Quite unfortunately, community-building doesn’t just happen when a group of good-willed individuals come together. Not that good-will doesn’t help! But it’s not enough. All the good-will in the world cannot be properly channeled unless there is unity. If we think of the community-building process as rowing, it becomes clear that we can have a lot of very eager rowers, but unless they are rowing in the same direction and with the same tempo, the boat is not going to get very far, and might even tip over.
Seems pretty simple and obvious, no? And yet I am sure that you, too, in your day to day efforts to contribute positively to the building of your community, are faced with various obstacles to acquiring a depth of understanding of the concept of unity.
One such obstacle if the use of the concept of unity as a buzzword. Instead of delving into the meaning of the concept through constant action, consultation, reflection and study, we claim that a certain act does or does not contribute to unity. And while perhaps 50 years ago, this was all we had the capacity to do, I feel like we have evolved since then and can embark on a process of understanding the deeper meanings and implications of the concept of unity.
The main danger of buzzwords is that they lull us into a false sense of understanding, and thus keep us from putting in the effort to truly understand what the concept is about. Many people around me seem to think that unity is people getting along; that it implies not having difficult discussions to iron out misunderstanding; and, most dangerously in my opinion, that unity is limited to what the ego wants and needs.
How can we counter this seemingly natural urge to reduce deep concepts into buzzwords? It seems that part of the solution is to cling to the very purpose of our lives, that is, to know and to worship God. I somehow do not think that the unity within a family dedicated to criminal activities is quite the type of unity we are looking for…
If we go back to the analogy of rowing, if all the rowers cling to their purpose, that is, to get to the finish line, then reaching true unity will be easier than, say, if each rower clings to their understanding of how rowing should be done. So not only do we have to work to create unity, but we also have to be united in our understanding of unity!
In light of a previous blog post in which the idea of the family as a laboratory of sorts in which we can develop tools and skills useful to community-building was presented, this begs the question: what does unity in a family mean? If this understanding of unity is ego driven, fighting ensues, because each member of the family wants their version of unity to prevail. But if a family is united in serving God and humanity, it becomes a lot easier; each decision is focused on enabling service, enabling the family members to let go of their ego.
Perhaps this implies that the reason for which we bring up certain topics should not be to prove ourselves right and the other wrong. Rather, it means that we choose to consult about obstacles to the family’s service to God and humanity, and let go of personal preferences. This is, or course, a lot harder than it sounds, and involves a lot of time, energy and effort poured in consultation.
What could this look like in a community? Many spaces for reflection might have to be created so that the members of the community can consult on how they can build a community centered on God. But also, spaces might need to be created in which the members of the community strengthen their relationship with God, which helps them detach from their egos. This gives a whole new layer of meaning to reflection meetings and devotional meetings, doesn’t it?
First published on Sahar’s Blog on 19 January 2013.