What Makes a Community Whole Is the Love They Share

Monday, February 29, 2016 - 5:15 am

What Makes a Community Whole Is the Love They Share

A dear uncle of mine tragically passed away this week. He lived and taught and ranched in the small farming town of Napoleon, North Dakota. My family spent a few days there, mourning our loss and celebrating his life. He was only 60.

I think and talk about community a lot as part of my job here at On Being, but the local residents embodied the qualities and the virtues of what makes a community whole. Hospitality and neighborliness were on full display in that prairie town. No matter where we went, our family encountered graciousness, warmth, and a spirit of kinship that feels rare these days.

Hundreds came to the funeral to pay their respects; they told stories of my Uncle Speed’s herculean strength and his tenderness, of his shenanigans and his tough love. Folks would be eating at the main street diner and, without being asked, volunteer to help the lone waitress serve coffee to our large family. They’d flash a smile, pour a dozen cups, and return to their food without a second thought. An elderly woman with the most buttery hands would lean over, share a memory of my uncle, sigh, compliment our son on his curly hair, and give me a big hug.

This way of life in larger, urban settings may seem like a remnant of the past. But it’s not. Patrisse Cullors and Dr. Ross speak of this possibility in our latest podcast. And, Lucia Cowles writes about the spirit of family she found in a community of protest. As for me, I’ll be looking for it at my sons’ basketball games today and trying to model what was so kindly shown to my family and me this week.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis protesters at the 4th Precinct in November, 2015. (Brent Moore / Flickr © All Rights Reserved.)

“‘Let’s do this together,’ we said to each other beneath the smiles, the music, and the free coffee. Such generosity was a choice, and for each of us, also, a gift.”

An ethic of care, community, goodwill. These are things we all seek. In “No Less Than Holy: Finding Communion in #BlackLivesMatter,” guest contributor Lucia Cowles pens an intimate account capturing the intimacy, challenge, and familial spirit of the movement. And thanks to Brent Moore for the fabulous photos.

Ken Watanabe, Kelli O’Hara, and cast perform The King and I at Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York. (Paul Kolnik)

“So much of the content there was really quite racist.”

You might’ve had similar thoughts while watching an old film or a celebrated musical, non? Some of our greatest cultural treasures are seemingly beyond reproach when it comes to honest criticism. For our Public Theology Reimagined initiative, millennial composer Mohammed Fairouz acknowledges the inherent flaws and wrinkles of the classic musical The King and I, and reflects on how we can appreciate its art and still question its ethical and moral shortcomings alongside its greatness.

(Steve Jurvetson / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved.)

Many of us feel cast off and and think we have to go it alone. But what if we took solace in the third refuge of the sangha, the community? Sharon Salzberg with counsel on how we might thrive in our connectedness with one another:

“We take refuge in the community of countless men and women, those who from beginningless time have sought a deeper truth, who didn’t just accept conventional understanding but themselves became exemplars of another way of being.”

And, as a bonus, watch Sharon’s wonderful video meditation on standing in line at the base of her column.

Attendees at an Ars Electronica convention in Austria view images of the sun. (Florian Voggeneder / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved.)

Einstein and Darwin were some of our most poetic writers. But a bifurcation has taken place, a rupture in the disciplines. These two worlds of science and humanities become infinitely more powerful when allowed to augment each other. Ben Bagocius celebrates the natural symbiosis of the world of facts and the creative word:

“Interpretation is not only for humanists. Interpretation is for all humans — engineers and neurobiologists included. Interpretation makes our lives wider, deeper, different, better. It stimulates us to evolve in a different spacetime, where iridescence and darkness bend differently around us. And we bend differently.”

Robert Frost (Eric Schaal / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images © All Rights Reserved.)

It just felt right to anchor Parker Palmer’s column, “Life on the Mobius Strip,” with this magnificent photo of the poet Robert Frost. It’s a curious concept that Parker artfully weaves into the fabric of living a good life itself:

“Whatever is inside of us continually flows outward, helping to form or deform the world — depending on what we send out. Whatever is outside us continually flows inward, helping to form or deform us — depending on how we take it in. Bit by bit, we and our world are endlessly re-made in this eternal inner-outer exchange.”

(Chandler Christian / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved.)

“In Arabic and Hebrew, languages that are so intimately connected with one another, the words for self and breath are linked: nafs, nafas.”

Reminding ourselves to breathe is simple enough, but the act of slowing down and bringing our awareness inward can be difficult. Our Thursday columnist Omid Safi with a reminder that the ritual of respiration can be the place where presence of spirit begins.

I received about a dozen responses to my query asking y’all about how your are incorporating On Being into your learning spaces. Thank you! If you have used our podcasts or writings in a classroom or educational setting, please send me a note. I’d welcome the chance to learn more about your experience. The best way to reach me is via email at tgilliss@onbeing.org, or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back.

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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