|As I noted in "Houseguests from Hell," my exposure to Objectivism has led me, over many years, to re-think the very concept of "friendship." The writings of Ayn Rand led me to read The Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle. As I explained in "Roles and Rational Egoism," from that work I learned that the role of Friend can lead to three forms of friendship:|
There are three kinds of friendship: friendship based on utility, friendship based on pleasure, and friendship based on goodness of character. The first two kinds of friendship are based on superficial qualities, so these sorts of friendship are not generally long lasting. Friendship based on goodness of character is the best kind of friendship, because these friends love one another for who they are and not for what they stand to gain from one another.
I have yet another article in mind -- I know, I keep saying that, so maybe I should put some of them in writing -- called "Corruption of a Concept." That article would address how the influence of John Dewey on modern education has distorted the meaning of friend. Because of Dewey's insistence on social conditioning as the ultimate purpose of education, helpless children can learn that the term "friend" means, not someone of utility or pleasure or character, but simply anyone in whose company you happen to find yourself. The idea that the child can have no solitude, i.e. that ultimately his life belongs to the collective of classmates and not to himself, further erodes any valid meaning of friend.
I can identify with Howard Roark and John Galt, both of whom openly stated that they had no true friends until adulthood. In retrospect, I cannot honestly say I had "friendships of character" until my senior year in high school. Perhaps that amounts to a maturity issue. In any case, I have learned the pleasure of being my own best friend and the utility of self-reliance. I have a handful of close friends, but even with them I do not spend that much time -- except my wife, with whom I spend most of my time outside work.
Thanks to my efforts with Objectivism locally and globally, I have made new friends who share my core values. This result has left me puzzling over this article in which a young lady new to Objectivism stated:
In spite of our similar interests, our values differed greatly. Through our political discussions, I soon discovered that Billy was a self-proclaimed Communist. I wasnít shocked, but rather intrigued; many long debates were sparked over socialism versus capitalism. In addition, he was a vehement Christian while I was happily atheist, and he refused the existence of an objective reality. Our differing opinions made our discussions long and interesting; we took great delight in our debates, and we often earned strange looks from people overhearing our conversations.
Obviously she garnered some values from that interaction that I could never generate. "What? You are a Communist Christian? You are outta here, mister! End of discussion! I do not need you." I will attribute this difference of responses to basic personality traits and leave it at that.
So, getting back to the poll, I have to answer, "Yes and No." Yes, I have higher quality friendships. No, it has not improved all the friendships I had prior to Objectivism nor some of the ones I formed since my first exposure to Ayn Rand. In the name of my own self-respect, I have had to terminate some friendships without mercy. It remains an ongoing planting, fertilizing, trimming and weeding process similar to maintaining a garden.
(Edited by Luke Setzer on 7/07, 5:43am)