June 25, 2015

Community vs. Connection

There is a great deal of talk among New Age people about ‘community.’ I have a little experience with this idea of creating a place where like-minded people could come together and live in peace and harmony. I've been involved in several attempts to establish community. What I learned from each attempt has been very instructive. I can sum it up in a few sentences. The people who want community are often people who want to escape from the pressures of everyday reality. They want to drift into a situation where all is beautiful and light. It takes a great deal of money and work to run a community, but these are precisely the things most people are running away from. They want a boss or leader to put the community together – and they will participate. However, they will also resist in the way that they have always resisted authority. Living with other people is stressful and the old saying, “Wherever you go, there YOU are,” is doubly true in community. Squabbles, misunderstandings, and scapegoats are everywhere. I have loved the people who came to be part of our small attempts at community. Even though the community didn’t last, these were important steps on the road to wisdom, and I am very grateful for that. In a conversation with a friend the other day, he commented that more and more people are living alone. I have noticed the same thing. We talk about community…but in actual practice we are pulling away from one another in many ways. No one wants to be under anyone else’s thumb, or even their roof. We don’t want to be stuck with someone’s mess, their spending habits, their diet, their TV programs, their snoring, or their bad moods. As this pulling away continues, our need for connection intensifies – which is why the smartphone and social media have been so successful. I’ve heard a number of people decry the direction we are moving in as a culture, and I can’t help but think we are exactly where we need to be. In any healthy healing process it is necessary to back away a bit and get a new perspective. The gurus call it detachment. We have all backed away from one another, but we’re still connected…and that may have to be enough for now as we feel our way along to a new way of seeing and being in the world.