I realize it’s ludicrous to think that I can explore ‘community’ and “the world” in a blog. But, since a longer treatise wouldn’t be enough to do justice to these ubiquitous elements in human life, I might as well barge ahead as if I know what I’m doing.
In my relationships with ‘the world’, as in friendships, family, and activity-related groups, I manifest a need to belong and to believe that my individual existence matters. I especially appreciate relationships that allow me to feel welcomed and understood.
Some groups are based on shared interests (for instance I meet with others to write together a few times a month). The motivation for these discretionary gatherings feels different than family connections, in which intimate engagement intermingles with concern and responsibility. For many, identity is anchored in race, nationality, and religion. And for all of us, how we view the world and our relationships is conditioned by accidents of birth and the belief structures we espouse.
My image of “the world” lacks the nourishment I find in family and in gatherings with my chosen intimates, but I don’t leave home without that global image. Built up from fragments of experience, my concept of the world is too general to be engaged directly. After all, it is just built up from a collection of meanings that I assign to appearance and therefore it fails to provide the embrace of the greater wholeness for which I keep pining.
As an animal for whom meaning is so important, I keep trying to develop an image of a ‘totality’ in which my individual experiences can find a place. I am simply not built to be satisfied with incoherence or with a world in which I feel I don’t belong.
Such nests woven from meanings can’t allow me to feel embraced by a greater whole. In order to gain access to such an all-inclusive totality, I must find it in community.
Whether it’s biological proximity or an affinity of interests and values, feeling part of a community provides an arena for engagement not available elsewhere. But personal engagement with others can have its challenges. As witnessed in the saying, “Being a parent is the hardest job you’ll ever do”, community offers no guarantee that we enjoy our own company, let alone that we are welcomed within some illusive greater whole.
Nonetheless, community and ‘the world’ are both necessary–not just in order to be happy and fulfilled, but if we are to grow and learn, and, for some, to choose to go on living.
Without community, our world feels barren and unwelcoming. Without the sense that our world is leaving a place for us, life won’t reflect back to us that we have value.
Within these two ways of reaching out, we can sense that a greater wholeness embraces the constructed world and our intimate communities alike. Like dancing cloud shapes sailing across the sky; like the moon reflected in the wind-stirred surface of a lake, the steady images we form in our mind’s eye of a stable world are akin to the figures in a drama, which we can only appreciate when we enter into the dance ourselves.