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I am editing our next episode, which may be the start of a series “On Friendship.” We initially thought it was a simple question: “What does Friendship Mean to You?”

Nothing simple about it. Friendship is a multifaceted quality. It means different things to different people. It’s fascinating, so far, to hear the comments people have submited.[1] It will not be an easy edit, to interweave these thoughts, to create a flowing narrative that incorporates so many smart and obviously emotional commentaries. But I will get there. Because it obviously means something to people, especially those of us who are getting older.

The process has also compelled me to consider my own ideas about friendship, and made me wonder who my friends are, how important they are to me, and how much I miss them. I miss them mostly because of the natural processes of life — you drift apart, you lose touch, your lives diverge. As you age, there is not that easy, daily camaraderie that came so naturally to most of us in our youth. I say most because I am well aware that many young people today do not have the easy-going lives that my friends and I enjoyed in the sixties and seventies. I have no idea, really, what it’s like for them today. I see them passing as I walk, in clusters, fast and usually happy — and I am frankly jealous. But I also know that many are isolated, especially since the pandemic devastated those very years when they could have been building friendships and finding themselves.

I want to reach out, sometime, somehow, to those younger people. But this is about me, now, and my own sense of isolation and — despite my great good fortune of having a partner of almost 40 years — my loss of so many friends. “Loss” for a multitude of reasons. And the more we shape this episode, the more I realize that having friends as we age is critical to our happiness, or self-esteem, our enjoyment of life. So I am trying, haltingly, to re-establish contact with many old friends.

It is not easy. I’m plagued with depression and tend to go dark, and — who needs that? I’m unlikely to share that. It’s toxic. So I’m unlikely to share, period. But I wasn’t always this way, and old friends — from my school days — are more likely to remember my upbeat self. He is still in there — just submerged in the sediment of a long series of disappointments and difficulties. I do have my good days, and I can be funny and even uplifting — so I try and concentrate those qualities in the moments I choose to reach out. I try to add a smile to someone’s day. Facebook, where “friend” first became a verb, is not the venue for real connections. Too many of us rely on it for “staying in touch,” when it really is only really good for silliness, and photos. If you accept that, it’s fine. I like scrolling through it. But it does not really fulfill the potential of friendship. We need more.

There is definitely much more to all of us — deeper subjects, real struggles, challenges and worries — and friends are (I think) supposed to be there to listen and support one another. We can also gather, share a meal, some wine, and lift one another up — there is nothing to compare to a room full of friends laughing hilariously. Nothing.

That seemed easy, once. But then, so much gets in the way of such crucial conviviality. Money, for one thing. We may all start out on an even playing field, where money was our parent’s concern. But then some of us rose, and some of us fell — and that tends to divide people. Dreams come true, and dreams shatter. If you’ve not done so well, it is hard — even on Facebook — to listen to our well-to-do friends gush over their tour of Europe or share photos of the marvels of their property. It’s painful, and that pain is directed inward, into guilt and shame and, well, isolation.

But there I am, being toxic. I don’t seek sympathy, not really. I want to continue to do something well, even after actual employment has moved on. I am going to channel my skill — mostly as a professional communicator — into this blog, and our podcast ( I intend to contribute to the happiness and enlightenment of others, be they friends or strangers. I’ll try to stick to that path as this blog meanders on toward the horizon.

There’s one good friend I made in Grad School and stayed in close touch with for many years, until various forces led us down diverging paths. But happily, we’ve reconnected. We’ve both suffered some outrageous slings and arrows, and I want to try and support him, like good friends do. When we started collecting people’s definitions of “Friendship,” he had a great response:

“A friend is someone who calls for no reason.”

Back when we were in school, or actually once we’d escaped the pressure-cooker of that year and were keeping up a rather remarkable correspondence, we’d play a game: to see who could use the biggest words. I love affecting a scholarly tone and composing complicated prose that is only marginally true. Sheer journalistic silliness; the true value of good writing is NOT to use big words. Which is why I guess we did it. I finally killed it with the word “sesquipedalian,” which means “given to or characterized by the use of long words.”

