Lisa Miller: A Valentine to My Automatic Garage-Door Opener, and to Friendships

My friends, family, and students are used to my repeated profession of love for modern technology.  They laugh when I pledge adoration for my camera, washing machine, air travel, television, teleconferences, the iron lung (I just watched The Sessions with Helen Hunt and John Hawkes—great movie by the way), movies, my blender, power-point projectors, computers and the web, and, my iPhone!

This is an amazing time to be alive; I feel deeply, deeply, deeply fortunate to live in this part of the world today.  I have such gratitude for these intelligent inventions that make my life easier and bigger (consider the amount of time it used to take our great grand-mothers just to wash family laundry.  I don’t know about you but I don’t have time to beat my husband’s shirts and underwear against the rocks at the local stream).  And I love my automatic garage-door opener so much.

BUT, no matter how terrifically these things enhance, ease, and upgrade my life, they take up but a speck of space in my heart compared to what I feel for the essential celebration-worthy, beauty of interaction between human beings.

I’m talking about friendship here.  Today I profess my love and adoration for this.  It’s fitting for valentine week, too.

Lisa MillerThe typical starter in blooming friendship is life-commonality—resonating with the experiences, views, needs, interests, and dreams that others also hold dear.

“We know this, we know this—we’ve had friendships since kindergarden—they come and go, some last, there will be more where that came from.”  For many people the commonality of friendship has become so expected that its essential value to human happiness is enormously undervalued.

Have you ever observed the way that 10 year olds appreciate their new friends, or on the flip-side, teenagers who don’t have any?  What about Facebook—I know a lot of people who spend some good amount of time there, making friends and keeping them, in space, ahem.

From a human-development hierarchy-of-needs perspective, friendship is to the human spirit as manna was to the Hebrews.

Watch this terrific video about the blooming of friendship—it’s just 4 minutes and 53 seconds long—your heart will like it and you will observe human spirit in action as time and place seem to recede (and that’s not an easy set-up for grown-ups sittin in a ball-pit on a busy urban side-walk), and complete strangers become important and personal to one another:

(This video created by Soul Pancake by the way, a fabulous site that captures art, philosophy, science, spirituality and humor, and serves it up all warm and (ful)filling.)

Now I ask myself what it is that I look for in friendship today.  Have you deliberately thought about this lately? Me thinks this an important question.  As adults we’re no longer really limited in our choices for the most part—we’re out there in the world with options greater than who lives next door or who sits next to us in classroom alphabet seating.

I loved that the question from the ball-pit was “who inspires you?” not, who pisses you off that you want to complain and gossip about?  We absolutely have choice when it comes to whom we want to spend time with.  And time is definitely a “spending”—there’s no reason to waste it in depleting relationships with “friends” who remind us of our worst qualities.

So I’m making this a valentine week of heartfull thought about what I most appreciate about my loved-ones (you know who you are! Mu-ah!), all those I’ve loved in friendship but who are no longer in my life, and the type of friend I want to continue to grow into.

And finally, with this brilliant invention called YouTube, applaud with me here as I sit in awe as two of my favorite things come together in this video: the seeds of unexpected spontaneous friendship, and the technology that allows us a ringside seat at the beauty of it.


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