As with my last post, I have been reading a lot of Aristotle. This time, I am onto Nicomachean Ethics, particularly the sections on friendship. After some conversations on friendship with a friend today, I have many thoughts and ramblings on the subject.
Aristotle believed that friendship may exist for three purposes: utility, pleasure, and companionship (true friendship as it were). Already, I must disagree with Aristotle’s assessment. Based solely upon utility and pleasure, there can be no friendship. Amicable feelings, yes. Friendship, no. Friendship consists of loving another person for who they are, not what they give. Friendship necessitates reciprocity of this kind of love. To call it “true friendship” is unnecessary though, for anything short is at best the beginnings thereof, but yet to reach the full-fledged value of friendship.
Again, as Aristotle continues, I must disagree again with him. Friendship, he says, cannot be between two individuals who are not equally good (moral). Also, a friend whose character changes is right to be abandoned. No, no, and no. I simply cannot agree with this on the basis of my Christianity.
As regards the first issue, I must agree in the notion that a friendship between two good persons is rare for there are few such people in the world. But can we not have relationships with those who are not good persons, who are okay persons, who are not so okay persons? Of course we can. That does not force the utmost ranking of friendship, but we may find companionship outside of perfection — we must anyway: there are no perfectly “good” people.
I can name any one of a number of people in my life who are dear to me even though they are not “good” people. People who gossip about me, people who mock me, who laugh at me, insult me, and do any number of bad things to me. But I love them just the same. Undoubtedly, I am not perfect either. But as a Christian, I am called not to love only those who love me, but even those who do not love me, whether in whole or in part.
As to the second issue, Shakespeare put it best, albeit of romantic love: “Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds”. When we love another person, that love must be immovable regardless of a person’s status in our life, even more so for those we call friend. All the more, a friend who has lost some portion of his or her character needs a friend who loves them regardless of how terrible they treat them. Now, that doesn’t mean that they will remain a part of our lives, but we ought not abandon those we love when they need us the most. Aristotle even agrees that “friendship” based upon utility or pleasure does not last for, once the usefulness or pleasure ends, so does the “friendship”, which alludes to the fact that friendship based upon love between friends need not end for it was never based upon the ephemeral but the eternal.
I would accede that Aristotle’s recommendations are reasonable. The thing is that love, in any of its various forms, is not reasonable. Love, perfect love, doesn’t put its own good first even when it makes sense. Gladly, it suffers for the friend if it prevents that friend from suffering. Gladly, it bears away wrongs to the trash heap and rights to the trophy case. Gladly, it accepts the lash of the tongue and returns its lavishness. Love remembers no mountain of darkness but basks in a razor of light.
More Aristotelian ramblings to come… probably. Haha.