“Friends are said to sing in pairs.” Ancient proverb, quoted by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, IX
Aristotle relates this little proverb in the course of explaining that a person can have few true friends. True friendship involves such a depth of sharing, and intimacy of living that it can only be done with very few people. Likewise singing–from the heart, a kind not done into a microphone–is a rather intimate affair. Somehow it too is best done among a few people.
Here the human body itself is the instrument. Each of has our own, always with us. When I sing, the vibrations resonate from me and through me, and into those near me. To sing together, in unison or in harmony, or even out of tune, is to be together.
A millennium and a half after Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas in commenting on this same proverb writes, “It is a widespread custom for young people to stroll two by two singing in good fellowship.”
A widespread custom? Times have changed. We find ourselves wondering where are the innocence and the joy, so uniquely instantiated by young people strolling and singing in good fellowship. Wherever the innocence has gone, probably there too has gone the joy. They can and they must be re-discovered. Our instruments might need refurbishing; but they can be purified and re-tuned.
What better context for the intimacy and joys of singing than our homes, and among friends? Here our natural shyness of singing–itself a sign of its power as revelation and sharing of oneself–can be gently overcome. If as Augustine says he who sings prays twice, then perhaps those who sing together live-twice-together.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his main moral treatise.
Image: Norman Rockwell
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
“And a virtuous man wishes to live with himself; for he does so with pleasure, since the memories of his past acts are delightful and his hopes for the future are good, and therefore pleasant. His mind is well stored too with subjects of contemplation.” Aristotle,...read more
Phalinus, messenger from Persian King Artaxerxes, demands that the Persians (who had fought with Cyrus, now dead, against Artaxerxes) put down their arms. Xenophon responds: “Phalinus, at this moment, as you see for yourself, we have no other possessions save arms and...read more
Socrates insisted on the centrality of examining our lives. The purpose of such examination is clear: we will come closer to being the persons we can be if we accept the challenge of our human identity, of being rational. This is our privilege: to use our reason to...read more
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. Bacon from Acorns springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.