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Conduct Of Life:
Manners When Travelling
How To Dress
Achieve Happiness
Of A Happy Life And Wherein It Consists
Man The Maker Of Happiness
Happiness Through The Pursuit And Use Of Money
The Art Of Having Time
The Miracle Of Tact
Frienship - Part 1
Friendship - Part 2
Friendship - Part 3
The Simple Life
The Essence Of Simplicity
Right Living As A Fine Art

Friendship

( Originally Published 1913 )



The problem of friendship is the problem of life itself. He who has learned to love-and only he-has learned to live. This, I suppose, is to be deliberately, even philosophic ally, said. For if life is correspondence to environment, the fulfillment of relations, certainly our relations to things, are only secondary, a kind of mere preliminary to living; while our relations to persons alone are primary. Here we truly live. And this needs saying in this age of physical science, of mechanism, and of emphasis on things.

For persons are, after all, the most certain of all facts-no philosophy has ever succeeded in seriously questioning them, though philosophy has called into question everything else. Persons are for us, even more manifestly the most important facts, for it is solely in the personal world that there lie for us the supreme and perennial sources of character, of influence, and of happiness-life's greatest gifts and achievements. Character and influence can hardly be conceivably either acquired or shown outside of personal relations. And of our happiness, it is not only true that friendship is its chief source; but it will be found on reflection, I think, that even that happiness that we do not think of as primarily personal at a11 in its origin, like enjoyment of nature or art, still owes a chief part of its charm to three elements, all going back to personal relations: to the fact that in it, whether consciously or not, we are coming into the revelation of the personal life of another-God or man; that its pleasure, as Kant long ago pointed out, can be shared; and that at least the social life forms the secure background for it all.

The only eternal things, too, are persons and personal relations. They abide forever. "Love never faileth." Men have an instinctive insight here; and every man who has once awakened to a genuinely unselfish love cannot help having a feeling of its eternal quality.

So that to be a true friend in every relation seems to be the sum of all. It is hardly possible to put more into the record of any life than is implied in the quaintly tender and beautiful epitaph in the inner court of Westminster Abbey: "T

Jane Lister-Dear Childe." And the charge of treachery on the other hand, is the most damning accusation against a man that can be made...

And, first, what must be the basis of any true friendship, human or divine? How is an ideal relationship between two persons to be established? What are the prerequisites?

So far as I can see the basis must be fourfold: integrity, breadth, and depth of personality; some deep community of interests; mutual self-revelation and answering trust; and mutual self-giving.

The significance of a friendship must depend, first of all, upon the significance of the persons concerned. Neither can give anything essential but himself. That self, then, if one seeks a friendship of real significance, ought to be the best possible. And that requires initial integrity of spirit and clear recognition of the duty of steady culture and growth. There is, then, no way of avoiding the demand for some breadth and depth and integrity of personality for any friendship that is to deserve the name. The addition of two ciphers gives no significant number. After all, in strictness, it is worth remembering that what we call the "relation" has no existence of its own; it is only our way of stating facts that hold only of the sole realities in the case-the personalities themselves. If the relationship is to be significant the personalities themselves must be significant, that is, have integrity, breadth, and depth. Though this is not to be asserted as if any of these qualities of the self could either concretely exist or be manifested or developed in isolation, apart from personal relations.

Nor is this to be taken as justifying the all too easy spirit of exclusiveness, or what Bishop Brent calls the "weakness for interesting people." For, on the one hand, the man next you is interesting, if you have the wit to sound him; and the great common qualities of men are, after all, the most essential, and the most capable of continuous culture and growth. The veins of our private idiosyncracies are both less precious and are sooner worked out. The deepest culture is never the culture of the schools. And, on the other hand, so far as our individualities are more permanent and significant, we need the supplement and spur of one another's individualities. And we may not safely spare "one of these least." It is more than probable that our little exclusive coterie, of which we are so proud, does not contain all we need. It is not, then, in any exclusive spirit that one must make the first prerequisite of a worthy friendship, integrity, breadth, and depth of personality...

