I’ve been reviewing (and editing heavily) my past writings about all the activities I was involved with at the community. Doing so has been source for a bit of cringing and wincing because there was so much ‘try’ in what I was writing, as well as over story telling, and over explanation. It wasn’t necessary to do, and as I edited out all the excess, I saw that the plain story was enough to share.
This has definitely been an area of realization over the past couple of years, born from my increasing understanding that I’m—we’re—always just living life. I’m not working. Not trying to accomplish something. Not doing anything serious or important. If you simply share the essentials of your story from the heart, others will derive meaning from it on their own. And if not, not. The extra spin gets in the way of truth.
As I mentioned in a previous reflection, through no design or purpose of my own, I grew to be a leader at this community with a fairly significant degree of influence. This was a result of living there for so long, being hands on with many of the members, initiating the activities I did, and just generally clicking with and loving the way of life there.
The best example I can give of this is with the sanitation day I started, which I wrote about in greater detail here. Basic idea was for the entire community on a Saturday each month to get together and clean up the compound. I especially had the children in mind. To foster community togetherness, get the children active in upkeep, and for overall cleanliness.
The day we launched was a success way beyond my expectations, and people who I thought would not be involved, got involved. I overheard comments such as, “Why haven’t we been doing this before?” The point is: starting something like this is not easy, especially without incentive (kids were promised a snack though) because people are typically resistant to change, especially in a slum area where that mindset of ‘Why should I care’ can easily be found. It would have been tricky for a native of the community, even more so for an outsider. I give this illustration just to help you understand what my role turned into.
I learned something important that day and from being in the position that I was in. How easy it is to create healthy, thriving community. All people need is a little push in the right direction from leaders who have earned trust and respect through honest, loving service.
What’s hard is creating the kind of community, if you can call it that, we’re living in today—where members are solely concerned about their individual welfare, and perhaps the welfare of a few members of their extend family; where concern for community matters is generally outsourced to paid government entities. I remember falling off my bike somewhat violently on a busy street in Santa Barbara once, and how not a single person around stopped to ask if I was OK(!). I contrast this to the outpouring of love and assistance I received the times I got ill in the leprosy community.
It’s not that people lack care, it’s the culture we’re living in that does.
We are naturally compassionate. Naturally concerned about the welfare of others. Naturally giving. Naturally moral. And we are designed to live in communities based on these kinds of altruistic values—it’s the secure and sustainable way to live. I want you caring about me as you do yourself because what happens if I get really sick and am unable to care for myself, and don’t have the advantage of a family? Why pay an insurance company to care when we have each other?
Communities can be designed to care, easily. If it’s possible in a not so well off leprosy community in a slum area of India, it’s definitely possible elsewhere.
Here’s the big opportunity I see. I think we’re finally starting to understand just how perilous the state (or lack) of our community is. The impulse then is usually to protest or try and change it, and as understandable as that is, it’s ultimately a misguided one. Those who have designed our community have proven, at least to me, that they don’t care about us so much, or about true community values—would anybody have to worry about where the next meal is coming from if they did?
Instead of trying to change our current way of life, why don’t we band together and create a totally new one? One in harmony with Nature, as well as our natural values. It wouldn’t really be that new, as it’s been practiced successfully before by our ancient ancestors.
This, to me, is the direction to head in, especially now. It’s not hard, all it takes is the courage to let go of what we’re familiar with, and the clarity to see that it just doesn't work.
I’m ready, are you?