11 September 2007


So many places today will be full of mentions of the anniversary of September 11, 2001. I have no desire to rehash the events of the day. I declare a media blackout in my house during the week of the anniversary, because I can't watch those planes crash into the twin towers again. The heartbreaking loss of so many blameless lives. Are we any safer today than we were on September 10, 2001? I don't think so.

Instead, I want to talk about something that I didn't ever think much about before those tragic events. I never thought much about the idea of community growing up; my home community was simply there, nothing to consider.

I didn't go to high school football games, wasn't involved in other community activities. I remember telling my mother once, at about 15 years old, that the only thing our community ever pulled together on was trying to avoid our over-zealous police, who have been known to give speeding tickets to people driving 26 miles an hour in a 25 mile an hour zone. People flash their headlights at one another to warn of the police sitting somewhere up the road.

But when the American flag popped up everywhere on September 12, 2001, I realized that you don't have to be a supporter of your local high school football team to be part of a community. That community is more than where you live.

Watch a group of motorcycle riders sometime; when they pass one another on the road, they wave, or give that little guy head-nod that says, "hey, man" without saying a word. Likewise, boaters wave to one another, as do RV-ers. These are all communities.

Humans are very social creatures; even the most anti-social of us desparately longs to be part of something larger than ourselves, some group that we can claim membership in. We identify ourselves partly by the groups we belong to. Your religion, your nationality, your race, your occupation are all groups that you belong to, part of your identifying characteristics.

Last Tuesday I was writing about nature/nurture. This is part of it as well, the nurture part. Your personality is, I believe, in part determined by the groups that you belong to. The stories that we all tell are a part of who we are. The experiences that we share, whether with friends from school days past or a card club more recent, help to form our opinions and shape our world view.

I've said many times before that I don't like living in Northern Ohio. It isn't that I dislike the community, because I believe that small-town America is pretty much the same no matter what state you live in. What bothers me here is the weather, grey, cloudy, overcast and miserable 90% of the time, and the conservatism, and the mentality of many people who live here, who seem stuck in the 1950s, with the traditional roles so seeming entrenched in the collective psyche, the lack of arts and diversity in this area. Those things, I think, can change from community to community.

Then there are the communities that we belong to in the wired world. And I'm not just talking about the fandom world, either. Last week, I had a question about my iPod, and I posed that question to an Apple forum. I had 3 answers within hours, all basically the same (very workable) solution. I was surprised, people from 2 continents reached out to help me with a relatively minor problem. The web has changed so much for us, but the biggest thing for me has been how we're all more connected to one another through the web, and yet more isolated in our own communities.

My, I'm all over the map today, aren't I? There's just one thing more that is completely unrelated to any of the above; a new side effect I'm experiencing with my meds that is making me feel rather nuts. Remember how I was having thoughts in Swedish and unable to find the English words? That went away, but yesterday I was having trouble remembering the words in either language for some ordinary things, making me worry about what the heck that is, and why it is happening now. I hope it goes away soon.

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