The Nature Of Friendship

Jessica Vivian Chiu ruminates on friendship, which she claims "has never seemed both more important and less relevant than it does now." After examining the "curious, decades-long friendship between the writers Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, and the sculptor Wharton Esherick," she concludes:

Friendship, Aristotle suggests, is the most immediate form of public personhood; it motivates a person for moral excellence, ennobles us to become a stronger unit for a social whole. And yet, the thing is this: the very material of friendship is the exchange of it. In friendship, sentiment is the relationship. Friendship may have a public aspect, but it is essentially a private exchange. If the letters between Anderson, Esherick, and Dreiser showed me anything, it is that friendship remains the special provenance of those who live it.

My own friendships go on changing, adjusting by degrees to demands that I won’t totally understand. A becomes a parent. B wrestles over what a career should look like. C’s stubborn nostalgia threatens to uproot what we still have in common. The reassuring thing is that no single law rules over us. Friendship is a return, as variable as we are.