Key to a Long, Healthy Life: Friendship: Background information when reading The Convert's Song

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The Convert's Song

by Sebastian Rotella

The Convert's Song by Sebastian Rotella X
The Convert's Song by Sebastian Rotella
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2014, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2014, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Key to a Long, Healthy Life: Friendship

This article relates to The Convert's Song

Print Review

It turns out that the secret to enjoying a strong immune system, all but impervious to such annoyances as the common cold, inflammation and even heart disease, is 100% natural, organic, chemical-free, with no nasty side effects and – best of all – it's free. According to a New York Times article, numerous studies have repeatedly proven that having/being a friend not only prolongs life but effectively makes those extra years not just happier, but also healthier - by as much as 22% or more. It is a vastly more effective at sustaining good health than quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and even regular exercise.

Friendship braceletsWhat's more, friendships outrank all other types of relationships in their health-giving properties. Having friends - more than relationships with parents, children, siblings, grandchildren, even a spouse – all but assures both qualitative and quantitative well-being. While friendship does not guarantee that a person will never become sad, depressed, lonely or despondent, it does help prevent those conditions from being debilitating, permanent, or worst of all, fatal.

As Aristotle said, "This communicating of a man's self to his friend works two contrary effects; for it redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in half." He also noted that there could only be friendship if it is between people who expect to gain nothing from one another. That is, only a relationship that doesn't materially profit either party is a friendship. The two souls must be as if in the same body, with only the good of the other in mind, to paraphrase another Aristotelian insight.

Friendship and menSadly though, it seems as if the 21st Century male in Western society is not taking Aristotle's guidance. Lately several articles and studies have focused on the sad state of male-to-male friendships. To whit: they are virtually nonexistent. According to author Julia Wood (Gendered Lives, Cengage Learning, 2014) this has to with something called the Male Deficit Model, which maintains that men are less skilled at forming and sustaining same gender friendships. (She does acknowledge, though, that there are alternate ways of viewing this in that men may have a way of relating to their fellows that is simply different than women.)

That notwithstanding, most of these articles and studies have found that even when males develop solid friendships as children (even openly stating how much they love their buddies), as they grow into adolescence they begin to pull away from each other. By middle age most men have few, if any, male friends. Experts lay the blame for this at the feet of a Western society that eschews intimate male friendships as "girly," weak or indicating homosexuality. They contend that the Western male feels he is expected to be self-reliant, competitive and may only form same gender bonds when it benefits a "team effort." In other words, the polar opposite of Aristotle's definition of friendship. As to whether men and women can become friends; that is a whole other issue perhaps best explored by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in the movie When Harry Met Sally.

One wonders, though, where Facebook "friends" fit into the good-for-you scheme.

Image of friendship bracelets courtesy of www.bharatmoms.com
Portrait of male friends, courtesy of www.artofmanliness.com.

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Convert's Song. It first ran in the January 21, 2015 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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