Friendship for the Good

I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot lately.  We lost Brenda Zimmerman from the community of complexity scholars. An old friend from college died in a terrible accident in December.  My best and oldest friend called last night to tempt me with a spring holiday in Bruges. On my birthday I received Friendship For the Good Full Imageboxes of candy canes from around the world, as friends and friends of friends joined in a ritual of connection and care. And I spent a week in Durham with the latest cohort of HSD Professionals. 

These eighteen scholar-practitioners weren’t friends when they arrived—most didn’t even know each other.  Not all of them were friends when they left, but throughout the week patterns of friendship emerged from our complex adaptive system of inquiry and action. Aristotle calls this kind of friendship, “friendship for the good” because the relationship brings out the best in both people.  These are not friendships for pleasure, though they certainly are pleasant.  They are not friendships of utility, though they certainly are useful. They are friendships for the good because they:

  • Guide us to see the best in others, as we share their inquiries and insights.
  • Invite us to reflect on the best in ourselves, as we encounter and overcome limits of old assumptions.
  • Create a third space between any two of us that resonates and amplifies the delight of learning.
  • Establish an environment that is strange enough to risk adventure and safe enough to allow it.

During our in-person encounter as a cohort of HSD Patterns & Possibilities, it was easy to discover and nurture friendship.  We spent time in dialogue. We shared meals and walks and life stories. As we return to our regular lives, the conditions change.  We no longer have the containers of time and space to bound our experience. We no longer have the constant challenge of new theory and practice. We no longer have the opportunity to see, hear, smell, and touch each other as we dance with confusion and clarity. But, even when the conditions change, the patterns of friendship remain.  The similarities, differences, and connections that emerged in those days will persist in our hearts and in our memories, and they will be re-sparked in our virtual connections over the coming months. Ultimately these patterns will form the foundation of life-long learning. They will continue to nurture us as  individuals and as a community.

I thank each of them, and all of you, for enriching my life with the patterns of friendship for the good.      

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