“Surely he should keep a remembrance of their former intimacy…” Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Sometimes it feels like Aristotle foresaw all the vicissitudes of my life. He muses regarding the issue of the demise of friendships–surely a thorny aspect of human life–and how one should act toward former friends.
Things change, circumstances change. Indeed, people change. But we wonder: was it my fault, their fault, or both? Or neither. We could spend much time trying to discern.
It seems that most of all we need to learn to see ourselves. We will never be able rightly to understand our relationships—either past or current—unless we learn to see ourselves. Often what we find will be bracing, especially as we examine how we have acted toward our friends. Was I overly demanding, did I make enough effort, was I unwilling to accommodate..?
But the truth about ourselves will set us free. There is no safety, or closure, in ignorance.
Perhaps it simply couldn’t work, we being too different, too far apart. Such can be the case. Maybe it could have worked, but we failed to make it work. Such too can be the case. Sometimes we can try again, with humility, and forgiveness. And tears. We will need wisdom to know: how do we find closure, do we try again, do we move on?
In any case, and especially if we must move on, Aristotle makes a great point: we need to live in remembrance. If you were once my friend, then this much at least, will always be true: you were once my friend. My actions should reflect this truth; and even if other others cannot tell, my former friend should feel that I still remember. And that I will not forget.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his main moral treatise.
Image: Two Fisherman by a Boat, Michael Ancher