I’m still squeamish about just “calling for no reason.” So I just wrote him this email:

My Dear Friend:

Do not relish the isolation. Do not embrace the anomie. Do not savor the peace of wind chimes, fountains and bird songs….they are impermanent and unreliable. I am going to call you for no reason.

There will be a loud, an intrusive tone — likely a loud ringing — that will set your nerves aflame. In the few seconds that it repeats its obnoxious intrusion into your carefully cultivated cocoon, you must calculate your response: if you answer, the future is uncertain. What might be transmitted might not be conducive to your ease. It may force to the surface thoughts and matters you have chosen to repress, But think: if you don’t…that silence you have chosen may fester, like a placid mountain lake succumbs to eutrophication, overtaken by algae unwelcome and depressing. Silence, for long, is seldom golden. It can become rank, and offensive to the senses.

But it will happen. The phone will ring, or buzz, or jangle — unbidden, this sudden auditory intrusion into your (I presume) quiet existence — shatter whatever concentration you have achieved on some pressing task — and will already have spewed glutamate into your hypothalamus, instantly telegraphing a chemical message down the bio-wires of your body to command the involuntary squeezing of the glands where adrenaline is nebulized like an injection of air and fuel into the pressurized engine that moves your emotions and involuntary nervous system. A jolt.

To answer, or not to answer? The decision, pressed unnervingly upon you in these few seconds by my call, is: Which is worse: to answer, or not to answer? In this you are not alone. This is a broad and pervasive quandary of modern life, where technology has compressed our responses into annoying little imperatives, reducing the time we have to assess our options. It is a microcosmic instance of Koyaanisqatsi , life out of balance, this current liminal epoch that keeps us incessantly unconsciously uneasy. We may not like it, but it exists, and we have slavishly succumbed to an autonomic obedience to the demands of technology.

But let us be realistic: While far from ideal, this imminent decision rests on the fleshy fulcrum of the see-saw of your current (albeit interrupted) homeostasis: Will this uncertainty be somehow qualitatively improved if you answer? Will it unleash a pleasing brew of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins into your synaptic river? Will the ensuing conversation lift you up? How can you know?

You cannot. Even though you most likely already know (again, through technology’s wonders we have by the tech-bio osmosis of our time made our own) that it is me within whom the motive for this call and its content resides (and already begun formulating your probable replies and interjections, the degree of truth, honesty, and enthusiasm), and thus even subconsciously ascertained the likely effect its prospect holds for the aforementioned neurochemical processes.

Thus, as we are wont to transfer all of our accumulated past knowledge into an expectation of the future, you may have by the second ring, or buzz, or jingle, incorporated this anticipated amalgam of our personalities and conversations over 50 years into your calculation, decide to answer, or to let the noise run its course, and leave you again in your private space, all chemicals and autonomous affect dissolving into your prior state (notwithstanding your feelings engendered by having ignored my call, or what my own sense of such perceived rejection might then be — a measure of your own level of empathy, whether general or specific toward me). There is no way this call will leave you as you were. I will have chosen to have some effect, and only guessed at its nature. I will have taken a risk. And you will, as in a reflection in a mirror darkly, feel some aftermath — if only to affirm your own isolation, be it pleasing or painful.

Or perhaps I will not call at all. You may deduce from that what you will.

Therein, the dilemma, and challenge, of spontaneous telecommunication in the twenty-fourth century.


[1] You can send in your VOICE answer to “What does Friendship Mean to Me?” on our COMMENT PAGE at

The Blog is intended to be a place for me -- "The Man Behind The Curtain" -- to add my two cents to the topics we cover in the podcast, where my role as Director and Editor is hidden behind the curtain (a reference to "The Wizard of Oz, "who as we all know is no Wizard at all -- just a puller of levers and a facilitator of others' better angels).

