Joseph Epstein’s Friendship: An Expose asks in chp 5 an important question that we often do not ask ourselves, but in our more cynical moments we recognize ourselves in an affirmative answer to the question: “Is friendship, when stripped down to its essentials, just another playing field for that insatiably greedy and sleepless monster, the human ego?” Of course, I’m keen to hear what everyone thinks about this and the rest of these quotations.
Ah, yuck, you might say. Well, yes, I answer back: friends are friends not for purely objective reasons; we have friends because they bring us pleasure. Is it selfish to have friends? Indeed.
He suggests friends help us to establish who we are ourselves, and asks if many of us is strong enough to have a solid sense of ourselves without others.
This from La Rochefoucauld, whose gnomic statements can penetrated deeply into the human heart: “However rare true love may be, it is less so than true friendship.”
Chp 6 is an “extremely sketchy history of friendship.” It is that: it has a bit of a survey and then wanders, as familiar essays are wont to do, into a few topics in that history in the last half of the chp.
One issue: he claims Christianity devalues friendship because it elevates love of all and love of enemies. Friendship is an exclusive and excluding type of thing; it is discriminatory; it chooses some to spend time with; it is not as spontaneous. Etc.
Do you think Christianity minimizes what is meant by friendship in the classical sense of that word? Does the koinonia (fellowship) commitment of the Church replace or devalue or cut into the time of friendships?
He also observes how little of an emphasis there is in the Bible itself on those who were friends to one another.
Augustine evidently didn’t think this way: he said of a friend that “He was half my soul.”
This from Cicero: “most people unreasonably … want such a friend as they are unable to be themselves, and expect from their friends what they do not themselves give.”