IN HUMAN COMMUNITIES there are a number of factors that bring people together. These include intent – what you might want to achieve together such as a political party, needs, perhaps to live near water, risks, to stay safe, beliefs, your religion, resources, what you own and where you live, preferences and hobbies. There are a number of other conditions that may be present which bring people together so that they can share their common interests with one another. All these factors affect the identity of the participants in that community and their degree of cohesiveness.
Since the advent of the internet, the concept of community has also included virtual communities. Now there are no geographical limits. Prior to the internet, communities wishing to share knowledge, such as academics or social communities, were limited by the constraints of transport and communication. Ten years ago Facebook did not exist.
We are still experimenting and learning from our experiences online as part of the virtual community. Your community will mean many different things to you. Your home community might be in a large city, a small town where perhaps you have grown up and known many people or a village you have recently moved to where you take part in local activities. Or you might live in a place where you feel you are a complete stranger to other people living around you.
What makes a community a ‘sticky’ place, a place where we are regularly drawn to go back to and spend time there, perhaps because it fills some of our needs, needs that we might not have realised we have?
There are so many different kinds of communities. Professional communities, where we engage together in discussing our work, religious communities, communities of hobbyists, activists, old school-friends or university colleagues, criminals or celebrities who we hear about every day in the media. Celebrities always seem to create their own communities.
We might want to think about our identity within our community and whether a community is a place where we explore who we are? I was recently reading an excellent book Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon where he writes about parents, children and the search for identity. He explores this topic within communities such as those of deaf people, dwarfs, who frequently refer to themselves as Little People, parents of children with disabilities such as Down’s syndrome or autism, parents of prodigies, parents of children and teenagers who realise they are transgender and parents of children who are sent to prison.
There are communities we are born into and grow up in, communities we choose to leave and communities we want to join. Is a community then a safe place where we might want to explore who we are? I might not think so if I were a teenage boy born on a sink estate who felt safer joining the local gang than being attacked and ostracised?
How do we feel when we realise we no longer belong in a community? How do we feel when we begin to question what is normal for us – and for everyone else? How do we feel as an outsider? How do we feel as an insider?
How much courage does it take to leave your community? If you are a Mormon and you leave, you cannot return. How do we deal with the people in the community who we don’t especially like, or feel drawn to be with?
What makes a community a ‘sticky’ place, a place where we are regularly drawn to go back to and spend time there, perhaps because it fills some of our needs, needs that we might not have realised we have? How do we know when we are ready to move on? How does it feel to be separate and apart?
And finally, how, in the context of those of us who have chosen a path of personal and spiritual development, do we feel knowing that our views and outlook on the world are different from most of the people and systems, who and which, to a great extent, are controlling our lives?
*Some information for this article sourced from Wikipedia.