It’s no coincidence the words close and closed are so close! Things that make a group close, close us off to others. Things like 'in jokes', group language, informal invites that forget new folk.

Group of friends on a beach

PICTURE: Kimson Doan/Unsplash

There’s a paradox here. For a group to thrive it needs to hive. It needs to become close, involved, enmeshed, empathetic. But too close is bad. Closed systems die.

Every biological system needs a regular influx of new people or information.

How do groups, churches, clubs and workplaces walk this narrow road? Become close enough to be more than the sum of its parts, but open enough to let new life in?

Every group almost needs someone whose job it is to simply watch out for the new folks to ensure they get invited, listened to, enfolded.

Close - or closed?

Paul Clark’s musings can be heard on radio across Australia and at