by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
I have come away from last evening’s small private dinner party with the blunt reminder that whether or not conscious of it, we are social animals. While the inclination to sociability is often natural, particularly among family and close friends (and maybe even among governments and global economies), it must be admitted that in many instances the communion is seemingly driven more by a sense of necessity or obligation. “Working a crowd” or “putting in a show” are for example not exactly what I would call instinctive. In either case however I have learned that the outcome is the same; namely, the sometimes intangible but always uplifting goodness of having mixed with one’s taxonomic group.
Younger people are notoriously social but as one matures even those who were once the most gregarious tend to shun the flock of the club and to favour the comparatively vapid domain of peace and quiet. It is nonetheless futile to resist the innate disposition we humans have for sociability – interaction with others and collective coexistence. While complex social structures are generally attributed to higher primates, a few species (notably insects such as termites, ants, bees and wasps) demonstrate complicated forms of sociability involving highly organized associations with individual organisms specialized for distinct roles. It is normal for humans – especially when lumped together with insects – to balk at such inherent social predilection as though it were merely imposed manipulation or fabricated duty akin to being dragged by the ear to worship service. But as I say the acknowledgement is inescapable. Even if the debate about the sociability of humans and insects is distracted by the more fathomless study of culture, the fact remains that humans are bound by nature to socialize; and the corollary is that our failure to do so spells inevitable trouble on any number of levels.
It is currently popular to do whatever possible to maintain aging people in their own home. While there are manifest advantages to such accommodation, one mustn’t, however, lose sight of the prospect that being housebound is no competition for being in the mix with other people of the same age group. Even if one’s physical mobility is seriously limited, the emotional traveling can be accomplished by socializing. Sharing with others provides a palliative which might not otherwise exist. This is though but one example of the perquisites of sociability. The truth is that socializing is as intrinsic to our happiness as is breathing.
I have no doubt that part of the fallout from retirement is the dwindling lack of socializing. As fanciful and as alluring as it might seem to cut one’s moorings with society and sail into the sunset, I wager it won’t be long before Robinson wants his Crusoe. Quite apart from safety in numbers, sharing food and caring for infants, we are the only primates which build controlled fires and cook food. Gathering about the hearth (while perhaps primarily to find comfort and warmth and to share food and information) has developed into a necessary social forum.
L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.