Lately I have been thinking a lot about our awareness of others and of things happening around us. Part of this reflection has been about our spatial awareness of others when we are on a shared path or in a shared space, like the Boise River Greenbelt or at a grocery store. When I ride my bike I am often thinking or reflecting about something; what else is there to do as you pedal along? I have been riding my bike along the greenbelt quite a bit lately and as I have been riding I have been noticing differing levels of awareness people have for those around them as they pass, yield, or cross the path. I could rant about my frustration at those who do not seem to be spatially aware or even to follow basic courteous right of way rules, but I will try not to do that here.
As I thought about the varying levels of spatial awareness people along the greenbelt seem to have, I began to think about the bigger picture and our varying levels of awareness of the world and things around us. As I thought about it I began to see how this issue of awareness is showing itself all around us right now, from debates about wearing masks to the call to racial awakening happening across our country and around the world.
For me our awareness of others and of their needs ties directly into debates about wearing a mask because wearing a mask is about caring for our neighbor. It is about being aware that we share air with those around us and right now that can be a very dangerous because of a highly contagious virus. It has to do with our spatial awareness as we are out and about and trying to respect distancing while also trying to go about our business as close to usual as possible. Wearing a mask or face covering is not about ourselves, it is about protecting those around us who may be more susceptible to catching the virus. Through the differing ways we have seen people responding to wearing a mask we have seen the array of levels of our awareness of others, similar to the differing levels of spatial awareness I have noticed as I bike along the greenbelt.
I think our culture and society have added to our issues around awareness of others through the ways they uplift individualism. As a nation we have become very individualized and through that we have lost touch with our connection to and awareness of others and their needs. We are often made to focus on ourselves and how we as an individual are either contributing or not contributing to society, and not how what we may do or don’t do affects those around us. We have become disconnected from each other as we have been told to focus on ourselves and our forward motion up the ladder of success or accomplishment. This exhibits itself in different ways, one of which is our varying degrees of awareness of others and the world around us. As a society it feels like we are losing touch with the fact that we are one big community and we need to take care of each other and not just ourselves to survive. By lifting up individualism we are losing sight of the fact that we are part of something bigger, that we are part of a community. Individuality and uniqueness are important, but when they are lifted up as the end all be all, we take away from the strength and importance of community and awareness of others.
I’m not sure that I have a suggestion about any of this beyond trying to pay more attention to our own areas of awareness or lack thereof. I think becoming aware of issues of awareness is the first step in this journey from individualism back toward recognizing that we are a part of a bigger whole.
Where do you see issues of awareness around us in our communities and in our world today?
Next week I will continue this reflection on awareness with a specific focus on Land Acknowledgment.