Saturday, December 10, 2005

Individuals and Their Communities

"When Freedom Is Outlawed, Only The Outlaw Will Be Free"

If there is one thing I've learned, or I should say one thing I'm learning, through half a century of struggle and disappoitment, it's the need to understand and to get to know myself. The more I view myself through the magnifying glass, the more I understand others. I'm not saying this introspection is for everybody, I just know it works for me. The more I am aware of the imparity within myself, the more aware I am of everybody's inherent good qualities as well as their nefarious side of human nature. We are all related and we all share the same good and evil, just in different proportions. But even this becomes so complicated due to indivdualistic definitions and understandings of good and evil. What is good for one, can be evil for another. What I think is a natural law of goodness, in all probabilities, will be nothing more than the message of the beast for someone else! It's just one of the problems that comes with the human's evolution of "reason" and the need for a belief in a supernatural power or Creator I suppose.

Introspection can be a very depressing endeavor to say the least and it can leave one with a feeling of emptiness, segregation, and unfulfillment. This is why individuals require a community in my opinion. Without interaction within a group, the individual's intellectual growth is stifled, and their ability to learn is severely hampered. I don't think any of us cherish seeing ourselves in a bad light, and I believe there is a need in human beings to be accepted, and to be thought of in a good light. This acceptance from other human beings is important within the context of community in my opinion. But we can't let the fear of disapproval keep us from sharing our ideas, feelings, or thoughts. We must overcome the prisoner's dilema and evolve a new era of cooperation. If we don't contribute our thoughts and ideas, how will we ever find our niche within the scheme of things? How will we find that certain community in which we seem to fit through shared ideals? And how will we build the society that we know to be equal and just?

I put these words down on an electronic page for all to critique. Some think of me as dumber than a rock, some think I make some good points, some think I should have stayed in the 60's, and some think I need some Thorazine and at least six months under supervision! :) I put down whatever I'm feeling moved to say at the time. Nothing systematic or outlined by no means. I just let it hit me and try to voice the way I see it. I use points of views of others that I happen to agree with, at least partially, and I throw thoughts down of my own. I find it is extremely helpful to me to get these thoughts down, otherwise they are lost in the dark corners of my mind, possibly never to return! By writing them down and attempting to make some kind of sense out of them, I help myself learn. And I've been told plenty of times that I need all the learnin' I can get! So I know I have a tendency to rant on and I apologize if it get's boring, (as it even does for me at times)but please remember, as I'm ranting, I'm learning. The important part is that we get our thoughts out there for all of us to ponder and discuss. It's our watch and I know we can do it better than it has been done throughout history because I believe in the human spirit's ability. I believe in your ability!

I know how strained all of us are when it comes to "time". I personally have been blessed with an injury which has allowed me to explore the world of written expression more than any other time within my "work dictated" life! I found the MfD community which ignited a need to research and write. I can't explain it, other than the examples I was given by the contributors themselves and the supportive nature of the community inspired me to do something. I thank them from the bottom of my heart and mind! I even started on this blog journey, mainly because I felt I was taking up entirely too many bites on MfD's community space. I've been assured I'm not but a lot of what I write hasn't anything to do with work related issues, at least not in a direct sense anyway, and at times it seems my posts have annoyed some, for whatever reason. Sorry, and I guess to a certain extent my motives are selfish I suppose, as I have to take advantage of this time in my life when I actually have some time to do the "work" I want to do! I urge everybody to write down their thoughts, even if it's just on a notepad. Your ideas and thoughts are required and I for one want to hear them! You know the "spokes within the wheel support the hub theory"?

All that said, here is where community comes in. What exactly determines what the definition of a community is? Is community a place or a state of mind? Wikipedia describes community as, " an amalgamation of living things that share an enviroment. The individual living beings can be plant or animal; any species; any size. What characterizes a community is sharing interaction in many ways. In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs and a multitude of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the degree of adhesion within the mixture, but the definitive driver of community is that all individual subjects in the mix have something in common."

Communities of the past have merely shared a physical space, but with the advent of the internet has come new definitions to include shared attutudinal landscapes. I don't see any set recipe for a successful community unless it's the willingness of the participants within the community, to actively contribute and discuss shared issues. I don't see visual graphics, and snazzy aluring pages as important in a community's success but rather I believe the content which flows from the individuals who comprise the community to be the most important growth hormone. The way I see it, when a community's vision and the defintion of what "work" should be are inseparable, the community will thrive. In other words, when the community has purpose, and when it is visionary through the participant's creative imagination, the "work" required in support of the community will no longer be "work" as it is usually defined, but it will be an venue for "new thought" to transcend the old worn out labels, and bust out of the predesigned boxes we have been thrust into.

The old limitations of communities have been overcome with the use of the web and what will the end result be? I wish I knew, but I do know I'm thankful to live in these times and to take a part in our future, however imperceptible my part really is. Even virtual communities are expanding on the old forms of the physical and utilizing their shared interests. Such is the case of the Poor Clare Sisters, who have been around since the 13th Century and their shared love of God and their willingness to explore the internet is carrying them on into the millenium. Or take one of the oldest internet communities around, The Well, which has been around for twenty years and claims to have been the community that coined the phrase "virtual community.
The remarkable people who frequent this place include all kinds of artists, programmers, journalists, educators, activists and others who make a point of returning frequently to engage in discussion, swap information, express their convictions and greet their friends in the famous online forums known as Conferences.


And lastly, here is a look at another kind of community. The Farm has been around since the 60's and is a good example of a physcial communal community where the eople were encouraged to make a commitment to the kind of "work" they had a desire to do.

From a personal experience, the Farm was about justice, sincerity, honesty, humanity, and peace. The Farm taught me to rethink the status quo, question authority, and stand up for what is right. The values of our culture -- greed, and other self serving ideologies are less important to me. The Farm not only gave me a whole different set of values to continually strive toward, but made me who I am today. I now realize that the Farm values have been with me all along and that I have not in fact lead two separate lives.

Here we have three different communities which can't be confused with one another, but they all are related by the participant's commitment to a purpose based on a mutual cooperation of like-minded individuals who believe in what they are doing. These communities believe that what they are doing, that what they are accomplishing, is making a difference in our future. This is what makes a community live and this is what makes it grow in my humble opinion!

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