Who doesn’t love communities? Both political parties pander to our nationalistic pride, but this isn’t even specific enough. They try to meet us on our local level, we all need to act local, it’s the local ballot initiatives that matter, etc…
Communities make up such an important part of my identity that if someone were so inclined, they could probably track me online, stalk me in real life, and crack my secret identity based on my affiliations, to varying degrees.
The radio station I volunteer my time for, Mutiny Radio, is organized as a collective. I joined meetup groups based on my interests in journalism, skepticism, psychedelics… I’ve joined book clubs, study groups, online classes and forums… My financial institution of choice is a credit union instead of a bank.
In high school I worked for a community local access station, I joined the drama club, the improv group, the newspaper, the art club, and sat in on many others. The number of writing and comedy groups I’ve been in only grew after that.
There are plenty of other ways to do this besides just reading, eating, supporting, thinking, acting and voting local:
- Move where the people are neighborly, or seriously get to know neighbors.
- Divorce (as best as possible) from corporations and credit cards, using co-ops and credit unions.
- Refuse to join faceless, soulless political parties.
- Prefer to work for non-profits.
- Eat and drink where they know your name.
I enjoy a sense of belonging, and don’t we all? But I also relish the networked, communal resources, even intangible ones like help, advice, ideas or connections. This shouldn’t be some arbitrary and impersonal affiliation like Republican or Fundamentalist Christian. And while you should explore and respect your local geography, we also know that we live in a globalizing society. Online social networking is great, but shouldn’t supplant your physical relationships, instead allow both to blend more smoothly. Just as the world and web blur the distinctions between fiction and reality (after all, society both exists and doesn’t exist).
Even Ghandi was wrong to shun relationships, to the detriment of his own family.
Communities can be close-knot and vast at the same time, so long as they are still personal and inviting. They not only offer the ego a satisfying succor of belonging, but purpose, direction, opportunities, and a wider, more worldly view of this thing called the human condition. You just have to strike a balance between being overwhelmed and underwhelmed, unfulfilled and happily fulfilling.