As a verb, not a noun
I already mentioned in an earlier post that I think we need to update our definition of community. Is a community the same as society? Does it denote a commonality? Has it evolved (maybe devolved) into merely a group of people communicating with each other? I think the answer to all of these questions is no. Certainly society is a part of community but I do not think the terms are synonyms for each other. Today our communities are a diverse mix of cultures and beliefs rather than a melting pot of common traits. I definitely believe our lack of listening, an integral part of communication, has led to the breakdown of community so no, we are not communicating with each other.
Today a group of people living in one general area might be a conglomeration of strangers who simply share the same high rise or neighborhood. It is not a community in the sense of being there to help one another or grow the area for the future. All too often we have become a group of people who simply hare the same air.
Austin Kleon is a New York Times bestselling author of three books: Steal Like an Artist; Show Your Work!; and Newspaper Blackout. Kleon’s works focus on creativity in today’s world. He has spoken at organizations such as Pixar, Google, and TEDx, and at conferences such as The Economist’s Human Potential Summit and SXSW. I think the answer to how we grow a community is best found in his blog entitled “We are verbs, not nouns.”
Kleon is not the first to use this quote which he did in his blog post of November 9th of this year. In 2010 Stephen Fry in a 2010 radio interview quotes Oscar Wilde: “Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it – that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”
Kleon quoted R. Buckminsters in his “I Seem to be a Verb”: I live on earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing – a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe.”
All of these have the key to how we create, grow, live, and sustain a community. We do it. We make it. We live it. We don’t worry about how to define the community or the people in it. I tis something we actively engage in. We live in the community by seeing all members of it and by doing for them what we would them to do for us. When we engage in the building and growing of community we learn new and dimensions of the mind and heart. We not only grow community, we grow ourselves. We become much more than a label, a noun. We become a verb, living, breathing life into everything we do.