For, first of all, I am afraid it needs to be said, in order to have a friendship worthy the name there must be vital integrity of spirit, the loving purpose itself, the simple intention in this new relation to be a good friend. Where this is lacking, we may call the relation by what name we will, there exists only a thinly veneered selfishness. How easily men and women talk of love, where there is no single vestige of it! How perpetually love's holy name is blasphemed, while its praises are sung!

And yet, the capacity for love is deep laid in the very nature of man. In body and mind he is made for personal association, and he is a creature baffled of his end until he comes into unselfish friendships. Even the body of man bears witness here. Its long infancy, its peculiarly revealing countenance, its capacity for work that expresses man's purposes, and its possibilities for speech, all show powers of selfmanifestation, and so of association, far beyond the brutes. Let the inevitable self-defeating logic of a pure egoism alone indicate how surely in mind, too, man is made for personal association. And intention must match capacity. It is, thus, laid upon man by the inescapable logic of his own being that he must bring to every personal relation the purpose to be true to it.

No friendship, then, is solidly based, in which there is not present in each friend that wholesome integrity of spirit that cannot endure that performance should not fit perception. Integrity demands that the sense of the meaning of life should carry with it the determination to live it out; that to every personal relation there should be brought the steadfast purpose to be true to one's own highest vision, and in that light to be true to one's friend. "This," Emerson says-and he has no truer word concerning friendship-"this is the office of a friend, to make us do what we can." And my love, therefore, may be neither selfish on my part, nor sentimentally short-sighted for my friend. For the man who believes that only love is true life, must know well that no true love fulfills itself in cultivating selfishness in those love...

For a significant friendship, besides integrity of spirit, there must be breadth of personality. Man is a many-sided creature-marked off from the animal world, for one thing, by the greater multitude of his instincts, and the multiplicity of his esthetic and practical interests. This is true of man as man. It is both a psychological and a philosophical commonplace, but its suggestion for friendship is all too little heeded. Any refusal by a man to recognize this broad complexity of his life must narrow every personal relation. For the simple fact is, that the man who means to bring a large, a sane, a free, or an influential personality to his friend, must have breadth of interests, for every one of these qualities depends on such a wide range of interest. And one must wish the same thing for his friend as well. There must be room for the most varied inter-play of mind on mind, if a friendship is to be permanently interesting and stimulating.

To secure such a store of permanent and valuable interests has been truly called one of the main aims of education; it is, not less, one of the largest natural factors in a rewarding friendship. The man, therefore, who means to be all a friend should be, will recognize the plain duty of steady growth. And many friendships break down at just this point. There has been no earnest effort to retain an interesting personality. One needs seriously to ask himself: Am I here making it certain that I deserve this high friendship? For if friendships are to abide, there must be some solid basis for an abiding interest; and few of us have such native gifts as can warrant any neglect of steady culture in some form, that shall insure a breadth of personality that may count in friendship. And then we are to make it count...

Into this solid base underlying every friendship worthy the name, there must enter also some deep community of interests. Let friendship, Emerson says, "be an alliance of two large, formidable natures, mutually beheld, mutually feared, before yet they recognize the deep identity which beneath these disparities, unite them." The recognition of identity naturally follows the sense of the significance of the persons concerned. And that deep identity there must be, if the friendship is to be of the highest.

There need not be likeness, truly, whether of disposition, temperament, or education. One can hardly doubt that Aristotle demanded too much at this point. Indeed, the most genuine unity must be of that organic kind that is possible only where differences exist, and are gladly recognized and welcomed.

Nor need the community be in lesser matters of whims or, fancies, or even tastes or occupations. Much is often made of these likenesses; but it is quite probable that the friendship may be finally more satisfying and more fruitful, where there are differences in all these respects.

But yet, deep down under all these more superficial likenesses or differences, there must be community in the great fundamental moral and spiritual ideals and purposes of life, if there is not to be tragic failure in the friendship. No friendship is so poverty stricken, so fatally defective, as that in which there is no sympathy in the highest moments. This, undoubtedly, is Paul's thought in his exhortation to the Corinthians to "be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." He is not seeking, as seems sometimes thought, to put some narrowing limit upon their lives, shutting them out from rich experiences. Rather, it is as though he said, I would save you, if I might, from the bitterness of finding yourselves bound up in the most intimate relations of life with those who can have no sympathy with you in your highest aims and aspirations.

