The country is quite covered by darkness, so that people outside it cannot see anything in it; and no one dares go in for fear of the darkness. Nevertheless men who live in the country round about say that they can sometimes hear the voices of men, and horses neighing, and cocks crowing, and thereby that some kind of folks live there, but they do not know what kind of folk they are.
-The Travels of Sir John Mandeville,
c. 1360, Chapter 28
It seems someone is always willing to go in no matter how dark the space. In fact the darkness may be the incentive. Driven by an insatiable curiosity and desire for adventure...a need even, to risk, to test your mettle against fear, or maybe to meet those folks who live there. I'm guessing that back in 1360 Sir John got it wrong...there has always been someone ready and willing to go into the dark...it's in our genes.
Without going outside, you may know the whole world.
Without looking through the window, you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
Thus the sage knows without traveling;
He sees without looking;
He works without doing.
Tao Te Ching #47
Hmmm, Zen is just so...zenlike. Yeah well I get the point but I don't think it is very helpful. Go without going, do without doing, wait without waiting...really? Where would we be if our ancestors had thought, "I'm going to get out of this tree by staying in the tree." How 'bout if mom and dad had fucked without fucking? I'm just taking the mickey out you...I'm a believer in zen and live my life as best I can by its principles. I am zen without being zen. But I digress from the point I set out to share, namely that the web and social media are amazing. I heard some techie experts talking about the end of facebook, supposedly it's days are numbered. I don't get why exactly, something to do with too much personal sharing and access...seems it can be used against you when looking for a job, or loan or even a partner...who would have guessed? But look at what it can do for you to be plugged into the world wide social network...you really can know the world without going outside. In the past couple of days I have connected with people in Nigeria, Uganda, Britain, the Philippines, and all over the U.S.. I even have dozens of Russian visitors to my blog every day, I don't get it but they keep coming back so I must be doing something right...Здравствулте! мои друзья и благодарят вас для посещения моего блога. So do googling, gmailing and facebooking count as getting to know the world? Yes. Certainly not the same kind of connection you get with face time but if you use a webcam it's pretty damn close. There is a point to be made in here somewhere and I think it has to do with community. It's about finding a place where you can be in common with other humans. Now for someone like me who is pathologically introverted...I have palpitations just hitting the send button on an email...this virtual community stuff is great. It doesn't come with the benefits of face to face interaction but it does fill a huge void.
The most likely community is the neighborhood. I did a little poking around and found some interesting anecdotal information about neighborly relations in America. The first site I found is run by a gang of mormons. They seem bent upon world domination (or is that dominion?) one neighbor at a time. Really, they explicitly target neighbors who are not mormon. The next site is called ezinearticles.com and the logo is a clear giveaway as to their priority...handcuffs. Yeah that's the first thing I thought of too...hey swinging with the neighbors is just another way of bonding. But no these cats are interested in getting police reports on each other...what an ice breaker, "So Ted I see you have a number of tickets for jaywalking...we don't like your kind in these parts. I think it's best if you just keep on walking." I don't know which one of those sites disturbs me more. But I finally found a pocket of sanity in Boston of all places. A clever little site called apartmenttherapy.com saving the world one room at a time. Of 102 comments the majority are positive. They either know their neighbors, are getting to know or want to know their neighbors...very few misanthropes in this bunch. So do you think the traditional concept of neighborliness belongs to a bygone era? Can virtual relationships expand our notions of what it is to be a neighbor?
Alright just two more quick points before the beer and pizza are gone. Have you read The Places In Between by Rory Stewart? He is a Scot who walked across Afghanistan in 2002...did the "Howdy I'm a stranger in these parts" thing in a war zone, in several languages, in a place where white westerners were public enemy #1. He was treated more hospitably, with more neighborly kindness than one might expect in such chaotic circumstances and times.
Finally I want to mention someone I met online who is in the Philippines...volunteering to help poor kids get something better out of life. Stranger in name only, going into a dark place because some kind of folks live in there...sounds kinda neighborly to me.
So if you are a Humanist do what you can to be a good neighbor... if it's by cell phone, email, text, facebook, or going to where folks live...make connections, or in the spirit of zen put yourself out there and let the connections happen...don't be afraid of the dark.
That's all I have for now.