“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.