This is a hard one for me. I went to a great progressive private school. I had a miserable time. I underachieved breathtakingly. It took until I entered the working world for me to find achievement. The system failed me.
It would be easy to counter by saying that perhaps I failed the system. But when I started school, I was 4 years old. I have more than my share of barbs, hitches and anti-social behaviors. But I’m basically a good person, willing and eager to please. For whatever reason, I was never able to line up with the system correctly.
It would be easy to counter that perhaps I was just not destined for success in life. But I ended up in the top ranks of American business before I retired at 40. Not exactly an underachiever by nature or a slow learner.
So what is the flaw in formalized, traditional (or traditional/progressive) education? It was designed for another era. The history is pretty sordid really. Coming out of Germany before the turn of the last century, it was designed to produce obedient factory workers and soldiers for the new industrial age. The industrial leaders of the USA brought it here shortly thereafter specificily to change the way lower class Americans behaved. It was intended to move them from the traditional American values of independence and self-reliance to people who were trained to work dependently in an organization.
People who are by nature conventional and conformist do ‘well’ in that system. Unconventional, non-conformists do less well. But of course, doing well in school is not an exclusive leading indicator of success in life. On the contrary, examining the list of successful individuals in our society, I would expect to find a preponderance of outsiders on the list. Being receptive to convention and conformity are hardly qualities sought in leaders or visionaries.
“You are called to belong, not just believe. Even in the perfect, sinless environment of Eden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves.”
– Rick Warren, “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?”
I’m not a practicing Christian but I find much to recommend in Rick Warren’s popular book. This quote in particular says it all.
What should we do in a community? Again to Rick Warren:
“We are commanded to love each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, admonish each other, greet each other, serve each other, teach each other, accept each other, honor each other, bear each other’s burdens, forgive each other, submit to each other, be devoted to each other, and many other mutual tasks.”
To me, community is a formalized way to make sure each day contains a meaningful human touch. So many of our contacts are anonymous. It is still wonderful to share a human moment with a random stranger. But it does not build. Relationships come from time, connection and contact. Community facilitates relationships. Relationships are the nourishment of life, life’s teacher and the bright lines on the road that true us to our calling. And yet, community in the flesh and blood sense of the word is rare.
Community should be real, not virtual. It should be held together by shared goals rather than individual ones. It should be stable, familiar faces with mutual history and three dimensional lives. It should have obligation and hold us to be our best selves. And there should be love, love for the gift that is that community.
Rare. And wonderful.
Simple really. It seems to me that the first step to living consciously is understanding that control is an illusion. Regardless of what I do, accident, illness, natural disaster, man-made disaster and a host of other things could undo all my plans and hard work. Living life on life’s terms is the first step to consciousness and a very hard one.