I have what I guess you could call "adversarial spiritual friendships" with certain figures. Every now and then I'll come across some fellow -- Jonas Mekas, or Penny Rimbaud, or Alan Watts, or whoever. All aglow these folks are, alight with the intensity of their convictions and the depth of their passions. They throw off much light and also much heat, and I'm drawn to the light but find myself also singed by the heat.
When I read Mekas's Movie Journal, I found I could not agree with much of it. But even the parts I disagreed with, I savored -- maybe even more intensely than the parts I agreed with. The parts I agreed with did little more than tell me I was "right". (To wit: his 1963 notion that 8mm home movies would become a folk art in their own right.) It's the easiest thing in the world for people to agree with each other. No introspection needed. When I disagreed with Mekas, I was forced to dig down inside myself and ask why. I couldn't just say No; I had to say No, Because. Likewise, it's the easiest thing in the world to disagree with someone and just walk away. Harder to say, what am I turning my back on?
A man I agree with may still have much to teach me. Karl Popper, for instance. But with that comes the risk of lying down inside the other man's ideas and going to sleep, of letting him take over and do the thinking for me. Other people are never the way; they are just signposts. The way is never anything but your own.
I let a friend into my life of my own accord. I ask of him not that he and I be in absolute harmony, because out of that you get only a quietus. Nodding gamely along is not friendship. But neither is acrimony, backbiting, claws and fangs. I ask only that if we disagree, we do so both with cheer and a sense that somewhere between us, between his Yes and my No, is some Maybe that is even lovelier than either, and that we are both facing the same way when we set out to look for it.
Other Lives Of The Mind