How often do you sit on your porch?
According to David Brooks in his latest book, "The Second Mountain," that we as a country no longer spend extended periods of time on our front porches is quite telling.
Back in the day, to avoid the stifling heat of our homes, people would sit outside. Neighbors would talk over iced tea or something a little stronger, while the children played in the street.
Then home air conditioning became popular, and people went inside to stay cool.
Once behind closed doors, the living room or family room became the center of the home. Families used to spend evenings together gathered around the television. But that too has become passé.
More and more, the TV sits idle, as individual family members sit alone, in their own beds, hunched over a personal screen.
From the front porch—where we sat with neighbors, to the living room where we sat with our families, to the present—where we sit alone.
We live in an era of individualism, and there certainly are blessings to our society’s emphasis on the individual.
By freeing up the demands of people to fit into a certain box, people are more free now than ever to proudly be themselves.
That so many people, particularly our young people, feel comfortable being themselves is certainly a blessing of a society that encourages you to find yourself, to be true to yourself, and express yourself freely and openly.
But there is also a downside to such an intense focus on individualism.
If we become exclusively focused on ourselves, we will lose the capacity to see others? And then we will truly be alone.
With that in mind, perhaps it is time for us to go back out to our porches?
Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei is with Congregation Ner Tamid. He can be reached at 310-377-6986 or email firstname.lastname@example.org @rabbionthehill