13 November 2010

Escaping society to find it again

There are many words that have a confusing array of meanings. To me there is one very important word that has a vast range of definitions yet it is central to each of our lives. That word is society.

If you have visited this blog before, you may already know that towards the bottom of this page is a quote, usually from a well-known author. The quotes and the authors frequently change, but today the quote sparked my thoughts in such a way that I wanted to record them here.

I wanted, therefore, to interact. I wanted to be social:

As a remedy to life in society I would suggest the big city. Nowadays, it is the only desert within our means.

(Albert Camus, Algerian-French author)

To me, the city frequently means "too many people with too little time for each other". The relationship between time and cities is something I frequently reflect upon. I live in a place I call "The Little Town of Dorothea" when I am blogging. I express myself here online in ways I find difficult in society. Perhaps it is the same for many authors.

Wikipedia - City

Wikipedia - Society

Society, even in a small town, can often be cluttered and complicated. Feeling as if we are surrounded by people who do not communicate and interact to our own liking can be frustrating, wherever we find ourselves. Physical complexity may frequently be easier to cope with than social complexity. But is a city socially complex, or are smaller towns more likely to be so?

Perhaps it depends on how we define complexity. In smaller towns, we are likely to know more about the people around us, mainly because there are relatively fewer of them. It may be the case, however, that online social networking is changing that. Either it is making smaller towns more like large cities or it is making large cities more like small towns.

I need to "escape" from society from time to time in order to find it again. I need to stand back from relationships and interactions, to reflect upon them. My aim is then to communicate my thoughts in whatever way works within a particular relationship. Sometimes, however, nothing I do when attempting to improve particular interactions works.

This is especially so when dealing with the ingrained habits of communication others choose to continue, regardless of how unpleasant I may perceive those habits to be. Such habits usually have only a tenuous relationship to geography and are more a case of culture.

Cities are not cultural deserts. They are frequently cultural jungles. They may be social deserts, as Albert Camus believed, but sometimes life can seem more like it is lived in a social jungle.

Culture is what we learn, what we do and how we live. Society is who we know.

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