This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
The congenial groups described in the foregoing extracts have been groups of children or young people, for, as has already been noted, the grouping of mature persons is obscured by their pursuit of remote ends. It might be true to say that most men in middle life do not belong to congenial groups.
Men do not usually have congenial groups, but I knew two men, farmers, who were inseparable. Every evening when their work was done they would meet and talk. When one went to town the other usually managed to go, too. On Sunday they would stroll over their farms, or take a walk through the woods looking for game or berries, or do something that would keep them together.
But most men nevertheless have a great deal of what might be called congenial association, provided they were trained to it by membership in congenial groups during their childhood. They have the "frequent face-to-face communication for the sake of the enjoyment they find in it," only they get it incidentally in the pursuit of more serious ends. They rarely form the intimate friendships of their earlier years; both the need and the capacity for that sort of thing have passed away. They have learned instead to meet various kinds of people, strangers as well as old acquaintances, in an easy, enjoyable sort of way; from this comes most of whatever growth they make in opinions, ideals, and interests.
The traveling salesman is perhaps the best example of this. He gets his congenial association, not with any small and constant group as does a child, but with the thousands whom he meets incidentally, some by appointment and some by chance, many whom he never met before and will never meet again. Ability to do this is the condition of success in his vocation. It is not enough merely to appear, for politeness' sake, to enjoy meeting all these people; the true traveler really does enjoy it.
This congenial association not only comes incidentally in the pursuit of serious ends; it has its function in the pursuit of those ends themselves. Communication on the most serious business in the world can accomplish its purpose of leading to like-mindedness and concerted action only in so far as there is sympathy between the parties, some common ground to start from. Now sympathy is easiest started in matters of mere enjoyment. Note the story-telling and laughter that usually go on between two or more men in the midst of their consideration of sober affairs. In this respect Abraham Lincoln was typically human. Then there is the eating together, and the drinking, and the smoking; the automobile ride, the game of billiards, the theater party - all ostensibly for mere enjoyment; but in the mind of the promoter they are often a means of establishing sympathetic relations as a basis for communication on weighty matters.