Due to a two-year writer's block, I have been slow to contribute to this section, so I have opened it up to Guest Bloggers. If you have something to say about one of our episodes, by all means send it to me at

Right now, we are working on our next episode -- on Friendship. It turns out this is a subject of deep importance and very much on our listeners' minds. It was at the suggestion of a very good old friend that we take a look at this topic, and this entry is written by him.

Todd Taggart is a wonderful fellow. He's brilliant, witty, talented, modest and loyal. We miss him and his lovely wife Mary terribly since they moved east to Stowe, Vermont. It was an email from Todd that turned our minds to Friendship, and what follows are his thoughts on the topic.


By Todd Taggart

The topic of friendship is not an easy one to write about or discuss. When I began to think more about it, I found it more complicated than I wanted it to be. I can do some research and see what others have said over the years, but there are a lot of ideals that pop up, and make it seem like it’s nearly impossible to have the friendships we’re expected to have! I did read that the word “friendship” comes from the word “love.” And love is also a complicated topic—Everyone wants love and would like to offer love, but we don’t always know just how to get there. Perhaps friendship and its relationship to love only complicates matters.

Let’s face it. There are few things better than friendship, and certainly friendship includes one’s partner or spouse. What is more important than friendship? You can live without friends, just like you can live without art, but without them, is life worth living?

It seems that when something beautiful is shared with a good friend that the thing is far more beautiful. A beautiful sunset or vista when viewed alone is still beautiful, but when shared with a friend it’s many times more beautiful, and not just twice a beautiful—it’s not an arithmetic progression, it’s logarithmic! And similarly, when one is full of sadness or sorrow, after a death of someone dear to you, or whenever the overall feeling is one of despair, the pain is deep. But when friends are supporting you, the pain feels like it’s spread among them, and it helps to make it almost bearable.

On the one hand, I feel like have quite a few friends, but on the other hand, very few that I can really talk to the way I’d like to. How many of us have “best” friends that we can talk to about anything? I have before, but I don’t these days. And there are levels of friendship. Those friends you might consider your besties, other friends that you enjoy, but for whatever reason they are not the ones you’d call when in a pickle, or when you want to share some news.

Lately, there has been some talk in news about the crisis of friendship among men, and about loneliness among both men and women. When I first saw this news, I wondered among my friends, how many thought they could include themselves in the “crisis.” I wondered, how many felt as I did, that there are lacks in my friendships, that they could be stronger, and therefore better.

Friendship could or should be a source of support, joy, fun, happiness, understanding, or a source of solace in a time of misery or pain. How many of us can get up in the morning and look forward to checking in with a friend, any time of day, and know that they appreciate and welcome your contact, or conversely that they do the same, and with some constancy. That it’s not another item on their daily chore list to cross off. I’m not one who can say that, but I’d love to be! At the same time, I’m aware that as people age, the meaning of friendship can change. It can become more valuable, as it often represents a longer history and deeper connection, while at the same time, the number of close friends can decrease as priorities and life circumstances shift.

I grew up in a small Mormon community in Wyoming. Everyone knew each other, and almost everyone was related. Of course, best friends knew each other intimately, and could talk about anything. When I went to California to college, I met people whose best friends seemed to me to be more removed from each other than what I had known in my community. And as these people became my friends, I never quite felt the intimacy that I had known where I grew up. I’m willing to admit this could just be me, and it could have been simply related to age. I’ve not researched whether this is a thing! (Friendship in small towns vs. metro areas.) I’ve also spent many years in a 12-step program, and I won’t reference it in any way, other than to say I continue using what are called the “tools,” and particularly the principle of “humility,” which in 12-step speak means “remaining teachable.” It’s critical to any growth I hope to have.

With this opportunity to examine friendship, I hope I can help clarify for myself where I sit with my friends and maybe even chart a path to improve my relationships. My own inclination is to assume that most people would want good friends, or might want to improve their relationships with friends, but I’m quite aware that some may feel they have everything they need with immediate family or otherwise.

