by Candace Ross
What happened to community and why don’t we have it anymore? There are many reasons – the layout of suburbia, the disappearance of public space, the automobile and the television, the high mobility of people and jobs – and, if you trace the “why’s” a few levels down, they all implicate the money system.
More directly posed: community is nearly impossible in a highly monetized society like our own. That is because community is woven from gifts, which is ultimately why poor people often have stronger communities than rich people. If you are financially independent, then you really don’t depend on your neighbors – or indeed on any specific person – for anything.
In former times, people depended for all of life’s necessities and pleasures on people they knew personally. If you alienated the local blacksmith, brewer or doctor, there was no replacement. Your quality of life would be much lower. If you alienated your neighbors then you might not have help if you sprained your ankle during harvest season, or if your barn burnt down. Community was not an add-on to life, it was a way of life. Today with only slight exaggeration, we could say we don’t need anyone. I don’t need the farmer who grew my food – I can pay someone else to do it. I don’t need the mechanic who fixed my car. I don’t need the trucker who brought my shoes to the store. I don’t need any of the people who produced any of the things I use. I need someone to do their jobs, but not one unique individual person. They are replaceable and, by the same token, so am I.”
~ Excerpted from “Circle of Gifts” by Charles Eisenstein
Over the next year, here at the Temple we want to focus on building community, on “expanding the circle.” Take a moment to think what building community means to you.
I recently came across an ancient proverb in the Multi-cultural calendar I received from the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada. It reads:
Taking the first step with a good thought, the second step with a good word, and the third with a good deed, I entered paradise.
This sounds to me like the writer believed, as I do, that paradise is available to each of us now, today, on this Earthly plane. And it seems to me that without peace, without community, there can be no paradise.
Let’s take that first step now:
Let’s relax, take a deep breath in and release it.
Let’s begin by sending out good thoughts to everyone reading this article. See your good thoughts lovingly wrapping around each person in front of their computer.
Now send those good thoughts out to all living beings. Send out good thoughts to our precious Mother Earth. Send bright, beautiful loving thoughts up and out into the universe.
Step two is speaking good words. Let’s speak good words to and of the past.
Take a moment to go over the past year in your mind. What stands out as a particularly good event or memory? Here and now, think of it or speak of it with love and gratitude.
The third step in reaching paradise, according to the proverb, is in doing a good deed.
Take another moment to think about a way this year that you can build community, “expand the circle,” achieve paradise.
This does not have to be a large, or costly deed. It could be something as simple as walking the dog of an elderly neighbor who can no longer do it.
It could be volunteering your time or talent at a non-profit organization, teaching a child how to garden, having a regular family night with your children or grandchildren. Be creative. How can you see yourself building community this year?