What is involved in such [close] relationships is a form of emotional
chemistry, so far unexplained by any school of psychiatry I am aware of, that
conditions nothing so simple as a choice between the poles of attraction and
repulsion. You can meet some people thirty, forty times down the years, and
they remain amiable bystanders, like the shore lights of towns that a sailor
passes at stated times but never calls at on the regular run. Conversely,
all considerations of sex aside, you can meet some other people once or twice
and they remain permanent influences on your life.
Everyone is aware of this discrepancy between the acquaintance seen
as familiar wallpaper or instant friend. The chemical action it entails is
less worth analyzing than enjoying. At any rate, these six pieces are about
men with whom I felt an immediate sympat - to use a coining of Max Beerbohm's
more satisfactory to me than the opaque vogue word "empathy".
- -- Alistair Cooke, "Six Men"