Understanding the Basic Nature of a Community
Written November 2003
Updated November 29, 2003
Community has more to do with experience than with thoughts. However articulating its nature can help us become more conscious of its dynamics. This in turn will help people be more effective in nurturing and growing it.
More than telling people about community, the intent of this paper is to get people and communities to start asking questions about their needs and interests related to community. Then rather than understanding community in the abstract, there will be more understanding of the actual community, and the desires and needs that will help shape future community.
Below are some of the major factors contributing to the basic nature of a community. The range of differences is so great, and there are so many different combinations of these differences that there are probably as many flavors of community as there are different snowflakes.
Considering these factors can help clarify a personís preferences and needs for community so they can make more effective choices and plans when considering the wide range of possibilities for community.
Consciously calling out these factors is a first step towards a community building more cohesiveness around its intentions and goals.
The factors fall into 3 areas: intimacy, relationship of the individual and community, and the level of activity.
One area has to do with intimacy. How is intimacy communicated? Through actions, touch, body language, eye contact, words, energy, or some other way?
Where is this intimacy shared and not shared? In what aspects of life is there intimacy? The intimacy could be shared differently for different aspects of life.
And finally, in any one area, how deep does the intimacy go?
The relationship of the individual and the community is significant. How much do the individuals serve the community and how devoted are they to the community? How much room is there for an individual within the community and how much autonomy do they have?
How much is the community expected to support or be a container for the individuals? How flexible are the options for roles within the community? Can some individuals have more structured roles and others less structured roles?
Is the relationship just between the individual and community, or is there contact between the rest of the personís life and the community? If there is some contact between the rest of a personís life and the community, which parts have some connection? All of them?
What is the level of activity of the community when they are together? Are they more focused on doing activities or are they more focused on being together in a certain setting or relationship?
There could be a mix of doing focuses and being focuses. Where and when are the more focused on doing and where and when are they more focused on being?
This is a very subtle question because digging a ditch can be a meditation of being. The amount of physical activity is only part of the answer. The other part is the focus. There could even be physical stillness while an intense shared session of creativity happens as the first step in a major doing project.
A way to rephrase this question is to ask what is the level of outer activity and inner activity when the group is together, and how is this different at different times and places?
The sum of these factors is an additional factor. What percentage of the members' lives is spent in a particular community?
The greater the percentage of a life spent in a specific culture, the more that culture will become the foundation for their habits and outlook on life. To significantly shift the time spent in a specific community will shift a personís foundation, which will shift how they perceive and interact with all other communities.
One of the most basic questions is to ask what is the foundation that a person or group would like to base themselves on?
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