Relativistic Proximity

Day 059 Week 08 Q1 Thursday, February 29, 2024

This morning, I was realizing that the concept of being local is a bit fuzzy, so I tried a different word, proximity, and was able to find a somewhat unambiguous definition of it. Proximity is nearness in space, time, or relationship.  We can live near each other and completely disagree on nearly everything or have ideas that are near to each other but live far away. Now that we can hang out with people who are not local in terms of geography, the possibility of ideational proximity as a unifier or organizing principle becomes possible.  This is very exciting because we now appear to be capable of transcending geographic proximity. 

There will be, or at least can be, increasingly physically distributed communities. But proximity, whether it be physical, ideational, ethical, moral, comprehension-based, or stylistic, all are relativistic as in the terms near and far, good and bad, light and heavy, and right and wrong. None of these are truly absolutes, but all of them are relativistic. The word relativistic does not have as nice and neat a dictionary definition as it seems to apply to physics and also to philosophy.

For example, the nearest town to where I live is roughly 15 to 20 minutes away, depending on which end of the town I am referring to. There are half a dozen other towns and small cities within twice that distance, 30 to 40 minutes away, and as you might imagine, these different entities can vary substantially. The people who live in these communities straddle three states, which is one reason New England is such a rich and diverse place. The degree to which these populations have separated themselves into disparate, nonoverlapping communities is somewhat amazing to me. The three states are New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and the border communities have almost nothing to do with each other psychologically or in terms of commerce. 

Perhaps this is a holdover from the time when an extra five or ten miles was a really big deal. But today, these distances represent minutes. I find that differences in musical genre preferences have also been manifested as nearly insurmountable obstacles. Perhaps more alarming differences in generations are also barriers to be crossed, and even though the seventy-year-olds used to be twenty-year-olds, they seem to have forgotten this. I see the same problem occurring as young people become senior management and employees become employers. 

The entire concept of proximity is increasingly psychological, not physical. People are living longer, changing careers more often, and moving around in terms of where they live, and in terms of socioeconomic groups, we are all getting further away from where we began. Amazingly to me, we are forgetting that these distances that separate us are mostly in our heads not in reality.

This is why I raise the issue of Relativistic Proximity. 

We are actually far closer than we think.