Our entire search for what it means to be human by incorporating the “10 C’s” of creation spirituality can be found in rediscovering and reliving community.

The one-acre Keya Wakpala Community Garden, Rosebud Indian Reservation, SD, a Food Sovereignty initiative, connects tribal members with the land, with their food, and with their past. Photo by USDA NRCS South Dakota on Flickr.

Community is natural to ourselves and to the rest of nature. The word comes from two Latin words—cum munio– that mean “to share a common task.” In community, we are co-workers committed to a shared common good, a mutual struggle to make compassion and celebration of life happen. Justice and creativity are integral to community. Cosmology/ecology names the most basic community of all.

The modern era fought for individual rights and the dignity of the individual and that is a fine achievement. But for a postmodern time, we must balance the individual with community once again, for humans are happiest where they share the most, whether the joys of life or the tragedies of life. Celebration and grief both find their deep expression in community.

Traditional harvest festival parade, Puchaczow, eastern Poland: a path to be followed over and over again, by each new, succeeding generation. Image by Trevor Butcher on Flickr.

Our ultimate moral responsibility is to pass on a world of beauty and health to communities not yet born. Our ancestors seven generations from now are the ones to judge the morality of our actions today. We should have them in mind just as we hold our ancestors in mind. For we are the ancestors of subsequent communities.

We have much to learn from the pre-modern world which emphasized community-–humans in community with other humans, and humans in community with other earth creatures.

Gateway to the Information Revolution and increasing social secularization: the Gutenberg printing press. Replica on display at Printing History Museum in Lyon, France; photo by George H. Williams, on Wikimedia Commons.

Ernest Becker sees history as “the problem of the decline of community.” He recognizes that the loss of community began

when the integral primitive communities began their inevitable breakup. It was then that daily life became more and more separated from the cover of divine meanings, from an integral pattern of myth and ritual that consecrated most of the important acts of the individual in community.

What did we lose when these myths and meanings were jettisoned?

With this breakup, man lost his firm rooting in the divine ground, his daily life became increasingly secular – which means increasingly narrow and hollow, increasingly pragmatic, increasingly autonomous. It was here that the cumulative “terror of history” began to make itself felt.

Man had lost his contact with continual natural cosmic rhythms; he ceased to be nourished in the feeling that his life was transcendentally significant; the anxious burden of ”sin” thus pervades more and more of his daily cares.

“As digital platforms increasingly become a lifeline to stay connected, Silicon Valley insiders reveal how social media is reprogramming civilization by exposing what’s hiding on the other side of your screen.” Official trailer of the award-winning documentary, uploaded to YouTube by Netflix.

One wonders if this loss of community–exacerbated by Newtonian physics which pits atom against atom in rugged individualistic competition and a certain Darwinianism that sells “survival of the fittest” – helps explain the success of fundamentalism and hate movements in our time.

Those who find their identity in “us against them” find an intense bonding among the “us.”  Such a pseudo community, buttressed by  hate radio, hate television, hate politics, and hate social media–becomes a powerful force to deal with.  They can take over a nation with a messianic fervor of Us (the Righteous) vs. Them (everyone else).

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, pp. 130-132. 

Banner Image: “Waiting for the Bus” – each immersed in a device. Photo by Melinda Young Stuart on Flickr.

Do you sense a tension today between community thinking and individual thinking in current culture?  How can that difference be bridged?  Or can it?

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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7 thoughts on “On the Breakdown of Community”

  1. Avatar

    Queries for Contemplation
    Do you sense a tension today between community thinking and individual thinking in current culture? | Yes, I have watched my beloved recovery community disintegrate this way. We used to work with a tradition that God spoke to us through the community conscience. When I talk about that today, no one seems to have any idea what it’s about or really cares. No one wants to do anything but argue with the principles that saved my life and prove that their opinion is the right one. |How can that difference be bridged? Don’t know, talking and educating hasn’t helped. | Or can it? | Maybe not. If not the joy of community is extinct.

    1. Richard E Reich

      Chuck, you mention in your comment that: “no one seems to have any idea what it’s about or really cares. No one wants to do anything but argue with the principles that saved my life”–but you are someone and it starts with you. I know that it is discouraging that things aren’t moving as quickly as we would want them to, but lets do what we can do, and encourage others to join in this work…

  2. Avatar

    Matthew, many thanks for opening our eyes to Creation Spirituality and for the time and effort you clearly put into DM. I was struck by your comment about the smoke from Californian fires reaching the East Coast. It reaches even further. The jet stream carries US industrial pollution as well as smoke and drops it on the UK and beyond. Just a thought.

  3. Avatar

    Our sense of community is not lost, but it has been severely shaken. Our political leaders seem only concerned with their own best interests rather than of the people they serve. Many corporate leaders, however, have moved forward to a greater sense of responsibility to society, more inclusiveness and equality among the own employees, and stressing the needs of their clients over those of the company.

    1. Richard E Reich

      Thank you Ron for your comment. It’s good that we are able to still see signs of life in this movement in many corporate leaders among others!

  4. Avatar

    Thank you so much for your comments. They opened my eyes to some blindness. One of the principles of my recovery is “Putting out of our minds the wrongs others have done we looked for our own mistakes.” One thing I’ve contemplated on is the definition of love explained in the book The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D. In it he says “I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” It’s been quite a task.

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