Again from my The Four Loves Read-along week 2 post I’ve had thoughts brewing. On Marian’s blog, I posted a question that I’ve been musing about and I thought I’d re-post here in case anyone has any enlightening comments on it:
“Were you surprised when Lewis spoke about developing Affection for people one normally would have nothing to do with but circumstances brought them together? I find that nowadays most people choose only people they would want to hang out with. Where have the relationships gone which form in spite of themselves? Has our world changed drastically from Lewis’ world?”
I do think generally that in spite of our outward modern multi-cultural tolerances, that people actually have practically less tolerance towards the differences of people. What do you think?
Lewis states that few people think of Friendship as a love, and while the Ancients prized it as “the most fully human of all the loves,” the modern world ignores it. Of course, we say we need “friends” but view them as a marginalized diversion that fills space in our lives and do not see them as bringing a rich, meaningful love of which Cicero spoke in his Amicitia (which I own and am planning to read soon!). We do not know Friendship because we travel through life not experiencing it.
Why? The “non-natural” aspect of Friendship explains the historic alteration in its value. While it is the least natural of the loves, it is perhaps the most practical. It draws people away from the collective instead of drawing them together. While other loves are necessary, Friendship is not. Groups can feel uneasy when Friendships are formed. The Ancient world “was ascetic and world-renouncing. Nature and emotion and the body were feared as dangers to our souls, or despised as degradations of our human status. Inevitably that sort of love was most prized which seemed most independent, or even defiant, of mere nature. Affection and Eros were too obviously connected with our nerves, to obviously shared with the brutes …. But in Friendship — in that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen — you got away from all that. This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels.” Then arrived Romanticism and Friendship did not have enough emotion, instinct or natural behaviour to commend it.
However, Friendship, “is a relation between men at their hightest level of individuality.” It withdraws rather than collectively unites and some “forms of democractic sentiment are naturally hostile to it because it is selective and an affair of the few.”
Because of this history, Lewis claims that any writing on Friendship must be a “rehabilitation” and to begin, he refutes a popular assumption that every “Friendship is consciously and explicitly homosexual.” Certain men argue for this view as they would argue for an “invisible cat” but “those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend ….. in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love affair.” And contrary to Eros which constitutes two, Friendship can be more enriching with three or more. We are more ourselves through others.
There is another interaction in communities which is often mistaken for Friendship but under its matrix: men enjoying the company of other men and women enjoying the company of other women. These interactions breed pleasure in cooperation, mutual respect and understanding. It is called Companionship. While Friendship can arise out of Companionship, it is not the same. Many say they have Friends when they only have companions.
Because Friends care about deeper aspects in life, those who merely “want friends” will never truly find them. “The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends.” Friends ask each other, “do we see the same truth?” Anything less could be Affection but not Friendship, as for Friendship to exist, there must be something for it to be about.
Friendship between the sexes may exist, but it easily transforms into Eros, or will sooner or later. The co-existence of Eros and Friendship often enriches both.
Lewis has already mentioned the unnecessary quality of Friendship and he will elucidate his point. While Friendships that spur certain social movements could be either beneficial or detrimental to a community, generally the community doesn’t benefit from Friendships. What people view as Friendship is often merely an ingredient of the true thing. Friendship is free from “the need to be needed,” is uninquisitive, arbitrary, irresponsible and unnecessary.
“I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary.”
Yet because Friends share a common journey, an Appreciative Love develops between them, sometimes so powerful it can be humbling.
Most Friendships spring up between like genders as their common interests tend to differ, although in certain situations there can be cross gender Friendships. However, sometimes there is unequal attempts at crossing the gender barriers which can make for an uncomfortable Companionship, for although a female may make herself part of a male group, she is never truly part of it. In effect, she has drawn no closer to men than her grandmother, yet her grandmother was happier. In fact, by such methods women can banish male Companionship and therefore male Friendships in droves. And while their victory is unconscious, there are other women who do it deliberately. But these are “silly women” and there are many sensible ones who stay in their own sphere and perhaps laugh at the men, which is as it should be. “Where the sexes, having no shared activities, can meet only in Affection and Eros ….. it is healthy that each should have a lively sense of the other’s absurdity ….. No one ever really appreciated the other sex … without at times feeling them to be funny. For both sexes are. Humanity is tragi-comical …”
Lewis now says:
“… it seems no wonder if our ancestors regarded Friendship as something that raised us almost above humanity. This love, free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual. It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels. Have we here found a natural love which is Love itself?”
