Wednesday, January 1, 2014
C.S.Lewis / "The Four Loves" 3 / Friendship
A C.S. Lewis post from the other day, has suddenly had very many hits, I believe from people who are dealing with abusive relationships and are coming from a particular website. (Maybe.) C.S. Lewis, for reasons one can glean from his autobiographical writing, had good insight into abusive relationships. This is motivating me to open the new year by quoting C.S. Lewis and "The Four Loves", again. For myself, for the new year, I hope that I will engage less with abusive people. It does not seem to do any good. Jesus didn't do it either. He kept silent or was very brief.
Let's move into chapter 4, on "Friendship". I read this chapter to my husband on the beach in Hawaii. Somehow, it did not motivate him to pick up the book, but he said some homosexuals a towel over were listening intently. -- I did not see them. He would notice this.
"When either Affection or Eros is one's theme, one finds a prepared audience. The importance and beauty of both have been stressed and almost exaggerated again and again. Even those who would debunk them are in conscious reaction against this laudatory tradition and, to that extent, influenced by it. But very few modern people think Friendship a love of comparable value or even a love at all. I cannot remember that any poem since In Memoriam, or any novel, has celebrated it. ... To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few 'friends'. But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceship which those who make it would describe as 'friendship', how clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that Philia which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that Amicitia on which Cicero wrote a book. It is something quite marginal; not a main course in life's banquet; a diversion; something that fills up the chinks of one's time. How has this come about?
The first and most obvious answer is that few value it because few experience it. And the possibility of going through life without the experience is rooted in that fact which separates Friendship so sharply from both the other loves. Friendship is--in a sense not at all derogatory to it--the least natural of loves; the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary. It has least commerce with our nerves; there is nothing throaty about it; nothing that quickens the pulse or turns you red and pale. It is essentially between individuals; the moment two men are friends they have in some degree drawn apart together from the herd. Without Eros none of us would have been begotten and without Affection none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without Friendship. The species, biologically considered, has no need of it. The pack or herd--the community--may even dislike and distrust it. Its leaders very often do. ...
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.
But then came Romanticism and 'tearful comedy' and the 'return to nature' and the exaltation of Sentiment; and in their train all that great wallow of emotion which, though often criticized, has lasted ever since. Finally, the exaltation of instinct, the dark gods in the blood; whose hierophants may be incapable of male friendship. ... There was not blood and guts enough about it to attract the primitivists. It looked thin and etiolated; a sort of vegetarian substitute for the more organic loves.
... For all these reasons if a man believes (as I do) that the old estimate of Friendship was the correct one, he can hardly write a chapter on it except as a rehabilitation.
This imposes on me at the outset a very tiresome bit of demolition. It has actually become necessary in our time to rebut the theory that every firm and serious friendship is really homosexual.
... the rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important. Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A,B, and C), A should die, the B loses not only A but A's part in B. In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves." (pp.69-74)
--Let this suffice as an introduction to "Friendship". Lewis develops this last thought more fully, after this, in a very moving way. Just the idea that three friends together are better than two friends together is an important insight.
When I get together with my girl-friends, it tends to be with one or with two more or sometimes with four more. When there are five of us, we have developed a system of taking turns in talking, so everyone gets to have an equal chance. This is also a way of bringing each other out, being silent so the quieter one will talk. We find these get-together`s extremely satisfying. We have them scheduled at regular intervals, and though they may be difficult to schedule, with a laborious process in place to get everyone on the same page, none of us would miss the event. They have become an absolute priority when it comes time to plan them.
Why is this? Certainly, there is noting erotic or homoerotic about it, but often only other women can understand a woman, and often only other women will be interested in something that a woman has to say.
What about male-female "friendships"? -- It is different. You cannot sink yourself into them the same way you can with your same-sex friendship.
So much for New Year's Day, 2014.
What do we mean when we say that through Christ we have Friendship with God? "I call you Friends", Jesus said. He said the evidence is his willingness to die. A true friend is willing to die for you. He died for us, and, at least theoretically and emotionally, we are willing to die for him. Our prayer is for a steadfast faith, which is also his gift to us, through all the means through which he sustains it.
Such as the meal. Just like we get together with our friends to commune and share.