"Anybody out there?"
I recently had a conversation with a few friends about community, and the question seemed to perplex us: Where is it exactly?
What do we need a community to be in order to even recognize that it exists?
I swim at a local pool each weekday, something I've done for years. I've become familiar with the routine at the pool, recognize people, know what I'm supposed to do and not do there. More than any other place, I consider the people who come and go every morning to be part of my community, but even that is a very loosely structured concept; there is one common goal of maintaining fitness, but we do not engage in each other's lives much beyond that. A lot of what I understand about my pool community has to do with choice. I choose to go swim and so do all the other people there. We find enjoyment and benefit from gathering there.
On the other hand, I also work eight-hour shifts with coworkers eight days out of 14. That's a lot of time, but I don't feel nearly as interested in defining that place as a community as I do the pool. The hours I am scheduled to work are not my choice. The work I do is defined by someone else, and rules are externally applied and enforced.
I also write and seek out writers in an attempt to form a community of sorts, although the community at this point exists almost entirely in virtual space, online. I choose to write, I enjoy it, but I do not have a physical space in which I meet other writers and write together or speak to one another casually.
So, the question comes up: Do I have a group of friends or a community?
It's very common to feel lonely, isolated and left out in modern America, which I find incredibly ironic considering our affluence, mobility and freedoms. It's my opinion that ideas that die for lack of interest represent a huge loss for us all, and they die because those with ideas have no community in which to share. In addition, the wisdom to be gained by recounting adventures and undertakings often is limited or lost because adventurers have no community that will listen to what they've learned.
My swimming friends say they go to the pool to see who's there, catch up on each other. They miss it when they're away for any length of time greater than a week or so. We know each other's strengths, weaknesses, gauge each other's progress or health. We accept whoever shows up, make room for them. People come, take part, leave. This may be as close as we modern Americans will ever be to the idealized "village" of yesteryear. But, what else do we need for it to be a community, really?
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way