Emergent Communities

I was reflecting the other evening on the journey I’ve been on, and which I can now say encompasses the better part of my life experiences. Given that I’m well into my middle-age, I’m both liberated from the pressure to find my place in the world, and pleased that I can start to apply some of the things I’ve learnt.

It’s not likely that anything new is going to pop up spontaneously and surprise me, and I’m not seeking external stimulation in the way that I sought out new experiences in the past. I’m more inclined to sit and reflect, listen to music, and welcome a good conversation, rather than seeking to impress or convince anyone that I might be worth getting to know.

When I look back, though, it’s clear that both individually and collectively this task has never really been easy. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve begun to understand that I’m an introvert, and that the reason I find other people a challenge to deal with, is because I don’t get energised by other people’s activity.

I’ve learnt that I don’t need to work so hard to project a persona, and that I can relax a little and follow the interests that I have for the things that I like. It’s been a relief to not worry that my public image and ‘branding’ might be rather rubbish. Who cares? At least when I’m sharing videos or podcasts, selfies and blogs, anyone who is interested can get a sense of who I am from what I share.

I could take all the blame for my inadequate ability to play the games of life, but then I remember that the game is pretty hard to play for everyone, and anyone who makes it look otherwise, is either bluffing or just lucky! There is too much mistaking luck for virtue. Buy a house in the right area, and you get gifted with asset wealth that isn’t anything but the result of speculation.

I suppose playing the game of modern life successfully is more about being seen to achieve one’s goals, than it is about actually living a meaningful life! We’ve learnt to mistake persona for character, normalising the superficial for the essential. While the two may be similar at first glance, there is a huge difference between what we project and who we are. We’ve probably all met someone who has a great public persona, but is devoid of morals, values and any sense of loyalty to a community.

We don’t make like easy for ourselves. I think many of us are coming to the realisation that our communities, here in the UK at least, lack depth. They are superficial and limited in scope. One must be very fortunate to find a community that can explore the depths of social relations, figure out what our role in the world might be, explore the forms of expression that it takes to connect with others, without repeating or copying the past.

How fortunate must it be that we can spend time in discussion with others, where we can examine what our social and philosophical status we embody might be? How wonderful must it be to live in a world in which people share their concern for developing and applying the best process that will optimise the best of our virtues from everyone, rather than a cynical world of results and outcomes that we simply only measure?

Reflecting back, the whole experience of the introduction of social media and the networked society feels like it has been a waste of time. My life doesn’t feel enriched because I can connect with strangers on social media. I don’t feel valued unless I am in close proximity to real people. Forget Twitter and Instagram, YouTube and blogging. Life is better in person.

I realise that finding a sense of community based on my shared interests and concerns will not be easy, and I’m really going to have to find ways to commune online in better ways than I have in the past. Fortunately, the pandemic has taught us that we have to meet our needs for meaningful community interaction again, only this time when we apply the techniques and principles of social interaction online, they are going to have to be done better than they have been in the past.

If I’m to set up a community of interest for Radio Lear, then I will have to bring some people together in order that we can do some community building work that is thoughtful, responsive, discursive and meaningful, and is an antidote to the goals-driven world that dominates, but which we all know is falling apart.

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