A Short Essay on Friendship. What’s That?

What determines what is and what isn’t Friendship?  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Friendship” talks about the values, enjoyment, and qualities you look for in a friendship. He talks about having a friend who you like to have a great conversation with and not one that is superficial; that we should admire our friends and their accomplishments in the same ways we would. Emerson believes that truth and tenderness are the compositions of friendship. He furthers this by saying:

“The essence of friendship is entireness, a total magnanimity and trust. It must not surmise or provide for infirmity. It treats its object as a god, that it may deify both” (50, Par. 2). 

We should be genuine and have trust if we are to have a magnificent friendship. We should not dread encounters with friends nor overindulge them on our life’s details.  Friendship is not about the similarities or differences we have, but the essence of enjoying the presence of another’s company. Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Friendship”, I will be telling a tale about two friends, The Soul, and what exactly Friendship is.

The first person I will talk about is my Mexican friend named Janet. Janet has brown eyes and a black bowl cut with bangs for hair. She is around 5’3” and dresses in plain t-shirts and jeans. She is a bit hard of hearing and loves to laugh and joke around. Most of our conversations involve jokes about word choices and phrasing even when it’s a serious topic. She gestures her hands moving towards and away from you in conversation. She often uses the phrase “woah” in a joking and exciting manner. She is also very forgetful. Janet and I became friends in March of this year when we were both co-workers working in the same department at Apple.  Janet is very entwined with her family and cares deeply for them. We share the dream of being able to finish our college education and get great jobs to support our families. We have a pretty genuine friendship that reminds me of childhood friends and can be summed up as: 

“I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know” (45). 

We are both into superhero movies such as Spiderman, Video games that involve fighting and teamwork such as Mortal Kombat, and funny videos on YouTube. We often watch a show or movie and discuss our favorite parts. At first, she did not like me and thought I was rude, but after I had told a few jokes she quickly changed her tune. We don’t meet up often, but we do keep in contact through social media. Our friendship can be described by Emerson when he says: 

“To my friend I write a letter, and from him I receive a letter. That seems to you a little. It suffices me. It is a spiritual gift worthy of him to give and of me to receive. It profanes nobody. In these warm lines the heart will trust itself, as it will not to the tongue, and pour out the prophecy of a godlier existence than all the annals of heroism have yet made good” (48, Par.1).

Despite how far we may be physically, we are always connected in our spirits and in our good jokes over something as simple as a text. 

Not all friendships remain intact. My former friend was an Asian guy named Slater. Slater and I met in our P.E. class in 10th grade. He is average height at about 5’7”, has short black hair, and wears sweatpants and sweatshirts. He would always have headphones on and be eating some kind of snack.  Just like Janet, He also loves to joke around and play video games, but that’s where their similarities end. We shared a few classes and helped each other with our homework, but he also slept a lot throughout the various lectures. He dreamed of developing video games  whereas I wanted to work on computer and phone software. Slater and I really enjoyed each other’s company throughout high school, but like Emerson says: 

“Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. The lover, beholding his maiden, half knows that she is not verily that which he worships; and in the golden hour of friendship, we are surprised with shades of suspicion and unbelief.” (41, Par. 3) 

The friendship was too good to last due to our stress of finals in a month, his fights with his then girlfriend, and financial troubles at home. Slater was very frustrated in our senior year with all of this going on and so I gave him some space  to deal with it, but this divided us. Every day we talked less and after graduation the only words we’d said  to each other were “Congrats on graduating”. We tried to salvage our friendship later on but as Emerson exclaims, “There can never be deep peace between two spirits, never mutual respect until, in their dialogue, each stands for the whole world.” (48, Par. 2) We had grown apart and though we wanted to try to continue our friendship; we had changed and it didn’t work out.

This brings to mind the question of what do I consider a friend? I believe that Friendship is  being compatible with the soul of another person. But then what is a Soul? A Soul is the being which you are. Soul is what defines you and is separate from one’s physical body in both thinking and feeling. A friend is in many ways like one and unlike one’s soul but what is important is caring for their well being, being an actual part of their life, and being as true as you can to that person. When two souls reach for something the other soul likes, a person can start a friendship. When talking to such a person, Emerson describes it as: 

“A man is reputed to have thought and eloquence; he cannot, for all that, say a word to his cousin or his uncle. They accuse his silence with as much reason as they would blame the insignificance of a dial in the shade. In the sun it will mark the hour. Among those who enjoy his thought, he will regain his tongue” (46-47, Par. 3).  

You would only really capture someone's attention if they enjoy talking to you and when that connection is made, it can lead to many great conversations. Emerson’s work “Friendship” was really mind provoking that got me thinking of what a friend really was. Emerson’s writing about finding true and/or real friends relates to the world today in which we really don’t know who is truly our friend and who is pretending to be. In the process of seeking friendship though, Emerson says:

“Only be admonished by what you already see, not to strike leagues of friendship with cheap persons, where no friendship can be. Our impatience betrays us into rash and foolish alliances which  no God attends” (49, Par. 1). 

In the search for true friendship we must take into account how rare and difficult it is to find. To discover a  great friendship; we should look for it by being genuine, truthful, and with tenderness.

Works Cited

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Friendship." Self-reliance and Other Essays. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1993. 41-50. Print.



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