A Communal Life
We are created to living in communion; this means that we are made to live in a community. Our society speaks about the community in vague ideas and platitudes, but only as a means to organize, not for building relationships and fulfillment.
Even as “community” is a rallying call for all manner of social actions and organization, our society aggressively seeks convenience. And convenience allows us to be alone.
Shifting supply chains outsource commonplace transactions to isolated drop-offs.
Don’t want to be bothered rubbing elbows with the crowds at the grocery store? Food and meal kits ship to your door.
Sitting in a movie theater or sporting event seems like a hassle? Entertain yourself via a personal streaming service, in your living room.
Even as other people surround us, we are far away via podcasts and music piped into our heads.
We aren’t forced to leave our homes or our heads. As people designed for relationships, it’s a crippling way to live and so out of sync with what we truly need.
Let’s look at the forces pushing individualism and how we can push back as we seek the joys of communal life.
Together Yet Alone
Our age-segregated society is in love with the individual. It’s the purpose of the entire setup:
- The very young are in daycare and preschool.
- The youth are sequestered for 8–10 hrs per day with folks mainly their age.
- Our elderly languish alone at home or in professional care facilities.
All of this aims at fulfilling the desires, ambitions, and priorities of individuals in their prime productive years. We couldn’t possibly have obligations to either the young or the old interfering with the self-actualization we so desperately desire.
Our society is siloed into age groups. We graduate from group to group, often without ever learning from persons who have been part of those generations already, and not really interacting with those coming behind us.
The fact that “adulting” is now a verb is an indication that our young have not lived a communal life among adults. We’re together, but not living with the people who went before us or those coming after us. We’re alone.
And because of this disconnect, we provide ourselves artificial labels based upon politics, skin color, economic status, or whatever. All of that noise is in the hopes of being part of something, of belonging. But it’s amazingly superficial and empty.
Identity politics are no replacement for having lunch with your grandparents or tutoring a younger schoolmate. Perhaps labels mean that we have something in common, but it’s not living in a community.
A diet of individualism that tells us the following:
You don’t need anyone else in your life; self-sufficiency should be a priority.
Personal happiness and entertainment are the ultimate aims of your life.
Don’t be tied down with obligations; your freedom of time and choice is what’s important.
Despite what our society tells us, individualism is not the end-all-be-all for life. A life lived in the unrelenting pursuit of individual profit and goals is a life filled with pitfalls and vanity.
The individual’s idolization is the orthodoxy of our times; it is the national pursuit and conversation. It invades your thinking and life unless you develop both defenses and offenses against it.
And while it’s easy to point out problems, a life well-lived demands solutions.
Pursuing a communal life today is an intentional act, a function of the will. Start with your family first; it’s where we can set our foundations for communal life and practice living in a community. And be intentional about bridging age-segregated gaps.
Find old people
Where are the elders you already know that have wisdom and perspective to share? What are their needs that you can assist with?
If not in your immediate family, move the search out wider to neighbors, friends, coworkers. Deepen your views on life by learning about theirs.
Seek out young people
Young people need answers. They need wisdom, experience, and perspective. And in our age-segregated society, many young people are starved for authentic attention and care.
Remember when you were 18? Yeah, you needed a lot of help, too. Be that source of support.
Seek out your peers
Who else do you know that is at the same phase of life as you are? Compare some notes. Share cares, successes, joys, and wisdom.
The richness of life is in shared experiences, not in individual, isolated achievements.
Don’t wait for the hardship or trial to come before you take stock of how much you appreciate the community you have, and the community you’re building. Tell them today. And keep telling them as time goes on.
It’s okay to need someone.
It’s perfectly acceptable not to be perfect, to need assistance.
Individualism as a way of life is a lie. You can (and will) have happiness, fulfillment, and joy by sharing your life deeply with others.
We can focus on all the reasons that the foundations of civilization are crumbling. We can Google all manner of excuses for resentment and anger at the world.
Better plan: each of us can get busy building a joyful life shared with others.
Are you living in a community or as an individual?
Start today: Reflect on the state of your current community? Is it strong? Reliable? Do you know the people involved? Determine how you can best strengthen and expand it.
Originally published at https://fjwriting.com on February 17, 2021.