On Saturday, Jan. 14, Eastern University’s Philosophical Society took a trip to the Patrick Lodge at Juniata College to spend a couple of days enjoying the woods and discussing Edmund Burke’s “A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.” I knew beforehand that I was going to be writing a reflection on our trip and had originally intended for the piece to focus on the nature of content we discussed while there. But instead I want to write about why friendship is essential for good conversation and how laughter and play are essential to community. Many might think that something like a “Philosophy Reading Weekend” would be full of boring conversation had by pretentious students all trying to outwit one another. But that could not be further from the truth. The reason for that is a desire for truth, which inspires humility, shared by friends who will one another’s good. Our own Dr. Phillip Cary came along with us, and anyone who knows him will understand what I mean when I say that he inspires charitable and kind conversation as he teaches us to listen humbly to one another. It is so refreshing to be with a group of people who are willing to disagree respectfully, careful not to interrupt one another, and persistent in building one another up. I am becoming more and more convinced as I study philosophy that the only reason one should study anything is if it makes you a better person who loves other people more and better. It is obvious to me that everyone on that trip was pursuing education for the sake of loving what is good and beautiful and true…and that includes persons.
After we spent several hours discussing “proper taste” and the nature of the sublime, the snow was falling quickly, and we were all ready for an adventure. So the whole lot of us, including Dr. Cary, made our way to the frozen lake some of us had found earlier that day. We proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon chasing one another with snowballs, pretending we were ice skaters and laughing like we were children until our hands were numb from the ice. It was merry and full, and we left that place with hearts content in the friendships we had time to nourish, questions we had space to flesh out and mirth we had the opportunity to foster. Overall, the weekend was just what a philosophy retreat ought to have been: a group of friends pursuing what is good together in a bond of love and respect.