What are the obligations of friendship? What can a friend reasonably expect of a friend? I’ve not thought much about this, other than in the quiet moments of visceral responses when something happens in a relationship to a friend. So, I’m quite impressed with what Epstein, in his Friendship, turns up.
What do you expect?
Epstein is the master of quotations, and here’s the best one I saw in this chapter, from E.M. Forster: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country” (80). What do you think of this one?
Epstein deals with the following, and we need to think what happens to us when a friend doesn’t do this with us, or what happens to others when we don’t live up to these obligations with our friends. We may choose not to be friends anymore, we may become bitter, or we may seek reconciliation. What price forgiveness though.
Loyalty or the absence of betrayal.
Attendance, or regular meeting.
Some kind of intimacy.
Acceptance of flaws.
Acceptance of some inequality.
The word I’d use for what I expect of a friend is “conversation.” Epstein hints at this throughout, so it is under some of these. But what I like is someone who will tell me what they think and let me tell them what I think, and the simple pleasure of discussing with one another what we think. One thing I enjoy with a friend is the discussion of chapters of my book — just response is all I look for. Some of you have become “friends” in this way with me, reading a chp here or there. That is one thing I would expect of a friend — conversation about what we want to chat about.