How Do You Define Friendship?
There might not be a single word in the English language more malleable, more flexible, more forgiving or more complex than the word friendship.
How is it defined? What does it mean?
It is one of those rare words that defies parameters, and allows everyone room for interpretation. Your definition of it can change from friend to friend, and your friends’ definition of it can change from friend to friend, and so on, and so on.
The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities decided that the theme of its 15th Annual Conference would be “Friendship & Politics,” because clearly if there’s a word that is more fraught with complex, varied definitions than friendship, that word is definitely politics.
At the Friendship & Politics Community Dinner on Wednesday night, students, faculty and staff tackled the friendship part.
“To Hannah Arendt, friendship meant deeply respecting each other,” said Jana Mader, Director of Academic Programs for the HAC. “It meant being in dialogue and listening, especially to those who have differing points of view.”
The event included dinner, but it was a workshop of sorts. Round tables sat 6-8 people, and during dinner, attendees were asked to read prompts from an envelope left on the table, and to discuss those prompts with everyone. Many were strangers to each other before the night began.
Examples of some of the prompts:
“What do we owe our friends?”
“What are the responsibilities of friendship?”
Each table then was asked to appoint someone to stand up and detail that group’s discussion.
“A lot of our discussion was about how to make new friends, and the moral obligations that follow,” said Seth Halvorson, a Philosophy professor. “The through line we found was courage, having the courage to be open to being ‘friendstruck,’ which I think is just marvelous.”
“Initially, we had a hard time defining friendship,” said Noelle, another table spokesperson. “We reached a conclusion that friendship can exist on a continuum. The keys are respect, communication, understanding, honesty, and to be able to accept that people will change over time.”
A student art exhibit entitled “The Art of Friendship,” is hanging in the Bertelsmann Campus Center, and those who attended this kickoff event on Wednesday night visited that area of the campus center first.
“We wanted to do an exhibit because we thought it would be nice to exhibit student artwork, especially for students who aren’t Studio Art majors and don’t usually have their work shown,” said Maggie Hough, a student HAC fellow. “There is an innate understanding of what friendship is, but there’s something that goes beyond language, and that’s what we wanted to explore with this exhibit.”
The exhibit has 22 pieces, including photography, painting and poems, and it will remain there until Nov. 15. Sixteen of the pieces are for sale.
After this kickoff event, the actual conference part of Friendship & Politics resumed on Thursday morning and rolled through Friday. It included guest speakers, discussions, poetry readings and breakout sessions, and more than 500 people attended.
To get an overview of the conference and to see readings and videos from some of the speakers, click here.
Post Date: 10-12-2023