I read somewhere that whoever looks upon a true friend, looks in a sense at an image of himself. This makes sense to me, because I would prefer a close friend to treat me the way I’d hope and expect to treat him.

And with that, I offer my first failing: taking friendships for granted. I had a friend who died three years ago. He was a friend I took for granted. He was from the States but lived in Spain and would call me about once or twice month. I wonder if I ever called him. (I was the only friend from the States who ever visited him in Spain—I mention this to perhaps allay a little guilt?) But we always had plenty to talk about, and he would ask about everything in my life, how I was doing, how my wife was doing, how the kids were, and we would talk endlessly about music. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was one of my best friends! I was pretty good about asking the same of him. I really miss our conversations! I try to maintain some connection with him by regularly communicating with his wife by email. And I try now to not take the friendships I do have for granted. But I do not work enough to strengthen them!

There are times when we meet friends of friends and they become our friends, but often on a different level than the friends we might have come to know on a more organic way. I think our closest friends often share our perceptions of reality and share a similar sense of humor. For me these two things humor and perceptions go hand in hand. The beliefs we have in common are probably closely related to these two things.

In theory, one should be honest and trusting with a friend. I think under this good trait, I might need to examine how my behaviors are. If I were completely honest with all my friends, I probably wouldn’t have any. However, I could be completely honest if I withheld all judgement, which is an ongoing work in progress. I realize it’s a very high station to relinquish judgement, but it is for the best. When one judges, one is judging oneself at the same time, and it usually does not provide the relief or peace we seek. I can be trusted not to betray a secret, although there have been times when I’ve shared something that I should not have, and usually the case has been that I forget that it’s supposed to be a secret, and I often don’t see why my friend would want it kept a secret. Perhaps because of my own lack of certain boundaries—some share any and everything, others share very little or nothing of themselves.

I do expect empathy from a good friend, just the way I expect to provide it to a friend in need. And I think this requires good listening skills and active engagement. And this requires a certain self-awareness that most of us could use. To illustrate: One of my fellow 12 steppers and I decided to take weekly walks and talk about how our “programs” as they call it, were working. My friend started out by saying that he tended to interview people and ask them all about themselves, and then he would find they would never ask him about what was going on with him. So we decided that each of us would speak for about five or 10 minutes without interruption, and then the other person would do the same, and we would go back-and-forth. I realized very quickly that this was easier said than done. At first I continually interrupted him with “Oh, I know exactly what you mean, that happened to me…, etc.,“ but he reminded me of our agreement and kindly cut me off right away. That was a quick lesson for me on how difficult it is to just listen to somebody and really hear someone.

I can also mention that I have friends, where I’ve had long conversations by phone, and it has been like my friend above mentioned. I interview, and listen, but I do not get the same courtesy. I’m always surprised when someone I consider a good friend never asks about what’s going on for me, how my family is doing, etc. For me to not ask a friend about how he or she is doing, or not ask how their kids are doing, well, I may as well not have made the call. And it’s not because of good manners. How can you want to know someone well, and not know their immediate family?

A good friend is ready with support and encouragement, and I find few friends that would not provide it. However, I find it’s quite difficult to ask for it. Another illustration: I was working on reconfiguring a workspace, and I had little construction knowledge. I asked a good friend in the construction industry for some advice. He provided far more than advice. He not only drew up a plan, but came in and physically helped demo, and rebuild. The experience was eye-opening for me. It not only felt completely non-transactional, it made me realize that people like to be asked for help, and that asking for help is just as important as getting the help! Of course, there are many kinds of support and encouragement, but to share in the experience of “support and encouragement” with the friend is extra rewarding, and I hope, to both of those involved.

