For one thing, it’s culturally appropriate in the U.S. to live independently. For another, we haven’t had much experience living together. First there were waves of immigrants, then the westward expansion, and finally, we all got cars and went our separate ways. We don’t depend on each other like villagers in developing countries, who need each other and know it. Americans are designed for independence.
As a kid, I idolized the heroes of 50’s and 60’s television, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Batman. They were rescuers who seldom, if ever, needed rescuing themselves. I became a movie buff and was entranced by “The Seven Samurai.” A village of farmers hire some samurais to protect them from the bandits who make off with their rice harvest year after year. The samurai risk much to put an end to this injustice. One of the most interesting facets of this movie is the secret longing these samurai have for villages they could call home. Sadly, they know they will forever be outsiders, and at the end of the movie, the seven go their separate ways.
Eventually, I too, longed to belong. When I first hooked up with Bob, he taught me how to be more of a team player. We traveled, and gained a reputation for throwing in with others. In this way we honed our interdependence skills.
Ten years ago, we made the big leap and joined a group of community-minded neighbors in North Carolina. We didn’t discuss our expectations, but we liked the concept. And for some years now we refer to ourselves as an unintentional community. We’re rather proud of that. Its working, this community thing, and we’re not even trying too hard. We get together for potlucks, come to each other’s aid when asked, and do our best to get along.
Until, lately, we decide to put some intention into it. We ask ourselves, “What do we want our community to look like?” Now we were faced with a “blind men and the elephant” situation. Some of us want a deeper spiritual connection, others, more programs and facilities. We all agree we want food grown on the premises, a school for our children, and a burial ground. We take inventory and begin deploying under-used assets. We say no to nothing, all new ideas are worth manifesting. We want it all without losing our peace and quiet, and security. The children swim in the pond, we are a village of fun and parties. My head begins to spin.
I reach into my memory for insight, and find a dog story. It was my first day at dog obedience class. I’d brought a young husky bitch, a sweet dog in need of a program. When the trainer explained that we dog owners could have it any way we liked it, I remember laughing to think it could be this simple. If we wanted our dog to jump up into our arms, that’s what we would teach it to do. If we wanted a dog to pull a cart, we could have that, too. Eat out of our hand, never touch our skin with its lips, pee outside, pee in the toilet; anything was possible. All we had to do was decide.
Back to our community. I give it some thought and can’t come up with anything structural. I don’t know what I want us to look like. I think we look fine as we are. I’m getting everything I need, perhaps a little more. I decide to turn the question around. “What do I expect from my community?” The answer erupts with clarity; acceptance, respect, and support. That’s all I want, and I want it for all of us. No more, no less.
Read Part I: The Almighty We – Proximity