I submit that robbing the world of Friendship in this way is deeply impoverishing and has led to the forgetting of Friendship as a real and unique form of human love. I submit further that human beings require the dimension of Friendship in their lives. They require this relationship of love that is not about one another directly but is mediated to them through a mutual love of something else.
For that is what Friendship is: love that is mediated through a common love of something else. Eros looks the Beloved in the face and desires the Beloved. Friendship is born when two people stand side by side looking at something else in admiration and then turn and say, “You too? I thought I was the only one!” Because of this, Friendship is not limited, as Eros is, to a dyad of Lover and Beloved. It welcomes into its circle of warmth a broad and diverse group of people, all of whom are bonded by their common love of something else.
What that something else may be can be virtually anything. Circles of friends can form around anything from quilting to watching sports to chess clubs to shared experience of trauma in war to philosophy to gaming to hiking to books to the rest of the infinitude of human pursuits. The commonality is that the love they share is about something else. Groups of friends can be large and small, but though Friendship can be a pair of BFFs, Friendship tends to be richer and happier when it involves more than two people.
Friendship was so highly prized among the ancients that it was hailed by some as superior to Eros, precisely because it does not depend so much on the appetites of the body, which (non-Epicurean) philosophies tended to view with suspicion as prone to dragging the spirit down to earth. These days we tend to view the ancient wariness of the body and its appetites (especially sexual appetites) as repressed. But we still speak, even today, of our desire for relationships “without a lot of drama”. It is this freedom from drama that the ancients appreciated about Friendship, because Friendship, unlike Eros, tends to lack the issues of jealousy that come with the exclusive demands of Eros. Friends can be comfortable in the own skins around each other in ways that, while certainly not impossible with Eros, are often more difficult. More than this, Friendship, because it can welcome a wide circle of people with a diversity of gifts, can be collaborative in rich and striking ways.
Accordingly, one of the remarkable aspects of Friendship is that it bears a curious analogous resemblance to Eros in this: it is fruitful. Not (obviously) sexually fruitful as Eros is, but fruitful in many other ways.
Consider the Inklings, one of the great circles of friends of the 20th century. As with all friendships, they were about something else, in this case, the shared love of language, myth, literature, and their sundry and diverse approaches to the Christian tradition. One of the marks of Friendship is its appreciation for the real differences among friends. Although there was much agreement among the different Inklings, there was also great diversity. C.S. Lewis was, famously, a convert to Christianity and an Anglican. J.R.R. Tolkien was a lifelong Catholic. Charles Williams was Anglican with a taste for the esoteric Tolkien disliked. Other members of the group who came and went disliked Tolkien’s work and would famously protest, “Oh no, not more [expletive] elves!” Tolkien himself disliked Lewis’ Narnia books as too allegorical for his tastes. Their meetings, held in the local pub in Oxford were raucous affairs in which no-holds-barred criticism was offered, arguments were cherished and savoured, and some of the greatest works of literature of the 20th century were midwifed to birth. Without the encouragement of his friend Lewis, Tolkien might never have finished The Lord of the Rings. Without the inspiration of Tolkien, the model of his hero Ransom, Lewis might never has written his Space Trilogy.
There’s much more here. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the Mere Christian Fellowship.