Friendship And Love and sorting it all out
By FRATER BOVIOUS
If you don’t have the words, you may not know what you are talking about.
(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) So, I have a few friends that come over, sometimes two at once, but typically one at a time, and so far never all three at the same time, but sometimes in the same week.
With Don I smoke cigars and drink Pyrat rum. With Gary I smoke cigars and drink scotch. With Frater Cowculus I smoke cigars or a Missouri Meerschaum pipe and drink whiskey. Often it is rye whiskey. Gary and Don have their doubts as to the actual existence of Frater Cowculus. They have their reasons. We meet in the Parthenon when the weather is fine, and in the Theological Armory when it is not. Generally I have one or the other over about once a week. My son-in-law would be the fourth musketeer, but he does not live as close and he is trying to get into medical school, so we don’t talk often enough. But there are the cigars and the strong spirits. And the talking. About Stuff.
Last time Don was over we were talking about Friendship and Homosexuality while we were smoking cigars. Freud would have had a field day. Ok, so really, we were talking about the nature of true friendship and Aristotle’s definition of the friend as your other self, and the idea that without such a friend life is not worth living, and that he defined friendship as two friends contemplating Truth.
Here, I have a diagram:
So, here we have two friends talking to each other and contemplating Truth. Lest the general light tone of this post lead you astray, this idea of two people fundamentally attempting to come to grips with Reality and their place in it is seen as possibly the highest endeavor to which one can devote their energies. It is critical to note that Aristotle contends that one cannot contemplate truth satisfactorily by oneself. There is a Proverb: “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.” (Proverbs 21:17). Aquinas would go on to point out that the Truth is God, so true friends help each other on their way to their voluntarily joining their wills with the Will of God. (That’s my synopsis of Aquinas’ thought.)
Anyway, Aristotle has a very high opinion of friends and friendship, and Don and I were discussing how many people have true friends, close friends, with which they can talk about things besides the game or cars or what have you. And I had a thought which I tried to express. I noted that in older movies, it was not uncommon to see men walking with an arm draped on his friend’s shoulder, or some such other contact which seems very rare today and has been viewed with suspicion of the sort that is expressed as “What are you, gay or something?”
I wondered aloud about the fact that we have this dichotomy – on the one hand if you were too friendly or too touchy then you might be viewed as “gay” and most manly men want to distance themselves from any appearance of being gay; on the other hand, being “gay” is now almost a virtue and certainly not anything that can be viewed in any light other than acceptance. My half-formed wondering did not quite come out this way in our conversation, but basically I wondered if this artificial dichotomy created a situation that excluded the authentic middle, where two people can be very close friends, spend time in rather intimate discussion about things that matter, and then not feel any need or desire to “take it to the next level” and strip down and get after it. But, my thoughts/hypotheses were not well-formed and it was difficult to say what I was wondering about. Basically, if I can dignify it with the term, my hypothesis was that some folks may very well enter into a same-sex relationship because it just seems that they have to – because the option of just being really close friends without physical intimacy seems unavailable in our sex-obsessed culture. This, I think can be recognized, is not limited to same-sex relationships, I think it plays out in heterosexual situations as well. “Well, we’ve been on three dates, it must be time for the sex.” (I will also note that all gay friends are not sexually active with each other, at least I don’t think so. Just like a guy and a girl can be friends without getting naked. No really.)
Later I saw a video from Elton John regarding these two guys that play the cello. He said something that caught my attention and helped me to think this through a bit more. So, I have provided the video below. Watch the whole thing, because it’s basically worth it because of the awesomeness of the cello playing. But, at about 2:26 Sir Elton begins a series of interesting comments about the way these two guys play. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
So, if you just skipped, then I’ll have to just say it. He says at one point, “it is a most beautiful homo-erotic way they play together.” So, if you skipped it, then go back so you can get it in context because the context matters. Plus, they really play a mean set of cellos…
Got it? OK.
It seems to me that Sir Elton is using the vocabulary that he has available to him, and consequently relating something that he sees in the only way available to him, but he clearly knows his description doesn’t really capture what he is seeing. But one thing I think anyone watching them can agree upon is here is an example of friends who are for each other “their other self” as Aristotle put it. And, are they not contemplating the truth of their cello playing? I would wager that if you asked them if either of them would play the way they do had they never met, the answer would be a unanimous “No.”
So, what does Sir Elton mean by their playing having a homoerotic quality? I think he lacks the vocabulary to accurately describe what he is seeing. In English, we have a narrow definition of eros. If you look it up, you will usually see it associated with erotic, i.e., physical love. Keep looking and you will see it described as a certain losing of control. Terms like “I want to fall madly in love” come to mind.
Pope Benedict the XVI wrote a piece called Deus Caritas Est. He has a discussion about this eros, and the other Greek words, agape, and filia, which are the three most common Greek words that come into play when attempting to define the word “love.” But I want to focus on his discussion of Eros. In the next post.