A verb, not a Noun

As a verb, not a noun

2018.11.20

Growing Community

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.

I – not in team but in community

“I” – absent in TEAM; present in COMMUNITY

2018.11.15-17

Growing Community

 

Many of the rules for living in a community are faith-based so this post (which is being posted late due to illness – my apologies) is combining the week’s wrap-up and thoughts about faith.  This blog is spiritually based but can someone live and grow a community without spiritual or faith-based doctrines?  For the large number (and growing daily) of atheists in the world, the answer is a resounding “YES!”

 

In the Bible, the title of chapter 5 of 1 Timothy is “Rules for Living with Others”.  The chapter goes like this:  “Do not speak angrily to an older man, but plead with him as if he were your father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, and younger women like sisters; always treat them in a pure way.  Take care of widows who are truly widows, but if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to do their duty to their own family and to repay their parents or grandparents. That pleases God. The true widow, who is all alone, puts her hope in God and continues to pray night and day for God’s help; but the widow who uses her life to please herself is really dead while she is alive. Tell the believers to do these things so that no one can criticize them.”  This passage from Timothy sounds like great advice but then it gets very specific about younger widows, giving extra honors to church leaders, and to criticize those who sin.  Suddenly this does not sound very loving but rather quite dictatorial.

 

I get the general drift of this passage and it sound advice.  Basically, we are to care for those who are alone, immature, or destitute.  The purpose of living is to care for others and put them first.  This goes along with the age-old axiom:  “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM.”  Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all times and certainly a practicing expert in the field of teamwork once said “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

 

It is true that there is no “I” in the word team but… there is in the word “community”.  So how do we recognize our own needs and reconcile them with practicing teamwork in our community?  This past week there was a great need in the USA for teamwork as the aftermath of a synagogue mass killing, the murder of two at a grocery store and wild fires seem to eat away at our piece of mind and our communities.  A community of faith was attacked because of their faith.  Two were killed in what was considered a racist act.  Nature and most likely human error has resulted in the devastation of hundreds of thousands of acres, entire towns reduced to ash, animals and human life lost.  In the light of such, it is hard to keep one’s faith.

 

Can a community exist without faith?  Frank Zindler, past president and current board member of American Atheists, when confronted with the question “Can an atheist commit a crime?” responded: “Absolutely not!  The behavior of Atheists is subject to the same rules of sociology, psychology, and neurophysiology that govern the behavior of all members of our species, religionists included. Moreover, despite protestations to the contrary, we may assert as a general rule that when religionists practice ethical behavior, it isn’t really due to their fear of hell-fire and damnation, nor is it due to their hopes of heaven. Ethical behavior – regardless of who the practitioner may be – results always from the same causes and is regulated by the same forces, and has nothing to do with the presence or absence of religious belief.”

 

Zindler speaks of the principle of “enlightened self-interest” as an excellent first approximation to an ethical principle which is both consistent with what we know of human nature and is relevant to the problems of life in a complex society.  Mankind is a social animal and whatever is good for the larger tribe is most often good for the individual.  Zindler feels atheists do not need the added emphasis of a list of ten rules to realize this.  He makes valid arguments and uses the science of botany and analogy to make valid points and yet … At the end of the day, very few lions share their meals with stranded fawn. 

 

The “I” in community is vital when we recognize our assets to the community.  Right now, people donating by text on their telephones are spending less than they might at a coffeehouse.  It might seem like a pittance but when combines, that ten dollars (USD) becomes the beginning of a new life for thousands.  Whether you donate because of your faith or because you realize that one day you might be the one in need really has little importance.  We act as a team and build a community together.  Helen Keller, a woman once thought of as being unable to do anything at all grew up to show the world what not only she could do as a world traveler and motivational speaker but also what each of us has the potential to do:  “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Figgy Pudding

Figgy Pudding

2018.11.15

Growing Community

 

In one week those living in the USA will celebrate Thanksgiving Day.  It will also be the official start of the holiday (i.e., Christmas) season.  In reality, though, the holiday shopping season began in mid-July as stores put out decorations and crafts ideas for gifts to be made.  Many people have been griping about seeing peppermint canes and holly wreaths while shopping for swimsuits or pumpkins but I am one of those who delights in seeing the Christmas cheer on display, even when the temperatures are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

As we become fully entrenched in the holiday season, carols will be played and one of the more popular ones has a verse that implores…”So bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding and put it right here.”  Savory puddings are less well known than their sweet counterparts but savory puddings like figgy pudding are actually not only older but why the community of mankind survived the ages.  The modern usage of the word pudding id used to denote primarily desserts however the word pudding is believed to come from the French “boudin”, originally from the Latin “botellus”, meaning “small sausage”, referring to encased meats.  The meats were encased in animal intestines to preserve them; such preservation meant the meats could be kept longer and thus provided sustenance during hard times or when one could not go hunting. 

