would, but I'm not one of them, and surely I'm not the only one.
That's not to say memories of people are wrong, or that it should be frowned upon. In the end, humans, more than they can say that they're rational beings, or that they have a soul, or that they're up in the food chain pyramid, is the fact that we're made up of memories. Our memories shape who we are, be they factual memories or fabrications of our minds. One merely needs to have a conversation with the friends and family of an amnesiac, both old and new. They'll tell you that the person has changed, that he/she isn't what they used to remember (you can also imagine what the amnesic is thinking... he doesn't remember these people!). Our relationships with people, those we love and hate, are built from memories. It is the foundation of our civilization. It's why we treasure history, because it makes us remember. It's why we have science, religion, and language. And on a more personal-level, it's how we relate with other people: our personal memories of them.
It’s true when they say that people will live on in people’s memories long after they’re deceased. People, in the end, are like books. They really act in a unique way, yet people have lots of interpretations of them. A man could easily be a villain, a hero, a politician, a father, a piteous believer, a nomad. These interpretations are all true, depending on which perspective you’re looking from. And the thing with memories is that we constantly play it out in our minds much like a cassette tape in the early 80’s. Sometimes, it even comes unbidden from our subconscious, either as a hallucination or a dream. And in the end, some personal demons are just in fact confrontations with our memories.
I go back to my meeting my friend. I really love to know more about her, so that I’m more than just a memory of her childhood. If we admitted the truth of our relationship, we’re merely strangers, acquaintances who’ve given each other their wholehearted support. It’s easy to give support to someone you barely know, after all, in the same way it’s also easy to hate a stranger based on their actions (look at current US president George Bush for example; a lot of people hate him, including me, but I can’t really admit that I know the person). It’s also easy to love someone who hasn’t done you any wrong, not because they had the opportunity to do so, but because there’s really been little opportunity. That’s not to say that our friendship is fictional. Sometimes, these false beliefs are the building blocks of genuine friendship. It’s like love at first sight: it could be the start of something permanent. But as it is, we’re only in love with the memory, not the person involved.