The philosopher Schopenhauer gave an often-quoted example of porcupines trying to get through a cold winter.
They huddle together for warmth, but their sharp quills prick each other, so they pull away. But then they get cold. The have to keep adjusting their closeness and distance to keep from freezing and from getting pricked by their fellow porcupines-the source of both comfort and pain.
We need to et close to each other to have a sense of community, to feel we’re not alone in the world.
But we need to keep our distance from each other to preserve our independence, so others don’t impose on or engulf us.
This duality reflects the human condition. We are individual and social creatures. We need other people to survive, but we want to survive as individuals.