Friendship Other Essays Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau reminds us that “it is impossible to say all that we think, even to our truest Friend”, therefore the greater part of friendship consists not in what we can say to our friend, but in being together in silence.

“There are some things which a man never speaks of, which are much finer kept silent about.

“Beware, lest thy Friend learn at last to tolerate one frailty of thine, and so an obstacle be raised to the progress of thy love.”Thoreau’s ideal of friendship seems at times to be extremely harsh, further, it is an ideal that we may never achieve in real life interactions with our friends; however, understanding that the greater part of our friendships happen within the ideality of the mind perhaps requires an ideal which is unreachable, but in reaching for it we become better friends and better people.

What is more, is that this transformation of self happens most when we are silent with our friends, or alone when we engage ourselves in dialogue.

Friendship is so familiar, it seems, that we sometimes feel little need to think deeply about what Friendship is, and what it can be.

However, it is a theme which permeates Thoreau’s writings, and if properly understood can lend depth to both the transcendentalism of Walden, and the justification of acts of Civil Disobedience.

Friendship constantly challenges those who enter into it to be the best that they can be; “I make an infinite demand on myself, as well as on others”.

This infinite demand certainly causes Thoreau to question whether or not there have been such friendships as he idealizes, and whether human beings really are capable of such friendship.

Furthermore, Thoreau seems to expect perfection in action and deed from his friends in his presence.

“The sorest insult which I ever received from a Friend was, when he behaved with the licence which only long and cheap acquaintance allows to one’s faults, in my presence, without shame”.


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