“He wear no shoeshine he got toe-jam football…. He got monkey finger… he shoot coca-cola…He say “I know you, you know me…. "
Paul McCartney just turned 64 and he probably deserves my sincere apology for the lead-in but sometimes when I think about “community" the Beatles’ “Come Together" plays in my brain.
To some “community" is a relatively large geographical location: the town or village where we live. To others it’s a much smaller place where we live with others—perhaps a nursing home, assisted living site or a monastery. Regardless, community has to do with how we relate to those around us. There are five elements that—taken from the Buddhist definition of “sanga"—make sense to me as they relate to any community.
First is “commitment. " In this sense it involves examining the life we lead without the filters of ego, wealth, fame, knowledge, and position. It refers to the way we are with one another; being versus having. Next is “surrender, " which in this context has to do with embracing the truth about every day life. When we surrender in this way we spend less energy denying when things are not going so well while at the same time becoming more grateful and open to celebration of “the good stuff" of life. In fact, we are more open to all of it - the unknown.
The third idea on my list is “serving. " This is the concept that encourages us to do what needs to be done right now and not leave any traces. It allows me to set aside my likes and dislikes and to do the dishes or pick up trash beside the road with care. In this frame of mind, it’s not ‘unfair’ – it just is. Next is acceptance and harmony: an effort to accept all folks as they are and try to build trust with another human - especially the ones who rub me the wrong way. There are experiences that are common to all of us and my community-building skills are better when I consciously look for them.
The fifth and final component of that Buddhist definition of “community" is “humanity and respect. " With this in mind we are asked to give up the idea of being “better-equal-lesser" than another. We are human beings and can respect one another on that level, even if on no other.
I offer this as another way to think about the ways in which each of us relates to those around us. Connections feel better than walls. In addition, while I think that, on some level, each of us is extraordinary in our own way it is important for me to remember that our “ordinariness" can be equally lovely. It is a reassuring thought that makes me feel connected to something bigger even when my image, status or well being feels threatened. And that’s freedom. Thanks, Paul.
“…. One thing I can tell you is you got to be free. Come together right now over me. "
Lawrence Bienemann is a co-founder of The Sheng Group, a management consulting firm specializing in small business start-ups. He is an RSVP Volunteer in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. He also speaks and writes on issues related to ‘outrageous aging!. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-838-6577