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What Do We Want From a Friend? 
Part 2

3) What Do We Want From a Friend? 

There was a large struggle in Arthur Sullivan about what he wanted from his friends. He liked, at first, the challenge of working with Gilbert--and Gilbert was a demanding artistic partner. But he also saw friendship in strategic terms--as a means to advance his career. Though born into a poor family--his father had to work gruelling hours as a theater clarinetist and later as a director of military bands just to put food on the table--Sullivan went out of his way to cultivate friendships with the rich and powerful, including very much among the aristocracy his operas so pointedly criticized. 

"In every relation whatsoever," Eli Siegel said in his lecture on friendship: 

we want people to do something to us. We don't know what. On the one hand, we want them to praise us, and to keep us secure, and to soothe us, and to make things nice for us. But if we can't get criticism, we won't get stimulation. We have to be discontent in a happy way before we can really put ourselves in motion. Sullivan's aristocratic friends, including Queen Victoria, kept telling him he was squandering his gifts on operettas and that he should devote himself to grand opera and oratorios. This advice appealed to Sullivan, and he became--not in a happy way, but in a haughty one--discontent, seeing Gilbert as a weight holding him back from large artistic expression--when, in fact, his best work was done in collaboration with Gilbert. Sullivan complained he was "sacrificing" himself, hemmed in by having to work so closely with Gilbert's words. He wrote the poet in 1884:  This...suppression is most difficult, most fatiguing, and I may say most disheartening, for the music is never allowed to rise and speak for itself. I want a chance for the music to act in its own proper sphere. And Sullivan told the impresario who was their mutual business partner, Richard D'Oyly Carte, that Gilbert's stories lacked "reality" and "human interest." Gilbert, understandably, felt hurt; and there was great friction between them, including over money. Eventually they separated in acrimony. 

Mr. Siegel explained something so important about what interfered with their friendship and caused both of them great pain. He said that Gilbert felt his work was taken too lightly by the very people he worked with most closely. Sullivan, for example, would sometimes wait to the very last minute, just days before a premiere, to set Gilbert's songs to music. On one occasion he set five songs in a single night. 

"Sullivan acted very sure of himself," said Mr. Siegel, "and that ease of his could annoy Gilbert. He was also annoyed at how the chorus would take his words for granted. Neither Sullivan nor the cast took what was going on in him seriously." Mr. Siegel explained that in Gilbert "there was the mingling of a very knowing person, and a plain self-driven poet." And, he added, "it was unsettling [to people]." 

Sullivan's lack of desire to be deep about Gilbert also hurt him in ways he didn't realize. A man can't be superficial with a friend and then switch and want to be deep about a woman. Sullivan never married, and while he did have a long relation with a beautiful American woman, Fanny Ronalds, and was generous towards her and her son in terms of money, he also had to do with other women, and eventually left her. 

Beginning in his mid twenties, Sullivan suffered a good deal from kidney pain. Around this time, too, he began a continuing addiction to gambling. At times he would risk a fortune on a single spin of the roulette wheel. Again and again after a triumphant opening of a new opera, instead of celebrating with Gilbert, D'Oyly Carte, and the cast, he would go out alone to gamble through the night. 

In his great, kind essay Why a Man Gambles , Mr. Siegel writes this of Vincent Twiggs--words that explain, too, the inner confusions and pain of Sir Arthur Sullivan: 

All of us feel that the world, or fate, should approve of us. If we felt it didn't, we couldn't stand it...Not satisfied with how he likes the world, and not sure, therefore, that the world likes him , Vincent Twiggs has to have samples of the world liking him. These samples he gets through gambling--through winning on the horses or at poker. These compassionate sentences explain why the thunderous applause of an audience and the shouts of "Bravo!" did not satisfy Sullivan. Not liking people deeply, and angry--perhaps--that the applause came not for him alone, but for him in collaboration with another man, Sullivan couldn't feel the approval of the audience was just of him. Gambling, with its powerful rush of feeling that the world is on your side, could seem far more satisfying. 

4) Friendship, Love, Aesthetics 

One of the great things about Aesthetic Realism is that it shows that love and friendship fundamentally are the same thing: good will for another person. In "The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known" Mr. Siegel explains: 

Aesthetic Realism sees good will as the aesthetic oneness of encouragement and criticism. If we are to be true to a friend...we must hope to be able to tell him what he may be doing against himself. Criticism, Aesthetic Realism sees, when it has an honest purpose, as a form of love. Learning about this has made possible something I am grateful for with all my heart--my happy and exciting marriage to the woman I cherish: Carrie Wilson, who is an Aesthetic Realism consultant, singer and actress. I once thought the way to get a woman to like me was through praising her, and soothing her when she was agitated about something. This was contempt for the ethical depths of women--and every woman I knew, in one way or another, objected to me because of it. They felt I patronized them, and would rather give them advice than really listen deeply to them. 

Aesthetic Realism taught me a better way--one that I know every man is longing for: to be a friend to a woman by using my best thought to see how honestly to encourage her, and also how to have her see and change the things in her that weaken her. And love is also welcoming a woman's criticism--enjoying learning from her and being made stronger by her, as I am so grateful I am by Carrie. Aesthetic Realism makes it plain: good will for another person is the greatest pleasure in the world, and also the greatest source of self-respect! 

I would like to close my paper with one of the most rousing songs of Gilbert and Sullivan, which has in it the real meaning of friendship. We hear it as the curtain rises for the comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore . A crew of British sailors are working together spiffing up their ship; they sing: 

We sail the ocean blue, 
And our saucy ship's a beauty; 
We're sober men and true, 
And attentive to our duty.
When--not long after this--the sailors discover that their captain intends to marry his daughter to a man she despises, the first Lord of the Admiralty, despite her love for their comrade, the sailor Ralph Rackstraw, these men show their character, and their solid friendship: they bravely help the lovers. There are comic twists and turns--and even a close call as a traitorous sailor, Dick Deadeye, betrays the elopement plans to the captain. But in the end, snobbery is defeated and true love triumphs! 

The music Sullivan has written for this opening sailor's chorus is joyous and strong; and as the melody, at its climax, breaks into bright and ringing harmony, we feel tangibly--through that harmony of different voices--that these men are proud to need each other. 

[Music Example #2: -- 1 minute] 

Aesthetic Realism is the education that can bring the meaning of real friendship to the lives of people everywhere! 

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