The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Creating True Community, Something Desperately Needed

We are hardwired for community. It is the way we are made. We are social animals. Okay, enough with the cliches. Then again, the reason cliches are cliches is they bear a kernel of truth (ah, another cliche). What scientists tell us today is that our brains work best when we are connected to others in community. If you are fearful of science and feel more at home with faith, there too you'll find an emphasis on the strength gained by living in a healthy, loving community with others.

Today's society is split, divided, and bleeding at least in part because we have chosen to give up the hard work of living in a caring community. Instead we have chosen the path of rampant individuality and the shiny facade of pseudo-community in place of the real thing. We have been attracted to the glitter of the cubic zirconia version of community ... very pretty, apparently flawless, but on close inspection nearly worthless.

Pseudo-community is that state of existence where people gather with masks firmly in place, hide their true feelings, avoid religion and politics for the sake of peaceful coexistence, and never ever really get to know what is going on with one another. Pseudo-community will fight hard to maintain the apparent peace, usually at a heavy cost to the members. To paraphrase Saruman, "...you have elected the path of pain" by doing so.

I highly recommend a book that has proven its value over time, M. Scott Peck's The Different Drumm: Community Making and Peace. As a brief thumbnail of what Peck proposes, in genuine community, members avoid generalizations, speak personally (more I feel than YOU ARE), be vulnerable (drop the facade and the personal body armor), avoid attempting to convert or heal others (no need for Mr. or Ms. Fixit here), listen wholeheartedly (and not just for your next talking point or the flaw in the speaker's logic), and embrace the painful along with the pleasant. In other words, be prepared to do the hard work of creating true, honest, and open community. And here's a kicker: everyone in that community is a leader and none may bail when the going gets tough. We're all in it together.

The benefits of community include that feeling of well being that comes from living as humans were intended, knowing you are cared for and listened too rather than judged and dismissed, and working for a healthy group in which true peace may be found.

We'll end on practicality rather than a starry-eyed vision of reality. Dietrich Bonhoeffer will keep it real for us, reminding us that in true community others are putting up with us so we need to do the same ... that's part of being open and listening wholeheartedly:

Thus the law of Christ is a law of bearing. Bearing means forbearing and sustaining... The Christian must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated. It is, first of all, the freedom of the other person that is a burden to the Christian. The freedom of the other person includes all that we mean by a person's nature, individuality, endowment. It also includes his weaknesses and oddities, which are such a trial to our patience, everything that produces frictions, conflicts, and collisions among us. Then, there is the abuse of that freedom that becomes a burden for the Christian. In sin, fellowship with God and with his brother are broken. To cherish no contempt for the sinner but rather to prize the privilege of bearing him means not to have to give him up as lost, to be able to accept him, to preserve fellowship with him through forgiveness... The service of forgiveness is rendered by one to the others daily. It occurs, without words, in the intercessions for one another. He who is bearing others knows that he himself is being borne.

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