Story Meditation, Good Posture

September 18, 2011

The theme of this story is, “I have good posture.”

A traveler and and old man of the village conversed. The traveler asked the old man why he called himself Father Ramrod, while he was a slouchy and frail person. The old man replied that it was the name he and the villagers had always used. The traveler told the man that to his face the villagers used the name Father Ramrod, but when he was not around, they called him Father Slouchy. The old man was shocked and laughed a great deal at this duplicity.

The next time the old man was in the village, he told the villagers to call him Father Slouchy. The villagers grew visibly ashamed. However, he did not call them out on their mockery, and they agreed to call him Father Slouchy. Then behind his back, they began calling him Father Ramrod. The next time they saw him, he was standing perfectly straight and moving about like a younger man. They insisted on calling him Father Ramrod and they continued to do so while he was not there.

I’ve been thinking a lot about resilient communities, societies where people prosper in good times and bad times.

One thing that is considered in discussions of such enclaves is the Dunbar Number, where a group of primates peaks at some specific population size before breaking into another group. For humans, that number is often described as about 150 people.

I was thinking, “If I started a resilient community of some sort, where I wanted to gather a group of people to survive and prosper together, who would I pick?” Having democratic sensibilities, I didn’t think I would pick all 150 people. And I didn’t think about required skills either. I mainly thought about who would I really like to be around me.

I have a few friends who have lived in communal homes, where a large house is rented and people sign up for rooms. It is kind of like a dormitory at a college, but with people that you are previously socially connected to. Turnover is interesting to watch. And disputes are also very interesting. A necessary requirement is usually that an external housekeeper be hired from time to time, or sanitation breaks down. Communal houses that don’t have this rule get dirty quick. These are the closest social constructs I have for imagining a Resilient Community.

After picking friends and family, I thought, “No one would live in my community unless they could pick people as well.” So I searched for the number of people that I could pick, where the people I picked could also pick that same amount of people, and still remain at Dunbar’s 150 optimal community size.

The formula for picking a community comes out to:

(y * y) + y = approx. 150.

So if you pick 12 people. And they pick 12, you get:

(12 * 12) + 12 = 156

Or for 11

(11 * 11) + 11 = 123

So you end up being a little over or under a Dunbar no. of 150. In reality, a group taken from an initially chosen seed of people would have some overlap, so a larger number might be able to be used.

Who would you put in your community? Who is already in your current community, whether virtual or physical? Snacks for thought.