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.

Chaos, Order, and then more Chaos

Chaos, Order, and then more Chaos

Pentecost 31

It would make sense that Greek mythology would have been a bit clearer than other mythologies. After all, the Greeks did not revere their gods and goddesses in secret. They built temples and statues of them and then displayed them out in the open. There was once a line in a television program called “Designing Women” in which the lead character Julia Sugarbaker played by actress Dixie Carter speaks about a family member that is a bit …unique. “I’m saying this is the South. And we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them up in the attic. We bring them right down to the living room and show them off.” The Greeks showed off their gods and goddesses – all of them and they were many of them.

Greek mythology not only had answers in their myths about the different ethnicities found within mankind that resulted in different social classes, they gave their gods different classes. In fact, the term gods really did not refer to deities but rather characters. Some had divine attributes but many did not. Greek mythology, some of it, separated the creation of the world and the creation of their gods. In fact, it was not until the creation of the gods and goddesses who lived on Mount Olympus that Greek mythology really has divine gods and goddesses.

Breaking down Greek mythology to its very beginning is something like a science class, not a story or folklore class. In the beginning there was only Chaos. The Greeks viewed Chaos as an elemental force. It was its own definition and was not composed of anything else except itself. It is easy to compare the Greek creation story of Chaos with the scientific version of the big bang theory, a cataclysmic combustion of all within space.

It is also easy to compare the Greek beginning of Chaos with our own identity creation. AS infants we are nothing and everything. Within the first five years of life, the average human learns more than at any other time in their life. They become aware of not only their own presence and body but also those of others, human and natural. Each new life is its own elemental force, awaiting that time in which it bursts through and forms its own identity.

William Shakespeare once penned: “we know what we are but not what we may be.” As newborns, we don’t really know what we are but each new baby feels perfectly justified and insistent in making their needs known. Regretfully, science has had occasion to see what happens when children grow up, both with nurturing and without. Orphans growing up in deplorable conditions can become blind from the lack of stimulus for their eyes with no real disease present. Children who are never held are unable to relate to others. Just as a plant needs sustenance, air, and sunlight, as well as water to thrive, human beings need much the same. We may know we are human but unless the value of each human is recognized, respected, and nurtured, then the potential becomes unrealized and forever unknown. Chaos never gives birth to Order and identity is never found.

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” Oscar Wilde was not speaking of some of his characters but of every man and woman. When we follow the trends and fashion instead of deciding for ourselves what we like or dislike, then we are living someone else’s life.

The Greek gods and goddesses most well-known are those that lived on Mount Olympus who are known as the Olympians. There are twelve famous ones but many others. They originated from the Titans and ruled the world and all of mankind. The Greeks endowed these deities with human characteristics, though. They illustrated human characteristics with both strengths and weaknesses found in mankind. To make them relatable, these Olympians represented every aspect of human nature. The stories of these deities helped Greeks shape their own identities.

In 2005 the late Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech in which he advised: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” The noise of Greek mythology did not drown out the Greeks, it created them. Through the stories of the Titan, the Cyclops, and the Olympians, the Greeks learned to thrive, survive, and come alive.

We write the story of ourselves each and every day. Patrick Rothfuss agreed in “The Name of the Wind”: “It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”  We are the only ones who can take the Chaos of our story and create Order. We are the authors of our own mythology called life.