Friendship is peculiarly love between two. Solitude is not a natural soil for the growth of this fine plant. "While solitude is an essential to strong life, it is only as a training in the making and maturing of character for service out in the crowd. There cannot be fully matured love without two who are fully joined in the love. The human unit is not one, but two; each distinct and complete in itself, but each needing to find and fit into its answering self in another in order to make the higher, fuller, complete personality.
There are certain things in the two that draw them together however widely separated; that lead them to recognise each other; and that bind them together so close and tight that no wedge edge is thin enough to get in between. Friendship depends on likes and differences; things in which the two are akin, and other things in which they are different, but with these differences fitting into each other so nicely as to make a perfect union.
These differences and likes underlying friendship run side by side, so intertwined that it is quite impossible to draw an exact line between. They run along the four natural lines of the. physical, the mental, the spirit that animates, and then the personality,—that which includes these with an indefinite something more added. And they extend, too, to certain acquired traits, to the controlling aim or purpose, and the degree of culture attained.
There are persons who are attractive to each Other physically without much affinity otherwise, and, uncontrolled, this may lead into grave wrong. There are those whose ways of thinking fit into each other perfectly, not because they think alike, nor because by the attraction of opposites they are radically different, but because they are both alike and different in just the degree that makes perfect oneness and fellowship. Many a two are drawn together because of the strong affinity of spirit, though far apart in the degree of culture that has come, or in the mental traits that mark each. Full friendship is possible only where there is the full mutual drawing together and the full supplementing of each by the other in all these regards.
Now, of course, there are a great many partial friendships. Love is ever busily working out the best possible adjustment of human lives. Frequently two will have a very warm, real friendship for each other in certain directions. As long as their contacts are confined to the things, or one thing, in which they are alike and sympathetically different, there is a real love, and a real, rare enjoyment. But outside of those things they are as far apart as the earth's magnetic poles. Their differences are radical and not sympathetic; they tend to pulling away instead of drawing together.
Then there are partial friendships in point of time; they don't last. Many times that is because the early friendship was a superficial one, the root not going down into the sub-soil of the real life. And many times there is this touch of the tragic in such partial friendships, that the two have failed to keep pace in their growth. The one has grown; his nature has deepened, his outlook broadened, his heart mellowed, his mind taken on a keener edge; the ideals have refined, and the heart longings are less easily satisfied.
The other has gone grubbingly along, sleepily content to stay where he was. In growing and in not growing they have grown apart. Yet there may be even here a partial friendship, a tender clinging to a personality, once attractive, and to attaching memories; but it no longer yields the sweets it once did.
But the finest, fullest friendship, the full-grown thing, can be only between the two whose differences are all sympathetic, and whose likes all harmonize, and who will grow together, side by side, through the years up to the outer rim of time. Wherever these differences and likes blend most perfectly, and fit themselves together most nicely and fully, there only can the finest friendship come. And only as these two grow together, each keeping pace with the other, and each gently keeping the other's pace up with his own, can that finest friendship grow into its full flower and fruit.
"What is the best a friend can be
To any soul, to you or me?
Not only shelter, comfort, rest—
Inmost refreshment unexpressed;
Not only a beloved guide
To thread life's labyrinth at our side,
Or, with love's torch lead on before;
Though these be much, there yet is more.
"The best friend is an atmosphere,
Warm with all inspiration dear,
Wherein we breathe the large free breath
Of life that has no taint of death.
Our friend is an unconscious part
Of every true beat of our heart;
A strength, a growth, whence we derive
God's health that keeps the world alive.
"Can friend lose friend? Believe it not!
The tissue whereof life is wrought,
Weaving the separate into one,
No end hath, nor beginning; spun
From subtle threads of destiny
Finer than thought of man can see.
God takes not back His gifts divine;
While thy God lives, thy friend is thine." (Lucy Larcom.)