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009 - On Friendship And Philosophy - Moral Letters for Modern Times

You are sufficient in yourself if you do not need friends for your happiness, but you need not go so far as to not want them.
Skyscrapers - Moral Letters to Lucilius
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As I have mentioned to you in a previous letter, not needing things is a way to maintain an unshakable foundation. But to say you do not need something is not to say that you will shun it if offered. So it is with friendship.

You are sufficient in yourself, and for this reason you need no external affirmation for your happiness. But you can still desire an exchange with colleagues and interaction with the world. Though you lose no sleep over losing all contact, that does not mean you seek isolation. You do not need millions of dollars to be happy, but that does not mean you would turn down a bonus. My payment to you is this: you are sufficient in yourself if you do not need friends for your happiness, but you need not go so far as to not want them.

Friendship is, in any event, never far from your reach. If your desire is genuine to share, to help, to give of yourself, you will find friendship. If, rather, you look to your friends for what they can do for you, expect the same from them. In this way, how you approach your friendships serves as a regular test of your principles.

If you are seeking friendships from any motive other than your own generosity, you may well find fortune-seekers among your fellow-man. But you cannot be surprised when such friends vanish as quickly as they came if your fortunes should take a turn. The loaded spendthrift never lacks companions, but when the flow of money ceases, only crickets remain.

Approach your friend-making with the seriousness it deserves. Is this one for whom I would sacrifice everything? If you are spurred on by noble emotions, then it is only just that you proceed. Such a friendship is worth wanting, because you are not left wanting as a result of the desire. This, my dear Deuteros, is how we correctly understand what it means to be self-sufficient but to still want friends. Though you have everything you need within you at all times, it is natural to appreciate friends. Mandela and McCain in their cells each were left undiminished by their years of imprisonment. All they possessed was their self-possession. And having demonstrated their self-sufficiency beyond any doubt, do we doubt their joy at rejoining the company of man?

I have talked today of the value of friendship, and the difference between needing and wanting something. To pay another installment onto my account I leave you with these insights on what is truly valuable. Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson showed that he understood the value of friendship when he said:

A friend is a gift you give yourself.

Be well.

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