GNL number 76

a report of doings at meeting #76, Sunday, September 8, 2013
including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends

INVOCATION

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.
—–Rollo May

For too long in this society we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over common community.
—–Joe Biden


THEME

Virginia kindly opened this discussion about COMMUNITY by reading the results of her research on the meaning of the word. She had found not just one but six.  When Ann asked which definition she favored, she said the last one (which was broadest and most inclusive).

Sue, who often looks up our topic words as well, continued with several quotes, commenting on each. (For which, see AFTERWORDS.) She also said she has several communities that are very important to her: Skippy, Peacemakers, her Writers group, her Storytelling group, and of course, her family. And the topic also brought back to her a mixture of memories of living in a commune a long time ago.

Ann had been reading Ellen LeConte’s Life Rules, which is in part a call to remember Earth as community, but like Sue, she also thought of communes and other utopian groups; she observed that often these groups lose the thread of working together and break down insisting on one “right way”,  but that such experiments in living together also can help people see more clearly what they do and don’t need.

We were very happy to have Adair with us again, and she had much to tell us about her new home in Maine, especially community life there, which she said is very rich. With not only wonderful volunteer projects for providing food and housing for the homeless, but adult courses like the lively, stimulating classes she’s been taking from an evolutionary biologist. Related to that she was enthusiastically reading an uplifting book about creative new scientific ideas,  Abundance—The Future is Better Than You Think, which she urges us to read. (See AW for her note with more info.)

Anna, always quick to voice gratitude for the place of trust and unjudged sharing that Skippy has been, also spoke of how our basic American community, the family, has been changing over her lifetime; for instance,  instead of the six or seven children couples commonly used to have in her day, most are choosing to have small families.

Gail first reported Cynthia’s message on our topic, that the strongest aspect of community for her was the warm memory, gratitude and satisfaction of having been part of the Natural Food and More experience (and we’d add, adventure in community-building).

Gail echoed these feelings, and then also spoke movingly of her more recent experience of support from people and groups in her community as Cliff became ill and passed away this year.  These gestures reminded her of people’s kindness and empathy, and true desire to help, and how much that meant to her; even if she couldn’t take them all up on their offers, the gestures were a huge support.

Vijaya also spoke with appreciation about the old NFM store/community center and her wish that some collective would invest in and revitalize the old location.  She remembered her own years-long effort (successful)  to turn a dark end of Cobleskill village parking into a community garden, and then spoke of another idea, for a fountain where people could throw quarters for beautifying the village (which could also water the Union Street stone garden).  We seconded the motion.

Nancy was recalling NFM fondly too, but her first thought was of the many kinds of community, from family and sangha to eco-community and planet earth. Then of Martin Luther King’s “Beloved Community” glimpsed beautifully and briefly 50 years ago at the March on Washington. Then the idea of local community-building, strong in her mind. And such community-makers as the library, local newspaper with lots of LTEs, collectives, co-ops, farmers markets, barter projects, local currency (time to revive Schoharie’s old Common Cents). And the power of media, especially online, to spread ideas. (More in AW, with quotes from Wendell Berry.)

With today’s topic it was a natural choice to send our offering to a local organization doing great work in Schoharie County — Schoharie Area Long-Term, Inc. (SALT), which is deeply involved in helping literally rebuild our community after the flood damage.


BENEDICTION

A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.  It is a never-failing spring in the desert.
—Andrew Carnegie

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
—Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac

The power of community to create health is far greater than any physician, clinic, or hospital.
—Dr. Mark Hyman


NEXT TIME

Sunday, October 20, 2013 (1030), at Louise’s house/chicken paradise.  The topic is TRAVELS — Recent/Not So, Physical, Mental. (As always, carpooling planned.)


AFTERWORDS

from Sue

  • “The community which has neither poverty nor riches will always have the noblest principles.” ~Plato
  • “The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.” ~William James
  • “Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers.” ~Howard Thurman (American Theologian, Clergyman and Activist. 1900-1981)
  • “The spiritual path is not a solo endeavor. In fact, the very notion of a self who is trying to free her/himself is a delusion. We are in it together and the company of spiritual friends helps us realize our interconnectedness.” ~Tara Brach
  • “Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives. And when that person moves away, someone else arises to take his or her place.” ~Parker Palmer
    “Without community, there is no liberation.” ~Audre Lorde

from Adair

The class has read 3 books, all valuable I feel to people who are concerned that we cannot continue to exploit the earth’s resources without causing great harm to all living things on the earth, people, animals, plants, etc.

The first book which is frightening, but very well written, is Overheated by Andrew Guzman. Anyone who reads it will be convinced we must act globally, and SOON. I found the book fascinating.

Then we read Green Metropolis by David Owen, which has lots in interesting info about how sprawl is a disaster. To some extent, he doesn’t practice what he preaches, but he makes many good points.

I then read Abundance-the Future is Better than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. This book was recommended to me by a physicist I know who felt I’m too pessimistic about the future. It addresses the many problems facing the world from climate change, over-population, water resources being depleted, etc. and then describes what scientific developments are underway to address these problems. This was my favorite of the three books.

from Nancy

A note about media: Surely there is much on public radio that encourages community too, e.g., programs based on personal testimonies, like the Moth radio hour, TED radio hour, This American Life, and others; and among print media, The Sun magazine features voices not only of earthly writers but just plain people, and YES! magazine is directly devoted to fostering community. (Sue always brings a copy of the first, and I have many of the latter to share.)

