Community is not a thing, or a place. It’s not something you can opt in or out of and it doesn’t require adherence to a single point of view or purpose. It is the activity of life itself dancing with the particular and the infinite for maximum creative potential. Human community is how we harmonize differences and commonality within the ocean of unity.
There are old and new stories that describe the interconnected universe. Indra’s Net is an ancient Hindu concept of the cosmic universal web with a jewel at each node, each simultaneously reflecting the brilliance of all the other jewels. Thic Nhat talks about Inter-being and how each bite of food contains the sun, rain, soil and human effort. Environmentalists use the metaphor of spaceship earth to illustrate that everything on the planet is contained in one big ecosystem. The Lakota people say, mitakuye oyasin:
We are all related, sky, water, trees, birds, animals, the earth and humans.
Social constructionism comes out of the academic world and asserts that we are living in a jointly constructed understanding of the world, based on language and social ties. Supporting the metaphors, mythology and theories, interconnectedness is obvious and observable in our daily lives.
It takes a million acts of kindness and cooperation for food to arrive at our table. Under the ground, there’s a symbiotic symphony in your backyard garden. And, hundreds of other miracles demonstrate our connection and dependence on a vast, and inconceivable network of life.
Yet, amidst all of this love and cooperation we often feel disconnected and alone. When we lose touch with our inherent belonging, feelings of isolation, loneliness and competition arise. When we can’t connect with the big beautiful world of interdependence we are likely to replace it with small worlds of conflict and separation. Those small worlds can become the narratives we live by and they get expressed in our cultural structures and values into the cultural values. Charles Eisenstein refers to this as living in the unholy matrix of separation. We can see the effects of in our schools, workplace, politics, religion and families as we play out the old stories of power over, coercion and exclusion. Everywhere there is separation there is suffering and fragility.
Community is the antidote. Swimming in the ocean of unity brings healing and strength. There is a global awakening that we can and must re-imagine communities that are built on interconnectedness and cooperation. It is our natural place and function in the rhythm of life in the universe. We don’t need to make communities – we are already in them. They are born and dissipate naturally. Our job is to maintain them through mindful, heart opening participation.
The idea that our role is to create community is based on a set of stated goals and values can easily be coopted by the old narrative of input-output manipulation. Another way to see our role in community is as gardeners. We simply prepare the soil for community to grow and thrive in. We create opportunities for community to happen based on what we know to be life affirming; music, healthy food, movement, joy, inclusion, patience and openness. Where these things exist it is possible through our effort of participation to realize community.
Sustainable community requires that we develop the capacity to sit with discomfort and allow life to unfold. It asks us to let go of controlling outcomes and enter into the space of not-knowing. Just as improvising musicians know and demonstrate, it is only when we synchronize with the natural rhythms of the universe that beautiful transformation happens and we become stronger. Community affirms our individuality by actualizing our commonality. It dies with conformity and thrives on diversity. It dissipates the delusion alienation and stabilizes the sense of wholeness. Strong communities are the necessary foundation for diverse ways for compassionate action to flourish. Community is “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.”