The gifts of true friends:
Sharing both joy and burdens,
Making light heavy loads, with
Hands, heart, speech, shared silence.
To see, to be seen
In a clear, polished mirror –
Not as we might seem,
But truly, in the depths.
Rest, comfort, safe and secure,
Side by side, in peace.
To see and be seen:
Gift of gifts, dearest treasure.
To gaze beyond the body,
Past the surface, plumb depths
So rich, yet rarely beheld.
Eye a window on spirit,
A tiny, mirrored reflection of
The truth of one’s heart.
To recognize, in that encounter,
A kindred soul gazing back.
One of our most useful texts on Neoplatonist ethics is a commentary on the Handbook of Epictetus, written by Simplicius, one of the last Athenian Platonists, who was exiled together with Damascius and the other philosophers in 529.
Commenting on §30 of the Handbook, in which Epictetus explains how “the appropriate actions for us to do are usually measured out for us by our relations,” Simplicius offers a framework for classifying relations, and an extended discussion of friendship, as situated within that framework. It’s worth noting that Epictetus himself doesn’t mention friendship at all within §30. For Epictetus, this section deals with how to correctly apply our power of choice (prohairesis) to “natural” relations between human beings. §31 of the Handbook deals with our relations to the Gods, and only in §32 (in the context of the appropriate use of divination!) does Epictetus himself get around to mentioning friendship.
Simplicius classifies relations along three axes:
Continue reading “Choosing our Relations: Simplicius on Friendship”