by Nala Walla



Our interpersonal skills—skills critical to the survival of any social species—have been atrophying from lack of use as the modern person moves from our own house or apartment, to our car, complete with our own personal entertainment center, to our own personal desk with our own personal computer, then back in the car again, returning home to spend hours in front of our the television screen. We eat dinner in facing the TV instead of eachother. On the bus, we don headphones or bury our faces in the newspaper instead of chatting with our neighbor. At the café, which has long been a center for cultural exchange and intellectual debate, we now check our email. Will we need to fend off the “café silencio” syndrome by mandating “laptopfree zones?” Has it become a political act to simply say ‘good morning’ to someone when you pass them on the street?

Human cultural and social structures, which evolved over millions of years, have been clearcut in much the same way as our forests have been. A healthy, mature forest contains a network of countless overlapping and interwoven connections: between leaves and air, roots and mycorrhizae, birds and bark, worms and soil, water and leaves, and on and on. When this forest is clearcut, the intricately woven fabric is left in tatters, and it takes time and attention to reweave it.

In the same way that we must replant our landscapes, we recognize that we must pay very close attentionat this time to reweaving our unraveled and torn social fabric. As we design and begin life in our New Villages, we can utilize the participatory arts to help achieve this reweaving. When we gather together to dance, sing, play music and tell stories, we empower ourselves to reclaim control over our social health.

Without live-art gatherings in which every person participates, I believe societies suffer at best from meaninglessness and at worst from self-destruction. The low-priority placed on gatherings of this kind and upon art in general (i.e. “i’m just too busy”) is an indication of a society with a declining quality of life. Please note that this desperate mode of existence is just the opposite of that grand promise of modern, industrial society—to provide abundance and leisure for all through technology. If we truly seek to form an abundant and thriving New Society, we must recognize that the practice of art is by no means optional. Now, more than ever, we need arts practice to help us relearn the social skills necessary for our survival.

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