The Beaverton Farmers' Market on Wednesdays is small. There were maybe 15 vendors, and people wandered through at a relaxed pace. I think most were there because they'd been in the library, park, or church that border the property. The market manager said that people who shop on Wednesdays are afraid of the Saturday market crowds. Whatever the reason, we had cool weather, plenty of time for visiting, and the best sales so far this season. We seem to sell more when people have time to find out what we're about and to browse all the varieties we offer. They just don't hold still that long at the big markets.
Isn't that the way our society operates? We were founded on small, close-knit communities. On supporting one another for survival. On finding needs and meeting them to earn our livings. On settling with like-minded people for physical, spiritual, and emotional support. It worked great for almost 200 years.
Now, though, we're so crowded! We have a herd mentality in which we expect to move as fast as everyone else. It's like we're running a race, and we have to get more accomplished or earn more or buy more or be more than the next guy. We bump into strangers and disagree and push our way through life with aggression and disdain and single-mindedness that are all the antithesis of community.
We tend not to recognize the insanity of our pace and crowdedness until something awful happens, like the Orlando massacre. Somebody goes crazy, somebody disagrees with the lifestyle of a nearby group or movement, somebody feels wronged, tempers flair, and people die. We aren't built to take so much close interaction in stride. We aren't built to agree with everyone, to live and let live, to peacefully coexist.
Humans are built to have a few close relationships, to commune with nature, to care deeply and live in small, family-oriented communities. As the open spaces disappear, as survival requires us to move into more and more dense cities, as we have to interact with so many people that our ability to really connect is numbed, we, individually and collectively, suffer mental illness. The most moral and law-abiding among us can snap. Safety is more of an illusion than ever. Trying to govern this unnatural state of society is impossible, as we've seen in recent politics. Who in their right mind would want to?
I'm afraid we're in a downhill spiral, and our ability to pull out of it is diminishing. I'm afraid we don't see solutions, but instead become more defensive, more shut down, more angry, more competitive. We don't need more jails; we need to find open natural spaces where convicts can work to rebuild nature, healing themselves in the process. We don't need scientifically modified and manufactured food; we need to garden more. We don't need more guns; we need to heal the souls that turn to violence in desperation. We don't need more money and bigger houses and the constant pressure to be more "successful;" we need simplicity and quiet mindfulness.
I'm so glad I had that chance to enjoy the outdoors, get to know a few other vendors, chat with customers about reducing food waste, and feeling like an integral part of an intimate community. We need to take our minds and our hearts to smaller, slower places, where quality of relationships and depth of connection are the measures of success.