What is true friendship ?
A dialogue between Gottfried the bird and Socrates the stick. Gottfried thinks that each being is independent but part of a logical and harmonious whole, accessible through singing. Socrates knows he does not know anything and this leads him to ask many questions. He then carefully examines the responses.
Gottfried: Socrates, you’re back, it’s been ages since you came to the domain!
Socrates: I know, dear Gottfried, I was very busy.
Gottfried: with Baguette?
Socrates: yes, that’s right , now that we’re together, we don’t want to leave each other anymore but as you see, I haven’t forgotten my friends.
Gottfried: and why isn’t she with you?
Socrates: she had something to do on her side today but she looks forward to meeting you when we can.
Gottfried: me too! In the meantime, do you have any new questions?
Socrates: Gottfried, you’re making fun of me but yes, I have questions: how are you and how is Baruch?
Gottfried: these are new questions that I like because they show that you worry about us.
Socrates: didn’t you think I considered you and Baruch my friends?
Gottfried: I didn’t know. Or at least I didn’t know what kind of friendship it was.
Socrates: a friendship that allowed me to become wiser by talking with you since knowledge does not come from itself, it has to be access with others.
Gottfried: all friendships are based on sharing, you’re right, but only one deserves the title of true friendship. That you come without expecting anything from me, just to worry about my well-being, proves that your friendship is neither self-interested, as is often the case, nor purely for your own pleasure. Unless of course my presence is a way of distracting you from your loneliness.
Socrates: you blame me a little, dear Gottfried, and I deserved it because I perhaps gave you the feeling that you only mattered when I needed you. That’s why I wanted to come as soon as possible. You must know that what you told me about yourself has always made me more lucid about myself since it forced me to ponder questions and find answers. It is precious and therefore I want to be of the same help to you.
Gottfried: it’s because we know how to listen to each other and keep silent when necessary, that is to say respect each other. I thought I would go and see you but I knew you were busy working on your relationship with Baguette so I preferred to wait.
Socrates: your tact is a sign of your true affection and I am touched by it. But you haven’t answered me yet on your situation and that of Baruch.
Gottfried: oh, I’m fine, I fly a lot to feed my little family which has just grown to three chicks but it keeps me in good shape. As for Baruch, he’s back and he’s in love.
Socrates: he’s in love, that’s very good news. Did you see the object of this love?
Gottfried: no, it’s a heron from the south who stayed there
Socrates: and what does he say?
Gottfried: he wonder whether he has done the right thing to come back alone and if she will join him, he asks me for advice, he flies here and there without landing, you wouldn’t recognize him
Socrates: but is he well?
Gottfried: yes, he found what he needed but he will have to make choices. That’s what he’s realizing now.
Socrates: these are choices that will come by themselves, he should instead enjoy what he has now and the friends surrounding him.
Gottfried: oh, he does it, don’t worry, that’s why I think it will be fine, but he’ll probably be here less often than before.
Socrates: like me! Life brings welcome changes when they are expected, I can assure you, although for some they are not necessarily pleasant since they see us less.
Gottfried: I would not be a friend if I did not rejoice in your happiness and if I did not accept that you live differently now that you have found what you were looking for. I’m sure Baruch thinks like me. Time or distance does not erase the trust that friends have and when they meet again, it is as if they had never left each others.
Socrates: you are right, this is how we recognize true friends. The others, those who complain about being left alone, they were friends only for their own sake. But let me congratulate you on your children, that’s great news too.
Gottfried: oh you know, with us birds it’s an annual event. We are used to it. In a few months, they will be gone from the nest and we will not see them again.
Socrates: the difference with friends is that even far away, they will always come back!
Gottfried: and they will always be welcome.
Are all friendships the same?
For Gottfried, who thinks like Aristotle there, true friendship is one in which friends love each other for who they are. It differs from self-interested friendship which consists in seeking the company of the other for what it can bring us useful or the friendship for pleasure which consists in seeking the others only to have a good time. Only time can differentiate them because they all start by the need of others.
For Socrates, friendship is what allows knowledge of oneself and of life because it is based on dialogues and sharing. Without it, nothing can appear. It reveals others to us and brings us greater lucidity about ourselves. It does not disappear over time or distance either.
Are love and friendship compatible?
Why friends of friends are not necessarily our friends?
Want to think a little more? See, for example, The Nicomachean Ethics where Aristotle explains to his son Nicomachean how to live happy and has a chapter where he tells him how to evaluate his friendships.
Want to contribute to these dialogues? Write your comments and questions below.
Want to know more about the tastes of Socrates and Gottfried? Their favorite books are in the domain library.