And some quotes from Wendell Berry, in The Art of the Commonplace: the Agrarian Essays:

I believe that the community — in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures — is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.

The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth.  This alignment destroys the commonwealth — that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community — and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.

In order to survive, a plurality of true communities would require (not egalitarianism and tolerance but) knowledge, an understanding of the necessity of local differences, and respect.  Respect, I think, always implies imagination — the ability to see one another, across the inevitable differences, as living souls.

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2 Comments

  1. Donna V said,

    October 4, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks! I just sent this off to a whole bunch of friends. It is a great one. I saw an interview with Wendell Berry this week on PBS. He has such down to earth things to say. I wonder where the folks in Washington live? Not in the real world. They are so embroiled in their own power struggles that they can get nothing done but to try and foil one another. All the things that they have been doing for many years is making us into a country that is impoverished, as it is explained here. I am glad to see that many states and Governors are doing programs to bring back the local governing abilities and the small businesses of the people who live there. They are trying to do it without Washington. It seems the only way these days.

    We have some good aspects of Community here in Little Falls. One is called Main Street First. It is a group of citizens who are trying to get the local government to see the possibilities for the center of this little city. We are at present getting a new store built where an awful one, thrown together, has been torn down. MSF has tried to get the locals to see the advantages of planning for the city and not just letting things happen as they will. We fought off an attempt to start a strip mall just out of town. It helps that Governor Cuomo signed a bill not to fund projects that gut little towns not too long ago. The store is late with its construction (the local floods put a kink in their plans) but we hope it will bring people back to the center of town. On Third Thursdays, we have downtown programs in the evening to introduce the people around this area to the small businesses in town. We have poetry and prose readings and music and the small stores are opened and there is a festive air in it all. I have been to two readings. They are booked through the new year. I will be in FL with the kids but hope it will continue all through the year. This is a beautiful little town in so many ways. It had a bad opinion of itself for a long time. It was an industrial city and when that went away, the people were angry and there seemed to be a split in the town. Now, some new-comers have started these projects to get things back in working order and to make the city a place where people love to be. It is working but it is a lot of hard work, sort of like trying to get a person who hates himself to love himself. We have a lot of artists coming here and in nearby towns to live. It is certainly true that it often takes an outsider to see what the possibilities are in a place. We see it with new eyes.

    Thanks for sharing! Love, DCVeeder

    • Judy Scott said,

      October 8, 2013 at 12:35 am

      To COS at-a-distance friends,

      I’ll tag on with a short note related to hope and faith (true grit, if you will).

      My husband, Frank and I assumed an appointment, U Methodist 3 pt. charge, oh-so-long ago. We promised one another, “never again would we do so sight unseen!”

      There was a post-depression slide in the air even then… Improvements since? -0- It was 1964. Frank was adamant that he’d be GONE, OUT OF THERE. An appt. was for ONE year. He’d fulfill the bargain but that’s it! We’d been told all manner of glowing opportunities. Other realities were omitted.

      That ONE YEAR somehow grew to five. People, community and needs focused our attention. So it goes, and just as well. No Regrets

      The story that came to mind after reading Donna Veeder’s, is when Holiday Season was nearing. By this time in life we had four little girls – two yet in diapers. In December a fifth baby was due. A new family located nearby attended the church. Paul, the man of the house, was a burly, sort of lumberjack type of guy. Always laughing and doing some off-the wall thing, he was not only positive in his thinking, in his vision for what might be, Paul was “do or die.”

      A man after Frank’s own heart, these two fellows were imaginative for sure.They banged in out of the snow & cold, busting with enthusiasm “We got an idea!” Did they ever!

      “Just imagine” Paul said, “A Santa Claus, really tall and big, lighted at night He can be put up every year and the town can rally round singing carols” Frank was grinning from ear to ear. “We’ll get the wood, paint & supplies. I’ll blow up a santa from a small one. It’s easy; you’ll see.”

      I’m listening, picking up on their energy. “Can you help? I’m no good at painting, and neither is he…” Paul laughed that contagious laugh of his and drew me right in.

      “Sure I’ll help… after all this baby isn’t due for 2 weeks.” Having alluded to my own reality, if I laughed too, it had to sound hollow.

      As promised, the Santa shape was laid on the study floor. The next two weeks baby and me spent a lot of time prone, painting furiously. We had a deadline.

      This remembrance is 45 years old, same as our fifth daughter. Santa stood bravely through all kinds of weather. After the passage of time poor Santa, in sad need of a makeover plus facelift, was retired to a dark, musty warehouse. About 38-40 years went by. The lone Santa was sad indeed, and an awful mess that day new owners discovered him in spite of the dark. This couple had endless ideas and questions, “what would bring life back to the town?” That Santa just might be the beginning of an answer.

      Once again Santa beckons families. Refurbished, repainted, he looks terrific. Now a certain mythical/comical marketing ploy accompanies Santa’s HO HO HO. Advertised widely as the HONEYMOON CAPITAL OF NO. NY, we’ve heard it’s the ‘coolest ever’ place to go. To the extent this old Santa restored that humble rural village I have to wonder. But this I know, there’s a renewed spirit of “CAN DO.”

      “WE CAN’T” is firmly under lock and key.

      Judy Scott


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