One loyal friend is worth 10,000 relatives, said Euripides. Aristotle thought friendship the best thing in the world. Saint Augustine was devasted by th death of a friend, All that we had done together was now a grim ordeal without himâ. For men as different as Dr Johnson, Coleridge and Cardinal Newman friendship was a great, moral love. For Cirero it was a foundation of social order. For Burke good men must cultivate friendship. To try to lead a good life on one's own is arrogant and dangerous. In past ages business thrived on the trust of friends; armies won battles on the loyalty of men to their comrades and people were attracted to and schooled in medicine, law and academe by friendship. This friendship of the past was high friendship, a friendship of pleasure but also of shared moral life.
In Losing Friends, Dr Digby Anderson contrasts the classical notion of high friendship with the pathetic affairs which pass for friendship today. Friendship is in trouble. An institution once as important as the family, has been âdiluted to mere recreation passing an odd evening together sharing the odd confidence. It is being ousted from business through fear of cronyism and squeezed between the demands of work and the increasingly jealous family. Fathers neglect their obligations to their friends in the club or the pub to bath their children.
Many of us will have no friends in illness, in need or at our funerals. Bewildered letters to agony aunts ask how to make friends. Schools are absurdly introducing classes on how to do so. Our society has no public recognition of friendship and cannot even discuss it articulately. When it does it sentimentalises it. Modern society is wealthy, healthy and long-lived. Aristole would ask what is the point of such a life is if lived without friends.