If it’s common now for men and women to be friends, why do we so rarely see it in popular culture? Partly, it’s a narrative problem. Friendship isn’t courtship. It doesn’t have a beginning, a middle and an end. Stories about friendships of any kind are relatively rare, especially given what a huge place the relationships have in our lives.

William Deresiewicz. Alexander Nehamas talks about this in his Philosophy Bites interview (also in the book):

It is close to impossible, for example, to recognize that a painting depicts two (or more) friends without a title to that effect or some similar literary artifice or allusion. The reason is that friends can be doing anything together and no single event is ever enough to indicate the presence of friendship.

He goes on to make useful analogies with the arts in general. You come to know a friend like you recognize a painter’s style: you can’t predict them necessarily, but you can see how things fit the pattern, once the friendship has “time to develop in the first place and time to flourish.” There’s also the idea that friends, and art, are things we use to become our individual, differentiated ourselves. Like Deresiewicz said elsewhere,

Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person.

Via Matt Thomas’ weekly NYT Digest, for which I am always grateful.

Art is cognitive play. Humans and other intelligent species engage in prolonged periods of physical play as children—mock combat, feats of balance and coordination—in order to train themselves to deal with situations they will face as adults. Art, beginning with the songs of mothers and infants, trains our minds. Cognition is, first and foremost, pattern recognition, and art is concentrated pattern. But humans are also intensely social animals—the source of our evolutionary success—and the life of small human groups, as primate studies suggest (and everyday experience confirms), requires a constant effort of social cognition: eye contact, shared attention, awareness of status hierarchies, sensitivity to what others may be feeling, intending, discovering, believing. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person. One other person you can trust, one other person to whom you can unfold your soul. One other person you feel safe enough with to allow you to acknowledge things—to acknowledge things to yourself—that you otherwise can’t. Doubts you aren’t supposed to have, questions you aren’t supposed to ask.