The Zen Lines of Thai Yoga MassageJuly 23, 2013
Spring AwakeningsApril 16, 2014
by Sean O’Leary
What is community? It is a really good question because in my opinion community has almost disappeared in our society. It is almost foreign to consider being close to all the neighbors on your street, and also difficult remaining close to friends and family with our busy lives. I tried to google the word community and the first 10 hits were about some American television show. Even the internet has forgotten community. How strange that we have boxed ourselves into such a sedentary lifestyle not requiring anyone’s help for anything, as if to say, “I’m an individual and I can provide for myself, make my own way, without your help.” This way of thinking is ingrained in having a successful career and life. I felt for years an urge to connect more with others, to help others or simply to be part of a group of people with similar interests and this yearning has remained. It seems impossible to find community in most urban or suburban areas. In the past, being part of a community meant you had fellow beings to help support you through your life. Members would gather weekly to visit and sing, and there would be abundant help during harvest time or when somebody was building their house, for instance. All would freely offer their time to assist. I guess in the past people were just friendlier and more generous with donating their time. Or maybe time was more abundant.
In the current society we live in, most people I know are too busy to take time for themselves. 40 hours a week in order to make ends meet. After work a runabout of chores and activities fill the rest of our time. Time has become a rarity and busy-ness a reality. Time is Money. Hmmmm That last sentence Time is Money. Time is Money. Time is Money! Money! Money! Money! This is the problem itself. Our lack of community and ever increasing loneliness, as well as our despair about achieving success is driven by the very evil word, MONEY. Most things we used to rely on our community for have now been turned into services that we pay for. In fact any good business idea is just that, turning something people do for themselves into a service for a fee. It paints a grim picture about the direction of our society.
In his book, Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein sums it up:
“…and so we find in our culture a loneliness and hunger for authenticity that may well be unsurpassed in history. We try to ‘build community’, not realizing that the mere intention is not enough when separation is built in to the very social and physical infrastructure of our society. To the extent that this infrastructure is intact in our lives, we will never experience community. Community is incompatible with the modern lifestyle of highly specialized work and complete dependence on the specialists outside that work. It is a mistake to think that we can live ultra-specialized lives and somehow add another ingredient called community on top it all. Again, what is there to share? Not much that matters, to the extent that we are independent of neighbors and dependant on faceless institutions and distant strangers.”
Ok so I realize this has been kind of a downer so far. But it will brighten up from here, I promise! The idea of the separate self should be abandoned so we can align with a more fulfilling way of life. We have to need each other! We must rely on the goodness within each of us. We all desire to give and enact our gifts, and thus strengthen the bonds of community and create a more wholesome, organic and connected way of living.
There is another way, and it requires us to trust our true human nature. We all have a goodness, a desire to be creative and make beautiful things. A desire to meet, share, help and love others. It is written in our genes!! I do know something is perverted about our society, economy and so forth but as human we are all amazing. Deep down our hearts all know we can live differently, and it will take some big changes to make the world, starting with our communities, a more beautiful place.
I think small changes are the most important for us to reconnect with the people around us. Smiling and chatting with neighbours, cashiers and strangers you meet makes it more natural to be open with others. Meeting in groups to enjoy like-minded ideas where everyone has an opportunity to share their gifts will harbour more connection between ourselves and others. Living this way will develop relationships and over time those relationships can grow. Living life with an open and loving heart will attract and sustain even the smallest seed of community, and seeds grow.
After searching more, I eventually found a definition of community on Wikipedia (the ultimate community project).
Community can refer to a usually small, social unit of any size that shares common values. If community exists, both freedom and security may exist as well. The community then takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along.
This is an extremely powerful and intriguing idea. How can we bring these community-focused ways of living into our modern-day life to create more nourishing and connected relationships?
I encourage everyone to ponder more about these ideas, and share your thoughts about community, its difficulties and how to create more space for connection in our modern society.