Dunbar’s 150

Residential NeighborhoodCommunity has many definitions. It is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a unified group of individuals,” “a group of people with the same interests,” or “a group of people with the same interests [or backgrounds].” These definitions are not mutually exclusive, but extremely varied. First appearing the late 14th century, from Latin, the word was primarily used to mean “a body of fellows or fellow-townsmen,” but also had additional meanings, including “a community of relations or feelings.” The word, in layman’s terms, implies a unification, whether due to geography or interest.

People form and join many communities over the course of their life. Dunbar’s number, which is a limit to the number of true friendships or relationships a person can keep track of, is 150. 150 complex, intricate connections and the emotional ties that come with them.

The average classroom has 30 or so students. If each of those students has 121 friends (150 minus the 29 other students in the classroom), those students combined have 3,630 friends.

The human ability to be so multifaceted that one person can be connected to 150 people is remarkable. Sitting here writing this, I can’t count 150 people I know, much less 150 friends. It is mind boggling that I have that many connections, and it makes me wonder about the people I am connected to, about who of the 150 will stay with me. It makes me wonder about connections I have made and then forgotten. But mostly, it makes me grateful for the ability to share rare, beautiful connections with others who are willing to count me as their 150.

– Zarra Marlowe, Junior Submissions Editor


On Paper, It’s Almost Perfect

downloadI don’t indulge much in relationships outside of my writing. Somehow, it’s easier for me to figure out how people relate to each other when they’re fictional. I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that I have control over those relationships, I can chose how those people meet and get to know each other. Real life is a lot less simple and rarely ever in my control.

I can think about a person’s significance in another’s life when I know there’s a set story to follow. Putting two characters into a specific environment and deciding on how they connect to it and each other comes in the larger scheme of things. With my personal life, I never know how it’s going to play out. I’m not sure if it is ever better for me to share something with another person or what will go wrong if I keep my mouth shut. It’s that uncertainty that keeps me from looking too far into actual human relationships.

Despite that, I can easily describe my relationship with certain things or ideas. I know that I’m fond of certain things and can’t stand the sight of others, and that I connect very strongly to certain perspectives on societal issues. But take that and apply it to another living, breathing person, and I’ll be too lost to function.

I’m not very good with people or the development of relationships. Most of the time it seems like both those things occur in my life by accident, while I’m kind of just dragged along for the ride. It works fine if I take myself out of the equation and throw a few characters in, make a story out of it. Then, I’m suddenly an expert in the realm of feelings and relationships and I can build them all up out of nothing. I suppose it all depends on the medium through which it happens. Real life, not so much. On paper, it’s almost perfect.

-Ruvi Gonzalez, Junior Fiction Editor 

Writing Like Me

james-baldwin-the-fire-next-timeAuthenticity: n. The quality of being authentic; genuineness

On my first day of Senior Fiction, my teacher asked me to write down my personal definition of this word. For a Monday, starting my final semester as a senior in high school, I thought this was pretty heavy duty thinking. But after sitting at my computer, watching my cursor disappear and reappear a million –well, more like seventeen- times.

To me, being authentic is what babies are: one-hundred percent human, one-hundred percent embedded in their emotions—what they feel precisely in a singular moment— and completely uninhibited by what others do. If a baby wants to cry, no amount of food or rocking or begging on one knee will stop them from being heard. That’s what telling an authentic story is like to me.

While reading James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, I found myself fluctuating between two extreme emotions: awe (the man is a philosophical genius and an incredible wordsmith) and a high level of uncomfort. One of my favorite quotes from this book is “The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself.” It is always my greatest fear that I won’t tell a story honest, that I’ll sugarcoat a character or over exaggerate the plot.

Doubt is the number one killer of good writing and after four years of trying to find my own voice in my writing I completely understand why. To doubt your writing is to, by extension, doubt a part of yourself. There is no greater justice to telling a story than by telling it how you see fit for it to be told, and this is the best way to be sure that you will be proud of what you produce. To be authentic is tell all parts of a story— the beautiful, the ugly, the stuff your mother should never know about.

And in the end, that— the moment when you no longer fear what your voice has to say— is one of the most defining moment of a writers’ life.

-Shamiya Anderson, Nonfiction Editor