The Experience of Community

Introduction to Section One

One of the articles in Being A Planetary Villager (IC#1)
Originally published in Winter 1983 on page 7
Copyright (c)1983, 1996 by Context Institute

“With the falling of the leaves, the masks of green are stripped off the hillsides revealing the diversity and uniqueness of each ridge and valley, rock and stream, old shed and oil well hither to unseen. It is in the winter, when the hills bare their innermost selves, that we get to know them. Then in the spring, when the masks return, we can look at the hills as old friends few others understand. So it is with people. Most of the time we wear our masks. But during difficult times, during the winters of our lives, we shed the facades and reveal all the intricacies of the unique beings we are. It is in these moments that friendships are formed, and we experience one another as few ever will.”

John Walker


 

HALF of the idea behind being a planetary villager is that community is an important part of a truly satisfying, good life. There is nothing unusual about this feeling. Face to face communities – the tribe, the band, the village, the neighborhood – have been central to human life for as long as we can trace, at least hundreds of thousands of years and probably millions. In an historical sense, it is now that is unusual, for it is only since the development of industrial urban society, primarily in the 20th century, that community has become unimportant in the lives of large portions of the population. Now, in the late 20th century, as the grand promises of “ever newer, bigger, and better” are losing their shine and appeal, it is not surprising that many of us feel the need to look at what has happened, see the price we have paid, and attempt to rediscover some of the experience of community that we have lost.

Yet just what do we mean by “community”? Its standard usage, as the dictionaries define it, is broad and loose, ranging all the way from describing a group of a few friends to a whole society. For the purposes of this issue, we can narrow that scope somewhat to focus on face-to-face groups where each person has a sense of belonging to “the community”. This is still broad, including as “communities” such things as groups of friends, co- workers, neighbors, and the special case of intentional communities. In all of these cases, the people in the community see themselves as having at least some important things in common, and they know each other as at least acquaintances.

Most of the articles in this section deal with what it is like, in direct personal terms, to be part of communities of this type, ranging from traditional villages to intentional communities. The last article then looks back at history and sets the stage for considering, in the “Being A Planetary Villager” section, how community might develop in the future.

But for now, let us begin with the present.

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