Sunday Assembly, 10th May 2015
Friends: Finding them, Keeping them, Celebrating them
The beginning of this assembly was beset by technical problems, and we were unable to project the slideshow until 11:15. When we eventually got it up and running, Teodora talked us through a series of photos showing how she had maintained, and benefited from, her personal friendships over the years. Through friendships acquired at the Sunday Assembly conference last year, she enjoyed a special visit to the headquarters of Pixar Animation Studios, renowned for producing monumental movies such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc.
Dr Tamas David-Barrett of Oxford University’s Experimental Psychology department outlined the origins of social bonding, and explained how modern friendships can be studied using online social networks. He encouraged the congregation to hold hands with the people next to them, and observed that nearly everyone broke into a spontaneous smile after 30-40 seconds. We learned a lot about what friends mean to us from the results of his surveys and analyses.
We raised the tempo with a solo guitar rendition of the Friends TV series theme “I’ll Be There For You”. Unfortunately, due to technical issues we were unable to synchronise the lyrics, but most people joined in for the well-known chorus.
One of our regular assemblers, Dave Lahee, offered a very moving account of how friends had rescued him during some particularly dark periods in his life and gave him the motivation to aspire to greater things. He emphasised how friendship entails moving beyond the social contract of reciprocity and making someone feel valued for who they are.
Lucie Dawkins gave us a preview of the LiveFriday: Social Animals programme at the Ashmolean Museum on Friday 15th. The LiveFriday events turn the Ashmolean into a huge cultural playhouse, with live music, dance, and drama happening in different parts of the building. The event is free of charge, so if you’re in Oxford on Friday, please make a point of popping along to the Ashmolean at 7:30pm to experience a truly unique cultural phenomenon in a very historic setting.
If you feel like a brisk walk, you are invited to assemble at the Morrell Avenue gates of South Park on Sunday 17th May at 10:45am for an energetic hike to Shotover Hill, led by regular assembler Rob Bailey. Please bring along a packed lunch.