I asked a friend the other day where Ketchikan ranked as far as providing community compared to other places she lived. She said it was the best.
I thought about it a lot on the drive home. I stopped to ship some fish and venison to some close friends in California and saw two people engaged in some sort of bizarre affection ritual on the sidewalk that made me question their sobriety.
What were they saying?
I went home and fired up a podcast that featured Sebastian Junger, author of the book “Tribe,” which is on its way to me from an Amazon seller who does not provide tracking and says the book will arrive sometime between Dec. 11 and Jan. 1. Apparently, it’s being delivered on a bicycle.
Anyway, he (Junger, not the Amazon seller) theorized that the common denominator when it comes to depression, mass shootings, etc. was the lack of a community to which people felt a part. It’s not provable, but I get it. It makes sense and it uses a possible root of behavior — rather than the instrument used to carry it out — as a starting point to work on.
I’ve always felt I was part of good communities, but without really making the conscious decision as to why I had chosen them.
In high school, people sometimes feel like they fall through the cracks. They don’t find their people. As adults, the same can be true — or they lose track of their people. It could be because they aren’t looking or seeing, but it can be because they don’t feel claimed by a community.
What makes this tragic is that it’s not high school. There isn’t a graduation to force you to function in the world and give you the opportunity to find a more exciting existence with more edifying friends.
Winter is as dark as we make it here, because as my friend Amanda said, Ketchikan is a good community in spite of its faults and has great people in spite of their faults. The same goes for Southeast Alaska in general. We’re all in the dark together. Some people use the daylight hours to get outside after deer, waterfowl or for simple recreation. Some combat the cold at the gym, replacing the feeling of heavy darkness with the light optimism of the post-workout high. The creative and artistic scene is robust as well.
There is enough here, and room for others to join.
A difficult dynamic to navigate, though, is what happens when there is a breakdown or failure within the community. What happens when, in the darkness of December, someone in your circle goes into hiding? What happens when the guy from the gut-health, no box or bag crew, grabs two Hungry Man dinners for a snack?
In an imperfect world, breakdowns are inevitable. Hence the value of community, people who will help you though literal and metaphorical darkness.
Sure, you can adopt a Me vs. The World attitude, but why?