What is Community?

Version 1

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Transcript: What is Community? Generally, when people speak about community, they are referring to an organization of individuals intentionally committed to supporting a shared vision, which includes participation in a shared set of activities – it’s a group of people who have something in common and interact. A community shares information and can be relied upon in times of hardship. Those in community may be said to have a similar direction, or at least orientation, to life. Individuals in community feel friendly and peaceful with one another. Most people, when they hear the word community will imagine the experience of sharing a common set of important relationships while gaining similar enjoyment out of life.

When those of us designing an integrated living system think about community, we think about community as a more complex and enriching concept. Certainly, it involves the idea of commonality in relationship, but under what context are we imagining this commonality to exist? For every type of social organization with individuals intentionally committed to a shared direction, is there community? Is community just a sharing of vision and action, and possibly location, or is there more? A group of people can come together because they have a similar way of perceiving, understanding, and acting in the world, but, ‘community’, in our view, goes beyond just the idea of having a shared direction and orientation in life. It says more about a group of people than that they are connected to each other in some important life-orienting manner. At the scale of our living system, community says something about the specifics of perception, comprehension, and navigation held by those who are sharing information, behaviors, and resources in relationship. In other words, community is a specific type of human organization, not just any human organization.

In the design of a living system (i.e., how we live together on this planet), community doesn’t represent just any group of individuals with a similar worldview and set of behavioral patterns in some similar location or space. The term, instead, refers to a group of individuals who maintain these common relationships, and the relationships are oriented toward intentionally greater fulfillment, well-being, and flourishing for all. Hence, community is the term we use to describe the organizing structure of a societal “living” system where fulfillment and flourishing and all available resources are shared in common.

In fact, the etymological origin of the word ‘community’ comes from the Latin language word “communis”, which means “things shared by all, or held in common by all”. (You see) It has been known for a long time that sharing fosters [strong] community. Traditionally, that which was held in common was land and environmental resources. Today, however, sharing world resources includes information as a resource. Community represents a recognition that sharing resources, and holding the whole earth in common, is necessary for everyone’s flourishing.

The word ‘community’, itself, can be broken-down into “comm”, standing for comm.onality in comm.unication (a common connection), and the second part is “unity”, standing for the harmonious interaction of the whole (an integrated wholeness), which emerges for the individual into the experience of “flow” in daily life and “oneness” in internal life. Hence, as a concept, ‘community’ is characterized by connection and integration. Connection refers to a relationship, and integration refers to the meaning given to a relationship (the merging of context and intention). And so, community, in this very refined sense, is a set of meaningfully integrated relationships. If, however, "connection" means the process of creating and receiving information, and "integration" means the process of re-alignment to a less dense pattern of information, then ‘community’ refers to the socially coordinated process of connecting and integrating information for our own evolution. And further, if the first part of the word stood for “connection”, and the second part meant “cohesion” or “coherence”, then the word ‘community’ might represent a highly connected and coherent model for human living – a model for living where humans accurately perceive environmental signals and construct in alignment with their fulfillment. Of course, similar things have been said about the universe itself, that it is connected and coherent. The universe is a seamless dynamic of motion and information. It is an undivided wholeness of flowing movement, and we can connect up our living systems in harmony with this wholeness so that we too may experience flow in our own movements. We can form and dissolve our creations to more greatly align with a higher potential form of experience. Throughout the uni-verse is a movement of the whole with which we can align, and our information model for community itself represents our most coherent form of that alignment. Hence, if we define communication as the replication of perception into another's mind, then community (as comm-unication + unity), is the coherent replication of a unified understanding of how we might all experience more optimally fulfilled lives. Fundamentally, the higher the quality of information we are exposed to and share among ourselves, the more effectively and efficiently we will experience fulfillment in our lives, for there is less cognitive processing we have to do to make our experience coherent.

With a conceptual definition of community in mind, when we speak about community, we ask: At what scale are we sharing resources for our mutual fulfillment? At what scale do we feel commonly connected and integrated, and maintain a state of flow and oneness in our lives? At what scale are we experiencing meaningful relationships? At the social scale, the economic, the ecological, the technological, the planetary. You see, in community we understand that we are all individually connected within a more integrated and encompassing whole, we are on this earth together. And with this realization in mind, we further ask, “How do we feel and behave in a space when we realize that everything in that space is commonly connected and integrated, at all scales?”

