What is life without friends and companions

International Friendship Day : Why companions are now more important than ever

90 years ago it rang out for the first time: “A friend, a good friend, this is the best thing there is in the world…” It was, sung by the Comedian Harmonists, a song that after the premiere of the film “Die Drei von der Gasstelle ”went around the world with Willy Fritsch and Heinz Rühmann in Berlin's Gloria-Palast in 1930.

Shortly afterwards it became a hit even in France, which was anything but friendly with Germany at the time, as “Avoir un bon copain”.

Whether a boyfriend or girlfriend actually means the best that there is in the world can be argued about - even amicably.

A person with compassion or warmth who does something good for you even though he is actually a stranger to you, i.e. a good stranger, he or she would in many cases not be bad either.

For example, in the event of a potentially delicate medical procedure, people may prefer to have a doctor who is not too closely connected to them through friendship or family. One thinks that the more impartial physician then has the calmer hand.

Friendships are tricky in public life

But as now in times of a pandemic and the restriction of social contacts, friendship as a bond to others - and to the outside world - seems more important than ever.

Official dates, holidays dedicated to individual groups of people, goals or ideals often seem a bit strained. When the United Nations put July 30th on the calendar as the international “Friendship Day” in 2011, one might say to oneself: Okay, it won't do any harm in a world that is often peaceless.

But in this year, which has so unexpectedly alienated life even without a new war, the F-word can be more than just lip service.

In politics, in so-called public life, friendships are often difficult. Or tricky. The Chancellor, who largely shields her private life, to which friends belong first and foremost, once said in an interview with “Brigitte”: “I used to be, I think, a good friend. I'm no longer a particularly attentive friend because I have very little time. "

Friendships have to be cultivated, she explained at the time, saying that she hoped “that one day, when I am no longer in politics, there will still be enough old friendships left that I can revive”. Because: "In terms of type, I am a good friend."

In her long term in office, Angela Merkel has experienced more than anyone else that in international politics a style of familiar friendliness has become more and more established.

At EU meetings or other conferences, people use their first names to say goodbye or see each other, hugging and kissing. Since Corona, this has been replaced by the often over-emphasized elbow check.

With Merkel, of course, you notice how she seems to benefit from the physical distance. In the past, certain male colleagues, whether Berlusconi, Bush or Trump, have repeatedly had to endure physical closeness on the verge of macho aggressors or hypocrites, which she was clearly repugnant to.

Hugging and kissing as a tactic

In politics, the external dominates, i.e. in front of the cameras. The ceremonial. Jean-Claude Juncker was a long-time EU Commission President and a pioneer in hugging and kissing on the cheek. Occasionally, towards the end of his tenure, Juncker admitted that this was primarily a tactic. "It has little to do with real friendship or warmth," both are rare in politics.

The often quoted “male friendship” between Gerhard Schröder and Vladimir Putin is also more of a comradely alpha male relationship - and not a close business relationship.

In the end, true friends were Helmut Schmidt and France's former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, while Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer or Helmut Kohl and Michail Gorbatschow only achieved a mixture of sympathy and personal respect, characterized by historical and political insight Has. Despite all the brother kisses.

That which is brotherly and sisterly at the same time is, of course, a sign of deeper friendship. Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, two super friends of youth literature and German film history, scratched their wrists and sealed their bond as blood brotherhood.

In general, the experience with friendships begins in childhood. Siblings must learn to transform their early jealousy of shared parental affection or sharing into friendly, and sometimes just: peaceful coexistence. Almost all great works of literature or cinema that touch children and adolescents first are also about friendships.

The list ranges from Karl May's male friends in the Wild West or in the Arabian desert sands to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to the young heroines and heroes of the authors Enid Blyton - "Five Friends" - or J. K. Rowlings with her trio Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron.

Rudyard Kipling's “Jungle Book” celebrates the friendship between animals and humans, and the friendship of Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk in “Star Trek” reaches into the trivial mythical and philosophical at the same time. Football should not be missing here, "You have to be eleven friends".

Fairytale softness and wisdom inspire Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's tale of the “Little Prince”. The title character has landed in the earthly desert in search of friends from a distant asteroid, and he learns one of the most beautiful sentences in his friendship with a fox, who has more than just clever insight: “You can only see well with the heart. "

"Friendship is a soul in two bodies"

Aristotle once distinguished several types between considerations of utility, pleasure friendship and virtuous sympathy. "Friendship is a soul in two bodies." The philosopher recognized the importance of friendly relationships between the citizens (and leaders) of the ancient polis.

From Aristotle and later Cicero, this leads to an abundance of literary proofs of friendship in the history of ideas to the great sociologist Georg Simmel and in innumerable current guides such as the “Glück der Freundes” (Happiness of Friendship) by the philosopher Wilhelm Schmid. Especially since among poets and thinkers, artists and philosophers there were often legendary or even precarious friendships.

Whereby rivalries play a role. As respectful and trusting as Goethe and Schiller dealt with each other, the two always kept a respectful distance. The fact that Goethe took the skull - and not the heart - of his friend who died before him as a souvenir also has the effect of a cold shock.

Later friendship couples, such as that of the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker and the sculptor Clara Rilke-Westhoff or Rosa Luxemburgs and Clara Zetkins, such as between the philosopher Hannah Arendt and the American writer Mary McCarthy, often showed intimate tones in letters. But they weren't love affairs.

As little as that of the collegial pairings John Lennon and Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. All four made fun of each other, which does not rule out true friendship. In addition to mutual sympathy, a characteristic of friendship is a reasonably stable basic trust in one another that can also bear mutual criticism.

You cannot love all people

This is what distinguishes friendship from love. Although the dividing lines between the two are often blurred. For example with the famous opposing couple Hannah Arendt, the Jewish emigrant, and her philosophical mentor, ex-lover Martin Heidegger, who praised Hitler.

Friendship usually means a relationship without sex. Nevertheless, for a long time it was customary to speak of "my acquaintance" instead of a friend. It was almost always a disguised, in truth embarrassed, indication that it was a more intimate relationship.

Today the phrase partner is made more objective. Friends, who may also be lovers, appear affectively dimmed.

But love, especially in its early stages, is a rather unstable, uncontrollable feeling that pushes towards savagery and anarchy. Love doesn't have to be blind, but it can also drive you a little crazy. Desire then goes beyond the mind. Love is at the same time more and different than friendship, although both states can mix.

But friendship is first of all: more reliable. No Aristotle would build a state on love, but on friendship - even if “philia” in ancient Greek means love like friendship.

Love that means more than sex is also more exclusive. That is why friendship is closer to the social, to affection for as many people as possible. The social solidarity that is needed not only in times of the corona crisis.

You can't and don't have to love everyone. But to be a philanthropist is something.

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