the difficulty with friends

In the course of my web travels today I found this poem, by Author Unknown, that explains why god gave us friends.

GOD knew that everyone needs
Companionship and cheer,
He knew that people need someone
Whose thoughts are always near.

He knew they need someone kind
To lend a helping hand.
Someone to gladly take the time
To care and understand.

GOD knew that we all need someone
To share each happy day,
To be a source of courage
When troubles come our way.

Someone to be true to us,
Whether near or far apart.
Someone whose love we'll always
Hold and treasure in our hearts.

That's Why GOD Gave Us Friends!

It's not very instructive from a metrical point of view, or even a religious one, but it leaves me with a few questions.  For instance, did god give us friends because they fulfill all the qualifications outlined in the first four stanzas? Note that the author never explicitly states that friends will do any of the excellent things outlined - just that the absence of these things prompted god to make us friends.  Maybe he created friends in order to outline in even sharper and crueler detail the degree of our solitude. It's like giving a kid a picture of an ice cream cone.

Second, are these "friends" human beings?  Or do we form friendships with automatons designed in heaven's smoking factories to give us "companionship and cheer"?  I imagine the god of this poem dispatching a friend for me at a moment of need - just peeling off a companion from the rind of his labours and flicking it to Earth (presumably in a convenient location, like a bar).  What about Graham, a good friend of mine for twenty years, currently living in Australia?  I'd hate to think he'd been slapped together for my sake, especially with his string of difficult relationships and the arguments he'd get into with his father.  Or take Craig, who, if his purpose in life to be "a source of courage/ When troubles come [my] way," should at least be getting a few extra lecture sessions from the university.  Come on, god: give my automatons a break. They're my friends, after all.

Nor does the poem say that I have to be anybody's friend.  Which makes sense, since I'm a fully autonomous human being and not one of god's companionship machines.  When someone "gladly take[s] the time/ To care and understand," do my recripocal gestures constitute friendship?  Am I under any obligation to be a friend in return, or should I just "hold and treasure" their love "in [my] heart," as the poem instructs?  If friends are just clockwork mechanisms designed to gratify my needs, I should be able to stub out my cigars on their foreheads when they buy me a beer or confess their deep devotion to me.  Somehow that doesn't seem right.

In order to clear up these questions we need to add an extra stanza or two:

At least one-third of friends are real
And not hallucinations
Or Yahweh's cyborgs sent to Earth
For sex and conversations.


So don't forget to tip them well
Or send a thank-you present
Hedge your bets and don't forget
Reciprocity is pleasant.

That's better now.