Expectations vs Reality

Many of us say we are looking for “community”, but what we really want is to be surrounded by people who love us and listen to us and will stick by us through thick and thin. Essentially, we have this idea that community is actually composed of a nicely sized group of best friends who swear loyalty oaths to each other, and share the same values, political views and spiritual aspirations. That is a tall order by any stretch of the imagination. 

Community is made up of all the people who make that community work. This means that, if your village needs a librarian, a farmer, a builder and a teacher, then they are a part of your village. It doesn’t mean that you have to like each other, or share the same political perspective, but you do need to acknowledge each other and work together. 

My dear friend and mentor, Elisheva Nesher, likes to tell a story about Shmuel the plumber. Elisheva grew up in a kibbutz, which is a traditional community. Everyone in the kibbutz contributes and everyone is included. Shmuel happens to be a total ass and nobody likes him, but when your toilet breaks at 4:00 in the morning and you call him, he comes and fixes it. So Shmuel gets invited to the weddings and funerals and people put up with him. He is a part of the community and everyone gets that. 


Only here in the USA do people seem to have the expectation that everyone in their community is going to be their best chum. Even in our families, we don’t always get along. In fact, many of those looking for an idealized community also reject the most authentic basis for the real thing that they already have – their own biological family. 

Communities are generally defined by duration and location. 

Duration. A group of people can’t just decide to “be a community” and expect that to work.  They need to be around for quite awhile before they can gel into a real community. Historically, and in much of the world today, people in villages remain there they’re whole lives, living and working within miles of where generations of their ancestors are buried. 

Location. We need to spend time in close proximity, working together on projects that are meaningful to us as a group, in order to generate the mysterious thing that happens when all the many become the one. Community is not something that really happens online, or the you only see someone once a year at a festival. It takes much more commitment, dedication and investment than that in order to really function. 

In addition, it can help to have shared goals, values or spiritual traditions. But these are by no means essential. 

To sum it up: Community may not be what you think it is, and searching for that ideal may, in fact, be keeping you from finding the very real thing that you don’t realize you are missing – a community made up of real people of all ages and descriptions, sharing the same space and working together with you. 


Next: The root of community the soul, from a shamanic perspective. 

 © Kenn Day 2017