Ramblings on Community

Community – Form, Intention and Needs

The experience of community in this last year is one of organic form which honors the freedom of each individual and their intentions in life.  Each of us has our own unique path that we are following, and yet there is also commonality that becomes this vague, nebulous thing called “community.”  It’s not so much vague and nebulous as it is organic, flowing, as each of us moves in, around, and through the lives of the others.  There doesn’t seem to be a defined intention.  Intention sometimes carries a projection of the desires for the future.  Certainly there are individual intentions, but the best way to describe the intention of the community, as a whole, is to say that we strive to be present for each other.  Certainly that is my experience of it!

Community – Economic Realm

If there were to be an intention, not as a projection of some desired future, but rather the intention to be collectively supportive, I would say (and this is based entirely on a very recent conversation, so who knows how my thinking on this will change later), I would say that support really does come down to the economic realm.  The reality that I’m experiencing is that there are people who need to be supported by a community because what they offer is not valued by the society.  Here I want to make a distinction between “community” and “society”, the former being a microcosm existing in the latter.  A simple example of this is teachers, teachers of the arts, to be specific.  It seems that the collective body of work on the education of children has agreed that the arts—music, painting, drama, dance, singing, etc., is a vital part of a child’s physical, mental, and emotional health.  But what programs get cut first when there’s a state budget crisis?  The arts!  How do we measure the aptitude of our children when applying to college?  By the SAT’s, which measure math, vocabulary, and reading skills.  Where are the arts?  How do we measure school performance in the various iterations of the No Child Left Behind acts?  Through the measurement of academic (as in sciences) success.  Again, where are the arts?

And are people in the arts the only thing undervalued?  Certainly not.  What about farmers?  What about those with abilities to teach concepts like communication?    And yes, what about spiritual leaders, people who can foster our spiritual development?  Spirit–that subject that nobody wants to talk about because we live in an age where science and technology has eroded any acceptance of the idea that spirituality exists let alone should be discussed in an educational setting.  That spirituality exists, not as a scientifically provable concept, but that it exists as an individual freedom to have faith in something that science cannot, by spirit’s very essence, demonstrate.  And isn’t this sense of spirituality the source for the impulse for artistic activity, for the aesthetics and ethics in gardening, in agriculture, for the desire to hear and be heard and connect with other human and spiritual beings (and yes, our pets, plants, and rocks as well.)

And there are people who teach us these things, but they are not valued.  So one of the first things I see a need for community to address is to value each member of the community.  And this means to create a model, and here I am reminded of Steiner’s threefold economic model, but in the microcosm of a community, a model in which some people are in direct interface with the aspects that society overvalues, and those people are supportive of those in the community whom our current society undervalues.  The result, ideally, is that the community, as a microcosm, is balanced in its valuation.

At the moment, I see this as the first conscious intention that a community should have.  The second intention is that such a community should, by its own example, foster and nurture the revaluing of our entire societal structure.  We certainly can’t make dramatic, all encompassing changes, but we can take small steps that eventually expand beyond the confines of the singular, solitary, community.

Now, all this presumes that the community wants to move into this direction.  That’s an important point, because it isn’t actually necessary.  Underlying my two intentions above is, of course, a mutual agreement that this is a common desire and intention.


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