Community. We talk about it quite a lot, we even long for it, but what is it?
Here is what the Random House Dictionary says:
1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually prec. by the): the business community; the community of scholars.
4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
5. Ecclesiastical. a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.
6. Ecology. an assemblage of interacting populations occupying a given area.
7. joint possession, enjoyment, liability, etc.: community of property.
8. similar character; agreement; identity: community of interests.
9. the community, the public; society: the needs of the community.
Is there an aspect of community that the dictionary missed?
I think about community and I wonder. Is community discovered or made? Do we simply find ourselves part of a community? Or can we actively make or form community? Or is community self creating or self forming. What makes something a community rather than a group or a town or a club? What is distinctive about a community? Do different sorts of community develop in different ways?
I don’t have an answer to these questions. If you do, I’d like to hear it. I have been wondering about community for a while now.What I do know is that communities are important.
The value of community was brought home to me when we moved five years ago. We left behind several communities: at church, in our neighborhood, at our children’s school, and at our work. It takes a long time -at least for me- to feel at home in new communities. Finally this year, I am feeling that I am a part of several communities in our new town.
The communities I feel most at home in and where I felt most comfortable the most quickly were the communities that required the most of me. Not surprisingly the communities I have given the most to are the most significant communities for me.
There does seem to be different kinds of community. Some are more meaningful, more important than others. Even within a particular community, different members may place a different level of value on that community.
Communities are complex. Identity and culture intimately affect communities. All communities arise from culture and all communities shape culture. Communities are shaped by the identities of their members and communities shape the identities of their members.
What is a community? How do communities work? Perhaps this community can help me think about it. This is a topic we will return to from time to time.
I’d like to know what do you think?