Gathering of people for one purpose is awesome
Monday, October 14, 2013 5:08 AM
Since as far back as archaeologists have been able to determine, human beings have rarely lived in isolation; they liked to gather in groups. Only eccentrics or outcasts lived by themselves. This pattern of gathering begins with the family, which is the most basic social unit. Families gather to form communities. Communities gather to form cities. It seems highly organized, manageable and even attractive in the ideal.
Urbanization has seen the increase of people moving to and living in urban areas and the subsequent decrease of people living in rural areas. Perhaps a day in the future will see all human beings living in cities and all agricultural activities occurring outside city limits. On a less extreme scale, this is already occurring in many areas of the world and even in the United States. To many living today, this idea is very appealing. To many, it is not. However, the general trend shows increasing urbanization. If this is how society is evolving, then the disposition toward living in rural environments will die off with those so disposed.
As a mostly rural region, I think it is safe to say most people who read this newspaper wouldn't be thrilled with cities getting bigger and small towns and rural communities vanishing. Those of you who have a strong liking toward living in the countryside have your reasons for doing so just as much as city folk have theirs.
Some people cannot stand the cities and love the country and vice versa. I recall always being excited to travel to the land of skyscrapers (Minneapolis) when I was little. Everything was so big and shiny. However, I enjoyed the quietude of a small town or the countryside most of my life. By the time I decided to attend the University of Minnesota, I was looking forward to a change of scenery in a big city. There I was in constant proximity with other human beings and though parts of campus were beautiful, I got used to concrete over the fields. I didn't make it home my first semester until Thanksgiving. It was refreshing beyond measure to step back into the countryside and small town atmosphere. To this day, I harbor affections for both the city and the countryside.
Part of the reason why some people dislike the cities so much is the number and density of people. I can understand that. After all, the influenza spreads quickly in tight quarters. I must say, however, that I consider it an awe-inducing and humbling experience to be a part of or to witness a large crowd with one purpose.
Some of the largest gatherings on earth defy adequate description. I had never heard of the Kumbh Mela until this year. It is a Hindu pilgrimage to a river they consider sacred. On Feb. 10, 2013, it was estimated that 30 million people gathered in one place. Around 100 million people were estimated to have gathered throughout the 55-day pilgrimage. With numbers this large, it's hard to say how accurate they are. The pictures are mind boggling with masses of humanity congregating on the banks of the river.
Learning about this festival made me think of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. It is remarkable to see pictures of millions of Muslims dressed in the white ihram performing the Tawaf around the Kaaba. This past year, three million Catholics gathered on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate mass with Pope Francis. Large gatherings aren't limited to religion.
Sporting events draw huge crowds as well, though on the order of thousands instead of millions. American football stadiums are among the largest in the world. In fact, three Big Ten Conference teams play in stadiums that seat over 100,000 people. I had the privilege of witnessing a crowd of over 87,000 fans cheer with one voice at a Nebraska Cornhuskers game. At roughly 51,000 capacity at TCF Bank stadium, I've only witnessed one sellout crowd, but it was beautiful. There is something about gathering together, even through technology, which increases the meaningfulness of what is being witnessed.
Two weekends ago, I had the blessing of attending the General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through a live video stream. Though the building in which the conference was at only held 21,000 people, it was interesting to think that thousands and millions more were watching or listening to the religious messages as well.
Whether in religious observance, sport or concerts, the gathering of people to share a common cause seems to be an innate characteristic of the human psyche.
At least until the desire to walk the back 40 alone kicks in.