With a little help from my friends

The song says it all. It can sound cheesy; but it ain’t… This week, I got by with a little help from my friends.

The genuine care, interest, support and love of friends has gently and kindly steered me to a much better place. If last week ended in comparative darkness; this one ended in light.

A good friend briefly home from abroad, walked with me, talked with me and in the process put a supportive arm around my shoulders. The world of men can be a lonely place, but together we stared unblinkingly at the facts. And in so doing he gave me solace and strength – and followed up with a new opportunity.

More joyfully, with my great friend from closer to home, we celebrated our mutual success at goading each other to shed a few pounds – with a big fat gourmet cheeseburger each.

Today I’m wearing a sweatshirt the missus bought me for the Xmas before last – which for the first time in all that time, I fit in; trimly and unselfconsciously. Happy days.

Finally the missus herself. She knows I’ve been struggling and has been there for me all week. A kind word, a cuppa, a conversation – and a great big uninterrupted lie-in this morning.

The moral of the story; we all get by far better with a little help from our friends.

Philia

I do feel – and feel is the right word – that Herbert McCabe’s ‘On Aquinas’ deserves a wider audience. So many important themes, from so many thinkers, rendered limpid in a thesis all of his own.

Of course there’s Aristotle in there. And as the title suggests, we are constantly accompanied by Aquinas. But, for me, it’s Herbert McCabe who shines through as having put together his own picture of what constitutes the human condition, in what I’d take as a summation of his life’s work.

I noted yesterday that people read more pulp fiction on Kindles than they’d dare have on their bookshelf or be seen reading in public. But the opposite is also the case. Truth is I’d never have found Herbert McCabe or bought his book without the web, connected devices and impulsive instant gratification via electronic delivery.

McCabe makes a powerful case for ‘philia’, mutual care and fellow-feeling, as the right basis for our relationships – not the functional rights and duties of justice and the law.

Justice is the minimum duty we owe to ‘strangers’, ‘philia’ is the care, respect, love, friendship, reasonable accommodation and interdependence we have with other people which constitute ‘humanity’ and ‘society’. Laws imperfectly capture the statutory minimum, ‘philia‘ is the gold standard for people, politics and society.

Stood on a grey suburban station platform this morning (the car’s bust again) I looked at the different shapes and sizes of punters, mums and pinstriped professionals all focused on getting their train. There were moments of ‘philia’. A shy ‘See you tomorrow‘ to the man serving a women her daily coffee, a jolly exchange between Ticket Collector and middle aged vamp.

Through the lens of ‘philia’ people look different. We judge less, tolerate more and look beyond face value. McCabe was right to remind us of this.