For me this story evokes Rumi’s now-famous lines:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
I told it at the NVC Community Camp in Wales, in June 2012. Sheltering from some truly atrocious weather, over one hundred people created something truly amazing – a deep sense of community that seemed to touch everyone there and that persisted long after the camp was over.
Most of us had gathered that night in the big top that was our community meeting space. And our theme for the evening was “Community”. I asked everyone there to notice what came up for them as they pondered this word.
We were by then half way through our experiment in collective remembering. I believe that we all remember, and long for, the experience of community: it’s written into our DNA somehow. We belong to each other, at a deep level our lives are woven together, and if our ways of living don’t reflect this, we suffer.
For me, the Community Camp is an attempt at remembering what it feels like to belong.
And yet how to belong and still be fully ourselves? This seems to me to be the modern connundrum when it comes to community. Our need for togetherness is undimmed, we still need a sense of belonging as surely as we need food and water. And yet the trajectory of modern life carries us towards greater and greater freedom and autonomy. So doesn’t that render us less and less able to live in community?
If we define community as the code-bound comformist ways of living together that our forebears knew just a few generations ago, then yes, we are less and less likely to be able to live in such groupings. But what if we could find a new kind of community, in which a different sort of glue than conformity could bind us together? What if we could uncover a way of revealing our common humanity, and let our deep authenticity be the glue?
I believe that Nonviolent Communication offers us hope of creating this. I’ve seen again and again how this approach allows us to be more ourselves while simultaneously bringing us closer to one another. The more “real” we become, the more we find a deep meaning in being together, in rediscovering our buried longing for one another, without needing to conform or to shut down our authenticity.
For me the community camp is a rehearsal. I feel a strong impulse to live each day like this. I’m still gathering the peices, but with each rehearsal, I remember more of my lines.
The story that I told that night has a lot to say on all this, too. How ready am I to take responsibility for my own withdrawal and resentment? How big is my field? Is everybody welcome? I love how that party develops.
It was a pleasure to tell this story with my friend, Mathias Granum. Only two days before we had started experimenting with weaving story and music together, and I love his sensitive clarinet playing and percussion. The scene of the shoemaker’s madness owes much of it’s insanity to Mathias’ crazy clarinet frenzy…
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