Thursday 28 November 2019

Whatever Happened to Friendship? - Henry Hardinge Menzies

Whatever Happened to Friendship?
Reflections on a Lost Adventure
Henry Menzies
ISBN 9781502794307

Reprint Edition:

Whatever Happened to Friendship?
Reclaiming the Adventure
Henry Hardinge Menzies
Scepter Press
ISBN 9781594173240
eISBN 9781594173288

I was intrigued by this book from the first time I encountered the title. There was just something about the title and description that grabbed my attention. There are two editions published with variations on the subtitle and authors full name. The two subtitles are: Reflections on a Lost Adventure and Reclaiming the Adventure, and both speak to the content of this volume. The chapters in the volume are:

1. Our Times
2. Aspects
3. Keys in Making Friends
4. Rewards
5. Challenge
Books & Articles

The description of the original version of the book was:

“Why don’t we have any friends?

All over the world, people are helpless and lonely because they have no friends for support in bad times and good. What can we do about it? Henry Hardinge Menzies gives us practical advice for bringing back friendship in our own lives

Motivating, inspirational, and entertaining, this is a perfect gift for young men, and a practical help for anyone who wants to experience the joys of real friendship.”

The description of the reprint edition is:

“An architect and Catholic convert, Henry Menzies (who died in February 2017) originally self-published this short book which trumpets the joys, benefits, and absolute necessity of real friendship for the sake of happiness, health, and virtue. Menzies takes you on a tour of friendship through famous figures of history, recent writers, and ancient scholars. When you finish reading this book, the names, phone numbers, emails, birth dates, and anniversaries that make up the glue of real life will seem more sacred and life giving instead of dreary duties. In essence, this little book shows the value of a good friend.”

The book begins with a quote from a poster observed in Grand Central Terminal, it stated:

Who cares how you get money?

Who cares how you get power?

Just as long as you can have BOTH?

Which in many was is the exact opposite of the thesis of the book. The book is about friendship. But true friendship, it is not talking about just acquaintances, or coworkers. It examines the need and necessity for true friendship if we are to be growing and thriving. Menzies states:

“We are assaulted daily by the media to be selfish, spoiled and self-sufficient. This effort has been paying off, since many people do in fact become selfish, spoiled and self-sufficient. Many have become almost totally self-reliant without the need or care for other people whose worth, as such, they begin to question. They can begin to think that all others are only useful to advance their own careers or merely irritants or numbers to be analyzed. In fact we are at a stage in our technological development, where we can actually avoid the physical presence of another human being all day!”

And he goes on even further to state:

“And what are the results? Just check out the daily news on any handy device and you’ll find out: loneliness, depression, despair, brutality, hatred, violence, murder and suicide. It has become apparent that our dream of a happy, super independent life style of power and money, proclaimed by the Grand Central poster, is a lie because it does not work. Since the sixties, things have been deteriorating in many areas of life. Everything seems to be turning upside-down. Now the goal of art is not the beautiful but the grotesque. The good guys are the bad guys and vice versa. Smoking is out but drugs are in. Romance is out but cohabitation is in. The family is under siege. The list goes on and on.”

But the book is not about what has been lost or changed, he says:

“The answer is a resounding no, because there is a power we all have potentially, a power that is one of the best-kept secrets in the world, a power that can bring real, personal happiness and truly change the world. That is the power to make friends.”

But he does say it comes at a cost. In examining the times, he declares:

“The truth is that we might become selfish when we don’t share things with another human being. People are helpless and lonely because they have no friends for support in bad times and good. Business associations are collapsing for a lack of friendship between the partners. Politics can sour when the politicians put fidelity to a party over fidelity to a friend. Marriages fall apart because the partners are not friends. Children are spoiled and disobedient because they don’t receive parental love and care. People can care more and more about technology and less and less about other people. They can even become cynical about the worth of any human being.”

And from there he goes on to show us how little we know about friendship. And how important it is that we learn again the art of friendship. It is a fantastic little volume. It has some excellent material and also an incredible list of resources, book and articles, about friendship at the end. It is a book I know I will return to and reread often. As I was writing this review a friend posted this:

“My priorities, Motherhood, being a good wife, My health mind, body, and spirit, my jobs and by faith. I want all these things to be in good shape, but it's hard...really hard. I keep working on them, however, because it's important. Friendships can help these top priorities to flourish....good friendships.”

It fit well with the book and with how the book’s title and content resonated with me. A book anyone could benefit from reading. A truly excellent book!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

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