Gossip is the sticky stuff that holds us together as community. It’s the mortar holding the stonework of our edifices in place. Without gossip we fragment and disintegrate.
I realize that the word gossip has negative connotations. It's a term associated with the shallow, trivial, meddlesome. But, really, it's just engaging in conversation about friends, family, and even foes.
How many times when you encounter a friend do you ask how she's doing, and she asks you the same? And those queries and responses lead you to ask logical follow-up questions about others? Or they lead you in a new direction that concerns news of others? You ask because you care -- about the individual, about others in his life, and about your shared community. Well, you're gossiping.
Where gossip goes south is when someone spreads unflattering information about an individual or group without substantiating its factualness. That's lying. Or when the person doing the telling has malicious intent and puts a negative, judgmental spin on his "news," well, that's not good. And it's not a good use of the sticky stuff that is gossip.
But when you and your friend (or friends) chat about your lives and the lives of others, it's recreational. Instead of doing harm, your talk helps reinforce the threads of connections binding us together in a religious movement like no other in human history.
M. Macha NightMare/Aline O'Brien © 2011
Note: Some months ago, in response to a solicitation, I volunteered to write a response to the question "What is the function/role of gossip (if any) in the community?" As far as I know, it was never published, so here it is.