5.3.3 Friendship: the Content and the Void

Tuesday, 18. August 2009

Let’s have a look at what Diderot is saying about habit forming when we get involved in a friendship :


“It is the deficiency of our being that gives birth to friendship; next it is the deficiency of friendship itself that destroys it. When we are alone, we feel our misery; we feel that we have a need for support; we look for a protector of our preferences, a journeyman for our joys and sorrows; we want someone of whom we could confiscate their heart and thoughts. Until this very moment friendship seems the sweetest thing on earth. But then, do our feelings change when we get what we’ve wished for? 

The moment that we see something we like from a distance, at first it bonds our desires. Then, when we reach it, we perceive its void. Our soul whose sight was limited by the distance, cannot rest when she sees further down.

Thus friendship, which restricts our claims at a distance, stops restricting our claims when we come close by: friendship does not fill the void that she has promised to fill. She leaves us with the needs that guide us away and lead us to other things we like. Which means that we start neglecting ourselves, we become difficult, we soon require like an homage the kindnesses that we in the beginning received as a gift. It is in the character of men to appropriate bit by bit the favours that one have once been given to them; a long possession gets us used by nature to consider those things that we have been given by others as our own: custom convinces us that we have a natural right to the will of our friends; we would like to rule over them; on the moment that these claims are mutual, like it happens often, the love gets irritating,  there is yelling from both sides, it produces bitterness, coolness, nasty explications, and the break.” 


An interesting observation: friendship can never be for granted, it’s a gift from one person to another. So, are our ideas of friendship unrealistic, or is Diderot’s structure too pessimistic?

2 Responses to “5.3.3 Friendship: the Content and the Void”

  1. AnnG Says:

    Perhaps it is isn’t only friendship that works in this way?

    If there is a void, surely it is in us? And thus it is probably impossible to fill it from any external source – whether that is love, or friendship, achievement oor worldly success…or even chocolate?

    I do see that in friendship we can sometimes become very demanding and start to take each other for granted. Maybe it is the nature of relationships that they always matter more to one party than to another?

    Or perhaps it is just that there is a natural waxing and waning – a dance of one party wanting more and the other feeling overwhelmed…

    Perhaps the ideal friendship must then be one where the feeling on both sides is equal – whether passionately equal or more detached?

  2. Cora Says:

    Your questions are worth some pondering, Ann…
    Surely this void is a gap in ourselves.
    Perhaps we should define to each other what we understand by issues like friendship and its conditions.For instance, how do we find out when we are feeling something on the same level, the same extent…
    Should we write a pledge with conditions and a get-out clause…

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