Tuesday, January 25, 2011
WHY do I want to be a part of [this] community?
Doesn't matter which community it is. The fact is, we have a choice now about which communities we belong to, a choice unlike any our ancestors have faced in the past. With online networking and social media sites, I can choose my friends, contacts, teachers and mentors from all over the world. When once it might have been impossible, or at least semantically meaningless, to "choose" to belong to a religion other than the one of my immediate family and neighbors, today I can choose to be Pagan and to network with others I've never even met in real life. Even within the Pagan community, I can choose to be a Revivalist Druid or a Celtic Reconstructionist, a Witch, a Hellenist or a Heathen. I can choose to be a participant on various online forums, email lists and blogs with almost unending options, and each choice will put me in touch with different people and different community expectations and standards.
So when I make these choices about what communities I'm going to belong to, I find myself more and more running up against that question: why? Why do I want to belong to your community? Is your community supportive, accepting, challenging, grounded, honest, full of humor and curiosity? Or does your community bicker and encourage in-fighting, playing to the lowest common denominator, drumming up melodrama and one-upmanship? What's more important to your community: popularity and huge membership numbers, or authenticity and sincerity in the relationships it nurtures and cultivates? Calculated politeness that just barely passes for "tolerance," or warm hospitality and celebration of diversity?
This is not a blog post. This is just a Facebook status update that spun out of control. Because the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that it's not worth my time to stay involved in communities that don't nurture my soul and feed my spirit. The more I think about it, the more I wonder what sense of duty or obligation I'm struggling under, what Kool-Aid I've had to drink to convince myself that I "owe it" to anyone to let them pull me off center and drag me through the muck of partisan polemic.
And sure, it might sound selfish. It might sound like I'm "hiding my light." But then, sharing my light doesn't just mean giving it freely to any who come calling. It also means seeking out those who will nurture it in me and care for it with me, that I may become the best version of myself. And in doing so, that I might help others become the best versions of themselves — and not merely make myself a target for them to practice on when they want to indulge in some good old-fashioned mudslinging.
Because like it or not, we all know that we have a choice now, and we can choose which communities we belong to, which we offer our attention and support that they might grow and become better. I think it's about time we start using this to our advantage. I think it's about time we start refusing to participate in those communities that only serve to drag us down or promote an agenda of triumphalism or competitiveness. Sure, I can spend my time banging my head against the wall in the comment streams of blogs known for their pettiness and abusive trolls. But do I really want to spend all my time gasping for air and a word in edgewise, and then have nothing left to offer and no energy left with which to give when it comes time to support those communities of trust and companionship that might have truly nurtured the better part of me? Isn't that rewarding exactly the kind of destructive and mean-spirited behavior that I'm busy bemoaning, while letting the kind of community I really want to be a part of fall by the wayside?
So the question I have to ask you is: why do I want to be a part of your community? What makes your community one that I can trust to support my soul-song and to listen always for the Song of the World?
But the question I have to ask myself is: do I have the clarity of purpose and strength of will to resist that urge to force my way in where I am unwanted or unsupported? Do I have the quality of character necessary to refrain from the temptation to be a self-righteousness know-it-all? Do I have the perspective to realize when I've been sucked into an unhealthy community of arguments and bickering because of my own desire to seize any opportunity to be right and to correct the woeful ignorance of others?
The question I have to ask myself right now is: where am I going to put my energy? Where am I going to invest my will and intention?
Am I going to spend my whole life living by the swamp, bemoaning my damp and smelly feet? Or am I going to move into the mountains?