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Saturday, March 12, 2016

That transcendent third thing.


True community in any context requires a transcendent third thing that holds both me and thee accountable to something beyond ourselves...”
Parker Palmer (The Courage to Teach)

We know that where community exists it confers upon its members identity, a sense of belonging, and a measure of security. It is in communities that the attributes that distinguish us as humans, as social creatures, are nourished. Communities are the ground level generators and preservers of values and ethical systems. The ideals of justice and compassion are nurtured in communities.”
John Gardner

Community is not just something that is nice to have. It is one of the keys to survival.”
Susan Tieger, Psychotherapist

Since our cave days, we humans have lived in communities. In fact, almost all of our mammalian relatives live in communities. When communities exist for the benefit of those who live within them, there is no better arrangement on Earth. When communities rip themselves apart by authoritarianism, there is no worse.

The antithesis of community is the ancient strategy of “divide and conquer” which has been around since pre-Roman times. When you take people who are bound together by community, split them apart, and send them to places distant from one another, you break their spirit. Whether the split is geographic or ideological, the result is the same—broken spirits, angry, resentful people.

It is not surprising that there is a rise in authoritarianism in the world today. The idea of equality for all is terrifying to those who have been in power for thousands of years. When we've lived so long with leaders who use the strategy of divide and conquer, we think of that as strong, so that when we experience leaders who prefer to compromise and negotiate, they feel weak to us. We want to go back to the strong man, strong arm approach that has always been. The problem is that those who have always been in power are now in the minority, so to continue as the undisputed power-brokers, they must become ever more brutal and barbaric in their methods. That, in turn, escalates the anger, and further rends the fabric that binds us together as a species.

The spiritual and democratic principles of equality and dedication to a higher cause are now in direct conflict with the ideology of divide and conquer. The question then becomes: Which will we choose? Will we devolve back to the days of “an eye for an eye” of Hammurabi, or evolve into communities large enough to include all?

                                          In the Spirit,

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