October 9, 2011

Simple Pleasures: Friendship

Everyone needs at least one good friend

Henry David Thoreau made a study of simple pleasures, and said, "Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul." The most important of these necessities is friendship.

Money can buy a lot of things, but it can not buy friends. The only way to have friends is to be a friend, and you don't need money for that. In addition to not needing money to enjoy the simple pleasures of friendship, nothing else in life will yield such enjoyable, enriching, goodness. Nothing.

Research has largely confirmed the hypothesis of diminishing returns to increased consumerism. Successive increments of consumption give decreasing amounts of satisfaction since peoples most pressing needs will be satisfied first and then as consumption rises further, successively less and less pressing needs will be met.

Before long, continued consumption feels hollow and meaningless. Not so with friendship. It does not matter how much time you spend with a good friend, the payoffs continue to multiply instead of fade. Increasing returns, rather than diminishing. You can not say that about many things in life.

Without the simple pleasures of friendship, our existence would be dull and lifeless. Friends supply a critical requirement of the soul, and are solid proof that the best things in life are free.


  1. How true! I value my friendships so much. Interestingly, a fair bit of the money I spend in life actually relates to friendship (and family). For example, I went to Nova Scotia this summer for one of my best friends' 40th birthday week at a cottage by the sea. It was expensive to get there (not to mention the carbon footprint) but my goodness did we ever have an amazing time with all her friends there together to celebrate her. It was unforgettable and the love and energy sustains me still. In fact, I hope to do the same thing for my big milestone next year. I will probably pay a lot of money to rent a cottage to bring together my dearest friends for an epic week of frolicking. I always feel conflicted when I spend money (even for a bag of chips), but I've tried to cut myself some slack when it comes to spending money on experiential things. Things that don't involve a material good that need to be stored, maintained and eventually disposed of. So it's now easier (though still hard) to spend on a concert or a trip or even a kayak (which is a thing, but provides endless experiences). Like you, I think a lot about money. And I have a love-hate relationship with it. It often causes me to feel guilty. But guilt is a very unproductive emotion. I guess for me, the key to spending money is to strike the balance between what is the "right" thing to do and what will in fact "buy" me happiness. It's not a simple thought, but I figured you'd appreciate my ramblings on the struggles I face with this whole question of the role of money in my life.

  2. Geneviève,

    I can't think of a better thing to spend money on than friends. In our years together Linda and I have always spent money on experiences like traveling, camping, and visiting friends rather than on stuff.

    Storing/maintaining/disposal of stuff is a hassle I can live without. Sometimes it is difficult to GIVE things away these days, and proper disposal takes time.

    We used to enjoy concerts, but they are too expensive for the current budget. Now we enjoy music in other (free) ways, including making it ourselves.

    When we do buy things, they tend to be tools that allow us to create enjoyable experiences. In this category I would put art supplies, bicycle, canoe, computer, guitars, and food.

    I do think a lot about money, and how to best use it as a tool to maximize the flow of energy through life. Finding the balance you refer to is the trick. As long as that is maintained our relationship with money does not have to include guilt.

    I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Money plays such an important role in our society, and our lives. It is an important discussion that we should all have much earlier in life.

    I am currently reading "The Rich And How They Got That Way" by Cynthia Crossen. It is a very interesting look at what "wealth" has meant across the ages, and how it has changed.

    It is a good time to be thankful for the wealth we have. Enjoy your friends, family, and the holiday.

  3. Hey Mr. Lonely,

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. I enjoyed having a look around your wonderful blog. Keep on writing, and keep on smiling.


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