In considering my friendships, I’ve probably failed to respect some boundaries. I’m good about respecting other people’s time and priorities, the frequency of communication, although I usually would prefer more communication than my friends do (well, as far as I can tell). I’m aware that many friends and many whom I’m close to in my family have different opinions and I’m careful not to push mine, or even argue mine, but that could be due to laziness. And I’ve come to believe that the strength of one’s opinion or at least the volume with which the opinion is expressed is inversely proportional to the soundness of the opinion. I’ve also seen where lack or boundaries can cause heartbreak, as in the case of a relative of mine. She cannot help but ask questions of her daughter that do not need to be asked. If she would only stop and reflect but for a moment and ask herself why she’s posing the question that would be enough. Her curiosity, maybe even nosiness, has driven a wedge between her and her daughter!

Physical boundaries only take an experience or two to figure out: I have probably been guilty of hugging someone who would prefer not to, but I think it is generally a good to do when greeting friends. (8 hugs a day, they say, will put you in a better mood.)

Just as I do my best to be reliable and dependable for any friend, in the best friendships I hope for the same. There is “predictable,” which isn’t quite the same as “reliable.” I have plenty of friends that I would say are reliable and dependable, but that doesn’t mean punctual. An effort to be somewhat punctual is another level of reliable/dependable. When I’m waiting way too long, I would considered punctuality a higher level of reliable! It’s more thoughtful and considerate. My time is as important as yours, etc. Not all my good friends are aware of this. And of course, any time I point these things out, I’m aware that I have failed at some time or another with this as well. I do strive to improve.

As with any relationship, effective communication with friends is only helpful. I’m not the best communicator, an area I need to work on. I do think because of my Wyoming background, where adjectives are not used, there is a tendency to get straight to the point. Sometimes the point is subverted by humor if it’s a difficult one to discuss. And sometimes the humor can be both passive aggressive and/or sarcastic, as an old therapist called it “sideways speak.” At the same time, I have friends who often speak around a topic, never actually addressing the topic, and I find myself wondering why. To wit, I have one friend, who I chatted with recently. He lives overseas, and we haven’t seen each other for many years, but we stay in touch. At the beginning of the phone call I said that I have some questions that I’d like to have answered in a direct fashion. He has a tendency to dissemble and not stay on topic, and for several years I’ve had certain questions of him. Like how is his ill wife doing, how and where are his kids, does he work because he has to (he’s 72) or because he wants to, etc. After two hours of listening I almost got my questions answered. Another friend who knows this person-of-the-long-conversation asked why I stayed on the phone for 2 hours with him. I told him because he was a friend!

There does seem to be an unspoken bond with those we’ve grown up with or met early in our lives. Even if we have gone in different directions the pull of shared experience and memories can be much stronger than what we can objectively make sense of. Sometimes, even with friends we currently consider to be close friends it’s really the shared history and not necessarily the camaraderie or the enjoyment of companionship that keeps our friendship going. I’ve been to two funerals in the last year where I saw many of the people I grew up with. The feelings I’ve had at these “events” are hard to describe, other than to say very warm. And it has a lot to do with shared experience and memories, and of course, people are vulnerable, open, and warm at most funerals, or at least at those I’ve been to in my old stomping grounds. But these are not friends where I’ve had continually cultivated a friendship.

Understanding a friend is critical and this includes understanding his background so that I can understand why he thinks the way he does. I have friends whose politics are completely different than mine, and while I can’t really seem to understand how they could arrive at a vision of reality not square with my own (and therefore of the world as we know it😊), I can understand why they might think that way based on their background, upbringing, and experience. And the only way to keep them as friends is to forgive their thinking, and to forgive my own thinking—that I know better.

