Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I've lately begun to understand that all any of us really wants is to feel we belong; to feel inside a group; to feel included and accepted for who we truly are: To be known. I've been thinking about how we go about finding that sense of belonging or making it happen. Often it's done by creating some kind of boundary and saying that those on this side of the boundary are like me and accepted and those over there, the Other, are not accepted. The boundary can be pretty much anything. I grew up in a small town in which there were many ways of creating boundaries. There's the way it was done in Junior High school: I only want to hang with who's cool and I say who's cool. There's dividing by geography: City folks versus country folks. By accents: You sound like me so we're united. By ethnicity: My skin and hair look like your skin and hair so we're inside and everyone who doesn't look like us is out. There are plenty of ways of segregating people by monetary standards: I shop here/I live in this zip code/I drive this kind of car/my dad (husband) does this for a living/I went to school here/we vacation here/I (literally) belong to this club/etc. and people who do the same are OK with me. Where I live, and I suspect it's like this in some other parts of the country but perhaps not the whole country, religion and politics are a big divider: I vote this way and follow these rules and participate in these rituals as a means of worshipping my deity and those who believe differently are the Other.

Sometimes feeling inside is a good thing. I'm thinking about a couple sharing that feeling of "it's you and me against the world". Or being on a team and working together to create something is really a wonderful feeling. Our family has a lot of inside jokes that people who don't know us wouldn't understand and that bond us with one another; people who hang out with us often learn our jokes and we begin to feel they are part of the family and love them. We all need to belong.

Often, though, it seems, boundaries are created more from a feeling (real or imagined) of persecution: They are against us so we must declare loyalty and take up "arms" (actual weapons, words, attitudes, create laws, whatever). We feel threatened by the Other so we create boundaries that act like the walls of a castle with holes in walls not for a view or for sunlight but to lob artillery through.

What I'm coming to understand is that boundaries are the opposite of "the kingdom of heaven". Boundaries keep me apart and mistrustful. Seeing others as the Other keeps me from seeing "that of God" in them. I am not aware of Christ within me or within you when all I can see is how different we are from one another. Because, of course, when I see boundaries, I'm judging myself as well as judging the Other. Again, I think of Hector Black and his joyous, welcoming smile. When he walks up smiling, it's as if he has been longing to see you and is so happy to be with you again, even when you've never met. I imagine Jesus made people feel the same way.

I've been reading a lot about building community and picked up this book the last time I was at the library: "The Community of the Future". Last night I read an essay (by Margaret Wheatly and Myron Kellner-Rogers who run a nonprofit research foundation exploring new organizational forms and ideas) called "The Paradox and Promise of Community":

..."Rather than being self-protective walls, boundaries become the place of meeting and exchange. We usually think
of these edges as the means of defining separateness: what's inside and what's outside. But in living systems, boundaries are something quite different. They are the place where new relationships take form, an important place of exchange and growth as one individual chooses to respond to another. As connections proliferated and the system weaves itself into existence, it becomes difficult to
interpret boundaries as defenses, or even as markers of where one individual ends."
That's what I'm coming to learn: That we are all connected. We're all in this together. We're all one in God. When I create a boundary between myself and another, I'm cutting myself off from God. When I open myself to connecting with another, I'm opening myself to God. I give to God when I give of me to another.


Liz Opp said...

Mary Linda,

Thanks for the reference to Margaret Wheatly's article; I look forward to reading it soon!

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Jennifer said...

Hi Mary Linda,

Thanks for this post about community. I've been finding the same paradox. I want to find like-minded homeschoolers to do things with, but then at the same time, we end up cutting ourselves off. I'm struggling with that at the moment.


Alex said...

Mary Linda, do you know any very trustworthy persons who could give me a ride to Meeting? I'm at a loss.

obviously, this is very short notice for tomorrow, but there is always next week :)

Thank you!

- Alex :)

Friendly Mama said...

Mary Alex,
Where do you live? I'll be going tomorrow but I'll be driving a very unreliable car that I only drive very short distances. If you live near me, I'm happy to pick you up. I live in Bordeaux about 4 miles from the Meetinghouse.
My number is 337-6656.
Mary Linda

Alex said...

I'm very near Hillsboro village, but obvi don't want to post my address on you blog. ;) You never know who's out there!

I'll give you a ring this weekend, thanks! :D