The Nature of Friendship
Friendship is a form of communion, one we cannot live without. We long to touch and be touched, physically yes, but also in ways that transcend physical boundaries, through shared presence, laughter, tears, and, at times, with no words at all. In the Hebrew Bible, after Job loses his children in a hurricane, as well as his home, health, and livelihood, his three friends come to visit, and for the majority of their time together they say awful things to Job that no doubt make him feel worse rather than better, often pointing the theological finger of blame at him for his misfortunes. But before they say anything, the very first thing they offer Job is a true form of comfort: they sit with him in silence, for seven days and seven nights, and they cry with him. Words, sometimes, are not what we need at all but merely the friendship of another whose presence is etched in empathy.
We are all empaths. Feeling, like thinking, is the most natural thing in the world to us and the ability to share in the pain and joy of another is one of the great hallmarks of our humanity without which we revert to being savages. Friendship, more than only shared interests or points of view, springs from our capacity to feel deeply together. In this way all of creation is awaiting our friendship, extending to us on the horizons of each new day consolations in the clouds, wonder in the windstorm, and serenity in the sea. When Teddy Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the United States, lost his mother and wife on the very same day, both of whom he loved very much, he was thrust into a deep and dark depression for some time. Later, when he finally began to crawl out of that dark space, he recognized one element above others that helped him the most: the friendship of nature. Caressed by a cooling breeze, shook by the sudden presence of a thunderclap overhead, touched, moved, and befriended by the mountains and the trees, these friends without words are a salve for the soul, elevating the mind from the muck and mire of existence, and restoring joy once again to the heart.