To Gather, Together: Community in a Culture of Convenience
Old English togædere “so as to be present in one place, in a group, in an accumulated mass,” from to (see to) + gædere “together” (adv.), apparently a variant of the adverb geador “together,” from Proto-Germanic *gaduri- “in a body,” from PIE *ghedh- “to unite, join, fit” (see good, and compare gather).
A substantial fear of mine is that ideas, dreams, and greater civilizations won’t be realized in this world because people are becoming more disconnected. While I realize people are more socially connected than ever, thanks to amazing technologies, there is an extreme amount of loneliness that persists. How is it that people are communicating more but feeling less filled by their relationships? How is it that people hop in and out of group chats, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, every day but feel as if they don’t have any friends? To me, it shouldn’t be the case, but I can understand why things are this way. As a fan and frequent user of technology, I sometimes find myself leaning into this culture of convenience. I also feel emotionally and psychologically drained as the world depends more on video chats, Facetime, virtual coffees, virtual summits/workshops, texts and phone calls.
*I am also mindful that these technologies provide access to folks who are disabled (visibly or invisibly) and folks who do not have access to the time or resources needed to be in specific spaces and places.
My concern is for the people of this world who dream of more intentional and emotional connections with people they actually want to be around. This is for those who desire to exchange words, ideas, dreams, plans, and needs with people — in the presence of those people. I have worry that our dependency on technology, buying in to hustle-culture, and addiction to busy-ness will force us into more convenient forms of creating community. I refuse to live with or manifest this worry in my life. So, here’s what I wish for instead:
I wish for a world where people from all nations can gather together, discuss and dissect the ways in which societal structures aren’t working for us.
I wish for a world where community exists beyond the bounds of time.
I wish for a world where 14th century systems disappear and 21st century people redesign them.
I wish for a world where people can call a friend, meet in 10, and engage in real soul-nourishing relationship.
I wish for a world where work, financial, and health status does not restrict our ability to be in the presence of others whenever we choose.
I wish for a world in which community can hold space and provide care for its people without concern about legality or surveillance.
I wish for a world where cancel culture is cancelled, and we can uphold our people in healing, love, and justice as we understand our interdependency.
Whether you are spiritual or not, we cannot ignore the significance of religious texts and historical records that discuss the power of gathering together. More importantly, there are many times in history (and today) where the gathering of people frightened those in power because they understood that unified people are power. I recognize (and hope you do) that harmful groups of people continue to expand harm and detriment in this world because they share space, quite regularly and often in secret, to execute their plans. I am a firm believer that sharing space, regularly, will be the primary way to get to a place of acknowledgement, understanding, and ultimately healing within our communities. I want to put that form of power back into the hands of the people.
As a reminder, it’s Black History Month and I encourage us all to study the practice of gathering that is ever so present in our ancestors of Africa, African America, and all the other places indigenous folks have placed our feet and built great civilizations. Let us not forget who we are, what we possess, and what we can create if we gather together in truth, love, and visioning. Let us remember the ability of those before us to change weather, meet needs, heal others, and bring about transformation by gathering together. We are not here as individuals but as a small part of a larger whole. Let us use technology as a tool to bring us into safe spaces in hopes of manifesting a shift in this world. We need us to gather, together.