Musical Memory: Third Eye Blind's Motorcycle Drive By
Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, Dover, NH - May 2000
In the fall of 1999, I was 17 years-old, a senior in high school, and (NERD ALERT) the president of the Swing Dance Club. At the club's first meeting of the year - a gaggle of freshman girls tumbled through the door all swarmed around a lanky, tall, handsome kid.
That's when Mark walked into my life.
"Freshman Mark," as he came to be known amongst my friends, was one of the few boys in Swing Dance Club, and I claimed him as my partner - much to the chagrin of the aforementioned gaggle of freshman girls. We became fast friends. He was different than any boy I had ever met. We read ee cummings poems aloud to each other for fun and passed notes in the hallways between classes. We could spend hours talking about music and books and life. We both loved to sing. And we loved each other.
Philia is one of the four ancient Greek words for love.
Philia in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is usually translated as 'friendship', though in fact his use of the term is much broader. Aristotle gives examples of philia including: young lovers, lifelong friends, members of the same tribe, etc.
All of these different relationships involve getting on well with someone, though Aristotle at times implies that something more like actual liking is required. When he is talking about the character or disposition that falls between obsequiousness or flattery on the one hand and surliness or quarrelsomeness on the other, he says that this state: "has no name, but it would seem to be most like [philia]; for the character of the person in the intermediate state is just what we mean in speaking of a decent friend, except that the friend is also fond of us."
Aristotle takes philia to be both necessary as a means to happiness ("no one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods") and noble or fine in itself.
I took Mark to my prom. Although he was old for his grade and I was young for mine, our two-ish year age difference raised many an eyebrow. Scandal I tell you. I didn't give a crap! I had one of the best-lookin' dates in the room.
At the end of the year, I knew that I would be heading off to college, and that I would be leaving Mark behind. It filled me with dread. I felt certain, that whatever special moment in time that we had shared, was exactly that - a moment in time. I was convinced that the magic of our friendship would dissipate. I was becoming an adult - and he was stuck back in childhood...and I did not have words for the sense of impending loss that I felt. I did not know how to bridge the gap.
So I sang him a song - at my final coffee house performance.
And this is our last time
We'll be friends again
I'll get over you, you'll wonder who I am
And there's this burning
Just like there's always been
I've never been so alone, alone
And I, and I, I've never been so alive
At 17, those words (though melodramatic in retrospect) seemed true and right...and summed up what couldn't be said. And he got it...he always did.
Nearly 13 years later, Mark and I are still friends.
We wrote letters back and forth to each other while I was in school in Virginia. He was there when I came home at 19 - suffering from a near-quarter life crisis, i.e. head up my ass period. When I lost Liam, my mother asked me if I wanted her to call any of my friends. I told her "Call Allison (my best friend from dance), Shannon (my best friend from college), and Mark." He was there for me through all of that too.
When I got married, and had to choose my bridesmaids, I asked my ex if he would have Mark be a groomsman. Mark ushered me down the aisle alongside my best girl friends.
When all of that fell apart, years later, Mark was one of the first friends to come swooping in and prop me back up.
Aristotle calls it philia...and that is as close a word that I can use to describe my long-standing friendship with Mark. We have often signed correspondence to each other "Love/Miss You Madly", and I love him madly to this day - his birthday!
Happy 27 Mark-o...this one goes out to you! You are my life-long friend, a member of my tribe.