“He was the force behind the first community of professional writers in the New World, a community whose work and ideas underlie almost everything we write and think even.” (Susan Cheever, Louisa May Alcott)
The above quote refers to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wanted to gather writers around him in Concord, MA. Sometimes he offered them a rent-free home, sometimes they simply visited, but it seems he managed to bring together some of the brightest creative minds of the 19th century.
This fact got me thinking about the changing face of community in our century. In many ways, this blogging community is a virtual gathering of the kind Emerson envisioned. I’m not saying we are all the most brilliant minds of our generation (although I’m sure some of you are) but the way we interact and write about our life and times will certainly have unforeseen effects on the future. It is already affecting the present; with easy access to information and each other’s words we have to reflect on artistic and intellectual property as well as on the proper ways of interaction in a community that has no real rules. Do we need rules?
There are no real leaders in this community. There are bloggers who have tons of followers, but some of them don’t seem to interact in the same way. Smaller bloggers guide each other to other blogs, in a way that creates a complicated web of relationships. When you think about it, this is a fascinating community guided–except for on rare occasions–by mutual respect and interest, rather than having leaders and followers. (Sounds almost socialist, doesn’t it?)
In the aftermath of my changing addresses, my numbers havedropped. At first this bothered me, but then I began to think about the advantages to a smaller, more intimate community. In a smaller community we can exchange ideas more readily, thus helping each person achieve their individual goals and strengthen themselves as artists and writers. In a smaller community, like those gathered around Emerson’s dinner table, we can really discuss and debate without having to slough through a lot of excess chatter.
While I’m sure many of us wish to “make it big” perhaps the true joy comes from the intimacy of a small community.
What are some of your thoughts? I’m struggling with what all this means to my little brain and the project that I’m pondering that brings many of our community stories together.
On a side note, I would like to point members of my community to this little video/post by Steve, who has given me a new perspective on myself and what I do.