The friendships which we form at Dartmouth will remain some of our fondest memories of our years here. It is often said that the friends that you make in college are friends that you will keep for the rest of your life. Apart from friends and family, adrift in the loneliness of arriving at a place where you don’t know a single soul, you reach out to others.
You need other people just as much as they need you, but friendship is more than companionship. Companionship and camaraderie are beneficial in themselves but they must be distinguished from the friendship that arises from the perception that you and I are similar in some fundamental way. C.S. Lewis writes in “The Four Loves,” “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'”
Friendships can arise in any situation whatsoever. For example, Forrest Gump joins the army and finds himself alone looking for a seat on the bus with other recruits. As soon as the camera focuses on Bubba, we know that he and Forrest are going to become friends. This friendship is definitely not one based on utilitarian considerations of popularity or mutual benefit. The two recognize that they can talk to each other and enjoy one another’s company.
Friendship implies equality. Confucius is attributed with saying, “Have no friends not equal to yourself.” Friends are the people around whom we can be ourselves. False pretense and friendship are incompatible. When in the company of friends, we do not have to be any person other than the one we are since we are equal. There is nothing to prove, no reason to feel inferior or superior. This equality and the accompanying security in who we are is particularly important at a place such as Dartmouth where just about everyone is some sort of achiever. We are easily caught up in our schoolwork, activities and social life to the extent that everything is viewed as a competition and we fall into the trap of defining ourselves solely in relation to our perceptions of others and their achievements.
Each friend brings out an aspect of our personality which would otherwise not show forth. “Each friend represents a world in us,” writes Anais Nin, “a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Thus, friends not only allow a person to be himself but also represent a new way of viewing both himself and the world around him.
The cultivation of true friendships should be of great concern to all of us, and we must always be aware of the difference between friendship and companionship. Our friends influence us a great deal, both for better and for worse. The natural result of all true friendships is a deepening understanding of ourselves and others.