Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More thoughts on friendship.

We can't go on meeting like this!

"... a most severe evil, I have no friend ..."

As a follow-up to my earlier post, On friendship, I want to add a few thoughts from Enbrethiliel's Book Club post on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
"Something that I didn't expect to find in Frankenstein was the theme of friendship. It shouldn't have been too surprising: I had been aware of the Monster's great loneliness at being the only one of his own kind. But now I see that it is more than just an aspect of the Monster's character; it is something that can be felt by all men.  And we first see this longing for a true companion in the loneliness of Robert Walton, who lives and works among men whom he admires but cannot truly consider his peers.
'. . . I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy, and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil, I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection. I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling. I desire the company of a man who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine. You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend. I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your poor brother! I am too ardent in execution and too impatient of difficulties.' (Walton)
What complicates matters is Walton's worry that he himself is not up to snuff. He didn't receive the same education that he imagines sympathetic souls did--and one reason why he wants a true friend from this class is that he believes only one such as these could "endeavor to regulate [his] mind." And whether or not he is right to wish so, he gets exactly what he asked for in Victor Frankenstein." - Enbrethiliel

That is so insightful.

I think there may be much here to consider as regards the cultivation of disinterested, non-sexual friendship.

Understanding one's feelings, as well as one's desires, is critical these days when so many seem inclined to equate, and sometimes incorporate, romantic affection and casual sexual intimacy with friendship.  18th-19th century notions of romance and friendship differ completely from our contemporary understanding and experience of affection and intimacy.  We see the exaggeration most often in the way many gay-history-revisionists misinterpret some of the most noble same sex friendships of history.  The friendship of Cardinal Newman and Fr. Ambrose St. John comes to mind.  Recently I read a revisionist's take on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, suggesting Francis had a 'special' friend in his youth and that he and Br. Elias may have been an item.


Lonely? Hug someone at the sign of peace.  What?


  1. I laughed so hard at that pic of the sign of peace with caption.

    Yes, and then there's revisionist take on Michelangelo.

  2. +JMJ+

    Thanks for the link, Terry!

    There have been times when I chose to use what is now considered "romantic" language to describe a perfectly platonic relationship--because no other terms would do. For instance, I once started a friendship with someone because I "couldn't get her out of my mind" . . . I refer to one young woman who ultimately rejected my offer of conversation and understanding as "the one who got away" . . . and of course, I "broke up" with another old friend after I realised "it would never work between us."

    So it's St. Francis and Elias now, is it? The last time I had to deal with revisionists, they were gushing over St. Francis and St. Clare being boyfriend and girlfriend in secret! =P


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