January 8, 2006

Sunday, January 8, 2005
Postings on Wednesdays and weekends

Longing for "Community"...

Some time ago I took an American literature course during which the professor asked us to define "community." Our answers were probably similar to what you'd say... "physical area with its own government" ... people who live near each other and have similar values"... "a sense of place and people where you belong"... How would you define "community?"

It turned out that that professor's definition of community was a concept none of us had remotely considered: "Community," he said, "is shared memories." Shared memories. Yes, that fits.

A town becomes a community when it faces a common crisis nd those memories tie that town's people together forever. Or it may be a more fleeting shared experience, a small child's antics that bring a uniting glance and smile to the surrouding adults. Or it may be the myriad small memories that bond a family instead of just tieing it together.

Shared memories, in a larger sense, are also a basic thread of our communications, our efforts to build a sense of community with others. (It is no coincidence that the two words share a common root.) Isn't it shared memories, common ground, we seek when we meet someone new? We all have our own repertoire, but it usually goes something like this:

"You new around here? "
"Yes, we've just moved up from Massachusetts."
"Oh, whereabouts in Massachusetts?"
"Great Barrington, out by Worcester. It's a small town, you probably never heard of it."
"Wow, you're kidding! I had a friend in college whose roomate was from there. Did you know a family by the name of Derosiers? Lived near the high school, I think."

And so on though those six degrees of separation, those commonalities that connect us, each and all. We seek a commonality of time, of place, of background, some reference point, some shared memory so that we can connect to another, feel a sense of community.

(And in a more universal sense, Christian churches throughout the world and the ages have celebrated Communion (same root word!), and isn't that a sacremental shared memory?)

We all need to belong and we need to offer that sense of belonging to others as well. How? How can we find, and offer, that sense of community? Make meories, share memories, treasure memories, and reinforce memories, in our personal lives and in the greater world. And just how to do that?

Well, I hope you'll let me know what you think about this, and next week we'll look at some how-to's. By the way, to leave comments on this blog, just click on the comments at the bottom and write away. You do NOT have to be a blogger, you do NOT have to register, you do NOT have to leave your name, but I'd love to hear from you!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now you've really got me thinking.