The difference between the two has been rolling around in the dusty corners of my head for quite some time now. I have been a gatherer of real-life examples for about a year now. Listening deeper, reading between the lines more, asking different questions and ultimately coming home to put them in the pot and stir them around with what I gathered on previous excursions. The scent becoming more fragrant, the sauce thickening, I have become more settled in what I am seeing and sensing enough so, I am humbly offering you a small bowl of what I have been able to put together. Thank you for sitting at my table and joining me in this wonderment.
Community seems to be something that we are all striving to be part of. Something we are all wanting to ‘belong’ too. It seems that we enjoy sitting around agreeing with each other. We thrive in spaces where like minded individuals are thriving as well. We crave the time we spend with like minded individuals. It boosts our confidence, it feeds our emotional cup and ultimately gives us the strength to go out and evangelize once again. We are able to complain on social media about the injustices in systems, of large organizations and even get the nerve to stand up for something in person. We can all agree that these communities are good for humanity and that we need collective agreements for activism, for awareness and for change.
I am thinking however, that the word community is perhaps all encompassing more than it should. That it is placating and essentially numbing us into a sense of what is best. It isn’t the “united we stand” that I am questioning, but more the “sameness” and the consequence of preaching to the choir.
Stick with me here for a moment.
Communities, come together over a common goal. Mental Illness, Religion, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, etc. Wonderful really, that we can rally around each other over a common goal. But at some point, are we all not just nodding our head at each other? What inside these communities is really challenging us to think bigger, broader or perhaps differently if we are spending much of our time agreeing with each other? I will be regretfully crude (but you know how I am), it’s like we are all fluffers on a porn movie set. Priming each others ego to “get out there and perform.” While I think perhaps that may not be the intention of community, I do believe we need to take on the consideration that there is a hole in what we call community. That hole is the loss of village making.
Way back before metal birds were flying through skies, before vessels crossed seas and perhaps even before trains traversed the land, people spent most of their lives in one village. This village was compromised of a group of craftsman. A blacksmith, a bakery and why not… a candlestick maker. Each with their own job and their own way of life. They were valuable to their village because each person brought a different skill that was required for the betterment of the whole. However, the reverse was also true! Not only did the village need them, but they needed the village!
The lack of travel machines also provided the village with another valuable asset that I will call a generational wealth of knowledge. Craftsman typically passed their craft on to their children. Each child learning from all the generations before, creating not only deep expertise, but also a sense of pride and belonging. After all, a village only needed one blacksmith, one baker…and well, you get the idea. It was assumed that sons and daughters would take on the role of their parents and it was also assumed that the village would always make room for that to happen.
Fast forward to today, where we not only get to pick any job we want but we also get to have our own personal version of Jesus, of yoga, of smudging, etc. We can quickly see that the demand for personal preferences has developed so deeply that it has become more important than anything else we do. From the right to not be offended to the cereal aisle, we are bombarded by what I would so boldly call the deification of individualism.
Harsh, perhaps and let’s be honest, not always a bad thing! I like wild blueberries from Nova Scotia just as much as Madonna. I just don’t like them so much that I need to them flown over an ocean in time for breakfast. The Tsunami of choice has lead to every person being able to create their own version of perfect despite any hurdles or any offenses and I am grateful for it…mostly. But what did we lose when the individual became more important that the village?
I think we lost 3 things:
Village Making Mentality
When we were liberated from our village making ways with the ability to travel quickly and began flourishing as individuals. It was wonderful to journey through the world and see so many perspectives. It helped us develop what it meant to be an individual, we were able to bring this knowledge back to our village and tell stories about what we saw, bring it into our craftsmanship and deepen our knowledge again. However, the more we traveled and the more we stayed away, the more we felt a lack of connection. So we sought out fellow travelers who were feeling the same thing and developed what we know now as Community. And while I think Community helped ease the pain of a lost village, I cannot believe that is replaces it. A village was successful because of the diversity and Communities are successful because of commonality.
We have lost what it means to know one thing deeply. Take smudging as an example. Real estate agents are doing smudging ceremonies for their clients. I mean seriously… Smudging is a very deep tradition that is not just about making a house smell good and ridding it of evil. It’s about growing the plants, caring for them, the soil, there is ritual around when to plant and when to harvest. It’s deep and important from start to finish. There are a ton of examples of this, in fact, the rise of entrepreneurship demands us to know a little about everything. We live in a “just checking” world where no one reads and everyone knows a little bit about everything. There is no craftsmanship anymore. What would your life look like if you were to learn a craft deeply?
No one has to rely on us if we don’t want them too. We can walk away with any number of excuses. We know that the people we are letting down can always find someone else to do it. But what if disaster strikes and our village blacksmith cannot make shoes in time for the harvest? There is a ripple of consequences to that. The village comes in to help, the son steps up and puts his learnings into practice, and to my point, the blacksmith then reciprocates when it’s someone else's turn to fall short. The village swells because they need too. They are all invested and it is this investment in each other that we rarely see today.
We all see, or are part of, communities doing really wonderful things. I am not saying they need to be replaced, quite the opposite however! We need communities to thrive! But could it be that village mindedness creates better communities? I believe that if we can focus on village making the winning result could be a community with a more diverse population and with a deeper sense of what it means to be part of something.
What could village making look like for you inside your communities? Could it mean having an opposing viewpoint heard? Could it mean relying on each other for different work? Could it mean learning something deeply? There are as many options to ponder as there are minutes in a lifetime. I assure you however, that sitting down for this meal, having these ideas roll around your head and perhaps adding your own expertise to them is in fact village making.
I look forward to receiving your thoughts.