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February 02, 2009


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Observer Z

Tell you the truth - I feel better not knowing at least some of the stuff a round me. There's already a flood of information ever since the internet has taken off.

We strive to be happy. That's our main goal in life, no matter how noble and caring you see yourself. As I see it, knowing more than we already do would just add more stress to our already stressful lives.

That said, there's information that enriches us and contributes to us and there's information that doesn't. We need to know the good from the bad, and it's not an easy task as it is.

I try not to know everything there is to know, but rather, what I really need to know, that contributes to my goals in life.

And of course, for some people, knowing is the goal itself.


Here's my view from the East Coast of the U.S.: I lived in Southern California from 4th grade through high school and during that time, I did not know the neighbors on either side of my house and after many years, I only knew a handful of families on my street.

One family had the habit of pulling their car into the garage and then closing the garage door once within the house; never parking in the driveway.

I didn't realize how strange it was not to know my neighbors until I moved back East and went to college. Now, I live in Maryland and not only know all my neighbors, but they are socialable. Of course, we are not all friends, but we know each other's names and a little bit about each other.

I recall visiting my grandfather in New Jersey years ago and being struck by something about the houses on his street: They had front porches. I never saw a porch, I don't think, in Agoura or elsewhere in Southern California. A porch's purpose, best I can tell, is to promote community. You sit on your porch and face in at your neighborhood. You gather with your family members on a porch and talk or watch television and when people walk by (another phenomenon that does not happen much in Los Angeles), you see them; maybe you even wave and say hello.

Of course I am painting things with a broad brush and I am sure there are very social neighborhoods in Southern California, but perhaps there is something behind this parochial observation of mine.

The point I am slowly circulating around is that I agree with much that is written above, especially about our lack of knowledge about the people closest (in distance) to us on a daily basis. What I find is missing all too often is community formed and created by small interactions over a period of time, occassionally even sharing moments of great happiness or sorrow.

While we have opened ourselves up to relationships that span the globe, we also have surrendered somewhat the local connections that tethered us to our community, our town, our street.

We will chat to complete strangers online, but are reluctant to knock on our neighbor's front door with a homecooked meal.


So true. Community - and it's disappearance in America is a huge thing. One of the many contributing factors to my ever gnawing fantasy of moving to Southern France is that the French still have community.

You walk through the neighborhoods and streets of your town while buying groceries, meat, bread, pastries, clothes, etc. People sit outside local cafes. In the course of conducting daily life transactions, people rub up against one another.

That's common in Europe, but so rare here.

But porches... I thought they were just the gateways to killing Hamlet's father... :)

And thanks for reading, Cyril.

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