 

The first record of plum or figgy pudding dates back to the fifteenth century when records indicate a plum pottage or mash was served at the beginning of the meal.  Plum was a generic term used to indicate any dried fruit and the fruits were combined with meat and root vegetables.  Commonly dried fruit of the period were raisins, currants, and prunes.  By the end of the sixteenth century, dried fruit was more plentiful and the plum or figgy pudding became more sweet than savory.  Pudding cloths became popular as the concoction would be wrapped in the cloth and no longer needed to depend on animal fat to hold together.  It is most likely that such is the early beginnings of dishes like the Scottish haggis and Pennsylvania Dutch hog maw – both savory casseroles prepared in either intestines or the lining from a pig’ stomach.

 

In 1647 the figgy pudding was so closely associated with the Christmas holidays that Prime Minister Oliver Cromwell had it banned.  The Puritanical Cromwell felt such harkened back to the Druids, paganism, and idolatry.  In 1660 when the English monarchy was restored, so were the traditions of Yule logs, nativity scenes,, Christmas carols, and the figgy pudding.  The Victorian era saw the figgy pudding achieve a position of prominence, thanks in no small part to Charles Dickens.  The first Christmas savings clubs were created to help poor housewives save for the figgy or Christmas pudding ingredients.  In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the last Sunday before the Advent season contained a prayer that began “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people” and became known as “Stir-Up Sunday”.  Family members would take turn stirring the Christmas pudding which was then wrapped and boiled and set aside to mature until Christmas Day.  By the nineteenth century the traditional figgy pudding had become more of what we today call fruitcake, a mixture of brown sugar, raisins, currants, candied fruit, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, suet, and alcohol.

 

The Victorian citizens, the Christmas pudding was an analogy for their world view.  The British Empire consisted of savory bits from distant colonies all bound together by a settled atmosphere of All that was considered to be English.  One advantage of the Christmas pudding was the time it took to season and cure as well as the lengthy time it lasted.  This meant that soldiers deployed in far-off lands could enjoy this taste of home even if it took almost a year to receive it. 

 

I don’t mind the appearance of Christmas in July simply because I think it is always time to spread Christmas cheer.  Sadly, too often today our Christmas puddings are made in molds rather than the more organic shapes of the past.  While I admire the beauty of such molds, I do wonder if they serve to divide us instead of bringing us together.  We grow a community with the sharing of Christmas cheer and yet, if we expect that community to be perfect or everyone to fit in a mold, then we are self-defeating.

 

In growing a community we need to stir-up our diversities and celebrate our common denominators in solidifying our future.  The 1848 satirical cartoon once entitled “John Bull Showing the Foreign Powers How to Make a Constitutional Plum Pudding” seems sadly appropriate for our

modern times.  The cartoon illustration revealed a person preparing to carve a bulging, holly-adorned pudding labeled “Liberty of the Press”, “Trial by Jury”, “Common Sense”, and “Order”. 

 

Stir up, good people, the wills of your faith, so that they will bring forth the fruit of good works and therefore richly reward us all.   When we grow community we help ourselves to hear the call of goodness and practice such service as will benefit us all.  Whatever the weather or season, we need some figgy pudding, that combination of different things brought together for preservation and continuance of us all.

 

 

Needing Others

Needing Others

2018.11.12

Growing Community

 

“A proper community, we should remember also, is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members — among them the need to need one another.”  When Wendell Berry spoke these words, he said quite a great deal that most of our politicians have forgotten.  After all, their job is to grow a better community for their constituency, whether it is one hundred, one million, or more.

 

When we forget to need one another, we do a series of things.  First, we proclaim ourselves God (insert Allah, G-d, Buddha, or whatever.  We are saying that we do not need anything or anyone else and, my friends, that is simply not true.  John Donne spoke the truth when he said “No man is an island.  No man stands alone.”  There are countless of thousands living “off grid” and yet, they needed something that someone else made, created, or devised in order to do so. 

