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What We Are Losing: Community

credit: Jim Frech

credit: Jim Frech

 

Around the solstice and new year’s eve I spent a lot of time sitting with the question of what I want to create in 2014. This wasn’t a practical, strategic kind of exercise, but rather an inquiry into what sort of energies I am wanting to expand or invite into my life. I use a practice called focusing and also deep imagery to work with such questions. This helps me get out of my rational mind and allows guidance to come from a deeper, somatic place.

Something that kept coming up was the longing for more connection to others who share my values and my way of relating to the earth and its beings as sacred. Community. I am also seeing this longing mirrored back to me everywhere I look. Perhaps you feel it too?

I think it arises partly from a knowing that we’re losing this – our human genius for mutuality and collaboration. Our ability to band together and work for the good of the group is what has enabled us otherwise soft, frail creatures to survive and multiply. It’s something so basic to the human psyche, and yet we live in a culture that is systematically eroding it.

An overwhelming feeling of sorrow comes up for me when I see how it’s slipping away. So much about our way of life seems to conspire to keep us isolated. A friend who repairs appliances has a theory about this. He identifies two inventions that he believes have done the most to destroy neighborliness: the dryer and the garage door opener. Because we have dryers, women no longer visit over backyard fences while hanging out the laundry. And people don’t even step out of their cars anymore when departing or arriving, something very ordinary that used to provide the opportunity for neighbors to acknowledge one another, even briefly. Instead people just zip in and out of their homes, their cars like space shuttles docking in an airlock.

Technology is definitely part of this, but it’s more than that. As Charles Eisenstein says, the structures of our economy reinforce the role of humans as nothing more than isolated consumers. We use money to buy impersonal services from strangers instead of depending on and collaborating with the people around us. We no longer share or borrow or make things together. Instead of investing in relationships in our communities, we invest in the stock market (which doesn’t give a whit about any of us), and spend our time shopping.

I believe the same force that is devouring nature is also eating away at our humanity. In my last post I wrote about the way that it impoverishes our spirituality, our very consciousness. In the same way that it keeps us from connecting with the sacred earth, is also whittles away at our ability to connect with each other.

So I try to seek out small ways to connect to the flesh-and-blood folks around me – even if I’m not at all fond of some of them. But what my soul truly yearns for is connections with kindred spirits… people like you who are reading this. You are rare and precious in my world. Unusual. My hope for 2014 is that we’ll keep trying to find each other, and make our own communities.

8 Comments

  1. I hear you and I share your longing!

    • Yes, I know you do. And I truly value the opportunity to connect with you – even if we are not able to do it face-to-face. Thank you Kiri. 🙂

  2. Both those items of isolation depend upon electricity, and it is this, fed intravenously into each person’s living space, that creates the illusion of being self-sufficient. We no longer feel that we share precious resources, no longer need to huddle together for light, warmth, food, water, news, entertainment, succour, spiritual upliftment. We have become furtive of sunlight, suspicious of fresh air, oblivious of temperature. A coccooned arrogance….

    • Yes. “A coccooned arrogance”… Leave it to a poet to find the perfect phrase to express this. You’ve touched on something so important: That it’s how we understand our needs that has been/is being distorted. For of course it’s not true that we don’t need one another. It’s an illusion connected to the endless marketing of products and services – the narrative of consumer society that erroneously tells us we can satisfy ourselves through purchases. And inside we know it’s not true, and that unanswered ache in us leaves us confused and yet more isolated.

  3. Hi Ruth

    I do so strongly resonate with your longing for community. I’m not so sure that I agree that it is necessarily the fault of electricity, dryers and garage door openers, or even the behaviours and choices behind the things. I believe that we are in an evolutionary process stretching both forward and back in time and that challenges to the sanctity of community have always existed. In the past it was tribe vs tribe, plague or even emigration. You have chosen the best cure possible, reaching out to others. I do wonder how much the ‘breakdown of community’ which is talked of everywhere is a mirror reflecting back to us our own disconnection from the great Mystery. For me, I will spend this year working to achieve greater communion/intimacy with those parts of myself I find least appealing and reaching out to those around me who are also feeling the need for human warmth and compassion, where ever I meet them, what ever the circumstances – even if it just to smile and say hello. None of this will change the fact that we live in a consumer society with dysfunctional economic, health etc systems; it will however, reinforce that connecting leads to a sense of belonging and worthiness, that we can care about others and ourselves, that this can heal and give birth to amazingly creative outcomes. It would seem that community is still alive; maybe it looks different but its heart beats on strongly. May your hope for 2014 be fulfilled.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I’m grateful for the dialogue. Your thoughts bring up a couple of responses in me…

      First, if challenges to community have existed throughout the ages, they have certainly not been equivalent to what they are today. There are aspects of consumer society and the industrial growth economy that are wholly unprecedented, and I do find it useful to ponder them in order to shape an appropriate response in my own life.

      Also, I did not mean to suggest that community is gone, just as I would not say that nature is gone. But it’s clear that there are losses and an ongoing destruction of both. In my observation both are sadly diminished as the result of our current way of life.

      Having said that, thank you so much for bringing up the issue of projection! This is so important. I – like so many – am working in my own life to integrate the disparate aspects of myself and to explore my connection to all that is. It’s a lifelong journey. I agree that as we work to integrate our own interiors, connecting outwardly with each other is vital. I experience these as mutually reinforcing and healing. And perhaps it’s idealistic, but I actually do think this (both the inner psychospiritual work and cultivating sacred community) will begin to change our dysfunctional societal patterns. In fact these may be the only things that truly will bring deep and lasting change.

  4. much of my life
    living on reservations
    where leaving community
    was unthinkable.
    i remember hearing a question
    how could you white people
    sell your souls
    and leave your roots?

  5. You hit the head right on the nail. Community is to become the future of society, if civilization has a future. I choose to be an optimist and say we do, but I also know there is a very real possibility where we may not live to tell the tale. I believe climate change, food and resource scarcity, market meltdowns, and all the other developing global crises are going to ironically catalyze the solution which to me looks a lot like adaptation, resilience and bio-regionalism. We need to get ourselves and the planet ready for what can be avoided and the inevitable. Community will be our vehicle and our destination.

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