On the mission of the Culture section

The topic of friendship has been on our minds as of late, due in no small part to the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture’s annual Fall Conference. This year’s theme, “I Have Called You Friends,” raised various questions, drawing thousands into conversation about philosophy, theology, community, politics, and more. How do we live friendship? How do we see friendship in civic life, represented in the arts, or as facets of more complex relationships like that between parents and their children? These are compelling and important questions.

As we sat in our various panel sessions and keynote presentations, another sort of question began to rise to the surface. It is a question that has been nudging at us, both in the general sense and in the strict sense of this section. What is Culture? The various sections of the Rover all have strong identities; Campus discusses the life of the university, Politics reflects on civic life, Religion generates terrific discourse on God. What does Culture do? Friends, we’ve backed ourselves into a bit of an existential corner. We’ve treated many subjects within these pages — music, book, and movie reviews, thought pieces, discourse on complex topics like liturgy and evangelization — and this tends to lead us to be in many ways the most diffuse section of this publication. The Fall Conference challenged us to think about Culture in a new light. Where does it come from? Who are we? 

As we begin to walk through these questions, it seems to us that culture comes primarily from our relationships — our friendships — with other people.

To be a friend is to be open to the other. It is to give yourself to the other. It is to make the good of another your own. And friendship exists within a larger umbrella of the relationships for which we were made. One of us has written on this before: we’re called to this kind of relationality by the very nature of our creation. It is not something contractual; instead, it is a communion that comes to be through self-gift. If culture is something that is born in and through relationship, then it would seem to follow that friendship is a highly catalytic medium in which this can, and ought to, occur.

Not only is culture born from relationships, but culture also serves as a means of fostering friendship. Preferences, experiences, and values are the brick and mortar of community, and of the individual relationships that form it. These bricks are placed together, slowly building an arena in which conversation and comparison can be had and fostered. And it would be nigh impossible to build this arena on your own; it must be built in community, and with friends. Imagine the process of building this arena of culture. The conversations that come up along the way as to what the end product ought to be would affect the process, yet all the while, the arena itself is the locus of the communication.

We cannot simply stand outside the scaffolding of the arena, commenting and complaining from without. Rather, we must exist within what we create. It is only there that we can re-lay, when necessary, misplaced bricks. From within, we can return to earlier concepts, or set out to build something altogether new. What we create influences how we continue.

Though we love our section, we’d be hard pressed to make an argument to our esteemed Editor-In-Chief that Culture, by virtue of this view of its origins, suddenly merits being home to any and all articles on the topic of all things regarding human relationships. Our focus, in conversation with the other sections of the Rover, has to be narrowed.

But we do wonder, that if relationships are born in culture, and culture comes to be through relationships, perhaps the mission of the Culture section of the Rover is to do the same thing: to be a medium in which to create relationships grounded in truth, goodness, and beauty, through the articles we write and publish. Reviews or reflections, at their best, point us to that which is relational, true, good, and beautiful. If the mission of the Irish Rover is to “keep the University true to its founding mission as a Roman Catholic institution,” perhaps the purpose of the Culture section is work to evangelize and create a culture at this University which takes striving for truth, beauty, and goodness seriously.

In the spirit of this conversation, community, and culture, we offer the following mission statement: 

As a Catholic University, we know that deep truth and profound beauty can be revealed and encountered within everyday life. Because of this, the Rover’s “Culture” section seeks to build a better culture by (1) engaging, reviewing, and, when necessary, critiquing the art, music, media, and literature discussed in our articles and (2) participating in, and encouraging, intentional and charitable conversation about our campus (and larger) culture and (3) exisiting as a space in which friendship plays the pivotal role it ought to have in building any culture. We do this in recognition of the ways truth, goodness, and beauty can shape our moral, intellectual, and human formation, and so the culture in which we live.

We hope that you’ll join us, dear friends, as we set out on this work of participation in, and construction of, the culture around us. A tall order? Perhaps. A worthwhile endeavor? Most certainly. 

Zach Pearson (Junior) and Maggie Garnett (Sophomore) are the Culture editors of the Irish Rover. They owe a debt of gratitude to the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, both for their latest existential crisis on the nature of culture, and for their friendship.