Society, in a number of ways, seems like a dance: the spaces around us, the interactions, the give and take, the moments we meet and then move apart. All these ways our lives intersect and something’s exchanged between us, be it goods or greetings or whatever else we have to offer one another in life. Community, in its own way, being this dance of individuals working together for the overall effect it produces.
If we conceive of society as a gathering of people for a common purpose, it must be that we all have our parts to play as well as points where we benefit from all others are doing. The coordination of it all seems quite staggering, really; especially in the West, where so much essentially rests on personal freedoms and market forces (Notes One).
Doesn’t it all depend on a degree of awareness? That we understand the value of what we’re engaged in and the responsibilities we have within it all. That we grasp these invisible lines and interactions between us, knowing how to operate so the whole “thing” runs smoothly, harmoniously, even beautifully. If we don’t see that picture – or, believe in it – what will that mean?
Taking it down to the everyday, even how we move together in space seems significant. Especially now, with the added requirements of social distancing for the preservation of our communities, but also more generally: how aware are we of others within the spaces we share? If daily life’s a dance of sorts – everyone skirting round one another to access communal resources – how smoothly does the whole thing go?
Some seem very skilled at it: seeing others coming, reading intentions, anticipating the pinch points of proximity, and accommodating one another with almost effortless grace, respect and recognition. At other times, there’s this sense that “others” are seen as obstacles to be ignored, walked through, or treated as if they shouldn’t be there. As with many things, swinging between the extremes doesn’t seem that uncommon.
It may be a small thing, but isn’t it indicative of our social awareness more generally? If the “concept” of society is one of individuals living together in mutual respect and freedom, how we make room for one another seems the bedrock of that understanding – this basic gesture of granting one another the space we need to live without feeling our presence is a cumbersome irritant to others.
Isn’t society underpinned by this idea of how we’ll live alongside each other? All its conventions or regulations guiding us to interact in ways that embody this philosophy of mutual recognition – expectations of how we will act within our shared physical, social or virtual spaces (Notes Two).
Almost as if society’s an outworking of the premise of individual equality and freedom: the lines between us, in various ways, being where those principles come into play and “demand” we accommodate one another. Maybe the success of this “dance” is the picture of our appreciation of what it’s aiming to achieve?
Notes and References:
Note 1: What does community mean?
Note 1: Having confidence in complex systems
Note 1: Authenticity & writing our own story
Note 1: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 1: The self within society
Note 2: Losing the sense of meaning
Note 2: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 2: Picking up after one another
Note 2: Common sense as a rare & essential quality
Note 2: The power of convention