Be Neighborly, it is Good for Humanity
Our Dear Friends,
There are two segments of interest in Emily Post’s long chapter called “Cards and Visits.” The first merely announces the importance of having a calling card made up for your babies, the benefit of which is so manifestly obvious we shan’t go into detail. The other suggests something seemingly ridiculous: that entire neighborhoods should dedicate a day of the week on which everyone stays home to receive guests and call upon friends.
On further review this practice, referred to as “The old-fashioned day at home,” is one that could prove very valuable. Post writes of a time in the late 1800’s when this actually took place. Of course, we should understand this was a time when business and domestic life were more intertwined than they are today. What may strike us as a supreme waste of time, apart from being pleasant, likely proved socially, economically and emotionally advantageous. People got to know one another. By knowing them, they were introduced to their varied network and everyone in the community become more tightly knit. Ultimately, rather than having thousands of tiny islands operating tirelessly alone, society was made up of diverse people with varied ideas who nonetheless came together to be a physical community.
Now, you might be inclined to say we, as 21st century inhabitants of Earth, are constantly called into community via the pervasive presence of social media on our devices. But, this is really something quite different. Consider that, most likely, the communities you engage with online have already been tailored to your ideology. You encountered a platform that resonates with your thinking, and you have the power to shut that platform off if, and when it diverges from your narrative. In a physical community, people’s thoughts cannot be shut off with the click of a button, pleasing as that would be. They belong to physical bodies whose expressions we can see, whose feelings we can sense and whose words and actions have the power to alter our minds because of the depth of our relationship with them.
The expressions of self we encounter online are not the same. Comments people have made about their own thinking or someone else’s are merely the impersonal residue of their virtual presence, left in perpetuity for us to encounter at will. Even though it is often socially and economically advantageous, what we’re offered in social media is a limited dimension of humanity. With the ability to navigate safely away from those with whom we disagree, our emotions never fully develop, as they are never truly stretched to accommodate other humans.
With that, go forth and knock on your neighbor’s door! You mind them anxious to receive you!
Peter & Alexander