When we speak of friendship we speak of a mutual responsibility and obligation, of trust, honesty and respect bounded by mutual attraction. This quality of attraction is an essential characteristic in all friendships, for without it, the friendship would not exist.
I am attracted to my friends. The qualities that bring us together assist me in identifying myself with them, which in turn, solidifies and makes possible a sharing of self. Their strengths and weaknesses which do not meld with my own are placed aside for the virtues of friendship. Trust, respect and honesty are all present and assist in establishing a solid union of two individuals, and yet, I see with experience a constant evaluation of affection and attachment.
This concept of attraction makes friendships of opposites (gender) impossible. That is, a true friendship based on trust, respect and honesty is impossible, for how can a man and women who are bounded by friendship formed of mutual attraction share the virtues of friendship between them without ever stepping over the line of a Platonic relationship? It is incumbent upon those with knowledge to understand that since Adam and Eve, man has known, yet perhaps not always completely understood, the definitive difference between man and woman. As Fromm eloquently states, we became aware of our separateness, not only from the opposite sex but from the natural world around us, that we as a lower (wo)man transgressed with virtue bestowed upon us.
Socrates asserted that the response to sexual desire ought to be developed into a response to the beauty of a person’s soul and, ultimately, into a response to the form, Beauty itself.
How can two members of a species separated from each other spiritually, emotionally and physically, bounded by attraction and mutual identification, create memories and construct togetherness in a sharing of selfhood and yet not see these differences, not allow these differences to paint between them a canvas of want, or need or desire? For surely, in the average mans desire not to feel alone, not to be separated from his world, he will see the colours divinely laid between them. Do these colours not paint the other in a most glorious light? Or at worst, the attraction becomes tainted as the colours become a pallid mirage.
In Soble’s description of eros we see a shift away from the sexual: to love something in the “erosic” sense (using Soble’s term) is to love it in a way that, by being responsive to its merits, is dependent on reasons. Soble (1989b, 1990). Such an understanding of eros is encouraged by Plato’s discussion in the Symposium. While love is separated by an intuitive “depth”, Plato advises that to love someone is to identify yourself with him.
Our sense of isolation, of separateness, draws us ever closer to the desire for companionship, the desire to bridge the space between us and all that is. Poetry, writings, music and media all sell us the concept of an infallible unconditional romantic love, a misconstrued notion of love. In this, we forget that love between man and woman is conditional, that its success is dependent on criteria being and remaining present. Love is a constant process of construction and when we forget this we forget that when something is constructed, conditional, its underlying character cannot ever be unconditional.
That love between man and woman is a construct, cannot with reason be unconditional, offers another reason why man and woman cannot hold true friendship. It is those who have moved through knowledge into a place of lived wisdom, those few souls who have reached the higher state of man, which could possibly embody a true sense of unconditional love. That this, the rare higher man is holistically living from a place of submission to the essence of love, which in turn affords him the ability, the capacity, to control the essence of love within himself and therefore, in romantic love embody this same place of Being. The growing man who has not yet birthed himself into holistic submission may at times channel this essence yet he does not hold the capacity to control this essence within himself indefinitely, especially in the sense of unconditional romantic love.
We could argue that this essence is God, or Gods, or simply an energy balancing the world as we know it, and to some, the fact it exists at all is enough, that we are blessed at times to feel, see and experience the pull is truth enough. I feel it is, however, essential that as humans endowed with the virtues of reason and rationality, that we must seek to explore, to know and understand these concepts. This striving taking us closer to a higher state of Being.
As we explore these concepts of attraction, separateness, friendship, evaluation, identification, love and unconditional submission we see that man and woman cannot, with truth, enjoy friendship for friendships sake. To take this further, we could see ourselves birthed of a will for absoluteness, the absolute essence of love, created as aperfected concept in itself. So, lets look at the physical condition, the neurological processes which happen, absent of control from the lower or growing man.
Friendship, as in love, works on the neurological ‘rewards’ process of the brain. What is happening is an essential exchange of vital information, information for survival and healthy reproduction. Bonding requires use of both the lower and the higher brain where we find that the neocortex shuts down and the limbic system takes over in order to assist the process. This processes activates oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin and serotonergic signaling . Oxytocin plays a vital role in bonding after sexual intercourse, bonding after childbirth, establishing trust, is essential in sexual activity including flirting and assists in our ability to form ‘normal’ (friendly) social attachments. Dopamine is associated with the pleasure/reward process of the brain and provides feelings of enjoyment while assisting the repetitive and proactive performance of an activity. Vasopressin, which is also involved in social interactions and attachments, most recently proved essential in sexual interactions. The chemical which is released into the brain during sexual interactions is known to initiate and furthermore, sustain the pattern of neurological activity that supports bonding between sexual partner. Lastly we have serotonergic signaling which is essential in the physical affects of the body during social and sexual interactions. Serotonergic signaling plays a vital role in how our body temperature, mood, sleep, appetite etc. effect us in association to social and sexual interactions.
These neurological processes, absent of control by the growing man, works against the notion of true friendship between members of the opposite sex towards a profound consolidation of attraction; attraction to needs, interests and evaluation of rewards and enjoyment. On a spiritual level these processes assist man in being responsive to the intangible, to form, the form of beauty.
thanks for the inspiration 3musing!