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The moment we indulge our affections, the earth is metamorphosed; there is no winter, and no night; all tragedies, all ennuis vanish; all duties even; nothing fills the proceeding eternity but the forms all radiant of beloved persons.
Thus every man passes his life in the search after friendship, and if he should record his true sentiment, he might write a letter like this, to each new candidate for his love: Dear Friend:— If I was sure of thee, sure of thy capacity, sure to match my mood with thine, I should never think again of trifles, in relation to thy comings and goings.
I am not very wise; my moods are quite attainable; and I respect thy genius; it is to me as yet unfathomed; yet dare I not presume in thee a perfect intelligence of me, and so thou art to me a delicious torment. Our friendships hurry to short and poor conclusions, because we have made them a texture of wine and dreams, instead of the tough fiber of the human heart.
With the inclusion of a letter written to a hypothetical friend, Emerson suggests that friendship is a fallacy that can only be realized when the bond between two individuals transcends earthly ties.
In Emerson’s opinion, friends must treat one another with both a sense of detachment and closeness, such that each individual may maintain their oneness while simultaneously revering the other as spiritual partners.
It would be lost if it knew itself before any of the best souls were yet ripe enough to know and own it.
Respect the [German for the slowness of natural development] which hardens the ruby in a million years, and works in duration, in which Alps and Andes come and go as rainbows.What is so delicious as a just and firm encounter of two, in a thought, in a feeling?How beautiful, on their approach to this beating heart, the steps and forms of the gifted and the true!The laws of friendship are great, austere, and eternal, of one web with the laws of nature and of morals.But we have aimed at a swift and petty benefit, to suck a sudden sweetness.Although originally intended as a lecture, “Friendship” was never delivered before a public audience.Instead, it remains one of Emerson’s most notable published essays.How many persons we meet in houses, whom we scarcely speak to, whom yet we honor, and who honor us! Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection.How many we see in the street, or sit with in church, whom, though silently, we warmly rejoice to be with! The scholar sits down to write, and all his years of meditation do not furnish him with one good thought or happy expression; but it is necessary to write a letter to a friend, and, forthwith, troops of gentle thoughts invest themselves, on every hand, with chosen words.Emerson draws on correspondences with friends and personal journal entries to provide readers with insight on the various facets of his friendships.He touches on themes such as the process of building meaningful bonds as well as the paradoxical nature of friendship.