“What is your community dream? Can you write it down and email me? I want the ideals at this stage – what does that look like for you? Hope you're doing well. a”
What is my community dream. I was this week challenged to consider my ambitions.. I guess this is a second prompting. On this theme of things hoped for, of which community occupies a central junction, I am looking for a hope of a mode of direction, a force of purpose that has all of a zest for life in its specificity without committing itself to the tidy bounds of my imagination and my present blindnesses of circumstance, I'm looking for a hope measurable without being modernist, observable without a suppression of mystery, hopeful without resorting to a loose canon naiveté.
The question is not unlike my own favourite, “What home are you hoping for?” I will try not to write my own question over yours, however indivisible the two notions are.
What is my community dream?
I think at the end I want my life, relationships and education, home, resources and energy to have born fruit of Place, ornament, and adventure. A community I hope in will entail a relentless commitment to hospitality and intergenerationality and learning and Sabbath. I want to see a household so ordered as to catalyse healing, a body quietly committed to the knowledge that there is a God whose will it is that dead people come alive.
With knowing reservations about the term 'ideal' I use it as it was in the question, but hope it will not induce notions of Platonic form or utopian dreams.
An ideal of agriculture, or redeeming soil, of knowing the freedom, if one of poverty, that comes in being submitted to the weather, rather than the oil economy. Not a paranoid self-sufficiency, religiously fair-trade, pathologically localist, neurotically organic, but rather a happy abandon and on going pursuit of the possibilities of imperfect foods nurtured by friends from their patch of Earth towards a gradually more completely integrated, relational, gift sort of diet..
An ideal of art, music and poetry. The pleasure of participation in imperfect art, providing space for the expression of story, legitimising ornament. Yes to an artist in residence, yes to film nights and formal occasions, but above and beyond that, slow space in the everyday for impromptu collaboration, I'm not sure how to aim for this without it being contrived. A precedent needs to be set that legitimises the frivolous, and affirms excellence, and laughs at silly things made along the way. This is a fruit we will know community by rather than the blueprint of some 'ideal' wrought by force of will, conformed by the discipline of the unwilling. To allow a community to be organically creative, it seems to me, needs to be freed from whatever it is that so suffocates the larger part of the world that settles for a blandly-culture-consuming, one-dimensionally-pragmatic, brutally-elitist or religious-prohibitionist approach to art and delight.
An ideal of intergenerationality. I think fleeting gaggles of dinky twenty and thirty somethings can do a pretty good run at playing community, burning the candle at both ends, hindered by no weaker parties, no kids, no aged relations. And within the limits of a project, phenomenal good can be effected, poor served, hungry fed, schools built. There is a better use for these the most energetic years of life, indeed a better arena in which to dream and effect those same saving, school building dreams. I believe that if we have kids and parents on board, with the baggage that entails, and if we submit ourselves to the inconveniences of place over time, we lay the foundations for such joy, wisdom and efficacy. I do not want to die the long death of the demographic ghetto, of cruise ships and bridge clubs and wasted old age, but I will unless I earn the right to serve within an intergenerational community now. Further I do not want to see my kids for but an hour a day and a few holiday weeks of the year, these are the death of wisdom for the young and the theft of all that Fox and Amie offer to our view of the world, all the refreshing colour, surprise and imagination. So, the ideal of intergenerational community so to set in motion something which at least has the potential to live breathe and grow in perpetuity.
An ideal of growth. Unbranded but infectious, unselfconscious but purposive. Growth is a tainted word, for me evoking number bashing church growth types hoping to calculate the world into the kingdom. Growth should imply life, and importantly it should celebrate that a consistent DNA is at work and effective regardless of size, and by this give hope that here in the mustard seed knot of two or three of us gathered is the beginning of something. So growth is to say that size categorically doesn't matter. Perhaps this leans on the hospitality imperative.
An ideal of industry, craft, the provision of work. So to prevent the creation of a dormitory ghetto that retreats and serves only itself and relies on an economy beyond. An ideal of a provocative economy. Any household is an economic identity, a tool for conducting dominion through, a order for managing resources through, and here in Oval we are not doing anything radical, we are in all fairly self-serving, but people are startled at what I pay to be here. It is good, because it allows me to volunteer in Singapore next year, and it is good because it allows me to imagine the possibilities that exist in the given fabric of London.
An ideal of learning. I would have bookcases for walls. This may be my own delight rather than a theme applicable to a whole community. I love the thoughts of thinkers. I love the feel of books. I am concerned at the disembodied head space of academia. I want for a mode of knowledge that is meaningful and every day.
An ideal of leadership and accountability. I'm not sure about this. The management of a body, the degree of submission, a line before cultdom, the role of belief, the nature of democracy.. There needs to be a cause beyond the comfort of the parties involved, both/and God and something geographic.. Not sure.
How are these, are they making sense as a whole? I want a big front door which is never locked, a long dining table, gathered strangers about the piano, high chairs and wheel chairs and miscellaneous reclaimed chairs, a workshop out back beyond a long allotment garden, a bike rack hallway, semi-autonomous cells fused under a shared architecture in wood and stone, every colour joinery, murals we made, space to work from, rest under and play between..