Great Writers Define Friendship (A Good Reminder in the Facebook Era)
A brief reminder of what having close friends means, in the words of some philosophers and writers that spent time thinking about it.
On one level, friendships are very simple. They are links between people who enjoy each other’s company. But if we look a little deeper, there is no consensus on their meaning. We procure friends via simple and deep affinity of spirit, without worrying about the characteristics they possess that differ from our own; “all differences can converge in friendship and literature,” Francisco Hinojosa would say. Friends expand our mental territory and they do it with that exclusive release of familiarity.
But talking of friendship today is even more abstract.
There are people in our lives who make us happy for the simple chance of having crossed paths. Some of them walk that path beside us, watching many moons pass, while others we barely see between one step and the next. All of them we call friends and there are many types of them.
That was written by Jorge Luis Borges a long time before the word “friendship” expanded and also dislocated to also refer to the lists of people we collect in social networks (and which do not even make us happy for the simple chance of having crossed paths, but that exist in some amorphous place where we don’t see them or touch them and sometimes we don’t even exchange words with them). But it is not necessary to repeat what has so often been said about the mirage of our virtual friendships because most of us know that friendship is something apart from the coming and going of opinions and criticism. It is to be together with another human being and to establish a series of pacts and loyalties. We also know that, as with the fact that Internet will not replace physical books in the near future, neither will it replace our close friends.
What is necessary however is to stop and separate things. There are many types of friends, as Borges says, and one of those is precisely literary authors. Those writers who, once we have read them, we begin to admire and love, and we decide to keep them close to us. Each reader forms their literary family, their legion of ghosts with whom they maintain conversations and interviews throughout their lives. “Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay on friendship. Those kinds of friends are both a product of the luck of having met them as well as of choosing to keep them close and are formed, arbitrarily, by the best and most admirable minds in history.
Who better than them, our intimate friends in literature, to separate that surprising virtue of friendship from all the rest that takes place around that word these days. The following are a selection of fragments on the subject of friendship, which as well as reinforcing the importance of having good friends, come from voices which are also that.
Each friend represents a world in us, a world that is possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only in that encounter that a new world can emerge. – Anaïs Nin
We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself. – George Bernard Shaw
A true friend stabs you in the front. – Oscar Wilde
Be slow to fall into friendship, but when thou art in, continue firm and constant. – Socrates
Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love. – Jane Austen
Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus
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