Over the last year, I have used this space to share my thoughts on relationships and friendships. Today, I am sharing with you an excerpt from an interview between David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, and ethicist, Leon Kass. In this piece, Kass talks about friendship and his perspective on the “best of those friendships” spoke directly to how I feel about the friendships I have developed through MenLiving. I hope you find the reflection as compelling as I do.
“The heart of it, I think, is first of all learning to distinguish, amongst the people we call our friends, a sort of three basic categories. There are friendships of utility in which that’s the friendship between me and the butcher. And it’s not just merely transactional. I mean, I inquire how his family is. He asks after mine. But basically our friendship is based upon how we are useful to one another.
Then there are the friendships of fun and pleasure, people who enjoy playing golf together, people who like gambling together, what have you.
But the deepest friendship, he says, is the friendships based upon character, in which you love the person for who he or she is. It’s, in a way, what you said before, in terms of admiration. And you wish that person well for their own sake and enjoy being in their company because it’s uplifting and ennobling and the activities that you engage in with them go deeper into your own soul.
The best of those friendships — and this, I think, over a lifetime, I’ve come to endorse — the deepest and richest and most permanent friendship, he says, is the friendship not of doing deeds in common, but the friendship of sharing speeches and thoughts, a friendship of seeking understanding, a friendship that is in some way philosophical. There’s no topic’s off limits. And you can spend a lifetime and never get to the end of the conversation.
Amy (Kass’ late wife) was one such friend. I have another friend, we’ve been friends since 1956. We get together. No one has to read the minutes of the last time we were together. I’ve changed his mind about important things. He’s changed my mind. We’re still changing each other’s mind. This kind of a friendship is unique in which the things that we share, namely ideas and thoughts and speeches, each one is enriched by what the other one gets. There’s no scarcity of what is between us. Each side gets more from being with the other. And it’s mutual.”