The Fine, Fragile, Beginning Bonds of Community
February 17, 2009 by rtwsenior
THE FINE, FRAGILE, BEGINNING BONDS OF COMMUNITY
Aside …. Guess who comes up first in a Google search of the relationship between a human spinal column and the Cordillera of the Andes??? Yep, yours truly! How´s that for instant expertise? If you are new to this blog, scroll down to read my claim to fame.
I´m in Huanchaca, Peru, the little beach community twelve kilometers from Trujillo. I´m glad I went to town first to get a sense of both atmospheres before coming to this lovely laid-back, but tourist-filled beach surfer´s hangout. It may have started as a fishing village and it is justly famous for its reed boats which have been used here for 2500 years. These pointy, round surfboard affairs are made up of bound reeds which grow nearby and the fishermen straddle or kneel upon them and navigate far beyond the breakers for fishing. Today, they also do a good business selling rides to tourists.
I booked a tour of the most famous nearby archaeological site, Chan Chan, of the Chimu, pre-Incan, culture, known as the Largest City of Clay in the World.¨ This is the main reason that I broke my trip to Lima. Here is a bit of philosophy which resulted from that experience….admittedly, more influenced by my reading of Time and Newsweek about Obama´s challenges ahead in forging a new community out of a shattered and bruised America. Here are some suggestions to the President:
Chan Chan is interesting, but at base, just an empty clay city ruins of a long-lost civilization. But, the people in my bus? That´s another story.
THE FINE, FRAGILE BEGINNING BONDS OF COMMUNITY
When you are out on the road, long-term, as I am, and particularly when you travel solo, as I do, it´s possible to observe microcosmic human tendencies which normally play only silently in the background of your consciousness. Today, I took a four-hour, guided tour offered through my Trujillo, Peru hostel, to see Chan Chan.
Two guides and eight tourists were crammed into a mini-van for the short ride out of town. Three of us spoke English and we had our own guide. The others, mostly Chileans, spoke only Spanish, so there was, essentially, no conversation between us. Our only point in common was that we were all part of the same little tour group and our faces became slightly recognizable to each other.
But, simply because of that tiny thread of commonality, we possessed a palpable feeling of belonging to each other when we joined the larger number of tourists, milling among the same museum exhibits, who were delivered to the venue by a number of different buses. Of course, we never needed to call upon this bonding, but if we had, there would have been recognition and assistance from the brotherhood we had formed merely by signing-on to poke about a strange place with a bunch of strangers.
Face recognition? Them and Us? Some sort of minimal Trust Wave existed within our party that didn’t, and couldn’t, extend to all of those strangers from the other buses. I am sure that this was enhanced because of the small size of our van and the fact that we had to cooperate to merely get in and out of the bus. We were seated close together and, for me anyway, there was the reality that a couple towards the front was having to prop up my large backpack brought because I was shifting over to the beach community for the night.
So, crowding and necessary mutual assistance matters hugely, even when language might form an insuperable barrier.
An American Peace Corp volunteer, a Japanese tourism official and myself formed the English-speaking contingent and naturally, we became somewhat acquainted through our conversation as we walked through the huge temple remains. I felt comfortable enough with the man from Tokyo to wake him from his nodding doze when we first came in view of the Pacific Ocean, and he appreciated the gesture.
My point is, that even though this is a very light and flimsy connection, it is still a connection and a possible beginning if carried to a time-extreme, which it will never actually realize under normal circumstances. Most of you have experienced similar temporary amalgamations, so you know a version of what I´m analyzing here. This thesis is, no doubt, caused by the fact that I am now devouring both a happily-discovered Time Magazine and a Newsweek filled with articles about Obama´s early days as President. Underlying every article is the question-wish-hope-puzzlement about how America, or any diverse collection of people, can switch from a ¨Me First¨polyglot to an organization of friends and neighbors who will work together, or at least, help each other a little bit.
I sensed the nascent community formed by our little busload of strangers. No tests were levied upon it and the moment of its existence is now over. But, a willingness to own each other simply because of face recognition was definitely there.
That, my friends, is a powerful human glue. Face recognition. It works on newborns. It works on neighbors. It works on fan clubs. How can we get that microcosmic stickiness to work on a larger scale? Perhaps the sudden attitude of ¨We´re all in this together,¨ which has newly begun to take root because of this sudden desperate money crisis, will put us in the same boat long enough to register faces and not just anonymous bodies.
Want to share mini-vans, anyone?