Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Better Together

The Loing Canal at Moret

Alfred Sisley

In looking around the galleries at the Allen, I was drawn to this Sisley piece because it made me smile. After a few minutes, I realized that it was, in part, because I could easily imagine myself at that very canal. Though I haven’t been to Loing Canal, the artwork reminded me of riverside walks back home in Seattle. These walks are destinations in themselves, where one would often go to enjoy the beauty of nature with friends or family. Sisley focuses on landscape, writing to his friend Adolphe Tavernier of Moret, “so beautiful, so transparent, so changeable…I will not really leave this little place that is so picturesque.” Even with his focus on the landscape, Sisley paints in a handful of human figures—one man walks on his own, and behind him a pair walk with their heads close together as if in conversation. “Wish you were here” is the sentiment this painting gives me—wishing someone were present to share the moment.


I think we can institutionalize friendship in our societies by making friends with the earth while we are making friends with each other. Perhaps this is too narrow, and more specific to people who are passionate about the environment, but nobody likes to see trash on the sidewalk. My idea is for an event where, for example, people could partner up with someone new, and pick up trash in the arb. As global citizens, we need to show the earth love. With cleaning up trash, everyone is on the same level, no matter your status. I’m reminded of Japanese bath houses where everyone is naked together, no matter if you are the CEO of a company or a janitor of that same company. In a similar vein, picking up trash together (though less intimate), has a similar, humbling effect. Alternatives to picking up trash could be gardening together, more specifically creating or taking care of a community garden.

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