For me celebrating a friend’s success, means only to appreciate them for getting through life relatively unscathed. I have few friends who have won accolades or awards, but when they do, I am genuinely glad that they did, and glad to be in their company. At the same time, I see some friendships where competition gets in the way of real emotional connection. I can see how a little competition might bring energy and excitement to the friendship and help to strive toward goals or to improve in some area, but it also starts to wear, and makes the friendship feel forced and tense. It makes one feel on guard. Friendly competition, where it is all in wholesome fun, is one thing, but when so much of the relationship seems to spark unwarranted competition, it’s time to reevaluate the friendship, or to have a very frank discussion. I suppose, I could mention schadenfreude, thankfully is not something that has consumed much of my energy. I’ll admit that there are times when I see someone who never seems to suffer any kind of hardship, and seems to live just to have a great time, I can get a little judgmental. Mostly, however, I do not have friends that fit into that area. The one person or couple I thought lived an enviable life suffered a tragedy shortly after I made this comment to my wife. At that point, and this was about 30 years ago, I could say that there was no one I knew that I envied. And that still remains the case. And of course, anyone who has lived 72 years has suffered some pain, and it’s not hard to extend oneself to comfort a friend who is going through a difficult time. We know how wonderful it is to have support when we need it, and how wonderful it feels to be able to offer it.

To me one of the most admirable qualities in a friend is loyalty, and I have to admit that on this matter my better angels have often been on vacation. Of course, I realize now that between my projection (let me give this character flaw of mine to someone else, I don’t like it in me) and insecurities, that talking smack about a friend is more about me then them. When I was less mature on these matters and saw others whose loyalty was steadfast, I only saw them as being insensitive to the perceived offense. I remember reading years ago, when working on a paper for a Shakespeare class that the only value that Shakespeare seemed to hold as sacrosanct was loyalty. I wish I remembered more, but at least that’s something worth recalling. Loyalty should mean more to me than it does, but I tend to conflate it with blind loyalty, such as one might have to a political party, or even a country. Even so, I have to agree with Shakespeare, loyalty in a friend makes one want to be worthy of the friendship, and perhaps is even impetus to be a better person and friend. And maybe this is one more way of saying that whoever looks upon a true friend, looks in a sense at an image of himself.

It still seems like there is so much more to the topic. And as I reread everything I’ve said, I feel like there are so many exceptions. Some of these topics could be taken much deeper; there are sub-topics to explore: friendship at a distance, old age and friendship, making new friends, is friendship important to everyone, friends on the spectrum, etc., etc. But this is it for me, for now!

Times have Changed. That's evident in a pamphlet assembled by George Washington around 1745 when he was just a 13-year-old schoolboy, later published as "Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." The 110 "Rules" stand in stark contrast to what passes as "Civility and Good Behavior" in America today. The somewhat archaic text gives us a fascinating -- and somewhat amusing - glimpse of the rigid rules of polite society that shaped our first President. It also contains some standards that are quite relevant still.

In Episode 15 of, Host Julian Simmons delivers a wry tongue-in-cheek dramatic reading of Young Master George's "Rules," which had a profound influence on his character. The background music in the podcast is a collection of tunes that George probably tapped his foot to -- even though Rule #4 admonishes:

In the Presence of Others sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.[1]

Although there may be plenty to criticize in the social order to which Washington obviously aspired, it's helpful to avoid a revisionist bias and put the Rules in the context of Washington’s era. The early 1700's were a time when the colonies had not yet coalesced into the "United States of America," before the rebellious, egalitarian American character took hold. Many of the Rules that Washington recorded are unique to his time -- such as the manner in which one should or should not remove one's hat, or the easy acceptance of social rank, referring to "those of better birth," "Your Superiors," and "Men of Quality," to which elaborate deference is frequently dictated.

It is also painfully evident that it was a time of rampant misogyny. The Rules make no mention of women whatsoever, which shouldn't be blamed on the 13-year-old school boy. Women in 18th century America were excluded from public life, expected to run the household, weave, cook, and teach children morals and spirituality.

In general, women were still not formally educated, and they did not enjoy the same freedoms and social power as men. They could not vote, own land while married, go to a university, earn equal wages, enter many professions, and even report serious cases of domestic abuse. Women who were found to be too argumentative or radical could deal with cruel and humiliating public penalties. It was clearly a man's world in which Washington grew up, and to which he aspired.

