I’ve been turning over in my mind this little post by Simon Parke on the ending of friendships. We know what to do, he says, when a worker is leaving a job, “But how do we leave a friend when the friendship has somehow died? And how do we know when it has?”

Parke seems to think that friendships often end in recrimination, but Samuel Johnson believed that conflict, even bitter conflict, is more easily overcome than loss of interest in one another:

The most fatal disease of friendship is gradual decay, or dislike hourly increased by causes too slender for complaint and too numerous for removal. Those who are angry may be reconciled; those who have been injured may receive a recompense; but when the desire of pleasing and willingness to be pleased are silently diminished, the renovation of friendship is hopeless, as when the vital powers sink into languor there is no longer any use of the physician. — Idler 23

It’s not possible to mark the formal ending of something that slides away so imperceptibly.