Memorial Day Parade File

The local Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts are seen in a Memorial Day parade earlier this year.

Commencements, weddings, patriotic holidays — many occasions recently for people to go from one place to another in a formal way.

Why do we do that? Like many old-fashioned practices, it is clearly just inefficient display: Diplomas can be mailed, marriage licenses can be procured at civic offices, national celebrations can be telecast.

Instead we don special clothes, make noise and music, walk or ride with other people, or simply watch all this happening. Moving as a group, like a dance, raises mobility to a higher level. It blends our efforts with other people so that we become a corporation, an embodiment made up of individual bodies.

The social power of moving with other people is apparent in music groups. Choirs, orchestras and bands coordinate their sounds to make a complex body of sound. Armies march a lot. Sports teams move together in complicated ways.

Merely thinking or privately feeling part of a group might be all a hermit can manage. It is feared today that similar isolation occurs in a cyber world. But pretend parades are nowhere near as exciting as the real thing.

As human animals we need physical forms of association. We participate in our herd by moving with it. Together we find food, care for the young, and escape the predators. These practical effects are demonstrated and reinforced when communal rites are performed.

We play at unity and cooperation in games and rituals. We watch plays or movies that portray life in various situations. Playing is a vital part of being human. One of our best games consists of marching together.

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