Isolation and Ideology Change

Following the 2016 election my father, who is a much more active participant in Facebook than I, said something to the effect of "don't mourn; organize. I had a long winded post on the topic of 'don't celebrate; organize', but the bottom line is the same: organize."

I'd append to this just to make clear that I'm of the opinion that self care, survival and the care for and survival of our communities is crucial. Which sometimes means celebration and sometimes means mourning and sometimes means a quiet night at home with the and friends.


At the 2016 New England Sacred Harp Convention a friend of mine gave a lesion for those members of the community who were unable to attend because of profound illness which was delivered in conjunction with a lession in memorial for members of the community who had died in the last year. These lessons are a common and enduring tradition of Sacred Harp conventions.

The lesson focused on isolation, and the ways that illness, care-giving (and indeed dying, death, and grief) are isolating. But it went on to discuss the ways that we combat isolation, through connections to people and communities, and by the project of meaning making.

Connection and meaning making are related, of course, and are central to why I sing. I mean I also enjoy the music, but it's the connection with other singers, and the ways that our practices in and around singing are about making meaning.

I heard this almost 6 weeks ago, but I keep coming back to this in a number of different contexts. There's a lot in the world that either directly isolates, or provokes feelings of isolation.

Bottom line, the way that we can fight isolation is by forming connections and by working to create meaning in our lives.


I was talking on Wednesday with a couple of friends, one of who was most distraught at the seeming impossibility of progress. "What can I do? There are all these people, and I'm not sure anything I can do will have any effect." I think this distress is incredibly common and reasonable, given the size of the task and the amount of time any person has in the world.

The task of effecting change is huge on its own, but the project is compounded by its scale: there are a lot of people in the world and a lot of different views. It's difficult to even know where to begin.

I think fundamentally this kind of distress is about the isolation created by the experience of difference, by the size of the task.

There are tools that we can use for managing and fighting our own isolation: building connections to each other, creating meaning in our lives and in our social spheres.

This is also, interestingly, these are the same methods that we use to organize, to build consciousness, and to change ideologies.

On Wednesday, I said, that (for the most part) people are just people: the way that thought changes is through meaningfulrelationships, conversation, and through additional opportunities to make meaning and to form connections in a larger context.

Seek out people and experiences that are different. Stay safe. Listen. Learn. Talk. Teach. Share your experiences with people who are like you. Work hard. Take breaks. Remember that people are, for the most part, just people, and we're all alone in this together. All of us.

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