One may well pray to be saved from such close and intimate relation with those who can never share his best, upon whom he must turn his back when he would be absolutely true to his best vision. There is small promise surely of a satisfying love, where each despises the ideals of the other. Has life any direr tragedy than this deep sundering of souls closely bound together?

If for any true friendship there must be in the friends themselves integrity, breadth, and depth of personality, and some deep community of interests; between them there must be, even more manifestly, honest mutual self-revelation and answering trust, and mutual self-giving. These are equally basic with the other qualities. How can there be any friendship without them?

Certainly there must be honest mutual self-revelation and answering trust. No acquaintance is possible at all without real mutual self-disclosure. Otherwise the relation is only an imaginary one, and there is no true ground for trust. The self-revelation may take place in most diverse manners, by every mode of manifestation, subtle or outspoken, but take place it must, or the personalities will remain hidden from each other, and no genuine acquaintance result.

Honest, of course, the revelation must be; how should it be revelation else? Emerson makes truth one of the two sovereign elements in friendship; and he even defines a friend as "a person with whom I may be sincere." "Before him I may think aloud." Pretense hurts everywhere. And essential falseness makes friendship simply impossible.

I suppose the desire to avoid every possible pretense is the key to the friends' meeting, with their sitting in silence. It wishes no manifestation that is not plainly from God, and is not a kind of inevitable revelation of the inner life of the speaker. Reality is the supreme end sought. The method has its own dangers, but the goal is a great one.

Certainly we cannot build on pretense in any relation. If fundamental truth is lacking one has neither an honest self to give, nor can he bear honest witness, either, concerning those values that he conceives himself most to prize. He is certain therefore to fail in the two greatest services that any man can render another,

Not less manifestly must the self-revelation be mutual, if the relation is not to be altogether defective. The spirit of faithful, unselfish love on the part of one may be maintained, no doubt, though the other quite fail; but the friendship as a mutual relation breaks down. For friendship involves the sharing of selves. And one of the greatest aspects, certainly, of love is "joy in personal life." Each friend must be able to give that joy and to enter into it.

And the intimacy of the friendship depends on the extent of the mutual self-revelation. One can almost classify his friendships by this test alone. There are many with, whom one hardly gets farther than to talk about the weather; there is practically no revelation of the personality, except a casual good will. And there are all gradations of acquaintance, from this weather degree to the completest revelation that it is possible for one soul to make to another in the closest relations of life.

The many-sidedness of some personalities is such that they probably reveal themselves but very partially in any one relation. The full meaning of such a life can be disclosed only as the self-revelations in many different relations are made to supplement each other. And it is one of the delightful surprises of the thoughtful and sympathetic to find unlookedfor depths even in persons thought quite commonplace. Even the human spirit can hardly be plumbed with a button and a string. The phenomena of multiple personality and of subliminal consciousness and even the characteristics of many of our dream, may well suggest the possibility of many unplumbed depths in us all. Arid a creature like man, capable of endless development, can hardly be essentially shallow. Where this seems to be the case, we have probably simply not yet found the key to the hidden treasures...

Once more, at the basis of every worthy friendship there must be mutual self-giving. It is the one law for every relation, human or divine. Perhaps the best definition we can give of love is simply this: the giving of self. And if one starts from another definition of love, as "joy in personal life," he will as certainly reach the fundamental need of mutual self-giving. We do not enter fully into one another's personality by any other route. To know about my friend is not enough; even that he should himself tell me does not suffice. Not knowledge about my friend, but acquaintance with him is the aim. I am not seeking information simply, nor a certain kind of treatment, still less the things of my friend, but my friend himself; and unless there is in his selfrevelation that indefinable, inner self-communication that desires and purposes a kind of intermingling of personalities, I am still on the outside, a spectator only, not a participator, and know myself to be such. And it is no satisfaction of love that my friend-not wishing really to give himself-should be even unusually punctilious in information and treatment and gifts. All these for love are trash, without the self.



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