 

Taylor Brorby wrote in 2012 “We all stumble… I am not naive to tell you it will work out, but it just might, and if you have a community to support you, it ensures that someone is there to catch you if you stumble.”  He also mentioned author Ray Bradbury’s two favorite words – zest and gusto.  “These words are not only fun to say, but encourage us to move, to experience, to acknowledge that life may be difficult — especially if you’re having a crisis — and they also encourage us to move through those emotions to experience life in a new way, to seize and embrace it.”  In explaining Bradbury’s words, Brorby encouraged us to find our community. 

 

In 2005 Dr. Art Lindsley, a Senior Fellow with the CS Lewis Institute wrote an essay based upon a passage from Hebrews:   “…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…. “.  Found in Hebrews chapter 10 verse 24-25, this summarizes one definition and the need for community. 

 

Lindsley continued:  “Although we can gain the power to love others by our times alone with the Lord, that love is never expressed or stimulated except by being with other people. The Greek word for stimulate (paroxysmos) is sometimes used in English: paroxysm. It means “provoke,” “irritate,” “exasperate,” or “stir-up.” It is a word that communicates intense emotion and is almost always used in a negative fashion. For instance, when the Apostle Paul sees the city of Athens “full of” (under) idols (Acts 17:16), his spirit is deeply moved or “provoked” within him. This seems to be a powerful negative reaction to the idolatry that he saw all around him (Acts 17:16). It is because Paul saw the idolatry that he was moved (provoked) as he was, and thus spoke as he did. But in our context, Hebrews 10:19-25, a positive meaning is demanded. The context of the community stimulates—provokes—love and good deeds by all kinds of means. Without community (the church), love and good deeds are not provoked or stimulated. Love is in fact impossible in isolation. Love demands another: God or our brothers and sisters.”

 

CS Lewis spoke about the need for community.  He called it “a vast need”.  The Greek word for assembling together is “episynagoge” and it means “in addition to”.  Community is in addition to ourselves and it is a vital need that we all have.  Mankind is a social animal and when we are isolated, either by choice or by discrimination, we are only half-way functioning. 

 

No one lives a perfect life.  We have stumble, fall flat on our faces, get lost, and fall apart.  I remember hearing a mountain climber discuss his ascent to the highest peak.  “I lost count of how many times I fell and started,” he remarked.  “What I will always remember is the support I had reaching the summit.”  His community kept him going, kept his dream alive, and gave him strength.

 

Community gives us strength.  It affords us the chance to fail and then learn from our failings.  When we insist on our community only being comprised of perfect people, then we have set ourselves up to be unsuccessful.  Diversity is the blood-force that keeps life going.  Our communities need diversity if they are to flourish and we need communities to succeed.  We need communities to give us a chance to live and thrive, prosper and grow.

It Happened This week

It Happened This Week

2018.11.09

Growing Community

 

This week is ending as so many in the United States of America have all too often – with families grieving and communities reeling from yet another incident of multiple victims from one incident of gunfire.  A gunman opened fire on a crowd inside Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif.  On Wednesday, Nov 7th twelve people were killed and another eighteen injured, and the gunman is reportedly dead.  One of the dead was a responding law enforcement official.  The man suspected of killing 12 people in a bar in a Los Angeles suburb was a decorated Marine Corp machine gunner deployed in Afghanistan who had several prior brushes with law enforcement.  He was also the grandson of a thirty-year Navy Commander veteran.

 

Countries need to defend themselves and young men and women often gain maturity and skills when doing so.  Sadly, though, some are taught those skills without being able to cope with such knowledge.  War is often a catalyst for mental anguish and we need to include such screening in the curriculum of all who serve.  We also need to offer more assistance to those returning from war zones.

 

With such carnage it is easy to forget the positive things that also occurred this week.  In lieu of the upcoming holiday season, toy drives and in full swing and many are donating for the less fortunate.  In areas where winter is fast approaching, clothing drives are also being conducted.  It is a great time to donate both your time and energy to help someone else.

 

In Boston this week a conference was held regarding how cancer research can be adapted for maximum clinical impact.  A chemotherapy symposium was also held with new innovative cancer therapies being unveiled.  Various educational conferences were held this week.  Some were for the traditional educator but others offered education in specific careers.  The American Resort Development Association hosted its Fall Conference in Washington, DC.  Ongoing until the end of today, it offers industry professionals educational and networking opportunities each year through its Annual Convention and Exposition with attendees, educational sessions, and expo hall booths.