Community means connection and integration at every scale of influence. And so, to us, community is a type of “living” socio-economic organization that we share among ourselves as a unified specification for fulfillment. Of course, if there is a lack of recognition of one's existing and experienced socio-economic system, then I could easily see how the idea of community could become degraded and domesticated to mean something akin to “a simple activity group” (e.g., tennis “community”), or, an information sharing network (e.g., an online social “community”). If someone has little awareness of the influence and very construction of their lives within a larger socio-economic context, then it only seems that their idea of a community would be limited and conformed to the box within which their awareness [of what community is, and could be] resides. Community is a crucial (i.e., root) component to the experience of this physical life itself, and so, when our shared potential for fulfillment isn’t recognized, then the notion of “community” will likely show up in a highly distorted, and often divisionary, manner. Islands (made up of human beings) competing for resources and attention in a game of scarcity practiced on the field called a market will refer to themselves as “communities”: the business communities; the knowledge communities; the community that has to do with your career field; the racial communities; activity group communities; and also, the idea of corporate neighborhood communities. Some people even feel as if their nation or political camp represent their community. Here, the word “community” is composed into a form that specifically identifies a contrast in social group or human attribute. In other words, it establishes a divisionary set of relationships because it has been created to identify differences, instead of integrate commonalities.

We are one humanity, on one earth, and we have all come from the same source. We all have common needs, which we can synergistically fulfill in common. Community is an acknowledgement that there are differences among us, but it doesn’t structure those differences into how we are cooperatively fulfilled on this finite planet. The division of community at the most holistic level (i.e., the level of our socio-economic ecology) into isolated resource and attention seeking groups with their own labeled “-community” separates us from our experience of our humanity on Earth. Labeling a socio-economic position by social group or human attribute is highly divisionary, and it is likely to disconnect a group of humans from their existent life-grounded relationships, such as the innate sensing out of nutrition through flavor signals (becomes one fad diet camp versus another), or the innate sense to cooperate for resource efficiency (becomes one political/economic group versus another).

At a personal level, unless we put attention on our own connections and integrations, we are unlikely to understand the unconscious patterning that we are operating with or that we may have internally absorbed from the culture at large, which may be unintentionally reconstructing an environment of lower potential, and possibly great suffering. Here, we come to the realization that when we find a source for our connections and integrations within, we don’t need to take from one another without.

At a social level, community is experienced through the sharing of a unified living system for our fulfillment, involving a perspective that all resources are held in common. Certainly, a life of mutual flourishing is more than feasible when we consider all of Earth’s resources as the common heritage of all the worlds people, and we cooperatively and intelligently coordinate their use for the fulfillment of all. Herein, nature is our common phenomenon, and we can work with nature in the continuous formation of community to optimize our use of resources and the potential of our lived experience. Community is about helping all selves experience [the same] optimized and elevated vitality, health, well-being, and enriched lives with [equal] opportunities for self-development and contribution. Through the cooperative creation and operation of community we maximize everyone’s quality of life.

Community may be said to represent meaningful interconnectivity at all scales. Herein, we recognize that we are (to some relative degree) the totality of all of those life expressions in which we are in an interrelationship. Things in the universe are connected, at the most profound level. The moment we start thinking of other humans as the enemy is the moment we start tearing each other apart, and dividing ourselves into competing “community” camps, and label ours as the exception. Any exception our society makes to our common real-world fulfillment will likely generate division within our society, and open a pathway to “your” fulfillment being violated.

Some people really want to hold to their limited definition of community, for if they were to integrate this more expansive and holistic definition, then they would have to admit to themselves that what they are participating in right now is actually lacking in what they believe it to have -- there is the experience of ‘cognitive dissonance’. Participation in an activity group, a support group, or an information sharing network is not equivalent to participation in community at the scale of our living system. To awaken our sensitivities, we ask ourselves, “What does it feel like to have a deeply satisfying set socio-economic relationships?” And here, we come to recognize that real community is more fulfilling than a nutritionally deficient substitute. It is a bit like what modern society has done to food and flavor. Modern society has cultivated the flavor and nutrition out of food (so it has no flavor and little nutrition), while adding it to food that we would not otherwise eat. The feeling that someone might get by participating in their divided “community” is superficial to the fulfilled, flavorful and nutritional experience of community at the scale of our living system. Which, shouldn’t take anything away from the joy currently received from having activity partners and a support group; it is just to say that, to some degree, we are fooling ourselves when it comes to the experience of fulfillment. You see, there is more to community than just the sharing of similarly joyful experiences in a structurally divided and isolated manner.

