But here we come upon several additional paradoxes. Friendship depends on honoring differences, preferring antagonism over compliance. “Let him not cease for an instant to be himself. The only joy I have in his being mine is that the not mine is mine.”9 Also “The condition which high friendship demands is the ability to do without it.”10 We must be patient not interfering in its slow development and must limit time in each other’s company to allow for each to find their greatness. “I cannot afford to speak much with my friend.”11 Third friendship is self-selected but not chosen. “Let us buy entrance to this guild by long probation.”12 Rash attempts at friendship “desecrate noble and beautiful souls.”13
Emerson offers several other priceless observations: “We must be our own before we can be another’s.”14 “The only reward of virtue is virtue and the only way to have a friend is to be one.”15 He ends on a final pearl of wisdom: “The essence of friendship is entireness, a total magnanimity and trust… It treats its object as a god, that it may deify both.”16
How do we collate the thoughts of the poet-philosopher with purpose through friendship? True friendship embodies timeless metaphysical and ethical precepts. The friend (like the lover) seems to validate our trust in empirical reality being the most certain external entity of our experience, at least transcendentally, due to their replication and affirmation of our inner self. We further grasp the limits of free will in that friendship is primarily self-selected, not mere voluntary intention. The overlap of its unexpectedness and appearance as a gift reinforces our inference of abstruse cosmic teleology. And friendship reveals the nature of truth by virtue of its primacy in the bonds of friendship. Friendship also discloses ethical values via its commonality with the moral law and its dependence on tenderness and self-restraint.
We have noted that inner purpose comes down to making a good life for oneself, self-perfection, happiness and meaning. The practical benefits of friendship contribute to the good life as do its transcendental features. Emerson tells us that friendships facilitate solitude by the cushion they offer to the outside world but also because loneliness is abated in the knowledge one has friends. Being able to restrain contact with one’s friend dovetails well with ascetic self-denial. Successful friendships augments self-perfection in depending on a right relationship with oneself, honoring differences of others, and making oneself worthy of friendship.
Next time we will put together the last 9 parts into a synopsis on friendship as purpose in life.
9Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Essays and English Traits. Grolier Enterprise Corp., Danbury, Connecticut, 1993 (The Harvard Classics). Page 114.
11Ibid., page 118.
12Ibid., page 115.
14Ibid., page 116.
16Ibid., page 119.