 

This week is Law Justice and Development Week, a platform to explore the link between rights and protection to economically empower disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals and groups, identify the role multilateral institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector may play in advancing rights and protection, and examine how upholding rights and protection may affect development outcomes, especially in fragile contexts, and how such approach may contribute to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity with a focus on the impact for refugees.  These are topics which have been around since the beginning of mankind and we definitely need to continue our work in developing and resolving such issues.

 

What all of these things, even the tragedy in California with the mass shooting, have in common is that there are part of what is required in growing a community.  We will never know everything and these conferences, varied as they are, focus on growing a better world for everyone.  Community refers to all of us and when we respect the rights and needs of the individuals within said community, then we are making progress.

 

Elections were also held this week in the USA and the biggest challenge now is to act, to take those votes and turn them into forward momentum that benefits everyone.  It is not about power but progress.  We construct a better tomorrow by living in communion with our neighbors – those across the street and those halfway around the world.  This week had more than its share of grief but there was positive effort displayed.  That is the takeaway from this and every week.  “And when I die, and when I’m dead and gone; there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on.”  We best honor those who died this week by living tomorrow and making it better.

Growing a New Day

Growing a New Day

2018.11.07-8

Growing Community

 

As I often do, before beginning this series I did some research into the word “community”.  The dictionary is the best starting point and yet, in this case, I found it outdated – and I researched ten different dictionaries.  Perhaps that is one reason we are, in the 21st century, having such a difficult time growing community.  We haven’t updated our definition of the word to fit the world in which we now reside.

 

One can debate the pros and cons of social media from sunrise to sunset but only a fool would try to deny its existence.  Someone wanting to know the business hours of a retail, medical, or even religious facility no longer opens the telephone directory or newspaper to locate such.  Today the Internet is the place to find answers and information.  Any business or organization that fails to have on online presence is effectively operating in the dark with no way for its audience to find it.

 

The most common definition I found for the word community was “a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often has a common cultural and historical heritage.”  The problem with this outdated definition is that today a community is more likely composed of members with difference cultural and historical heritage and most definitely multiples religious and spiritual beliefs.  In the 21st century, our neighborhoods are not just around the block but also online.  That one fact has expanded each person’s community to include people from other cultures, ethnic heritages, and, most importantly, varied life experiences. 

 

As we seek to grow our community, we have to be open to differing opinions, ways of operating, varied clothing.  We no longer have communities where everyone eats the same thing on Tuesday nights or prepares chicken soup exactly the same way.  As our personal space has decreased with the increase in the human population on this planet, our ability to learn and experience different cultures has increased.  With three quick clicks of a computer mouse or keystroke, one has access to multiple ways of cooking meatloaf or a meatless loaf.

 

There are funerals every day on this planet and yet, the one funeral we all need to attend we haven’t.  We need to bury yesterday and let the “status quo” rest in peace.  Today is a new day and we need to embrace it, not fear it.  Change is inevitable as is evolution.  Despite what certain pundits would have you believe, evolution is not a nasty word.  It means growth – nothing more.  Our sense of community needs to evolve as well.

 

A popular advertisement likes to claim it is not genetically modified and yet, its main ingredient, wheat, has been genetically modified by Mother Nature and mankind throughout the history of agriculture.  The origin of wheat is traced by archaeological evidence to 15,000 BCE from the regions we today call Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Armenia, and Iraq – an area better known as the Fertile Crescent.  This area experienced great climate change with various Ice Ages and vegetation normally used for food became scarce.  Those living in the area had to seek the seeds from the plants growing in higher elevation, plants previously considered weeds.  Once gathered, these seeds were cultivated and became a basic food source which later figured prominently in many religious ceremonies and beliefs.  The seeds had to adapt to a different growing environment and mankind learned various uses for them.  From a staple grain cereal to the basis for liquid refreshment, wheat has gone from being a weed to a prominent role in the diet of the human race.

 

The ballots are being tallied and after Tuesday’s vote in the USA, a picture is beginning to form as to what new day will be the face of tomorrow.  Some will lament over what was not accomplished while others will spend their time bragging.  Neither will be productive, though, unless it leads to growth.  Change is how the world and each of us in it prepare for tomorrow.  We grow, we increase our knowledge, skills, and abilities, we provide for the future by our evolution. 

