Where do you belong? Who do you serve? What gives your life meaning?
Money, happiness and enough – if only individual pursuits – have no meaning without a community where we can give and receive, help and be helped, belong and offer welcome to others – where our life energy has somewhere to land and grow
I have lived my own life in service to the larger whole, to Life. I woke up to the privilege of service 3 decades ago and have been inspired, creative, happy, loving and productive to the extent that my life energy flows outward to making the world a better place. Cancer woke me up to the need to include myself in the circle of my caring, so at times I’m a vessel only for myself and at times I’m expanded into visionary community projects. Attuned to how life energy wants to flow through me in any moment, I live “the great adventure”, a joyful intimacy with Life in many guises.
WHAT IS COMMUNITY
Community is the context for our lives. Whether it’s a community of faith, of birth, of family, of place, of shared work or the living world, without this belonging, life energy has nowhere to flow.
All our striving for money and health and love and happiness are in the end pointless with no where to give the life energy generated through our personal work. Contributing our life energy to “a purpose recognized by ourselves as a mighty one” is the true joy of living.
Without community, what is money worth? You have no one else with whom to exchange love, time, food or stuff. Without community, what makes you happy? Exclusion is a purgatory of loneliness and fear. Without community, can you ever have enough? With nothing and no one to teach you or protect you, the struggle for survival never ends.
“I am because we are and because we are therefore I am.” In Africa they call this Ubuntu, the spirit and action of community. Ubuntu means respect, caring, unselfishness, helpfulness, sharing, caring, and trust – and these are all qualities of community.
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
~~Archbishop Desmond Tutu
This is a strange time of “self made” people, of weakened community ties life energy vultures of all kinds feeding on the wounds of separation. Consumerism is a pale substitute for the reciprocity and mutuality of a community. The loneliness we feel is our hearts breaking for belonging, for the sense that we are real to other. Uprooting is death for living beings.
And because we are therefore I am. Our communities take us in and raise us up – but they also send us forth. We “make something of ourselves.” We become creators of community wealth – children and jobs and art and celebration and adapting to a changing world. Even our “private lives” – sex and romance and mating and eating – belong also to our communities. The fruits of our private acts (kids, morals and even moods) show up at work and on the streets and in the classroom. When we marry, we celebrate with our community, we pledge ourselves not only to one another but to the community that witnesses us, supports us, heals us and helps us. We have many relationships and the sum of them all is our community.
Some consider facebook as community. Or listserves. Or professional associations. I believe that these become community when:
1. we ask for help and it is given to us freely
2. we suffer a set back or loss or failure or and are carried forward until we get on our feet.
3. we gather face to face to FEEL oneanother, to breathe together.
4. Births, deaths, rituals, traditions, marriages, graduations, classes and clubs and committees and conversations – these rounds of life are the stuff of community
Community isn’t for sissies. To come truly alive, to serve those in it and the world requires:
- Reciprocity and mutuality
- Accountability and contribution
- Belonging and meaning
- Gathering and celebrating life’s passages
- Integrity and honesty
I grew up in a family that didn’t have much glue. We tried to belong to one another, but we all went our separate ways, and some did so pretty dramatically. Perhaps this is why my life has been a quest for community, a quest to belong but not be trapped, to be loved but not controlled, to give but within limits to preserve my health and sanity. I studied and wrote about Utopian communities in both High School and college. My best year of my young life was made of the months I spent each summer at a progressive camp run democratically. When I was 24, 3 friends and I started our own intentional family – an idealistic attempt to live at the frontiers of loving. Together we questioned the cultural messages about alienation and separation and valiantly lived as best we could “for” one another and “for” the greater good. Helen Keller said, “Life is either a great adventure or it’s nothing.” Isolated by being deaf, dumb and blind, she became a mighty soul by reaching beyond her isolation to grab hold of life.
My little clan turned our attention to world service after we’d engaged in enough personal transformation with a sufficiently clear heart and undistracted mind, and we formed the New Road Map Foundation in 1984 as a non-profit vehicle for all our teaching and philanthropy. In the course of nearly 2 decades we gave away all the money we earned through seminars and books (a million dollars) to projects aligned with our mission. Early on our service was to individuals and intentional communities in transition. We then bundled our various teachings into 3 workshops on money, relationships and health. The money work became the seminar Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, which evolved into the book, Your Money or Your Life to reach a wider audience. The health work became a medical research project on the mind/body connection in ALS, the findings of which were published in the Archives of Neurology. Several years Joe Dominguez died in 1997 I led NRM into the work of the Conversation Cafes and the early work on the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium. After resigning from NRM, I continued my service through starting Transition Whidbey and serving on the Transition US board.
We called our work and play together “the great adventure” because we were reaching out beyond the assumptions and norms to really feel, taste, touch and be in life. This adventure lasted for 35 years and even though I now live by myself, I am part of a community of place that supports and inspires and challenges and looks out for me and I am part of many friendship and work circles that bring me joy and give my life meaning.
I believe the work of our time is to learn to live well together within the means of the earth. All our art, activist, research, writing, speaking, tending to others is now in this context as it is where humanity needs to go to continue the great adventure – together.