Community is like the layers of an onion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are at the heart of every community we connect with and the vital relationships which sustain us (and them– for community is a two way process) start with us at the heart and pass layer by layer through the connections that surround us.

I’ve always felt that self-sufficiency was an impossibility.  In the old phrase ‘no man is an island’.  Well yes nor woman neither.

We can only be sustained by community.

We tried in our little family unit to create an intentional community once upon a time.  It didn’t work out.  I believe when you look at the history of these things (the Diggers and Dreamers ‘Guide to Communal Living in Britain’ is a worthwhile and well sustained source) that intentional communities display longevity in direct proportion to the singularity of their defining / political / moral / social will.  Benedictine monks can hold it together for four hundred years.  Because they have a strong commitment to a single rule.  Communities built around denial (‘Anarchy ‘ for example) may last a fortnight.

OK that’s a bit cynical but the underlying point is well proven.  Our intentional community failed because its members didn’t have that degree of commitment to a single cause.

At which point we realised that our unintentional communities mattered more.  Vertical horizontal or circular.  The geographical community in which we live- in our case the town of Coldstream in the Scottish Borders.  The communities in which we work- which are constantly changing.  The communities of belief wisdom and expertise in which we passionately operate- permaculture, right livelihood, ethical business, education for good.

All human beings need a support mechanism- for their basic needs.  Food, shelter, clothing, friendship, love, stimulation, challenge.  It’s a very interesting exercise (and one we use on the courses we teach) to explore what we are.  Some of our needs are mutual (friendship).  Some subservient (health care when we are frail).

Good communities do not punish us when we succumb to a hierarchical need.  Good communities tolerate.  They accept difference and disagreement as a necessary part of their functionality.  They establish balancing mechanisms such as  between rich and poor, young and old, healthy and not so healthy, needy and gifted.

I rather like onions and try to grow them every year.

Graham Bell

Who would be happy to see you on his courses about building community any time


1 Comment on Community is like the layers of an onion

  1. Good points Graham,
    I have often tried to encourage people to be aware that ‘like-mindedness’ does not necessarily mean that same as the same ‘intent’. This is particulalrly relevant for community projects. In the first days the ’cause’ is consistent within the community but as ‘intent’ is explored there can some significant individual objectives and interpretations which lead to fracture down the line.

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