Week 6: The Many Edges Of Community

Posted by Liam Chai on Jul 23, 2016
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Going waaaaay over the scheduled 90 minute call, our sixth and final week of the Laddership AM Circle on the theme of Community has come and gone.

With Bill dressing up as a rapper, and Nipun as our bald monk, we begin the call with an extra long minute of silence.

As ever, our opening batsman, John, kicks us off. In London this week he tried “being a little bit more mischievous than I already am… One of the things I like to do is just talk to people and watch how uncomfortable they become.” During one mischievous adventure on the underground, John saw a man try to dive his hand into a lady’s handbag. He stopped him subtly and then engaged in a conversation with him. In his reflections he writes, “"As my stop came up, I wished him well and handed him one of my spare oyster cards which had 10 pounds credit, and I also left the price of a coffee inside with one of my cards which said at the back, If you want to see change happen, be kind to others."

Bill reflected about how he was out yesterday on a family function, but his father could not come because of his health. Despite this, Bill’s father “was able to reconnect with one of his friend’s he rarely sees” by using phone calls - at least ten calls over the course of the day, telling him different moments that had happened. “It was neat to see how the community expanded outside of the physical and how much that meant for him”

About a year ago, Ani had planted the seeds for a women’s circle to start at an assistant home hostel she volunteers at. She reflects about a woman who was facing a lot of challenges and not attending the circles in the past few months. “On Thursday I was really surprised to see her at the circle - and she was just very distraught. At one point she was in tears, and as she was walking away [from the circle], one of the women turned around and said, "Hey, you know we love you. And we really care for you." This really touched her and she decided to come back to the circle.

Samar reflected about how things are “coming together this week… I've always been in very competitive work environments... Everybody basically eats up everybody else. I've never been in an environment where the people take care of each other." In Beirut she’s also been planting seeds for a Youth Laddership Circle. She wrote a message and “sent it yesterday… to a very select group of six people who I knew would be interested, and three of them wrote back!"

Bringing up Judy Wick’s article on Beautiful Business, Rina shared how she felt humbled by the example of her father. “My dad has always assumed he was an employee, never taking on the boss-type role.” She shared an example of how her dad could have gotten one of his employees to lift a TV from one room to another, but instead did it himself and didn't pass on the unpleasant jobs to his employees.

Meghna really wanted to attend the emergence call we had on Designing for Emergence, she set an alarm for 4:30am but snoozed through it instead and ended up dreaming she was on the call! “In the last six weeks all I have sharing with people is "Laddership this. Laddership that. This is what I have learned. This is what I have observed. This is how I felt. Some people are overwhelmed, some people are excited. So don't be surprised if loads of people start applying to the Laddership!” She ends her reflection, ““More questions are coming, but I think some of the questions that are coming in are much better. I feel there is a lot more clarity in those questions.”

Spending time with her parents after they moved into a new community, Laurie reflected on how this work can evolve into her every day. Noticing her parents treat giving as a form of exchange, she found herself wanting to say everything she learned in the Laddership but didn’t. “I could see how much the power of the social world and [their] new community… is beyond what they are able to do in terms of changing that dynamic.” What are skilful ways to bring about the learnings from Laddership into the world?

Joserra shared a cute story of how at a festival in the north of Burgos with concerts and meditations, a group of them got together and started hugging everyone. “We started five, six, seven [of us] then after sometime we were forty!” He ends his share, “the heart of the community is very important… But there has to be balance with that space of individuality and freedom. Many edges!”

The Many Edges of Community

Nipun, bringing us into the popcorn style sharing of the circle, offered us a phrase, “No matter what the question, community is the answer". This sounds good and it can even feel good. But there are cases where too much community can lead to a lot of peer-pressure. “In India, you have a ton of community… And as a result, if you flunk in your class, you might commit suicide - and there are people that do that.” What are the edges involved in community?

Mihir reflects, “When we talk about community, we talk about something that is common... So what is common amongst people brings them together. So in one way community brings people together. But when one gets identified with one's community, that also brings you away from other communities. So this is a dichotomy. We tend to get identified with our communities, which tends to create distance rather than bringing us together.” What is the balance between independence and interdependence? Can you be interdependent without being independent?

I shared about how in order to live in community, “Everyone needs to do more than their fair share of work.” Which reminded me of the article on consistent contributors. How do you create community? How do you transform it? How do you balance being an individual and being in a community?

“I don't think community gives individuality - individuals have to take it, so to speak” shares Laurie. There’s a risk of being rejected and not part of the community, “Am I willing to say what’s true for me?” She observes how no one has given her her independence, rather at every level someone is telling her what to do and how to be.

