Ease of Meeting

I am thinking about villaging, as it relates to porosity and distance.

At Earthaven, I often found people I needed to talk to without making an effort – maybe we met in the Medicine Wheel kitchen, or the Council Hall, or passed each other on a path. This easy meeting up seems vital to the act of villaging. Why? Because gifts and needs flow on currents of communication. How can I know what you need, or offer what I have, if I rarely see you?

Yes, there’s Facebook. But Facebook is not a village square. And using it – even if you discount the infrastructure it hangs on, the labor required to pay for the devices that deliver it, the shadow work required to keep your various devices synced and updated – is not effortless. Or nourishing. Or feasible when the power winks out.

What does it take for people to just run into each other, with enough regularity that phone and email can lounge on the couch? One: Physical proximity. Two: High porosity (meaning, there’s a robust commons, and a tendency to welcome others into semi-private space). Three: Abundant reasons to gather (meaning, vital needs are met in common areas, there are frequent opportunities for coordinated service). Four: A bias towards interaction in transit (meaning, I’m likely to be willing and able to interact, as I move from A to B). Or, anyway, this is what I believe I’ve observed.

I’ve found, since returning to Beacon, that communicating by cell phone and email seems more difficult than it used to. I wonder if this has to do not only with the hurdles involved in using these go-betweens, but also with their inability to provide nourishment. I tend to feel more anxiety than connection when composing an email; I receive no bodily signals, no breathing presence, no warming smile as I write. Sending email depletes, while meeting in person replenishes. No wonder I shrink from one, stretch towards the other. No wonder so many of us, as social beings, are starving.

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

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