Saturday, May 2, 2015

R.W. Emerson and Brain Pickings: About Friendship

There’s always some good stuff on Brain Pickings about so many things, but lately there seems to be more, or I am seeing more, about friendship. Friendship has been on my mind a lot lately.

Maria Popova’s article titled Truth and Tenderness: Ralph Waldo Emerson on Friendship and Its Two Essential Conditions spoke volumes to me today. I thought I would share some excerpts with whoever is out there reading. 

Maria writes:

“Emerson argues, that friendships have a certain pace of presence and absence, a natural rhythm of “comings and goings” that should be respected rather than bemoaned as a weakness in the relationship. “


“To rush these rhythms or force friendship to comply to a specific fantasy, Emerson gently admonishes, would be an assault on the relationship. Emerson argues that to be impatient in friendship is to mistrust the depth of the relationship and to deny the resilience and immutability of the friend’s affections:”

Emerson says:
“Our impatience is thus sharply rebuked. Bashfulness and apathy are a tough husk in which a delicate organization is protected from premature ripening. It would be lost if it knew itself before any of the best souls were yet ripe enough to know and own it. Respect the naturalangsamkeit [German for the slowness of natural development] which hardens the ruby in a million years, and works in duration, in which Alps and Andes come and go as rainbows. The good spirit of our life has no heaven which is the price of rashness. Love, which is the essence of God, is not for levity, but for the total worth of man. Let us not have this childish luxury in our regards, but the austerest worth; let us approach our friend with an audacious trust in the truth of his heart, in the breadth, impossible to be overturned, of his foundations.”

And what is the greatest gift of true friendship per Emerson?

“[Friendship] is for aid and comfort through all the relations and passages of life and death. It is fit for serene days, and graceful gifts, and country rambles, but also for rough roads and hard fare, shipwreck, poverty, and persecution… We are to dignify to each other the daily needs and offices of man’s life, and embellish it by courage, wisdom and unity. It should never fall into something usual and settled, but should be alert and inventive, and add rhyme and reason to what was drudgery.”

And the importance of being enough the same and enough different.

“Friendship requires that rare mean betwixt likeness and unlikeness, that piques each with the presence of power and of consent in the other party… I hate, where I looked for a manly furtherance, or at least a manly resistance, to find a mush of concession. Better be a nettle in the side of your friend, than his echo. The condition which high friendship demands is ability to do without it… Let it be an alliance of two large formidable natures, mutually beheld, mutually feared, before yet they recognize the deep identity which beneath these disparities unites them.”

Because how boring would it be if we were exactly alike! Who's going to keep us on our toes if not our friends? We need to learn and be challenged.

And what about the one-sidedness feelings we get from some. Should we care? Give up on them?
It has seemed to me lately more possible than I knew, to carry a friendship greatly, on one side, without due correspondence on the other. Why should I cumber myself with regrets that the receiver is not capacious? It never troubles the sun that some of his rays fall wide and vain into ungrateful space, and only a small part on the reflecting planet. Let your greatness educate the crude and cold companion. If he is unequal, he will presently pass away… But the great will see that true love cannot be unrequited. True love transcends the unworthy object, and dwells and broods on the eternal, and when the poor interposed mask crumbles, it is not sad, but feels rid of so much earth, and feels its independency the surer… The essence of friendship is entireness, a total magnanimity and trust.”

Sometimes I forget that friends need space with “room to breathe and grow and just be”. That the need or desire for space isn’t wrong or bad or reflective of the quality of the friendship (sometimes). And friendships have a “sense of presence and absence”, a “coming and going”. That it’s a natural phenomenon. 

We all need room to change so then we can present our friends with our renewed freshness and enthusiasm! And “It’s been so long! Where have you been, and what have you done?!?!?” We are thrilled and excited to know all of the answers. 

Then sometimes it feels as if the space seemed like we never spent a minute apart. 


Josh said...

I like Emerson for many things, especially his quote about old friends, "“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” "

Gina said...

I just quoted some from this particular article, but I love so many more!

Jamie Miles said...

So lovely and so very true. I was just thinking about reaching out to a college friend I haven't heard from in a while. I know she is so busy with children -- and not on social media (gasp). We need to be patient with our friends, knowing life can pull them (and us) away like the tide. But we need to be intentional about connecting every so often. Like swimming to the kayak -- even it just to touch it and rest a minute.

Gina said...

I love "Like swimming to the kayak-- even if just to touch it and rest a minute." I am going to keep it in my mind. I need to find patience with some friends and touch a few others!