The Nature of Community

While I was around at my grandparents’ house yesterday, my grandma pointed out these narcissi in the front garden.

Narcissi Bunch

From one stem there blooms 8 miniature flower heads, each with perfectly yellow petals, bright orange trumpets and the stamens shaped like a triangle. But despite their similar characteristics, what intrigued me the most were their differences, and how it’s these differences that contribute to the beauty of the whole plant.

This observation sparked off a few thoughts about the message that I communicate through this blog.  Often when I explain the ethos of Lives Less Ordinary, I worry that the message of celebrating individuality will be misconstrued as an endorsement for isolationism. This isn’t my message at all, as I’m a firm believer in the need for connection, as it’s this connection which fosters community. When we engage, connect, participate, contribute, our voices can sing in chorus and our influence is multiplied. However, communities are always stronger when they respect that which makes us unique and different, as well as facilitating the celebration of our similarities. If a choir were to sing the same song with the same melody in the same key, would the effect be as powerful as a fully harmonized piece?

To return to the analogy of collaborative connection in nature, have a look at this photo of some funghi I found at the foot of the Wallace Monument:

All Funghi Together

See how closely packed together they are?  And yet this is precisely their strength.  They are more powerful together, and yet each is a unique individual in its own right.

What communities do you belong to?  And how do you celebrate your uniqueness in your connections with others?

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April 9, 2008. Inspiration.

9 Comments

  1. mrschili replied:

    It is an interesting conundrum, being an individual yet valuing one’s place in a community. It’s rare, too, to find a community that encourages individuality; I’ve found that most communities (social clubs, churches, neighborhood organizations) are pretty heavily invested in conformity.

    I treasure my communities, and I have several. First, of course, is my family. My husband, daughters, and I have a shared and intimate history, and that gives us a strong foundation from which to explore the bigger world outside our doors.

    I belong to a professional community of educators, and it’s there that I find intellectual challenges and a solidarity of shared experience that helps me become a better teacher – and a better person.

    I have friends whom I see pretty regularly – connecting with them over a meal helps me stay in touch with a part of me that isn’t prescribed; we’re free to be or do or say whatever we want – there aren’t many parameters.

    Then, of course, there’s my blogging community, which I treasure pretty highly. Through my computer, I get to connect with people of vastly different experiences, locations, and professions. These people help open me up to new ideas that I wouldn’t have been able to come to om my own.

    All of these experiences allow me to be the person I was meant to be. I learn and grow, I laugh and cry, I get excited and angry and motivated through the interactions I have with all of these different people. All of them, though, allow me to be who I am – there’s no expectation of conformity from any of the communities I align myself with, and that’s why I stay.

  2. Darren Daz Cox replied:

    I enjoy being in the arts community and love giving inspiration and ideas that can nudge other artists in a new way!

  3. Ellen Wilson replied:

    Hey! You have some great photos here, Amy. I found you over at Karen Swim’s.

    I like free thinker communities, artist’s who are a bit edgy communites, natural resource and conservation communities. I like inspirational blogs like these.

    I agree with mrschili above, and often feel like the ugly duckling.

    Ellen

  4. Karen Swim replied:

    Amy this is such a powerful analogy. In many ways I see the world as my community. I learn from the differences of others whether those differences are in thoughts, cultures, languages or regions and celebrate that together we make up this wonderfully diverse world. In my community of friends (online and offline) our collective differences bring greater value to the community as a whole. You are a wonderful example my friend. I have learned from you to look a little differently at the world & take note of the smaller details. I am also inspired by your “audacious” mission to break through my own barriers. Thank you Amy for richly adding to my community! 🙂

    Karen
    xx

  5. wendikelly replied:

    I am a part of a theater community that I have been in for over 30 years. It feels like a second family.Then also church, all of my artistic friends, and my neighborhood community where I have been on the association board for several years. Each of these groups have their own distinct personalities and some more freedom of individuality than others. To me, the important thing is in how we uplift each other and work together as a team. Do we make each other stronger? Or do we tear each other apart from the inside out. That is the difference between a well functioning community and one that needs more work.

  6. amypalko replied:

    I absolutely agree with you, Mrschili! It is because conformity isn’t demanded from me in the communities I’m onvolved in that makes me want to stay and be a part of the larger whole.

    That’s a great reason to be a part of a community, Daz – to inspire others by being absolutely yourself!

    Remember the most important thing about that story though, Ellen? The ugly duckling was a swan the whole time! Oh, and welcome – I’m so glad you found me here:-)

    And thank you, Karen, for enriching mine 🙂

    I think the key to communities working well, Wendikelly, is respect: respect for the individual and respect for the group as a whole. I’m glad you’ve found yourself some communities that bring so much to your daily life.

  7. Joanna Young replied:

    Hi Amy

    I think if anyone ever dipped into your wonderful comment box they’d know you value and respect and celebrate each and every person who stops by here. We all love the way you express your individuality but also encourage, support and inspire us to do the same.

    One of the digital communities I enjoy being part of is Joyful Jubilant Learning. It’s a group of authors from all over the world who write together but more than that, often behind the scenes, we support, collaborate, laugh, notice, pay attention to what others are doing. It’s a very strong and supportive network. Each person is encouraged to be the very best they can possibly be, a beautiful star in the firmament. At the same time no one person is considered ‘better’ or ‘stronger’ than another. We’re all just us, joyfully learning our way through life.

    Joanna

  8. nouveaufauves replied:

    Oh my how deep! Dare I add a comment without risking being a bit vapid compared to your “thinking” friends. I try not to think too much. I get strung out over things I can’t do anything about.
    I have been in theatre for so many years. It is a very collaborative art form and it takes so many varied skills to make the final piece unified in concept, structure, communication to an audience, and all that. Theatre tends to attract a lot of social misfits. A great variety of “types” are readily accepted in the theatre community so they gravitate to it at an early age. When I taught theatre for kids I discovered what a great socializing tool it was to teach tolerance, appreciation for difference, respect, patience, civility,and good citizenship. The differences made the group effort stronger.

  9. amypalko replied:

    Joyful Jubilant Learning is a fantastic community, Joanna, which seems ever so supportive. I’m only just really discovering it now, but I think I’m going to enjoy everything I find there 🙂

    Theatre communities are often extremely accepting and supportive networks, aren’t they. Nouveau Fauves? Oh, and I would never think of one of your lovely comments as vapid! Every one of them is highly appreciated 🙂

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