Silo or Share?

By Nancy Lincoln Reynolds

Recently I had a conversation with a young man who works in security research. His words suggested to me a correlation between cyber and personal vulnerability, while he was articulating an awareness of feeling unusually emotional. He described himself as having too much “attack surface.” I had to look it up. “Attack surface,” according to the Sans Technology Institute, refers to “our exposure, the reachable and exploitable vulnerabilities that we have.”

The article included an image of Spartan phalanx warriors armed with shields and spears in a protected formation. The shields were arranged around the warriors in such a way that very little human flesh was exposed or open to attack.

The cyber world employs thousands of people to work at reducing attack surfaces. They keep networks and computer software guarded and secure from invasion. But it is one thing to be protected technologically and quite another to protect our vulnerability from negative associations with others. The cyber emphasis on maintaining the integrity of confidential and “top secret” data stands in some contradiction to humanity’s need for the opposite — personal interaction and sharing – in order to survive.

Many refer to human beings as fragile, to our bodies as breakable and easily destroyed if not properly cared for. We worry about good physical and mental health and salvation. Often we become consumed by a focus on these and develop ways to protect our physical selves, our minds and our souls. This often leads us to emphasize our uniqueness and independence as the top priority. Concerns about relationships take a back seat to individual wellness.

This kind of emphasis fosters what I call living silo living. Rather than sharing resources some people hoard and store their knowledge and provisions. Instead of networking, we may reinvent the wheel (the same wheel) repeatedly and keep the results to ourselves. We seem to believe that survival depends upon our ability to throw up walls and build fences around ourselves and what we have. These mindsets foster isolation and unhealthy boundaries because, unlike cyber worlds, humanity is created for community.

In the Chesapeake Bay area we are trying to work more collaboratively across established borders. This is especially true where there has been a perceived threat or when we identify a need better served by cooperation than by individual response. The public schools, local government, service and faith-based organizations are all represented on the Youth Suicide Awareness Action Committee in our county, uniting to be more effective in preventing teens from committing suicide. Hospice and the Department of Aging cooperate with multiple nonprofits to provide resources for the aging. Churches and faith-based entities are considering ways to expand outreach with combined missions and ministries. “Desiloing” capitalizes on cooperation over competition.

Religious prophets and others have referred to our condition as living in metaphorical “clay jars.” The comparison is certainly an apt one when the focus is upon physical presence. However, what is contained within those clay jars is the very stuff of which life itself is made, and ironically, is ultimately that which we purportedly protect with our efforts at reducing attack surfaces. These are our unique gifts which are really made to share with one another.

As individuals we may benefit from thinking of the clay jar image from the perspective of possibility rather than limitation. While we are indeed fragile and breakable in many ways, that which is contained within us is eternal when it is shared with others. Where one person is finite and limited, together we are community and, as such, endless.

Nancy is the associate pastor of Woods Presbyterian Church in Severna Park and can be contacted at [email protected]


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