At Tamarack we were very privileged to have Laird Schaub a long time champion of intentional communities come visit us for a couple days in KW. During that time, we had the opportunity to join him in several conversations about the complexity of community. One that particularly stands out was on Monday evening. My colleague Rachel hosts a weekly pizza night every Monday evening where she invites friends over and makes homemade pizza followed by conversation. This Monday in particular, Laird and I joined the merry band. We also had another guest, Will Winterfeld a local community guru himself. What follows are some of the highlights from the conversation.
- Minorities often have a strong sense of community. We talked about this being because when we are surrounded by a sea of newness, we cling to that which is familiar. An example of this is when you spend extended time in another country, you immediately are drawn to and bond with people who are from the same place as you.
- A sense of mission is important in helping band a community together and helping bring focus and recenter during difficult times. A great example of this is a sports team, like soccer. Here, everyone is focusing around the idea of winning. When they are succeeding at their mission the community works really well. When they are struggling to win it can be a real stress for all involved.
- We talked about the difference between connection and deep relationship. It is easy to be connected to people, you can follow them on Facebook or wave to them in passing on the street, but that is very different than truly knowing someone. Connecting is safe, we don't need to be vulnerable or be invested. Contrastingly, to truly know someone is to know their messiness, as well. This can be difficult and painful; you risk being hurt or abandoned, but the rewards are great. The other piece of this is it is easy to be accepting of differences when we are not really that invested. But, if we are truly invested in a relationships then differences in opinions and values can really matter.
- Social skills were also brought up as paramount to a healthy community. This means strong skills in articulating thoughts and feelings so others can understand. It means being a good listener, to have the empathy to see through others' eyes. On top of this, we value the ability to take critical feedback about your ideas and behaviors. We talked about how this is essential to the health and longevity of intentional communities but it applies to any form of community.
- Busyness has been an ongoing theme throughout this campaign. It serves as a barrier from us forming the deep, strong communities that we yearn for. How can we call people from being busy to being in relationship with each other? This requires people to pay attention (live in the now and not their heads). It requires a shift from community as something you consume to something you live.
- An interesting insight that has stood out for me was that most people who form intentional communities are middle class. A spiritual tenet is also common and serves to form a common language and core value that binds the community together.
- We talked about how there seems to be a big gap between the nuclear family that society encourages and intentional communities. What is that place in-between? How can we build stronger deeper communities without going to as big of commitment as an intentional community?
- Will talked about how when he helped form an intentional community they just went and did it. Now, it seems that many of the people who are forming intentional communities are putting a lot of thought and effort into it. An example of this is the SILC group in Guelph who has spent the last year putting together a decision making and conflict resolution system. Part of this has included professional training in non-violent communication for all who are involved.
- How can we hope to shift such an entrenched culture of individualism? We decided that ultimately it comes down to the small day-to-day actions we take. Instead of focusing on changing the world, focus on changing yourself and maybe a couple people close to you. Over time, this ripples out and leads to real systemic change. We can also take solace in knowing that many other people are working on this and when we come together we can create big change.