Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | August 10, 2010

On Friendship

‘And so friendship is quite different from all the other things in the world on which we are accustomed to set our hearts. For each and every one of those other objectives is specifically adapted to some single purpose—riches, to be spent; power, to secure obedience; public office, to win praise; pleasure, to enjoy oneself, good health, to be free from pain and make full use of one’s bodily endowments. Friendship, on the other hand, serves a great host of different purposes all at the same time. It whatever direction you turn, it still remains yours. No barrier can shut it out. It can never be untimely; it can never be in the way. We need friendship all the time, just as we need the proverbial prime necessities of life, fire and water. I am not speaking of ordinary commonplace friendships, delightful and and valuable though they can be. What I have in mind instead is the authentic, truly admirable sort of relationship, the sort that was embodied in those rare pairs of famous friends.

Friendship, then, adds a brighter glow to prosperity and relieves adversity by dividing and sharing the burden. And another of its very remarkable advantages is this. It is unique because of the bright rays of hope it projects into the future: it never allows the spirit to falter or fail. When a man thinks of a true friend, he is looking at himself in the mirror. Even when a friend is absent, he is present all the same. However poor he is, he is rich: however weak, he is strong. And may I attempt to convey an even more difficult concept? Even when he is dead, he is still alive. He is alive because his friends still cherish him, and remember him, and long for him. This means that there is happiness even in his death—he ennobles the existences of those who are left behind.

Take away the bond of kindly feeling from the world, and no house or city can stand. Even the fields will no longer be cultivated..

-from Laelius: On Friendship, composed by Cicero in the summer of 44 BCE (translated from the Latin by Michael Grant, 1971). Marcus Tullius Cicero (born 3 January, 106 BCE; died 7 December, 43 BCE), portrayed above in the marble bust, dating from the middle of the first century CE, in the Capitoline Museum, Rome.


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