Fourth of July—an intersection of community

As a Canadian living in the US the first week of July is always a great experience. July 1st is Canada Day, the day my home country achieved independence from England (in 1867), and July 4th is of course, well July 4th, or as I hear most people refer to it, simply “the 4th”. Both holidays share many things in common. A day off work. Fun outdoor summertime food and drink. National anthems. Flags hung on front porches. Parades. Fireworks. Friends and family getting together.

But behind all these traditions, these holidays provide a platform for the spontaneous creation of community. Last week at The Vine, a conference on the nature of community, held the day before PCBC, one of the morning sessions introduced me to Nina Simon, and her work on audience participation in cultural institutions, specifically the work she has done at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, She made me think about “participation” in community of all kinds.

Take the events that many will share this weekend. Community will be formed in large groups and small, all over the country, as people come together and celebrate with people they know, and others they have never met. I’ll bring my tomato-mozzarella-basil skewers, you bring your famous family recipe potato salad, and we’ll put both on paper plates next to our BBQ brats. Nina shared stories about these intersections in life where we come together with others not like us and share a common experience.

July 4th is an iconic example of a participatory experience, where strangers come together with friends and positively interact with each other, leaving this experience with hopefully a new bit of insight, or appreciation for those they shared it with, the recognition that this is what really makes community.

Happy 4th everyone. Keep your eyes and ears open for new intersections. Take risks. Create collisions. Experience your community in its fullest form.

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