“When people do take their individual views, it can also spark innovation in a community.” Audrey is reminded of a nursing home, that instead of optimising for safety and cleanliness (which can lead to the invisible cost of human spirit), 100 parakeets, four cats, two dogs, rabbits, a flock of laying hens, 100 indoor plants, a vegetable and flower garden, and childcare and afterschool programs were brought into the nursing home. The total drug costs fell to only 38 per cent of the comparison facility. Deaths fell by 15 per cent. “What had happened was people had something to take care of. There was a parakeet in everybody's room. In a way it created community in the nursing home.”

Samar recounts a story of a psychologist in Hawaii who worked with criminally insane patients using Ho’oponopono, it was so effective that eventually the unit shut down because there was no longer a need for it. “Maybe I am community. I am not separate from community, in a deeper way. I don't know how to say this, but there's no individuality, At some level we are a layer of what's going on around us. That somehow the community reflects that.”

“Does individuality even exist? And there's a lot of science that says we are all affected by each other's thoughts. So then is there such a thing as privacy?” continues Nipun. Gandhi had some very radical ideas of this. He didn't even think his body was even private. So there were no locks on bathroom doors.”

There’s also the question of time within community. What if it’s only momentary? Does it always have to last a lifetime? And what about momentary community with animals, with trees?

Mihir reflecting deep, "This community that we are in right now. If I get identified with it, if this becomes my identity. If I am because this is. Then I need to question whether I am really independent or not. And if I am not independent psychologically - am I of any service to this community? Because I am actually just a parasite and I am using this community for my identity. "

“Right now I'm wearing my Ferrari Formula One team hat and I affiliate myself with that community, though that community doesn't really know I exist. [But] I can find joy or sadness in their success or failure. So does it make it any less or more valuable of a community?” Bill continued reflecting on how even something as subtle as wearing a cap backwards can lead to other people associating him as part of a different community.

In a personal share John says, "Community can be a very negative thing. It's something I really experienced for a large part of my life… I mean an entire community in truth kind of made me feel like I wasn't a part of it and let me know that I wasn't a part of it. I know for me everywhere I went growing up it kind of followed me, i was always very afraid to put myself in a community because I was afraid it would happen again.”

“How sticky are the exit and entrance doors in a community?” asks Nipun. “One of my friend's wrote to me last night and she shared how one of her cousins was murdered and she does a lot work in prisons and she then describing it was a gang-related murder and she was describing how it's been sticky to get out.” Something about how rigid a community is seems to be a factor.

“When someone is in the community who is disruptive or doesn't share the values. My tendency is to want to say, we have to include that - because many times you don’t get to choose who is in your community.” Laurie observed how people develop a very profound acceptance of the things they struggle with. But then she asks, “What kind of acceptance do we need? And where do we draw the lines?”

Meghna reflected on what we as individuals bring to community. She brought up the example of Julio Diaz, and how he could have chased the robber away but instead chose to interact with him, and therefore created a connection. “I feel community is about connection… There’s a word that we use here called sangat. Sangat is companionship, real companionship and how we grow with each other through that companionship... We say satsang, noble conversations - and that could happen with a robber also, or with a little child.” All of this together builds that space, you could call it community, you could call it an ecosystem.

Echoing the sentiment of fluidity, Ani reflects, “At different stages of our life we may feel drawn towards one particular kind of community… We may be born into a community [but] It's important to have that fluidity because we evolve at different stages and we may have different values at different stages.”

Struck by an interview with a businessman, Joserra reflects on the question, “How can I serve you?” Especially when it becomes part of the culture, it creates a shift from “What can I get?” to “What can I give?”

"When one person has a stick, you can break that stick. But when you have a bundle of sticks, it's much harder to break" shares Rina. “All these invisible hands that have held me through my growth - or have laddered me throughout my life… these communities I have been a part of have made me who I am today.” She ends her reflection with questions, “What types of communities am I a part of? And as a global citizen, is it possible to be part of so many different communities, and still feel connected to all of them?”

With more questions than answers once more, we shifted to the closing part of the call, sharing gratitude, rejoicing and snippets from 546 pages of reflections - to be shared in a second post! :-)

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Comments (4)

  • Mihir Kaji wrote ...

    What a joy to read this re-cap of our dialogue :) Thanks Liam!

  • John Sweeney wrote ...

    Legend. :)

  • Audrey Lin wrote ...

    +1 what John said. :)

  • Meghna Banker wrote ...

    +1 to John and Audrey :) :)