Community and Propinquity
Propinquity! What a Great Word!
There is no more succinct way to represent this interesting concept than with this one perfect word. Propinquity, according to Merriam-Webster.com means: “nearness of blood: kinship; nearness in place or time: proximity”
I first heard the word in a statement that some friendships are relationships of propinquity, so that they exist while you are in proximity (for instance, when you live in a university residence together, or in the same neighbourhood) but when the propinquity is gone, the friendship ends.
Two Misconceptions About Propinquity
- We tend to believe that groups, i.e. people who share propinquity for some reason or another, be it work, living arrangements, social clubs, etc. are all automatically communities. But that’s not a good assumption. It’s like saying that if we are neighbours we are automatically communities. It takes a lot more than propinquity to make a community, though neighbours often do grow into communities over time.
- Some assume that if we were friends when we had propinquity and we lose the proximity and the friendship fades, maybe we never really were friends at all. People apply this logic to communities as well. Both applications have flaws. The fact that something ends doesn’t mean that it never existed or that it wasn’t precious while it did. Some communities, like some friendships, have their time and purpose and when those factors are gone, the friendship or the community ceases to exist. The fact that it ended does it negate it. It served its purpose and now we’re ready for something else.
Propinquity is Necessary if you Want to Build Community
We need to get together to communicate if we want to build community. It can through video conferencing or face to face; it can be weekly, monthly, daily, or even yearly. But some sort of propinquity must be established and it must be supported by commitment, the first pillar of community. It’s simple, really, and looks like this: “Let’s get together and build a community! Who’s in?”
Do you believe we can enjoy propinquity online, to the extent that we can build community there? Have you ever experienced community in a university residence or in a neighbourhood where you enjoyed propinquity with others in the group? Have you ever “lost” a friendship or a community when propinquity ceased to be a factor?
Photo Credit: Catholic Diocese of Saginaw