Why This Issue
Did your parents and grandparents walk uphill both ways (in ten feet of snow) every single day to school? Mine did. It seems that every generation tends to hallow the past and wonder what will become of the next generation with its “fancy technology” and “moral laxity.” It’s frightening that this generation might actually be accurate in its doomsday predictions; how we choose to react to them may determine the ultimate fate of both humanity and the planet.
Although we North Americans tend to either deny or ignore the fact of global warming, we can see its results already: oceans are rising, storms are both more frequent and more powerful, and temperatures are rising. In the near future we can expect massive species extinction, the fabled North Pole will be a water park, and our wars will be fought not over oil, but over fresh water. We’ve done more damage to the planet in the past 100 years than in our whole previous 200,000 years of existence. Unless things change radically, it is our generation that will be remembered for doing irrevocable damage to the planet - except that no one will be alive to remember or curse us for our sins.
So, what do we do in the face of such dismal news? For centuries, the answer for many has been to create intentional communities; groups of like-minded folks that work to better the world, challenge injustice, and render aid. In the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, ”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Across a great diversity of cultures and classes, intentional communities have formed to resist slavery and war, farm cooperatively, care for others, and seek solutions to local and global problems.
But getting along with people, working with each other, and sharing our lives is hard! Living in community has a way of revealing our own limitations and dysfunctions; we are often less aware of them otherwise. Changing the world requires us to change ourselves and to learn new skills of relating, communicating, and working together.
And so we present this issue of the Round Table, full of tools and wisdom for this great re-learning. The articles are mostly from the perspective of our particular experiment in truth, the St. Louis Catholic Worker, and we hope you will find them helpful in your respective experiments. For no matter how we’re seeking to improve the world, having the skills to nurture, support, and challenge each other is invaluable.
Carolyn kicks off the issue with an overview of a model for healthy community living. In it, she describes community as a tree - with roots that represent personal health, a trunk representing communal bondedness, and outreaching branches representing communal action in the world. The article is the basis for both a book she and I are working on, titled Recipes for the Beloved Community, and a workshop she has been offering to intentional communities throughout the U.S.
Following this introduction, our articles highlight practices that enhance both individual and communal health. (Since most of our Round Table issues are focused on action, we decided to forgo specific articles on communal action.) Our articles include examples of communal spiritual expressions, thoughts on avoiding oppression, and tools to enhance emotional well-being. We highlight community examples of conflict resolution and self-education, discuss communal economic models, the importance of shared work and vision, and communal play. Finally, you’ll find a thoughtful Letter to the Editor and RT response, reflections from Karen and Kabat Houses, and a moving consideration on hospitality from Megan and Katie.
Parker Palmer observes that “Community is the place where people grow in love and in peacemaking. That is why it is imperative for communities to grow, expand, and deepen; and for many new ones to be founded and supported. Today war has become too dangerous; it could bring an end to our planet and to the human species. We are all called to learn to grow in love and forgiveness. Community means more than the comfort of souls. It means, and has always meant, the survival of the species.”
What is at stake is indeed the future of this planet and of humanity; there is no better time to consider the imperative of community than now.
- Jenny Truax