When did we decide?

Communities emerge when people participate in common practices, depend on one another, make decisions together…

For the past two weeks I have been posting about some of our common practices and depending on one another. I have noticed along the way that more often than not I draft my posts beginning with the antithesis of the topic. In other words, I start them with uncommon practices and failures in dependability. It is only with revision that I turn these around to more positive examples. But still, I must ask: “Why my pull to the negative? What is so attractive about the absence?”

ClockMy earliest recollection of this talent, if I dare call this habit a talent, is from kindergarten. We were given brain quizzes where we were told to find what was missing from a picture or different between two pictures. For example, a line drawing of a classroom on the left might have 18 chairs and the one on the right, 16. Alternately, we might be shown a clock with only one hand or a watch with no stem with which to wind it.

Initially I was not too good at these puzzling pictures. Recently I learned why. Poor children are accustomed to having broken items with pieces missing and were, at least back then, taught it was better to ignore these. So, a chair missing a slat across its back or a brace on one of its legs might not seem incomplete. But with training, my classmates and I became better at being critical of what we saw and experienced.

I suppose the same is true today with the memes we read to attract us on Facebook. Completely delightful experiences or encouraging news are brought to our attention by suggesting we won’t believe how awful it was. Click on the link brings us to purring kittens or an alligator adopted by a wombat.

As I begin a week of writing about making decisions together in community, I am reminded of my pull toward noticing the absence of this. It seems today that our decision-making is too often reduced to a vote or a purchase. When did we decide on plastic bottles? Plastic bags? Plastic candidates? When did we decide on highway expansions? Limited public transportation? Fracking? When did we decide to gut public education? Cut post-secondary education? Demonize liberal arts?


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