Friday, October 25, 2013

Let's Be Friends

Human Relationships

“A man's friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”
Charles Darwin

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. 
Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.” 
Elie Wiesel

In a review article in The Guardian, Stuart Kelly writes about A.C. Grayling's Friendship, which looks at the value and societal importance of one of the most misunderstood of human relationships.

Kelly writes:
Part of the problem is purely linguistic. Grayling does not mention this, but there is a slippage in English between the idea of a "friend" and a "best friend". It is even more complicated now that the word has become a verb: one may "friend" a complete stranger on Facebook. A thread joins together Aristotle's statement in the Nicomachean Ethics – "his friend is another self" – to Cicero in De Amicitia – "in the face of a true friend we see a second self" – to Montaigne writing "if anyone urges me to tell why I loved him, I feel it cannot be expressed but by answering: Because it was he, because it was myself". Grayling rightly questions whether this is solipsism – a friend is a friend depending on how closely they resemble us. But the opposite tradition – a friend complements us by having qualities we lack, as exemplified by Godwin's sense of the inequality inherent in friendship – is equally problematic. If we push this to extremes, then we should seek out friends who supplement our zeal with idleness, our generosity with parsimony and our loyalty with treachery.
People form friendships for all kinds of reasons, including those that the article suggests.  One of the important necessities in close friendships is not only a commonality of interests, but also a need to form bonds of trust. Friendships are often unmade, or undone, even after many years, when one friend senses or feels that this trust has been betrayed. Friendships can also be quickly lost when an expectation is unmet.

Friendships are important, and tend to be under-valued in today's materialistic culture, where things or activity often replaces human relationships. If you have one good friend, you are indeed fortunate. Some hold the view that a friendship can be maintained in a haphazard fashion, without any effort. I don't agree with such a modern take on things and hold an older view that a friendship, if it has any merit, has to be nurtured. Like a good fine wine, it takes years to mature. If you don't have any time for friendship, it's likely that you have no friends.

This is not good for one's mental health. I have a sense that a good many trips to the psychologist's or psychiatrist's couch could be averted if a good friendly ear was available to listen to some personal woes. A good friend can make all the difference in the world.

You can read the rest of the article at [The Guardian].