Thursday, February 15, 2007


Some say that it takes a village to raise a child. I agree with more. I say it takes a village to raise a child, save a marriage, build a life, and find salvation.

It takes a village to simply live.

Community, or a village, is what we all need around us. During Christmas and summer BBQs, we know that community-family and loved ones- are important. But the hundreds of days in between holidays often leave us lonely, desperate for understanding, and hungry for connection.

There is only so much you can blame on media – everything is about getting ahead and getting your own. There is only so much you can blame on society – North Americans are all about individuality. And there is only so much you can blame on history – This country was founded on freedom to do what you want. There are trends and articles explaining current phenomenons. Generation Xers are more nomadic and rootless because of their restlessness. Caregivers need more time for themselves. Traveling alone is therapeutic. All true things, but we often tend to think that the once in a while get-togethers can sustain us for the in the meanwhile. In other words, living independently, even with a roommate, is what is best with a few occasions of getting together with good friends.

I lived in intentional communities before. Intentional community living is the microcosm of life. It is work, damn hard work. Community members come in many different shapes, sizes, mental states, and prejudices. They demand time and attention, with little immediate reward. It grinded on my nerves and I feared losing my identity because I thought I would be swallowed into a vast whole of groupiness.

There are two ways to be comfortable in this world. The softer of the two is being able to buy your comfort and assuring that no encounters with hindrance or discomfort. The other is the unfortunately difficult way that most of us need to learn: to be self-knowing. Not self-assured. Not self-confident, but self-knowing. Knowing oneself, I believe, is one of the most underrated values for living. One can be educated, have job skills, and multiple relationships of intimacy, but without self-knowledge, one is always in danger of losing identity in a group. This fear of being swallowed, of losing one’s identity, or wanting self-identity more than self-knowledge is what propels us to steer clear of village life, of immersing ourselves in community. We believe that finding our own path is a path that is uniquely made for us; one set of feet allowed.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a human need for distinction and there is a necessary time to carve out our own beliefs and ideologies about our own existence. But relationships, village, community; this is what life is about – others. I think we lose that when we pursue ourselves in a circular race and find we’re only chasing ourselves.

Living in community means taking time that we ordinarily would spend on ourselves and spend it with another human. In today’s world, that request is a red flag to the ever popular self-check-in question of, “What are you doing for yourself these days?” I think the more appropriate question is, “What are you NOT doing for yourself these days?”

Everything we do – our jobs, our self-seeking hobbies and endeavors, even some of our relationships are framed around ensuring our own comfort, our own happiness, our own individual lives. When we spend the majority of our time tending to people who do not directly impact our own communities, we are often deluded into thinking we are not spending time for ourselves. In reality, if we invested that amount of time into the people in our community, we would be able to see this is very much like investing in ourselves. Time invested into a community is an investment in ourselves. Making yourself known, how your life is changing, how your perspectives are shifting on a normal and consistent basis is a necessity. At Christmas, we send updates on what we accomplished, where we visited, awards we won, and milestones we reached. From those bullets, could you answer how the bumpy the train ride was to New York? Or how I lost my wallet in the park? Did you know about the argument that grew with my co-worker that forced me to leave my job that ultimately led me to my dream job? Probably not. We hear and focus on December, the end result, how things ended up. Did it end happily? Sure. Oh, good to know. Good to know. Will you try again. Not sure. Oh Ok, we’ll see. Yeah, keep me updated.. But the meat, the middle meat, the details of how one got there, the wrinkles before the decision are often left unshared, and left in the peripheral, at best.

What often happens is that what we do not share with others is what is often left unattended. There is only so much you can cultivate in your own mind without the replenishing rain of other’s opinions. We spend more time building ourselves up so we can stand our ground in an argument. We love to spread ourselves thin and busy so we can feel productive and then collapse into evenings wondering why we feel so scattered and distant from others. The days of lives accumulate. It accumulates to feeling like we do not exist or even matter.

Communities exist not to block the pain of suffering or protect against the daily agonies that strengthen our lives. Communities exist to shield ourselves against ourselves. Communities are there to tell you to ease up on yourself, to make common what you think is a uniquely designed punishment from God, and to expand parties into festivals. Communities protect against selfishness, thinking that my life only about my life. Communities protect against imploding from the guilt I accumulate over the years over what I should have done better or known. They intervene to put up road signs when we’re going down a path of negligence and self-absorption. We are reminded that we are a part of something larger and therefore have responsibilities to something larger than our egos and self-righteousness. Embarrassment diffuses quicker, risks are more holistically evaluated, and consideration extends beyond our own skin.

Communities are never binding or threatening. They can be dreaded and even resented, but they are never stealing. They require and give and ask and take. But the result, the awe of connection and sharing life instead of sharing information is an unfolding gift that cannot be appreciated or loved fully because of its massiveness.

To seek a village is not enough. It must be built, sustained, and raised before it can raise a child, save a marriage, or deliver salvation.

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