The mature friendship has many silent moments, which are enjoyed as much as conversations. These silent moments are the victory cry of the spirit after it has defeated the compulsion to entertain, the compulsion that makes a man talk about something, anything, if only to stave off his own boredom. In the mature friendship, a man is no longer frantically trying to make his or his friend’s presence worthwhile. He feels at peace with his friend. For no reason, he delights in his friend and feels delighted in. The friends may talk or not, walk or not, come or go, play or work. Often in silence they steep themselves in that one affection which forgets anxiety.
—What, friend, shall we do today?
—Whatever is necessary, and whatever is delightful, too.
Friendship is pleasant when the days are pleasant. The friends laugh; they share; they drink; they tell stories about previous trivialities, or even previous calamities that have become trivial with time. So they go on, day by day, in self-centered cheerfulness. But when new calamity comes to the one and makes him disconsolate, the other begins to feel—feel in his whole body—the great loss of laughter and sharing and drinking and storytelling.
When gloom overmasters the one, the other, a genuine friend, does not cling senselessly and insensitively to the old triviality and cheerfulness. He abandons them, does not try to recall them, would never suggest that in suffering the dispirited one is taking something away from the friendship. Instead, the genuine friendship takes on a stark form, and the genuine friend, no longer an onlooker, prepares himself to weep or to groan, to sit silent or to listen, to fight or to cradle. (But an interesting point: in this starkness, the most mature and genuine friend scarcely has a word to say.)