Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Different Drum

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The Different Drum

While already possessing the desire to save everyone from their problems, after reading this book, I felt compelled to send everyone I knew a copy. I’ve had a hard time telling people how wonderful the second chapter made me feel. I wish it were required in more classes. While everyone is a victim of conformity, I have always tried my hardest to accept the things that make me different from everyone else. So often, we have a hard time accepting the things about ourselves that we don’t like, or the hard times that we go through because we seem to be the only one going through it. I realized after reading this that it is not only our looks and personalities that make us different from everyone else, but also our experiences; good or bad. I believe that if everyone would be more accepting of others negative qualities we would learn to accept those things better. This seems to be the first, but unspoken step to being a community � accepting others and our own not so perfect side.

True community is something that seems to be rare in this society. When a group reaches this status of true community, it is something wonderful and magical. In the book, the author, Peck, uses an analogy of a gem to describe a community. A gem starts out as a stone, but through the process of cutting and polishing it becomes multi-faceted and beautiful. The facets of a community are interconnected, and interrelated. Each one builds of the other. The first characteristics of a community are inclusivity, commitment, and consensus.

The greatest enemy of community is exclusivity. Everyone must be accepted for who they are, no matter what status they have, what they’ve done in the past, or anything else. This also means including our-selves. It is not easily achieved, but with practice becomes easier. It also includes accepting all emotions and feelings, whether it’s tears, laughter, or fear. Becoming inclusive involves commitment � the willingness to coexist, even when the times get a little rough. Hanging in there allows us to appreciate the differences within the group, which has a lot to do with love. In a community, decisions are made by consensus, not by voting. We’ve already had a taste of this in our group. We all had to agree on something, which meant some of us had to compromise a little, but we all ended up being happy with our final decision. When it comes to working within a community, we must be realistic.

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In making decisions, we must try to be as realistic as possible. It works out nicely when there are more people in the group because there are lots of opinions and solutions to choose from. The book says two parents are more likely to make more rational decisions together, than if they were a single parent. Another aspect of realism in a community is humility. As we appreciate each other’s gifts, we will learn to appreciate our own limitations. Witness other’s brokenness and we will be able to accept our own imperfections. The more we practice these things, the more humble we become; as individuals as well as a group. One thing that leads to this realism and humility is contemplation.

The group looks within itself, and becomes self-aware. The biggest meaning of contemplative is being aware � increased awareness of the world outside oneself, inside oneself, and the relationship between the two. As our thoughtfulness about ourselves becomes more apparent, we also become thoughtful of the others in the group, and of the group as a whole. A group that doesn’t become contemplative either never becomes a community, or it dies.

In my opinion, this next characteristic is one of the most important to me as an individual. A community must be a safe place. When I become comfortable enough around people to cry, scream, yell, or kick, then I’ve reached a very important place. For most people, this takes a long time. Most people my age, especially males, have been raised thinking that it’s not ok to show weakness in the form of tears. We must be strong. When people can get past this false belief, wonderful things can happen. While this is such a great achievement, most people spend their whole life trying to get there. It takes a great deal of work for a community to become a safe place. The members must replace their desire to fix everyone’s problems with the desire to help themselves. I know this is a problem that I have. Anytime a friend comes to me for help I always have to tell myself to stop trying to fix their problem, and just listen to them. I realized a couple of years ago that this desire keeps me from acknowledging my own problems and weaknesses. I spend so much of my energy helping everyone else that I fail to help myself. It’s something I constantly have to work on.

The next characteristic talks about looking at each member through “soft eyes.” We must see through lenses of respect. Once we get past looking at people through the mask of our composure we start to see the suffering and brokenness underneath. This brokenness also must be confessed. Every human is broken and vulnerable. I don’t know why it seems so hard for people to realize that it is completely ok to be what we are. Like I said earlier, our culture seems to be teaching that everyone must be as close to normal as possible, which means having no problems, and being strong.

Genuine communities must be able to fight gracefully. Conflict is essential in people becoming stronger. But there must not be sides. We must listen to each other and learn to not reject others. It is not always easy, but it can be done. A community is where conflict is resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed. We become skilled at listening, understanding, and respecting. We struggle together rather than against each other. All participants in a community must be leaders.

Because of the “safe place” characteristic, people who are born leaders learn to step down a little, and others who are really shy become more outspoken. A community is an ideal decision-making body. All members must feel free to express themselves. Once this happens, we can build off of others suggestions and opinions. It works out nicely.

Community must also be a spirit � the acknowledgement that something special is unfolding, and that they have found something of great value. There is no competition, but peace. This is also hard to accomplish. There will not always be peace. Getting there is a productive struggle. The spirit of community is spirit and love. The spirit of community descends upon the group just as the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. Communities don’t always have to be among Christians, although, I honestly believe it works out better among people who have a relationship with God and allow Him to help with the aspects of becoming a community.

Genuine communities seem to develop in response to some sort of crisis. The book gives an example of strangers waiting in an intensive-care ward who suddenly come to share each other’s hopes and fears and joys and griefs as their loved ones lie across the hall on the “critical list.” However, most of the time these communities vanish once the crisis is over. I found it interesting that the most successful community in this nation is Alcoholics Anonymous, but the more I thought about it, the more it made complete sense to me. I have a friend who is in the final stages of rehab for being a drug addict. He tells me all the time about the group meetings that he is required to go to and how much they accomplish.

The last chapter describes four stages of community � Pseudocommunity, Chaos, Emptiness, and Community. Pseudocommunity has to do with the initial response to fake being a real community. The group attempts to become once by being pleasant with everyone and avoiding conflict. Of course this never works. All of the earlier characteristics of community are not present. Differences are not respected, and members are not honest with each other. Everyone acts as if they are all alike, not different.

Chaos is the next step. Differences are finally brought to the surface, but the group is trying to rise above everyone else’s differences. The group ineffectively fights and struggles during this time of chaos. They attack each other, as well as the so called group leader. Remember, there must be no single leaders in a community. The time it takes to get over this stage varies with each group.

The next stage is Emptiness. This is the effective way out of chaos. This is the hardest and most crucial stage of community. The members simply have to empty themselves of barriers to communicate. Some common barriers are Expectations and Preconceptions - Filling our minds with false expectations of what the experience will be like; Prejudices � judgments made about people without knowing them at all; Ideology; Theology, and Solutions � any idea that assumes the status of “the one and only right way;” The need to heal, convert, fix or solve, and the need to control � I think these two pretty much speaks for itself. I have already talked about my own weakness with this.

The final stage of community is exactly that � community. When its death has been completed, open and empty, the group enters community where a soft quietness descends, and the room is bathed in peace. There is no uneasiness; each member begins to talk about themselves openly and honestly. Everyone experiences another’s sadness or grief, and even laughter or joy. Healing and converting begins to take place. From here they simply develop all the characteristics I have talked about earlier in this paper. The community must be maintained though. They might even fall back into chaos. Maintaining the community should take priority over all the other tasks of the group.

All I can say right now is wow. I really hope with everything in me that this class becomes just that � a genuine community. It sounds absolutely amazing, and I want to be able to experience it. I am looking forward to the journey.

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