In a previous post I said that I believe we have a purpose, and that is to share our lives with one another, to have faith in each other and to forgive each other.
What tangible goals can be worked toward with the mind of fulfilling such purpose?
Many. But the one that is most essential is the goal of working to found and strengthen communities.
What I mean by "community" is important. By its current use, the word seems to mean any collection of people that have some identifiable common interest. But what I mean by community is much more specific. What I mean by a community is a finite group of people who live and work with and for each other over lifetimes.
By this definition, most people who live in cities or developed countries do not have communities. We have families, but our families are fractured and diluted. Beyond them we have social networks - friends, acquaintances, business partners - and through them we meet and exchange information, advice, goods and services. But such networks are not communities.
A network has no boundary. It provides no sense of identity, nor virtue, nor dream for the future. A network offers no convincing incentive for loyalty, commitment or sacrifice.
Only communities provide such things. Communities give to their members a sense of belonging, identity and purpose. They are greater than the individuals within them, and their members are often willing to die to help preserve their values.
Long, long ago, virtually all humans lived in such communities. Over the past few millennia, they have been largely wiped out. And those that remain seem likely to join them.
Because they can not survive the deleterious effects of cognitive dissidence accumulated as civilizations become ever more massive, interconnected and diverse. Urbanization and globalization relentlessly repartition and redistribute the people of Earth's neighborhoods, towns, villages, and tribes - shredding communities until we are left with the situation we face today - where the youth of the most urban portions of the world (and most of the world is now urban) are born without a coherent sense of lineage, heritage, culture or belonging.
Communities are, for the most part, dead and dying. And in their place we are left with networks - social systems where people grow up with fleeting affinity to ever changing cultural amalgamations and learn to interact almost exclusively for very intentional, specialized and finite purposes.
The death of communities in their ancestral and ethno-centric form has been an unsettling but necessary consequence of globalization. Humans could not have become as interconnected and globally aware as we are now without the killing of the traditional communities from which we originate.
But it is a high price we have paid. And what we long for is a way to return to the sense of belonging and wholeness once afforded by small communities without losing the perspective and interconnectedness offered by globalization.
I believe this is possible, and that bringing it to fruition is the greatest and most important task that lies before us as a species.
We must somehow - in this world of constant global communication, relocation and innovation - engender new forms of community that uphold authority but appreciate respectful dissent, that enforce boundaries but encourage fluid redefinition, that hold central values but continuously explore amendment, and that foster loyalty and a sense of belonging without invoking xenophobia.
I believe this can be done. And I cannot think of anything to do in this life that would be more meaningful.