When we look at how we live together on this planet, do we experience the behaviors we recognize as a life lived through ‘community’ operative at every scale of relationship?

Consider how our use of language can mask an even greater state of fulfillment. Maybe having activity partners and/or a support groups is the greatest way you can be fulfilled in a fundamentally unfulfilling environment, and so you desire to call those activities by the name you give to the greatest form of fulfillment you can imagine. But notice here too how language is concealing a more real state of fulfillment by ignoring the larger living system in which your enjoyable activates and support groups exist.

We realize that community is a connection of individuals continuously integrating and forming a unification of energies directed toward a more expansive and fulfilling purpose. That purpose is to continuously and consciously evolve toward our highest potential for the fulfillment of all life, which involves the experience of greater connection and integration in our own lives, and doesn’t mean the loss of our own individuality. In community, we live with a purposeful desire for a more expansive and fulfilling experience, and we compose that experience in alignment with nature at every scale. This purpose encompasses the self, and is at the same time, beyond the self. To some degree you could even say that the purpose of community is to provide a conducive environment where we all individually awaken to our higher purpose and express our higher potentials. Yet, whether or not we follow our purpose has to do with how much power we have, which has to do with structure, which has to do with consciousness, and the feedback of our actions, as sensed signals, in this common environment of ours. And so, in its operation, community is a set of definable relationships operating together deliberately and forming an evolving whole, which benefits the individual and the whole together.

Essentially, we are saying that social, economic, and other relationships in a living system orient that system in a particular direction. Every socio-economic system has an identifiable direction, and a set of value-standards and routines which replicate through the minds of individuals and orient its continuance. For community, while perceiving all scales of commonality, that direction is one of our own fulfillment as well as the flourishing of all life, which we might then say, is experienced as a lifestyle of optimized flow and oneness.

Flow is the experience of our higher potential capacities for performance in the world, its similar to what we see happen in athletes like snowboarders who become one with the board and the mountain as their awareness expands and their focus narrows into the now. This is why the state is also sometimes known as oneness, for under certain conditions of consciousness these feelings of truly being in the iteration of the moment can become so expansive that it feels like one encompasses all, and is at the same time encompassed by all. Community, like the snowboarder, is in constant motion, and it is an awareness of the totality of the motion that gives it stability, sort of like something spiraling, like a tornado, which doesn’t have permanence, but through its dynamic motion, through its structure, it has great power to restructure an environment for our fulfillment (or lack thereof).

If we simply pursue our own particular path of growth and development, eventually our higher potential capacities for awareness and performance start to come online, and they are so radically connecting and integrating that the experience of them becomes its own drive. And here, we realize, that these higher potential capacities are more easily awakened, entered, and sustained, given a conducive environment – an environment designed to account for connection and integration, for our fulfillment, at all scales. Also, without extensive remembrance (i.e., knowledge) of the symbiotic relationship between humanity and its environment, it would be extremely difficult to develop workable solutions to our many social and economic problems.

People ignore the fact that their misunderstandings, conceptual confusions, and incorrectly integrated environmental signals have an impact on their lives and the lives of those around them. Their limited awareness, reflected by their language, conforms their experience to one of artificial limitation and reduced potential. For many of us our subconscious and behavioral routines have been formed in a state of chaos. And, we have to have a reality and a conversation about that. It really comes down to an accurate sensing of, and response to, our environment; it comes down to knowledge and recognition that we aren’t doomed forever, we can begin integrating with our common reality in real time for our fulfillment.

What we have done to this point isn't working. Where we focus our intention with repetition is the outcome. There are many now who focus on profit, which is not the organizing principle of community. We are ever so slowly transitioning society to a focus on fulfillment and potential. We are all in an experiment. Yes, we live in an experiment. This, right now, right here, is an experiment in socio-economic design. It’s not like we are going to go to an experimental design, we are already in one. Instead, we are essentially saying, we think this one isn't working, so we need to change the way it functions, and because of the logic and evidence behind what we propose, we expect this new structural specification to produce better outcomes in terms of ecological regeneration, human well-being, and the experienced fulfillment of all life on this planet. We are already in an experiment, we don't think it is working all too well, and so, we are going to change it through an updated and testable design that makes the present system obsolete. Societies are experiments, to some, they are even laboratories. We can see by the choices we take, the outcomes we get, and we, can learn from them.

What if there were no limits to what we could share, and how we could cooperate?