An initiative to encourage closer relationships and greater conviviality at USC

“Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”  – Cicero, Roman philosopher, 44 BCE

CLICK!  Making Meaningful Relationships – a free non-credit course for all students – 5 sessions starting 3/19, 12 – 1:30 pm, URC 104 to register.  Grow in your ability to make and maintain friendships.

GET ON THE LIST!  To hear about future CAMPFIRES – email – subject: “campfires” .

CAMPFIRES @ USC — what are they?

You see a person randomly in class, and then see the person randomly in your residence hall and say “hi”, and then you randomly discover you are both rock-climbers.  You start to hang out together on campus, and then the two of you go on a weekend in the mountains with other climbers.  At night, you sit next to each other around a campfire and get into a deep conversation.  You realize you are not just acquaintances anymore: you are true friends.

This friendship, like most among Trojans, happened by accident.  But how much friendlier would USC be if we created the conditions for it on purpose?  This is what Campfires @ USC are all about.

A campfire gives people a focus while they hang out together.  There’s something elemental about it, no?  – going back to human pre-history.  A campfire encourages intimacy, but allows for quiet.  The sight and sound of it are soothing, encouraging reflection – an ideal environment for making friends!

So light a virtual fire, and gather round! —  in classes, Greek life, clubs, dorms, special events, or – just for the joy of it!  Get a group together in a circle.  Put your all your laptops and/or smart phones (with phones in airplane mode) in the center, all playing this campfire video (no need to synch – the sights and sounds blends together).

You don’t need a special reason for a campfire – any excuse is good!  The principle behind them all:  creating a convivial environment in which acquaintances can move toward real friendship.

Here are some special reasons and ways to hold them:

Questions Campfires:  circle around campfire video, and randomly ask a person to start.  Each person in the circle asks that person one genuine, non-leading question.  If the person doesn’t want to answer a particular question, they can pass.  Keep going around the circle until everyone has both asked and answered at least two questions.  See a list of great questions to ask here.

Drum Campfires:  Drumming around the campfire.  A way to connect deeply – without words.   Email the ORL about getting drums and getting help with facilitating a drum campfire.

Classroom Campfires:  for times in class when there is personal sharing.  Put the campfire video on the screen, darken the classroom, and encourage one-to-one chats or group sharing with students/profs.

Dream Campfires:  Start one in your residence hall or other setting on campus!  Nighttime dreams are portals into the realms of the unconscious mind. Paying attention to them brings us to a higher level of consciousness, and can give profound guidance for our lives.  This suggested format is based on the work of psychotherapist Jeremy Taylor :  Participants are asked to keep a dream journal and to maintain confidentiality about what is shared in the group.  Circle around the virtual campfire.  First person shares a dream.  Questions (not comments) for dreamer – from anyone.  Questions should be “honest” – open-ended, not round-about ways of giving opinions or making judgments.  Then 3 min of silent mindful meditation on the dream.  Then, going clockwise around the campfire circle, each person answers:  “If it were my dream, this is the significance it would have for me….” – then others ask that person questions.  When circle is complete, first dreamer reflects on responses of the others.  Next dreamer shares a dream….

Clearness Campfires:  Ever feel bewildered in the face of a tough choice or confusing personal situation?  You are in great company.  And having some of that great company can make your decision-making process a lot easier.  That’s what Clearness Campfires are all about.  You write down the problem you’re facing – as succinctly as you can.  (You may be unclear about how to describe the situation that is before you – but do the best you can.)  You invite a group of people whom you respect to gather together as a temporary Clearness Campfire.  You text/email them your problem.  You send them this page and ask them if they are willing to follow these guidelines.  Those who agree gather and sit in a circle for between 1.5 and 2 hours with you around a laptop computer with the campfire video playing.  They choose one of them to be the “clerk” and take simple notes, which the “clerk” emails to you afterward.  They start asking you questions.  Only questions.  Honest questions for which they do not yet know your answers.  Questions that invite your reflection.  Questions that aren’t “leading” – questions that are not round-about ways of giving advice or opinions.  Questions that invite answers that will lead to yet more questions that will invite answers that lead to yet more questions.  There are times of silence, when only the campfire is crackling.  Times for reflection, for letting questions and answers sink in deeper.  When you are ready, 15 or so minutes before the agreed-upon ending time, you ask your circle to “mirror” what they heard and saw in your responses to their questions.  Again: no opinions, no advice – just feedback about what they noticed in you as the Clearness Campfire burned.  Then you shake hands with each of them and depart in soulful silence.  What happens at the campfire stays at the campfire – complete confidentiality.