Poems of Meng Jiao
Casting a mirror, you must use bronze.
Bronze is easiest to shine.
Friendship is distant from small men's minds.
Small men are hard to appease.
Casting a mirror, you seek profound reflection.
In friendship, you seek to rely on each other.
Plain copper cannot shine.
Small men too often are false.
Today, friendship is almost impossible. Conviviality is almost non-existent. Culture is reduce to a labeled vaguery. All this makes it hard to think of Tang dynasty friendship in a non-anachronistic way. Montaigne or Franklin could understand these men and their friendships. But for us, the way of friendship is rarer than a garage band.
Imagine being in a friendship based upon, among other things, a constant, mutual expression of art. In our times, some musicians do this. But the extremes of economics and copyright law make this rarer and rarer even for them. In what university today can you find scholars who regularly spend their free time in each other's company discussing their work and learning from each other? You can't have friendship in a realm where things are true or false. Only matter is true or false.
Friendship occurs between humans who are striving for realization of a better, demonstrable only world. Culture is a nuturing of the promise that humans, working together as friends, can do the right thing. And only friends can realize this unselfed promise.