We are all leaves on different branches of the same tree.
~ Laura Lynne Jackson
In order to survive, a plurality of true communities would require not egalitarianism and tolerance but knowledge, an understanding of the necessity of local differences, and respect. Respect, I think, always implies imagination – the ability to see one another, across our inevitable differences, as living souls.
~ Wendell Berry
I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, and what defines a community. There are a host of definitions of the word “community.” Here’s a short and edited (for further brevity) list from a quick Google search:
- A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
- A group of people living together and practising common ownership
- A particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants.
- The people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society.
- A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
- A group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat.
(The attribution for these definitions is “From Oxford” so I’m thinking, given some of the spellings, that it’s the OED.)
Because I love words, I am always interested in the roots or etymology of words. The Online Etymology Dictionary has this:
late 14c., “a number of people associated together by the fact of residence in the same locality,” also “the common people” (not the rulers or the clergy), from Old French comunité “community, commonness, everybody” (Modern French communauté), from Latin communitatem (nominative communitas) “community, society, fellowship, friendly intercourse; courtesy, condescension, affability,” from communis “common, public, general, shared by all or many” (see common (adj.)).
Latin communitatem “was merely a noun of quality … meaning ‘fellowship, community of relations or feelings’ ” [OED], but in Medieval Latin it came to be used concretely to mean “a society, a division of people.” In English, the meaning “common possession or enjoyment” is from c. 1400. Sense of “a society or association of persons having common interests or occupations” also is from c. 1400.
An Old English word for “community” was gemænscipe “community, fellowship, union, common ownership,” from mæne “common, public, general,” and thus probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis. Middle English also had commonty (late 14c.) “the common people; a community,” also later meaning “land held in common” (c. 1600).
(PIE = Proto Indo European)
It’s a good word, community, with many different definitions, some more modern than others. For instance, there is this, the blogging community, something you could look at as a whole (all who blog) or as the small groups that often get formed, usually around our commonalities. Photographers follow photographers, artists follow other artists, writers other writers, and so on and so forth, although it must be pointed out that there is a great deal of overlap. Just as you probably do, I follow people with all sorts of interests other than photography, nature, and/or writing. Maybe what we have in common is related more to our values than it is to what we do or how we define ourselves.
The world of life, of spontaneity, the world of dawn and sunset and starlight, the world of soil and sunshine, of meadow and woodland, of hickory and oak and maple and hemlock and pineland forests, of wildlife dwelling around us, of the river and its wellbeing–all of this [is] the integral community in which we live.
~ Thomas Berry
We typically think of community in terms of people, villages, towns, cities, and even globally. I’ve been pondering nature as community. Not just within itself but as my community and as our community. I think we did ourselves a great disservice when we moved away from being a part of nature and became “civilized.” I’m not even sure we are civilized as defined by dictionary.com as:
- having an advanced or humane culture, society
- polite; well-bred; refined
It certainly doesn’t appear that way if you judge by the antics of the politicians, particularly the Republicans, in the hearing held today. Those on the other side of things (and why are there even sides to this??) undoubtedly disagree with my take. They are quite busy with debunked conspiracy theories, justifying breaking the law, kowtowing to the base with talking points from a certain news organization, and other such things, so perhaps they’re missing a few of the clues about why this important. Enough of that or I’ll be rambling and ranting. Apparently I am not civilized, either.
When I’m outside, on my walks and hikes or just sitting somewhere under a tree or on the beach or meandering through the meadows, I feel a connection with the land and with the other beings who inhabit this land. Perhaps that is a result of being out there daily, listening, seeing, opening myself up to what is there. I can’t explain the why’s of it. I also can’t explain the reason (or reasons) why everyone doesn’t feel this kind of connection when they’re in the great outdoors, even if that outdoors is a park in a city.
Each form, each individual and each community, shimmering with the wholeness of nature’s soul and with its own, is awake to itself and the moment by moment configurations of its relationships…
… The conviction that everything has its place within the greater soul of nature, that everything is in wakeful relationship with every other member of its community or communities, confers to everything an inherent value.
~ Emma Restall Orr, The Wakeful World
I’ve had friends tell me how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place. They are right. I am very fortunate and although I seem ungrateful at times with my occasional homesickness for the land we lived on prior to coming here, I am truly thankful for this gift of beauty, connection, and community. Very much so. It is this luck, as well as my daily connection, that allows me to take some of the photos I have been given permission to take. I refer to permission because I do ask. That may seem silly. Perhaps it is. And it is difficult to judge when permission is granted other than to assume that if I am able to take the shot, the answer is yes.
Relation is the essence of everything that exists.
~ Meister Eckhart
With all things and in all things, we are relatives.
~ Sioux Proverb
The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.
~ Rachel Louise Carson
That’s about it from me on this dreary Friday. The sky is various shades of gray, the air is still and relatively warm for November, and there is a coastal storm on the way. A gale warning has been issued and is in effect from midnight tonight until 6 PM on Saturday. Our local weather folks are saying things will be windy and wild around here. Most of the trees are still holding on to their leaves, and this latest round of wind might finally sweep them from their branches and bring them to ground. I don’t think we’ll see much in the way of a sunset this evening, but I might go out to the Point anyway. Just in case. You’re welcome to join me. Sunset is scheduled for 4:52 PM.
Be good, be kind, be love. ♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,181) The first snow of the season. 1,182) Frost and a hard freeze. We need a good, hard freeze to help with the insect problems (deerflies, pine bark beetles, etc.). 1,183) Community, all of it. Friends, family, you (my fellow bloggers), fellow students in the class I’m taking, our little local affiliate of Keep America Beautiful and all the people helping with that, and all the beings we live with on this land (and on this planet). 1,184) The Mute button and when that’s not good enough, the Off button. 1,185) The trust of some of the wildlife around here.