Yet there are holy and unholy angels and just because we view Friendship as spiritual, does not mean it is “holy or inerrant.” We must look at three issues:
- The distrust of Authority for Friendship
- The attitude of the majority who does not know or understand Friendship and may be envious of it
- Friendship does not reflect the image of God & Man; Scripture, in fact, tends to overlook it
First, Authority frowns on Friendship because:
“Every real Friendship is a sort of secession, even a rebellion. It may be a rebellion of serious thinkers against accepted clap-trap or of faddists against accepted good sense, (etc.) … Whichever it is, it will be unwelcome to Top People ….. Men who have real Friends are less easy to manage …. harder for good Authorities to correct or for bad Authorities to corrupt.”
Yet while “Friendship (as the ancients saw it) can be a school of virtue; but also (as they did not see) a school of vice …. It makes good men better and bad men worse.” It is important to be aware of these dangers.
Friends cannot have the same wide effect as a powerful social class but it is still dangerous on its own scale. A sense of superiority can bring on a “deafness” to others …. “Thus the transition from individual humility to corporate pride is very easy,”: a pride of Friendship. Because Friendship must exclude, there is a real danger of this pride appearing. And while Friendship is the most spiritual of the loves, it must bear a triple dose of humility to protect it. Is it any wonder that Scripture refers to it so rarely? It is too spiritual to represent spiritual things: … “The highest does not stand without the lowest.” God can safely be “Father” and “Husband” without confusing the literal but if Friendship were used, “nearness (by resemblance) to the heavenly life which Friendship certainly displays,” might be mistaken “for a nearness of approach.”
Because Friendship is spiritual, it must request divine guidance to remain so. It must not be a “mutual admiration society”. But for a Christian, as God as chosen us, he also has chose us for one another.
- What are your thoughts about friendship between the sexes? Is it possible?
- Lewis’ examples of a female in a male sphere can indicate that she is trying to “fix” her contemporaries. Do we do this in modern times? Do men try to “fix” women and women, men?
- How many true friendships do you think you have in your life?
Hmmm ….. although I thoroughly appreciated Lewis’ thoughts in this chapter, I don’t have much to say about it. He’s left me thinking about if a man and a woman can truly be Friends without it turning to Eros. We like to think they can be just Friends but I have the uncomfortable feeling that Lewis is more right than not. However, I have one good male friend whom I’ve been friends with for years (I’m friends with his wife too) and that’s ALL we are ….. friends. So I suppose it can happen but is it worth taking the chance? Or at least perhaps the realization that Eros could happen might make us more careful.
I do love this idea of Friendship … someone whom you can get deep with, you share in their lives and have really no expections for each other. Yet there is a loyalty and connection that reaches beyond the worldly. However, in order for this love to develop, people must be able (and willing) to speak about topics that are profound, overlook a person’s faults and, in this age particularly, work at spending time to make the Friendship grow. Perhaps it’s no wonder that true Friendship nowadays is a rarity.
And finally, I’m going to list some Friendship pairings, some of whom Lewis mentioned but some I discovered myself:
Damon and Pythias: Pythias is accused of plotting against Dionysus I of Syracuse who allows him to settle his affairs, holding Damon in his stead in case Pythias should not return. But Pythias does return to a certain death, and Dionysus, impressed at the depth of their friendship, lets them both go.
James Boswell & Samuel Johnson: Even with a 31 year difference in their ages, these two met and formed a close friendship that would last a lifetime.
Samwise Gamgee & Frodo Baggins: A friendship that sticks together through thick and thin (and fire!) [The Lord of the Rings]
Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday: Perhaps on a desert island, one gets to know another better than anywhere else! [Robinson Crusoe]
John and Abigail Adams: If anyone exemplifies a love, partnership and friendship between husband and wife, these two are a fine example!
Anne Shirley and Diana Barry: This is a friendship that many young girls can only dream of. [Anne of Green Gables]
Charlotte and Wilbur: Such a sweet friendship [Charlotte’s Web]
George, Harris, Jerome & Montmorency: Three Men in a Boat! If you haven’t read it, you’re missing something grand!
Pooh and Piglet: Need I say more?
Can you think of any others?