Van Gogh prepared his craft to go to Paris where the hub of neo-impressionists had been buzzing. He arrived to have his soul nourished by being in proximity to other painters.

Victor Frankl would say that being in proximity to those in suffering deepens your religious and existential purpose and drive. Freed from concentration camps, he began a psychotherapy practice to get close to the hurting again.

Activists in Richard Powers’ novel, The Overstory, find proximal inspiration from fellow environmental defenders in upstate Washington where the battle against deforestation rages on.

Energy, depth and purpose, inspiration-unity through proximity. We all have a natural inclination toward communities. We can use community for self-gain, status, pleasure, or any other hedonistic rewards, or we can suck the marrow out of those last five letters.

Author: Ben Fridge

One thought on “proximity”

  1. Love this post Ben because I’ve been meditating on the concept of community for a few months. However, I am curious about you linking proximity with community – almost as if they are synonyms when one is some much more. Certainly being “in community” demands proximity. However, if I’m simply in proximity with some group, that does not necessarily make me part of their community. For example:

    If I walk in a church and sit down with them…maybe for years…but never change or grow in my life or someone else’s life, I’m not really in community with them. If I go to concerts in the park or hangout in a jazz bar every weekend, I’m in close proximity to the musicians, but I’m not in community with them until I actively learn to play or study or fund raise or promote…something that actively makes me part of their community and changes the group, the cause and/or myself.

    Mere proximity is passive…community is active.

    That’s because I believe being “in community” means more. It means that I am being changed or transformed as a result of being in the community. The examples you gave were great descriptions of community. Van Gogh was not merely a fan of neo-impressionists…he was one of them…constantly improving…sharing with and learning from others. Frankl didn’t just write about “those” oppressed people in the camps.. He was one of them! Marching through the snow…beaten and starved…an active part of the oppressed Jewish community.

    Proximity is nice…it’s the first step…but if that is all you are doing is hanging out with like-minded people, you are wasting your life. I believe it’s actively being in community that changes lives, gives us purpose, helps us grow…transforms the world.

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