We’re in this together, you and I. And what a wonderful word: we. Suddenly we’re connected, we’re part of something bigger. But before we get swept away with ourselves, here’s some salt with that sugar. As soon as there’s a we, there’s a them, too.
Communities have been the bedrock of civilization, the camaraderie and trust serving as a source of security and the basis for growth – so much so that they become something worth defending to the death. Paradoxically, in modern life, our communities have grown so large, both in physical terms as cities expand into megalopolises and in digital terms as online groups form based on common interests, that we may each belong to many clusters of us, our loyalties distributed and divided. Count, if you can, the communities you call your own.
We are compelled to connect, to combine our efforts and energies towards survival or even greatness. Yet, what to make of our failed attempts? How should we view the way in which we aim to join others, only to find ourselves on the outside, looking in? Beyond that, what collective purpose does it serve when some individuals deliberately choose exile?
Perhaps the most troubling: What do we do with the double-edged sword of emotion that has us asserting with chauvinism or violence the notion that they are not part of us?
For better or worse, as we look into communities, we find the pursuit of boundaries, some walls holding us within, some walls holding us without. But so beautiful is the feeling of being welcomed within that we are willing to build walls around us. The truth is, each of us also exists as a them. Though that redefinition of self may trigger anxiety, take comfort: in this, we are all together.
Katherine Oktober Matthews, Chief Editor