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.
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.
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.
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.