The year 2016 felt like a relentless year. The tense socio-political climate combined with the never-ending stream of shocking, and sad news left me longing for a communal place to process it all and be uplifted. However, outside of traditional faith-based communities, to which I do not belong, there seemed to be nowhere to go.
Talking to family members, friends and being on social media wasn’t enough anymore. The signing of petitions and giving of money still left me sitting at home questioning if any of it will make a difference, and feeling isolated from the “rest of society”.
The missing link was a way to weave connections between all that news, the accompanying emotions, and the desire to do something meaningful. A near impossible feat on your own because it is so hard to look beyond yourself. Your own entrenched thoughts, behavioral patterns, and surrounding echo chamber, have you stuck in your old loop.
The logical answer is community.
I believe there is something special about meeting in-person and hearing each other speak. It’s not necessarily about solving something right away, but rather about witnessing each other’s presence and asking today’s hard questions together.
One of my heroes, Krista Tippett, talks about the importance of renewing “public life”:
“Public life is bigger than political life. We have narrowly equated the two in recent years, and we’ve impoverished ourselves in the process. Public life includes all of our disciplines and endeavors, including our selves as citizens and professional people and neighbors and parents and friends. The places we’ve looked for leadership and modeling have become some of the most broken in our midst. And so it is up to us, where we live, to start having the conversations we want to be hearing and creating the realities we want to inhabit.”
We all want a meaningful life but often don’t know where to begin. Maria Popova, the founder of Brainpickings.org in a conversation with Krista Tippett brings up the word TRIVIAL, which is the opposite to MEANINGful. Trivia are bits and pieces of information you glean by often impatiently skimming a source, she says. By letting this impatience be the driving force the trivia never gets assimilated or connected to the other million pieces of information we have flying around in our heads. To turn trivia into knowledge, which is the material of MEANING, in her words, you have to contemplate… and that takes time.
Community helps to not let yourself off that contemplation-hook.
In the privacy of our home it is so easy not to invest the time… Hello, Netflix! But, just like we go to a yoga class, because we know 90 minutes of moving is beneficial for building strength and flexibility the same is true for building meaning.
Together we can propel each other toward the meaningful life we long for.