Friendship and Nature

Credit: Anita Ritenour,
Photo credit: Anita Ritenour,

Friendship and nature are two things that factor significantly into our daily lives, but that are rarely considered alongside each other. Why should we think about these two aspects of our lives in conjunction?

 We often think about nature as opposed to human society, as a place to escape the clamor of society and its technological creations. But nature can also be a place where our most lasting human relationships are forged and fostered, and this is particularly the case in our age of increased technological interaction. Furthermore, we can think about whether our concept of friendship, based on human interactions, can be applied to non-human aspects of the natural world. For example think of a group like Friends of the Forest in Sedona; what might it mean to be friends with a forest, or a species, or even non-living entities such as Sedona’s red rocks?

What is the nature of human friendship?
What might experiences of immersion in nature add to human friendships?
How might we apply the nature of human friendship to the non-human natural world?

In order to guide our reflections we will draw on ideas from Aristotle and Cicero to Emerson, Thoreau, and Muir, as well as from more recent thinkers such as Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, and E.O. Wilson.

We will also discuss the films Into the Wild, and AMC’s Hell on Wheels, a series about the building of the transcontinental railroad. And we’ll consider friendships forged in the most challenging of wilderness expeditions. All of this, however, will be with an eye to developing our own views of the fascinating issues at the intersection of our two overarching themes.

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