When we think of community, I’d imagine it’s some picture of togetherness, knowing one another and feeling engaged in the same project with similar ideas in mind (Notes One). That seems how the word’s often used: idealistic endeavours aiming to recreate what we feel we’ve lost and bring people together in the wake of tradition’s deconstruction.
This sense of people deliberately, consciously, intentionally coming together around a common cause or interest, getting to know one another along those lines, and collaborating in shared activity. Which, presumably, is how community arose: people realising they had more to gain from cooperation than would be lost in terms of individual liberty.
Now those overarching national and international communities are established, though, it seems we’re dissatisfied and seeking to reintroduce new elements. That mightn’t be quite the right reading of the situation, but something like it: feeling something’s lacking; wanting to connect, know and work together with others.
I’d imagine it’s only natural? Living alongside people you don’t know, have no connection with or way of getting to know must be psychologically stressful in some way. Historically, community seems to have been arranged so people knew where they stood; the scale and structure of it all perhaps making such a thing possible.
Looking around, it must’ve been that people could understand and relate to the people, activities and industry surrounding them. Life must’ve made sense. They could “read it”, even if they didn’t like the story (Notes Two). Because, clearly, the past’s been far from perfect and its disruption may be just the right way to unsettle and deconstruct the faulty thinking and solutions it imposed.
Despite the imperfection of it all, though, people presumably feel safer with what they know? When you look around and know who people are, where they “fit” into the social picture, and the values they’re living by. It’s a risk to trust blindly, to assume that’ll work out. But what are we to do when there’s no real way of getting to know people that way?
Community once had all these activities whereby people came into contact with one another in non-threatening ways: common spaces of interaction or celebration where people rubbed shoulders and took the edge of their isolated, individual lives. These days, it could be said we’re more isolated than humans have ever been; despite the fact we’re also more globally connected than has ever been possible.
It’s a strange predicament: knowing remote strangers better than neighbours. And it’s wonderful, in many ways, that we can unite beyond the boundaries of distance, forming these previously inconceivable bonds and communities. Modern community’s a beautiful thing; if not without its challenges (Notes Three).
Are we heightening personal affinities at the cost of immediate relationships? What does it mean – in the human sense – to not know, understand or care for people around us? And, how safe can we know ourselves to be if we don’t have the time or opportunity for genuine interest in those we share space with?
Notes and References:
Note 1: What inspires collective endeavours
Note 1: Human nature and community life
Note 1: Relating to one another
Note 1: Community as an answer
Note 2: Stories that bind us
Note 2: Where do ideas of evolution leave us?
Note 2: Reading into social realities?
Note 2: Society as an imposition?
Note 3: The insatiable desire for more
Note 3: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 3: Does being alone amplify things?
Note 3: Overwhelm and resignation
Taking this in a different direction, Detaching from the world around us talked of relating ourselves to nature & Seeing, knowing and loving talked of how our inner lives reflect that world more generally.