 

Community is perhaps best defined as “relationship”.  When we are in community, we have acknowledged a rapport with each other.  We accept we are in many ways connected and are, at the same time, different.  We are linked by our presence on this planet and perhaps by species but more importantly, we acknowledge and value each other, creating a liaison that will link to a brighter and more productive future. In this affiliation, we will grow not only a new day but also a new world, brighter in its being with hope for peace and better living for all. 

 

 

Voting – A Stated Commitment

A Stated Commitment

2018.11.04-06

Growing a Community

 

In the United States, voting is not a right, but a privilege granted or withheld at the discretion of local and state governments. The US Constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination in granting the franchise based on a person’s race, sex, or (adult) age via the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments.  Sound confusing?  It can be.

 

Eligibility to vote in the United States is established both through the federal constitution and by state law. Several constitutional amendments (the 15th, 19th, and 26th specifically) require that voting rights cannot be abridged on account of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, or age for those above 18; the constitution as originally written did not establish any such rights during 1787–1870. In the absence of a specific federal law or constitutional provision, each state is given considerable discretion to establish qualifications for suffrage and candidacy within its own respective jurisdiction; in addition, states and lower level jurisdictions establish election systems, such as at-large or single member district elections for county councils or school boards.

 

When someone votes, they are making a commitment, indicating a choice not only for a candidate but for the rhetoric said candidate has stated.  They are laying the groundwork of a future world, growing a community that will function for the length of the term of said candidate. Failure to vote means you are giving thousands of unknown people control over your life.

 

We all at some point in time feel our vote will not matter much.  Every time I have voted I have known at least one other person whose vote probably cancelled mine out because we were not voting for the same thing.  Was it fruitless for me to vote?  I don’t think so.

 

Whenever I vote, I am taking a stand for what I believe in and making an effort to create a better world.  Voting is not easy.  It would be much simpler if I had a crystal ball but alas, I have the same looking glass as everyone else.  The only thing it shows me is a frazzled, worried person whose future is unknown.  Today, though, I will see someone who is making an effort.  My mirror will not show me the future but it will show me someone whose is trying to construct a better future and grow a healthy community.

 

There have been times I was supremely confident in the candidate for whom I voted, only to be disappointed at their performance.  Like I said, voting is not easy.  It requires thinking outside of myself.  In growing a community, it cannot be just about me.  Whenever I vote, I have to think of the greater good.  I am voting to effect the future and that future is for everyone – those I like and those I am not that fond of; those who believe as I do and those who do not; those who look like me and those who are very different.  Throughout history civilizations have fought for the right to govern themselves and that is the reason we vote.

 

Today I will go to the polls and plant the seeds to grow a community for tomorrow.  I have this right because of the millions who have come before me, who risked their lives and often died in giving me this right.  Around 500 BCE the Greek City-State Athens adopted Democracy and other City-States soon followed their model of a government run by the people. But there were requirements for a person to vote.  27 BCE Roman Republic, which had come into existence somewhere around 509 BCE, ended in civil war and was replaced by a triumvirate; it was followed by the Roman Empire.  Corsican Republic was the first nation to allow universal voting for all citizens over the age of 215 years in the period 1755-1769.  In 1776 the United States of America declared itself to be a democratic republic and fought for independence from England.  In 1895 New Zealand awarded voting rights for all and in 2005 The Iraqi people were able to vote for an independent government.

 

The results of voting are not ironclad and offer no guarantees of a fantastic future.  What they do show, though, is that people care and are willing to take a stand.  When someone votes, they make a commitment and, in many countries around the world, do so knowing they put their lives at stake.

 

In 2016, Sharon Salzberg, a contributor for the Huffington Post, compared voting to spirituality.  “It’s about recognizing voting as an immense form of freedom we’re given; we have the choice to participate in the outcome of our lives, the lives of others, and the country as a whole. Each of our influences on any outcome may be incremental, but it exists, and is a critical component of change. In that way, each one of our choices to step up and take action has immense impact—on each other, and on our world’s future.”

Life is about much more than the individual.  The future depends on our ability to grow a community for everyone.  Voting is a spiritual move about belief in the possibility of a better tomorrow.