University

10/28/2010

In crisis there is opportunity - for community

It’s not as bad as you think.

I know what the news says:  stagnant economy?  Check.  Millions unemployed?  Check.  Juvenile election that ignores critical issues?  Check.  I know – and it’s terrible. 

But in the midst of all this there are increasing reports that communities and individuals are coming up with ways to live better lives in the shadow of the crumbling rat race. 

 There’s something truly amazing that happening right now in this country.  Surviving in spite of loss, some are coming together in the spirit of community – and discovering personal growth.

 How do we find personal growth in the midst of crisis?  There are many ways, but I suggest four steps, which center around a deeper engagement with one’s interiority and a more active engagement in building community: 

  • Seek to reconnect with self
  • Understand the interconnection between self and others
  • Reconnect with others to build community
  • Live a little more

On a very practical level, suggestions for each of these approaches can be found in a recent article in a YES magazine feature on  “51 Ways to Spark a Commons Revolution: What you can do alone and with others to share life” by Jay Walljasper.

 

Seek to reconnect with self

There are so many ways to do this, but what important is to understand that we are more than just our minds. There is the mind, body and spirit. All the money in the world cannot buy you a connection to self.

Some of the suggestions in the Walljasper article include:  take a hike. Breath. Savor the precious food that you have. As trite as this may sound, gratitude is a powerful force against depression, anxiety and pain.

 

Understand the interconnection between self and others

As LIOS Graduate School faculty member Diane Schachter has noted, too often we are convinced that social problems are our own personal problems, and they must be suffered, confronted, and solved alone.  In this time of crisis that is a myth we much challenge.

Being stuck in the “I” mode inherently separates us from benefiting from each other’s help and guidance. You may be surprised to find out in a conversation with a neighbor or friend that you share some of the same worries about your life. Knowing that others can not only sympathize but can empathize may be one of the best medicines of the time.

A few suggestions from the article include: don’t be afraid to ask for help, and remember that security and satisfaction comes more easily from friends than from money.

 

Reconnect with other to build community

For decades our ever growing nation has been obsessed with the idea of individual space.  We have more of it than ever now:  extended families are often cut off from neighborhoods, nuclear families are often cut off from extended families, and individuals often cut off from even their nuclear families. We have gone from a rich tapestry of interconnected space to private and personal space:  we are alone. 

We have discovered, after all this time, that we’re sadder for it.  Honestly, that’s all right:  it’s not sustainable anyway.

Adopting an "it takes a village" vision of our world can help us to reshape how we live in our neighborhoods.

A few suggestions from the article are to get out of the house and get to know your neighborhood, share food with others at potlucks, and smile or greet others when you pass them. 

 

Live a little more

Take time to enjoy your community. Netflix is great but so is the library – and it’s free.  That wonderful art school by your local elementary school will give you a glimpse into the beauty of our future. Take the time to enjoy the art shows and local music scene and you may be surprised to see that there is life outside of the house. Walljasper quoted Brazilian educator Paulo Freire “We are bigger than our schedules”

….most importantly have fun, really…have fun.

Freire is right:  we are bigger than our schedules. Knowing that we are part of a community may be just what we need in order to deal with the troubles of a broken economy. Having a little less financially may bring us closer together in the long run. It may present us with an opportunity to harvest a new way of living that is more sustainable in the long run. 

 

- Makenna Berry

Posted at 08:02 AM in

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