Friday, October 26, 2012


The Hajj is a gathering four letter word.

Today marks the beginning of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage made by Muslims to Makkah. It is amazing to imagine millions of people, from all walks of life and from all around the world, to come together in peaceful celebration.

It prompted me to think of other such gatherings, tho none as large. I've seen the joyous dancing at the Western Wall as Jews welcomed Shabbat. Heard secondhand about the masses in Vatican City. Read of large gatherings of Buddhists. There is something about coming together that instills hope and joy in so many people. Is this what people feel in massive rock concerts?

We often talk about how massive crowds are herded and compliant. We praise the solitary inventor or diplomat. But can groups of people, when they set aside their trivial differences and come together, also be shown to be a major force for good?

The US Constitution starts by declaring that "We the People" are forging a new government. The Apollo moon landings were made by a handful of men, but backed by a massive team, an otherwise divided country, and done "...for all mankind."

I think the key is actually wanting to join together for the common good. It is what underlies the American system - that we may disagree, but that we are all in it together. It is also what we see is lacking when there is conflict - the need to create "the other" to make it easier to rally against them. What is it about our nature that prompts us to act this way?

I'm an individual. I enjoy being an individual, and I'm pretty solitary most of the time. And while I can see many pitfalls, I can also see the wonderful power behind the crowd.

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