I couldn’t say when it started seeming important to me to feel ‘in community,’ but as time rolls it feels more pressing. It has all become so very muddy and broken. We are all, whether we care, know or will admit it, in need of community. Human beings are supposed to live in community. And if you believe in spiritual Oneness, then we already are one-in-the-same, whether we are acting like it or not.
Part of my soul deeply remembers ‘having my tribe.’ We all knew we depended on one another. Unashamed. Grateful. Plentiful. All for one and one for all. Not because it sounded good and had opportunistic value but because it was the only thing that had promise of working. That has stayed the same. It is the only thing that has promise of working. But we have hugely forgotten and tainted these basic sparks of reliance. Interdependence is universal truth, a birthright, a joy and a deep comfort. Sold to us as religion, charity, us v. them. We feel inadequate and don’t admit it when we can’t pull it all together and make it go on our own. We are told our psyches, neighborhoods and institutions need analysis, fixing, better leaders and more control.
We live in a culture where margarine has been sold and ingested for decades as a safe alternative to good old butter. Stranger danger. Play dates. Social media. Photoshop. Everywhere we exist, we can manufacture ourselves into a version we let the world see. Cookies that literally never lose their shelf life. All the confident selfies out there from ‘friends’ wanting validation. It’s a mess. We’re not being honest or transparent or kind. We are not ultimately moving ourselves forward. We live in a time where every wanted comfort can be met, and yet we live with more disease, anxiety and depression then ever before in humankind.
Another possibility has to be possible. Somebody having your back. Potential for strangers to become friends. Belonging. Engagement. Respect. Joy. Accountability. Cooperation. Reverence. Some ancient part of me clearly remembers. All of this. Hugely missing in our social circles, professional lives, neighborhoods, governments, politics and religions.
There are great groups and communities out there. But one doing their good thing while another does their good work in parallel does not create community. You doing you and me doing me, even if we are supporting each other in self evolution and betterment, will not cut it. If that’s the best we’ve got, each organization and individual is ultimately still in ‘it’ for themselves. With the right triggers in place, they fear/flee/fight in self-preservation mode. We see evidence of this every day.
So, while I don’t know when my longing for community exactly started, I do know when it became glaringly clear. I had spent 5 years co-creating the All Life Center, a cooperative nonprofit organization. We had an incredible community center, that over 180 individuals and businesses collectively sustained. With a revelation of ‘new’ intent for the property, it could-have-been/should-have-been that the community ran toward one another and continued on. But that wasn’t what happened. With a handful of exceptions, it became a scatter, every man for himself. Human nature at its worst. Hidden agendas. Fear mongering. Storytelling. The ‘community’ had 2 basic choices. Stay together or fall apart. It fell apart.
We hadn’t created community at all. My formal unpacking of what ‘community’ was and wasn’t began. Author Peter Block quickly gave me that key clarification above. It is worth restating. Me supporting you and you supporting me while we both theoretically strive to become our best person, professional, organization, neighborhood, healthcare system, city, (whatever …) is nice. But it is not community. It is still you being interested in you and opportunistically accepting me on your sideline and in your toolbox. It is me either doing the exact same or being taken advantage of and manipulated by you.
Not community. I had greatly mistaken the difference. Noted.
If it weren’t for my professional life, I might just throw in the towel there. Work with who and what I’ve got, count my losses and forget about it. But I seemingly can’t. I deeply know that I can’t hope to serve people on their physical/medical journey if I have no hope in the broader community they are healing within and returning to. Healthy people need healthy communities to stay well. Healthy communities need healthy people to sustain them and move them forward. I don’t believe you can have one without the other.
And so, I founded a new nonprofit in pursuit of cooperative community wellness.
While our outreach is geared specifically to help the public sort through integrative community-based health and wellness options, we know this must be done with a foundation, undercurrent and backdrop of community engagement and meaningful, felt impact. We started an ongoing and recurring book club around the Peter Block book, ‘Community,’ and host other events/groups/reasons to gather in central Ohio. Seeds of possibility are intentionally being planted and thrown to the wind …
If you’ve read this far, all of this sparks something in you too. That is the conversation we need to have more of. What gifts do you bring? What other organizations and groups we should be connecting with? Visit integratecolumbus.org to be part.
(and thanks for reading …)