(click on above for “I’ll Be Your Mirror”)
Let me begin with —
I’ll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know
I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you’re home
Within my circle of friends, watching films and having dinners usually surrenders to conversation; mind-bending, lengthy and worthwhile conversation. And up until recently my happiness was beginning to surrender to feelings of compromise, doubt, weight and worry. So naturally this means busying the life with more dinners and playtime -thus conversations- with friends. Eventually the settling happens, and thoughts are no longer restless, and feelings of comfort begin to create the foundations of harmony. We sit in gratitude, from a distance.
And of course, at times we reach the crossroads with some of our other friends. The ones that might have wronged us. The ones we wronged. We wonder. We regret. And we question. This always leads me to…
The Three Kinds of Friendships…
Friendship based on utility.
Utility is an impermanent thing: it changes according to circumstances. So with the disappearance of the ground for friendship, the friendship also breaks up, because that was what kept it alive. Friendships of this kind seem to occur most frequently between the elderly (because at their age what they want is not pleasure but utility) and those in middle or early life who are pursuing their own advantage. Such persons do not spend much time together, because sometimes they do not even like one another, and therefore feel no need of such an association unless they are mutually useful. For they take pleasure in each other’s company only in so far as they have hopes of advantage from it. Friendships with foreigners are generally included in this class.
Friendship based on pleasure.
Friendship between the young is thought to be grounded on pleasure, because the lives of the young are regulated by their feelings, and their chief interest is in their own pleasure and the opportunity of the moment. With advancing years, however, their tastes change too, so that they are quick to make and to break friendships; because their affection changes just as the things that please them do and this sort of pleasure changes rapidly. Also the young are apt to fall in love, for erotic friendship is for the most part swayed by the feelings and based on pleasure. That is why they fall in and out of friendship quickly, changing their attitude often within the same day. But the young do like to spend the day and live together, because that is how they realize the object of their friendship.
Perfect friendship is based on goodness.
Only the friendship of those who are good, and similar in their goodness, is perfect. For these people each alike wish good for the other qua good, and they are good in themselves. And it is those who desire the good of their friends for the friends’ sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality. Accordingly the friendship of such men lasts so long as they remain good; and goodness is an enduring quality. Also each party is good both absolutely and for his friend, since the good are both good absolutely and useful to each other. Similarly they please one another too; for the good are pleasing both absolutely and to each other; because everyone is pleased with his own conduct and conduct that resembles it, and the conduct of good men is the same or similar.Friendship of this kind is permanent, reasonably enough; because in it are united all the attributes that friends ought to possess. For all friendship has as its object something good or pleasant — either absolutely or relatively to the person who feels the affection — and is based on some similarity between the parties. But in this friendship all the qualities that we have mentioned belong to the friends themselves; because in it there is similarity, etc.; and what is absolutely good is also absolutely pleasant; and these are the most lovable qualities. Therefore it is between good men that both love and friendship are chiefly found and in the highest form.
That such friendships are rare is natural, because men of this kind are few. And in addition they need time and intimacy; for as the saying goes, you cannot get to know each other until you have eaten the proverbial quantity of salt together. Nor can one man accept another, or the two become friends, until each has proved to the other that he is worthy of love, and so won his trust. Those who are quick to make friendly advances to each other have the desire to be friends, but they are not unless they are worthy of love and know it. The wish for friendship develops rapidly, but friendship does not.
-Aristotle The Nichomachean Ethics
And so, I’ve learned that this argument is based upon the idea of surrounding ourselves with “good” and reasonable people that can help us to share and nurture our ideologies. Should the time come when one realizes that there is no common “good” or idea to be shared, well then the friendship has no foundation.
Then Cicero argues that ALL human beings are bonded together along with Gods, in that commonality of purpose or reason:
Let this, then, be laid down as the first law of friendship, that we should ask from friends, and do for friends’, only what is good. But do not let us wait to be asked either: let there be ever an eager readiness, and an absence of hesitation. Let us have the courage to give advice with candour. In friendship, let the influence of friends who give good advice be paramount; and let this influence be used to enforce advice not only in plain-spoken terms, but sometimes, if the case demands it, with sharpness; and when so used, let it be obeyed.
In friendship and relationship, just as those who possess any superiority must put themselves on an equal footing with those who are less fortunate, so these latter must not be annoyed at being surpassed in genius, fortune, or rank. (section 20)
Now, by “worthy of friendship” I mean those who have in themselves the qualities which attract affection. This sort of man is rare; and indeed all excellent things are rare; and nothing in the world is so hard to find as a thing entirely and completely perfect of its kind. But most people not only recognize nothing as good in our life unless it is profitable, but look upon friends as so much stock, caring most for those by whom they hope to make most profit. Accordingly they never possess that most beautiful and most spontaneous friendship which must be sought solely for itself without any ulterior object. They fail also to learn from their own feelings the nature and the strength of friendship. For every one loves himself, not for any reward which such love may bring, but because he is dear to himself independently of anything else. But unless this feeling is transferred to another, what a real friend is will never be revealed; for he is, as it were, a second self. But if we find these two instincts showing themselves in animals, - whether of the air or the sea or the land, whether wild or tame, - first, a love of self, which in fact is born in everything that lives alike; and, secondly, an eagerness to find and attach themselves to other creatures of their own kind; and if this natural action is accompanied by desire and by something resembling human love, how much more must this be the case in man by the law of his nature? For man not only loves himself, but seeks another whose spirit he may so blend with his own as almost to make one being of two. (section 21)
It is virtue, virtue, which both creates and preserves friendship. On it depends harmony of interest, permanence, fidelity. When Virtue has reared her head and shewn the light of her countenance, and seen and recognised the same light in another, she gravitates towards it, and in her turn welcomes that which the other has to shew; and from it springs up a flame which you may call love or friendship as you please. Both words are from the same root in Latin; and love is just the cleaving to him whom you love without the prompting of need or any view to advantage-though this latter blossoms spontaneously on friendship, little as you may have looked for it… And since the law of our nature and of our life is that a new generation is for ever springing up, the most desirable thing is that along with your contemporaries, with whom you started in the race, you may also teach what is to us the goal. But in view of the in-stability and perishableness of mortal things, we should be continually on the look-out for some to love and by whom to be loved; for if we lose affection and kindliness from our life, we lose all that gives it charm… (section 27)
This is all I had to say on friendship. One piece of advice on parting. Make up your minds to this. Virtue (without which friendship is impossible) is first; but next to it, and to it alone, the greatest of all things is Friendship. (section 27)
-Cicero On Friendship
BUT, the “friendship” speaks for itself when reason cannot be met, when love cannot be met. Not all people are capable of this. Is it not our moral obligation to foster an environment that enables us to grow into becoming a virtuous person ? If we fail in this duty..what next? How do we know what a friendship really is?