As part of my ongoing series of video chats with Project Heaven on Earth author Martin Rutte, this week we recorded a segment on the subject of "building community".
Interestingly, Martin and I share a similar experience of the concept of “community” in that we both live in remote island locations – Martin is a full-time resident of Prince Edward Island which is situated off the eastern coast of Canada.
In some respects, it is easier for islanders to grasp the extent to which “we are all in this together” as we spend our lives on a finite landmass. When a storm approaches, we cannot just drive inland to escape; we have to find a way to withstand whatever comes our way and work together afterward to clean up the mess and rebuild – Tonga might just be the most extreme case after its tsunami.
On a more esoteric level however, the importance of building community can elude even islanders if we make the mistake as individuals of taking the attitude that I am fine on my own or, the only thing that matters is what I want.
The “I” in these instances Martin explains, is the ego exerting itself in an unhealthy narcissistic way. You cannot build and sustain a thriving heaven on earth community populated entirely by unhealthy individuals.
The interesting thing about the pandemic is that on the one hand, it has really pushed people everywhere to work virtually with each other to the point that you might say that in some respects we are more connected than ever before. But it has also shown us the true toll that too much confinement and isolation take upon the psyche. (For example, as a community “we” are creating ways to help each other through this difficult time, but those who resist this new norm have a tendency to reach a point where the “I” just can’t take it any more).
In fact, we have reached a point where the social media giants would have us believe that life online is the only sort of community that matters in the modern world and that in-person contact can be completely sublimated by virtual contact via chat rooms, forums, and virtual meetings.
But is that really the case?
In our pandemic-imposed isolation perhaps what we are also learning is just how much humans need each other and are dependent upon each other as we struggle to create a path which will enable us to move forward as a species.
In this respect, as a business colleague recently remarked, the silver lining of the global health crisis might well be that it is causing people of all walks of life to “assess their lives” and evaluate what is really important.
This realignment of life priorities has the capacity to make it easier to see just how many of the current global problems an individual cannot solve on their own. The “I” cannot solve Covid, greenhouse gas emissions, supply-chain shortages, plastic pollution etc – we will have to work on them together.
Equally it also makes it easier to see just how much people can accomplish in a short time when we come together as a community to address an urgent and life-threatening situation.
Which begs the question, if we can put aside our differences and successfully work together to change the whole world when we view a situation as urgent, why we are not yet convinced that things like hunger, human-trafficking, child labour and discrimination are urgent problems in our global community?
Robin Trimingham is the managing director of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a business consultant, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://bit.ly/3nSMlvc or email@example.com