The character of the colonists was still largely reflective of English and European etiquette, where class divisions were stark. There were four main classes: the Nobility, the Gentry, the Yeomanry, and the Poor. There was little chance of upward mobility; you were born into your class, and likely to stay there. A person's class determined how they could dress, where they could live, and the kinds of jobs people and their children could get.

The 18th century society was largely segregated into estates and orders and it was the church and aristocracy who controlled social and economic power. The "estates of" the territory were the expansive "orders of social hierarchy" adopted in Christian Europe from the medieval period to early modern Europe; this was Washington's world.

Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the eldest of Augustine and Mary's six children, all of whom survived into adulthood. The family lived on Pope's Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia. They were moderately prosperous members of Virginia's "middling class," and active in the Anglican Church. His father died when he was just 11, leaving little money for his education.

Unlike many of his contemporaries in the Continental Congress, Washington never attended college or received a formal education. But the pursuit of knowledge was a life-long passion. He may have received elementary instruction from private tutors and in a public school in Fredericksburg, but he was largely self-taught with the support and encouragement of his mother. Like most boys at the time, he learned arithmetic, geography, astronomy, and handwriting by copying text into a copy book.

While the current pamphlet has been erroneously attributed to him, he copied most of the Rules from a collection of maxims in a French volume that originated in the late sixteenth century and were popularly circulated during Washington's time. Such copy-work was a common method of teaching handwriting as well as memorizing a subject, which Young Washington apparently did very well.

Washington clearly took the "Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior" to heart. The charm and decency of his character for which he later became famous no doubt helped him to navigate the steep slopes of 18th Century American society. In his youth, Washington became close friends of the wealthy Fairfax family of Fairfax County. They were descended from a prominent family based in Yorkshire, England, that had obtained a Scottish peerage from King Charles I in 1627.

By 1719, Thomas Fairfax the sixth Baron of Cameron, inherited control of the vast Northern Neck Proprietary, a five-million-acre land grant between Virginia's Rappahannock and Potomac rivers. In 1734 he asked his cousin William Fairfax to act as his land agent in Virginia. By 1743, William and his family were comfortably settled into their new home on the Potomac, Belvoir.

That same year, George's older brother Lawrence married the elder Fairfax daughter Ann, and they moved into the newly-renamed Mount Vernon Estate, just down the Potomac from Belvoir. It eventually became George Washington's home:

George spent many happy years with the Fairfax family, who helped him further his education, gave him his start as a surveyor, counseled him in the acquisition of land, and eventually ushered him into politics and the military.

George's first known original publication is a record of his work as a surveyor, "Journal of my Journey Over the Mountains," mapping the vast holdings of the Lord Thomas Fairfax, Baron of Cameron, in Northern Virginia.

The journal reveals Washington's extraordinary mastery of mathematics and the practice of surveying. The Full text of Washington's Journal has been made available for free by The Project Gutenberg, a library of free online books. You can read the Journal at:

It's not a stretch to imagine Washington's wonder at the hugeness of America, at the raw beauty of the land, and perhaps how his journey "over the mountain" imbued in him the vision that inspired him to go on to lead the Colonies to Independence.

Unfortunately, there are no actual portraits of Young George Washington. But this clever time-lapse video by “The Photoshop Surgeon” is a fun way to imagine what he might have looked like:


It is tempting to chuckle and scoff at many of the antiquated precepts expressed in Washington's little volume, but as J.M. Toner, M.D., the man who first transcribed and published them in 1888, wrote in his introduction:

"These particular rules of civility and good behavior, although quaint, must always possess peculiar historical interest, because of their origin as well as for their intrinsic merits. It is therefore hoped that the publication of a true and complete copy of them from the original manuscript may prove not only gratifying to American pride but be of benefit to the growing youth of our country."

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[1] We have included a page on our website where you can listen to the selections we used as background. See

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