Article de Paul Shrimpton sur Newman et l'amitié

Article de Paul Shrimpton sur Newman et l'amitié - Image d'illustration

Newman and Friendship:
Apologia pro Amicitia
Paul Shrimpton

Over recent years we have all become more conscious of our fundamental need for genuine friendships. We have grown in appreciation of having others around us who can share in our setbacks and joys, or just lend a listening ear. This is one of the lessons we have drawn from the Covid pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns.

But if we want to gain a deeper understanding of this precious human gift, we can do no better than approach those saints who exemplified it. Among a great many qualities for which St John Henry Newman is admired is his remarkable capacity for friendship, both natural and acquired. He was generously endowed with the ability to form and nurture friendships, but at the same time, he actively developed this skill. His talent for friendship is a wonderful example for our age because, despite living in the nineteenth century, he inhabits the same modernity as we do: a world split across large and socially fractured cities and pulled a thousand different directions by the sheer busy-ness of life.

Friendship is not a subject that lends itself to systematic treatment. Definitions leave us cold, clever quotations amuse and sometimes instruct, but examples …. Ah, examples! They rouse us, along the lines of Newman’s famous dictum that ‘The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us.’1 So, rather that engage with Newman’s abstract reflections on friendship, we should see him ‘in action’.

Newman is one of the finest prose writers in the English language. However, it is not in his 34 major published works that he is visible as a person but in his many letters – 25,000 of them, collected into 32 fat volumes. Open any page, and in no time you will be eavesdropping on a conversation between Newman and a fellow human being. There we see heart speaking to heart in friendship – cor ad cor loquitur – or in a relationship which is open to and inviting friendship.

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