Here’s a short essay on our primitive sense of community

A This I Believe essay by Matt Harding on npr captures the sense of community that our primitive brains share. At the same time, as the essay indicates, we can aspire to something better. The essay is found at

Here is the portion I found cogent:
“People want to feel connected to each other. They want to be heard and seen, and they’re curious to hear and see others from places far away. I share that impulse. It’s part of what drives me to travel. But it’s constantly at odds with another impulse, which is to reduce and contain my exposure to a world that’s way too big for me to comprehend.

My brain was designed to inhabit a fairly small social network of maybe a few dozen other primates — a tribe. Beyond that size, I start to get overwhelmed.

And yet here I am in a world of over 6 billion people, all of whom are now inextricably linked together. I don’t need to travel to influence lives on the other side of the globe. All I have to do is buy a cup of coffee or a tank of gas. My tribe has grown into a single, impossibly vast social network, whether I like it or not. The problem, I believe, isn’t that the world has changed, it’s that my primitive caveman brain hasn’t.”

Coming to grips with our instinctive defensive reaction to strangers looms essential in a world where small towns and even city neighborhoods are disappearing into the maw of the giant global culture. If we are to engage with our students, should we try to overcome this instinct or should we try to make the classroom our community of a few dozen primates?

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