Philia, according to Ria
The word Philia (ϕιλία), like many other great concepts, comes from the Greeks. It is translated as the love that’s seen in friendship. Quite often in scholarly works philia is considered to be the highest form of love, which is an idea some may find hard to grasp. The word love is frequently associated with romantic love, and in literature, film, music and art, the quest and end goal all seems to rotate around finding true love. Who is Cinderella without Prince Charming? The majority of movies that we grew up watching focus on romantic love stories. From a young age, we are taught to think of love as the idea of falling in love with someone. For a while, I did believe this to be the most important and fundamental aspect of love, but as I grew older, I realised that we need to take romance off the pedestal it is so often placed on and instead come to see that there are many other ways of loving and being loved. I’ve always loved my friends, don’t get me wrong, but in recent years I have begun to see the power of the love that radiates from friendships.
Aristotle in Rhetoric defined philia as “doing what someone thinks is good not for his own sake but for that of someone else.” Others define it as liking someone’s character. Both of these descriptions of philia can be transferred to the love you find with a partner, which is maybe why so many say that the best relationships begin as friendships. Plato argued that Philia is the best version of love because friendship can lead to romantic love.
“Philia requires no romantic attraction. While we don’t feel butterflies in our stomachs with friends as we would with a lover, we feel at ease.”
Philia requires no romantic attraction. While we don’t feel butterflies in our stomachs with friends as we would with a lover, we feel at ease. Over the years, we experience many types of friendships. We have our childhood best friends who we sat beside in primary school and learned the alphabet alongside. There are friends that we grow apart from but still share fond memories with. We have friends from our teenage years — the ones who know our pasts and still love us. The ones who’ve seen us grow and change over the years; the people who’ve watched us become ourselves. While we may separate for university, the reunions are natural and warm. You can pick up where things were left off. In contrast, we have friends who met us as older versions of ourselves; they’re unaware of our pasts and propel us towards our futures.
We previously considered Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love and its take on friendship. Alderton spent her time at university living with friends, a privilege that not everyone gets to experience. For me, spending my early 20s living with my mates is really quite a lovely thing, for love felt here runs deep. What is deeper than your period syncing to those you spend the most time with, your bodies literally bleeding in harmony?
“They see the raw, authentic side of you — the fresh-faced, bed-haired, grumpy morning version. Friends are the people who love you for your quirks, allowing you to be exactly who you are.”
Omnibus meis amicis – to all my friends:
Friendship is when you forget your keys for the third time this month and find yourself ringing the doorbell at 5am. Your flatmates will likely be annoyed to be awoken from their slumber, but deep down, they’re just glad to see you home safe. Friendship is them cramming into your bed after your heart has been broken and holding you while you cry, helping you piece yourself back together over and over. Friendship is having those who can call you out for your bad habits and silly mistakes while simultaneously celebrating your achievements. True friends don’t comfort you with a lie but tell you the truth as it is. They see the raw, authentic side of you — the fresh-faced, bed-haired, grumpy morning version. Friends are the people who love you for your quirks, allowing you to be exactly who you are.
Philia, according to Cat
Female friendship — I cherish the greatest love of all because no matter the depth of love that I feel for my male friends, a man can never truly understand my lived experience like a woman can, and deep-rooted and mutually shared understanding for one another is what lies at the crux of our strongest relationships.
“I lost my best friend in the collateral damage of one of the greatest offenses that one human can enact upon another.”
Entering the world in a meaningful way as a woman is among the most strenuous challenges I have ever faced. To do it alone is unthinkable and something that I was once forced to do, for I lost my best friend in the collateral damage of one of the greatest offenses that one human can enact upon another. I survived the aftermath of that alone, without her by my side, and I have never known darkness quite like that.
Love Lost — the music I cannot listen to because it reminds me too painfully of her. Joking about how much dirt we would have on each other if we ever fell out.
Neither of us is laughing about it now.
It’s the beginning of the night — we run together through the streets in search of the next big thing, but it’s obvious, really, that we need not look any further than each other because that big thing is us, us, us together. Together we can go anywhere and make any small idea or possibility big.
And in each other, we can always come home. The best end to any night out is one in which I return home with her; our arms linked, our hands intertwined. We share the bed and fill the air above our heads with tales of the night. Deeper thoughts pulse beneath the swells of our laughter, encapsulating the understanding that we try to glean from it all.
My best friend and I — our love is a love of steady growth. We are not the same, but we know and understand each other because, with time, we let each other in, allowing ourselves to be seen. I was beguiled by the sight of her without a guise, exchanging terrifying vulnerability in exchange for genuine understanding.
This past year I’ve been learning how to navigate the contours of female existence in the landscape of this world. I did it with her by my side and as my side. Together we drew hypotheses on how best to survive; we changed our theories as experience imparted greater supposedly wisdom and abandoned philosophies in favour of new ones.
She lifts me out of the darkness when I cannot lift myself.
Another teaches me how to live so as to avoid the darkness; how to remain, as much as possible, in the light.
Another knows my darkness so completely that no words need to be exchanged for me to know when that same unwelcome night has enveloped her. But once together, that darkness is pocked here and there with light, and in those spaces, we glimpse gentle hope.
(We just have to try again tomorrow. She whispers it to me, softly, resolutely, through my tears).
Now for the brighter stuff — dark humour and light laughter.
For with these friends, the darkness is made light enough that I can carry its weight, forget the brunt of its load, if even for a while.
The dreams that I draw seem achievable when I draw them with Her.