I suggested on Wednesday that it is important to get to know the people around us if indeed we actually want to try to develop some kind of community in our geographic area. This procedure will have a few immediate effects.
1. We’re going to learn things about the people around us that we didn’t know before.
2. We’re going to find some areas of common interest with those people around us.
3. We’re going to find some areas of disagreement with those people around us.
Now we have a dilemma. Again, I suggested that building an interest-based community is pretty easy because it is easy to get along with people who believe the same things we believe and enjoy the same things we enjoy. They might not always ge along perfectly, but in my experience, it is much easier when there is a shared interest.
Now, we have moved this problem down to the local level. Let’s say there are 10 houses on my road or 10 people in my office. I might have a lot in common with three of them. It is really tempting for me to want to simply build another interest-based community at the smaller level. It is really tempting for me to only want to talk to people who like baseball because I know that we will have something in common.
However, if I stop there, I have just defeated the entire purpose of this previous exercise. I may have gotten to know the people around me, but once I know that we might not have a lot in common, I am writing them off and we are basically back where I started although I might know their names now. I guess that is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t that much better.
What do I do with those people who I might not have a lot in common with and might disagree with who lives next door to me?
The obvious point is that we do gravitate towards people who are more like us, and we do enjoy spending time with people who share common interests. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I think we all know how awkward it can be to be with someone who we really have nothing in common with for long periods of time.
However, it is important to remember that these are still people who are part of our geographic community, and as a result of that, we are going to have to interact with them. We might not understand everything they believe or find interesting, but we still have to live beside each other geographically. We still live in the same town or work in the same office.
What do we do? We might disagree on major issues, and it seems like the answer for many people today is to build insulated bubbles that block out anyone who feels differently than us as a deplorable. I have a few suggestions for next week that might be a little bit better than that.