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Henry David Thoreau On Friendship

Without my friends I would be dead. Although, since they always tell me about my life or death mindset let me be a little more realistic, I would be confused about the trauma I’ve overcome, discourage in facing problems I’ve dealt with many times, hopeless over the necessity to always fight for a better life. I am nourished through my friendship with people that love me. There are many myth permeating the world, attempting to trap us in rigid prisons, but I pray we overcome the myth of the lonely, depressed, and misunderstood artist. While great art has been produced in these states, I’ve come to learn, becoming a better human being increases the value of everything we produce. Through friendship I am reminded that aloneness and communion are two arts that require mastery. Henry David Thoreau speaks on the importance of friendship and communion saying:

My friend is one who takes me for what I am. A stranger takes me for something else than what I am. . . . What men call social virtues, good fellowship, is commonly but the virtue of pigs in a litter which lie close together to keep each other warm. It brings men together in crowds and mobs in bar-rooms and elsewhere, but it does not deserve the name of virtue. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.

Our lives are determined by the actualization of a divine life. By our ability to bear our suffering, remain consistent to reach greatness, and remain present. However, some days I forget my beauty, becoming fearful of the possibility of failure, and I cease to create the art that will bring on my divinity. One day I laid in my bed, paralyzed from the fear of being unable to be a writer worthy of being read, and suddenly my phone began to ring. It was Deron, and the moment he heard the rhythm in my voice, he said, “Do not lose faith. I do not like hearing you like this; life is beautiful.” I’ve always struggled with an authentic vulnerability, wanting to give the world a polished one, so I was a little ashamed, and said, “Thankyou.” However, I carried that message with me the next day, and labored with my entire heart attempting to lay my faith on the line. Nothing happened. No great publication called. Stephen King didn’t read my writing. Oprah or Deepak Chopkra had nothing to say. But I was able to face the day with a sense of confidence, I lived that day full of wonder. Friends reminds us of our greatness, and assist us on the path towards enlightenment. Thoreau says that friendship is about gentleness and support saying:

A friend is one who incessantly pays us the compliment of expecting from us all the virtues, and who can appreciate them in us. The friend asks no return but that his friend will religiously accept and wear and not disgrace his apotheosis of him. They cherish each other’s hopes. They are kind to each other’s dreams.

Every one that has come into my life and remain has been a saint. My only wish is to nurture these relationships and provide as much support, love, and encouragement as I’ve been given. Our ability to develop, maintain, and nurture partnerships determine the outcome of our lives. I’ve needed all my loved ones to survive, and Thoreau writes a beautiful poem about the power of friendship saying:

I think awhile of Love, and while I think,
    Love is to me a world,
        Sole meat and sweetest drink,
     And close connecting link
     Tween heaven and earth.
I only know it is, not how or why,
        My greatest happiness;
        However hard I try,
        Not if I were to die,
            Can I explain.
I fain would ask my friend how it can be,
        But when the time arrives,
        Then Love is more lovely
        Than anything to me,
            And so I’m dumb.
For if the truth were known, Love cannot speak,
        But only thinks and does;
        Though surely out ’twill leak
        Without the help of Greek,
            Or any tongue.
A man may love the truth and practise it,
        Beauty he may admire,
        And goodness not omit,
        As much as may befit
            To reverence.
But only when these three together meet,
        As they always incline,
        And make one soul the seat,
        And favorite retreat,
            Of loveliness;
When under kindred shape, like loves and hates
        And a kindred nature,
        Proclaim us to be mates,
        Exposed to equal fates
            Eternally;
And each may other help, and service do,
        Drawing Love’s bands more tight,
        Service he ne’er shall rue
        While one and one make two,
            And two are one;
In such case only doth man fully prove
        Fully as man can do,
        What power there is in Love
        His inmost soul to move
            Resistlessly.

“Probe the earth to see where your main roots run,” Thoreau advises. “Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” Yet he is quick to point out that he cannot live up to all his own ideals. “These things I say; other things I do,” he confesses. “I am too easily contented with a slight and almost animal happiness. My happiness is a good deal like that of the woodchucks.” Thoreau’s essays on friendship (one of these, sent as an enclosure, is reprinted here) set such demanding standards of complete frankness and high-mindedness that one wonders whether Thoreau ever actually had a friend. These letters make it plain that he could in fact be a warm and attentive friend. A wonderful book that needs to be read diligently and seriously.

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