Cat Potts: Patterns of Friendship

True friendship, I think, is much like a smile; there are variations and not everyone goes about it the same way, but when it comes down to it, the core elements are always the same, no matter who is involved.  Iranian, Christian, Islamic, and Secular views of friendship may vary when it comes to details, but the essence of friendship for any of these groups has certain undeniable elements. No matter the religious or cultural perspective, it can be agreed that friendship brings us closer to God, creates a stronger society, and helps us to become the best versions of ourselves.

The notion of friendship bringing us closer to God relies heavily upon the idea that, as has been mentioned in multiple class lectures, salvation is not a solo act. In the Christian New Testament, it is mentioned that “the grace of God [appears in order to] offer salvation to all people”[i]. Salvation in Christianity is for all, and in the eyes of Jesus, friendship and theological experiences are closely linked. In the lecture in class on Tuesday, February 27th, John 15:15 from the Christian New Testament was cited, wherein Jesus tells his disciples that they are not servants, but friends. On Thursday, March 1st, the in-class lecture centered around perspectives of friendship in Islam, where salvation and enlightenment are also group efforts; the absence of monasticism in Islam is a result of the held belief that it is through our interactions with others that we become closer to God. Famed Christian philosopher Augustine notes that friendship is “a moment of illumination toward the divine ground”[ii], insinuating that it is through friendship that we can see the path towards God. Further, Miskawayh says that love is “a social means that should exist between people to aid each other to achieve the perfection of their souls,”[iii] and it is a commonly held belief in many religions that God is a manifestation of perfection. Therefore, if our souls are moving towards perfection by developing friendships, we in turn are moving closer to God.

Friendship, on a grand scale, is “an important means of constructing and maintaining the societal fabric,”[iv] for what is humanity but a grand network of friends? In “Friends and Friendship in Iranian Society,” Jamsheed Chosky notes that “friendship through free-willed bonding, cooperation, and goodwill at all levels of society [is] be integral to acquiring the learning, knowledge, and wisdom”[v] that rounds us out as humans and that makes for a stable society. This belief of friendship being present and necessary at all levels of society is not unique to Iranian culture. In the eyes of multiple Hellenic philosophers, “political community is somehow analogous to friendship,”[vi] meaning that friendship can be found in places that are not exclusively dedicated to friend-on-friend interactions, like a schoolyard. Rather, the foundational elements of friendship are so universal that they are found in the basic structure of society. Thus, when we know how to be a good friend, we know how to be a good member of society. Friendship is a building block that “sustains the world and the human race”[vii].

In developing friendships, we not only become closer to god and better citizens, but we also become the best versions of ourselves, and evolve into full and virtuous individuals. Love and friendship are “means for the cultivation of man’s inner soul”[viii]. As mentioned in the lecture in class on March 1st, Al-Ghazali sees friendship as a mirror, meaning that our friends show us both our own strengths and our own faults. When we open ourselves up to friendship, we allow ourselves to see who we truly are. Good friends hold us accountable for our actions, and tell us when we have done wrong (hopefully). Zoroastrians, as mentioned in class, believe that knowledge and wisdom are a crucial part of order in life, both of which can only be achieved through amity, or the making and keeping of friends. Friends make us smarter, open us up to new perspectives, provide a platform on which we can practice other virtues. How can we have any idea of right and wrong if we are alone? We cannot know if we are behaving virtuously if we are isolated and therefore have no effect on others. Further, our isolation, as mentioned earlier, stifles us into stunting our spiritual growth. Friends are not only good for us, but necessary for the betterment of humanity.

Even though cultural and religious beliefs may vary in their specificities, oftentimes when we zoom out and look at the big picture, we can see that they are more alike than different in their intentions and teachings, particularly when it comes to virtues. Friendship is not only a virtue in itself, but is a compass by which we may acclimate ourselves to recognize other virtues, and therefore live in such a way that effects those around us in a positive and generous manner.

I affirm I have adhered to the Honor Code on this assignment (Cat Potts)

 

[i] Titus, Chapter 2, Verse 11. The Bible: New International Version. Colorado Springs, CO: International Bible Society, 1984.

 

[ii] Page 123. Heyking, John Von. Friendship and Politics: Essays in Political Thought. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2008.

 

[iii]  Page 199. Alshaar, Nuha A. Ethics in Islam: friendship in the political thought of al-Tawḥīdī and his contemporaries. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.

 

[iv] Page 254. Chosky, Jamsheed K. “Friends and Friendship in Iranian Society: Human and Immortal.” Iranica AntiquaXLVI (2011): 252-88.

 

[v] Page 282. Chosky, Jamsheed K. “Friends and Friendship in Iranian Society: Human and Immortal.” Iranica AntiquaXLVI (2011): 252-88.

 

[vi] Page 116. Heyking, John Von. Friendship and Politics: Essays in Political Thought. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2008.

 

[vii] Page 205. Alshaar, Nuha A. Ethics in Islam: friendship in the political thought of al-Tawḥīdī and his contemporaries. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.

 

[viii] Page 206. Alshaar, Nuha A. Ethics in Islam: friendship in the political thought of al-Tawḥīdī and his contemporaries. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alshaar, Nuha A. Ethics in Islam: friendship in the political thought of al-Tawḥīdī and his contemporaries. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.

 

Chosky, Jamsheed K. “Friends and Friendship in Iranian Society: Human and Immortal.” Iranica AntiquaXLVI (2011): 252-88.

 

 

Heyking, John Von. Friendship and Politics: Essays in Political Thought. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2008.

 

The Bible: New International Version. Colorado Springs, CO: International Bible Society, 1984.