We choose our own communities. Not that long ago, this was a comment made in a multi-voiced discussion that I was involved in. I never really appreciated the statement until the beginning of when COVID hit. All the mandates of separating everyone from one another led to a lot of isolation, but many have found inventive ways to regain some of that prized connectivity.
We were all sitting under an overhang at the far end of the building on the college campus. It was lunchtime, and we were all doing our normal lunch gathering. Outside the fire door, right where the college campus walkways tied to the walkways of the local high school that was next door. This side of the high school was inhabited by the school’s band, so there were no classes located here. That meant we could talk loudly and not worry about interrupting any classes. It also put us about forty-five or so feet from the temporary building that housed our Programming Logic class that started around 1pm. The overhang would shelter us from any rain or even the sun, which was our nemesis that afternoon.
Our discussions were always free-wheeling points on a wide variety of topics. Sometimes, we would wind up cussing at one another over our differences. Other times, our discussions felt more like examination and cross-examinations in a court of law. However, when the nearby high school alarm bells went off at 12:50, it signified the end of the high school’s lunch period and brought our wild charging sessions to an immediate end as we slammed back our orange juices, sodas, and bottled water while we cleaned up the remnants of the bagged meals we had all shuffled in with. Our little lunch-clutch was over.
As I noted, the comment that “we all choose our communities,” had been innocently flung into a contentious discussion on a hot northwest Louisiana afternoon. The discussion had been ignited with a point being made on polyamorous relationships. The back and forth over whether three (or more) people could maintain an adult relationship had its difficult merits. The concept of a traditional monogamous relationship was tossed in. Then the charges were leveled that being with more than one person was “cheating.” Having been part of a poly relationship previously, I noted that poly wasn’t for everyone, and didn’t work for every single relationship. The debate continued without much following my addition. In this format, I was always used to being run over by either side. Even then, I tried to find middle ground. How Libra of me. 😊 Eventually, the conversation started to be re-molded and altered as a perspective about being part of socially constructed community models could also be considered in the same mold. The conversation slid over on its side, bursting open like a tanker truck full of gasoline. Eventually the alarm bell at the high school rang, and everyone quietly picked up their part of the lunch detritus, and we all angled off to our classrooms. On our way to a Programming Logic class, our class goth, applying her shiny black lipstick around her lower lip-ring leaned against me while we walked, and uttered the phrase to me. “We’ll talk,” she winked at me as we reached the classroom steps.
We did talk later. We talked about how social constructs of groups can be equated to the archetypes we all have been programmed to believe. Goths always dress in black and are always interested in the BDSM lifestyle. Most likely not completely true, but it’s a construct that society places on those folks – fair or not. Programming geeks are always good at math, play computer games, and are always socially awkward. Again, another construct that society aims towards everyone. But what about those that don’t fit these constructs? What about those that choose to throw off the construct but continue to wear the “uniform” of the construct? My friend Alia had a point. Society places us into these neat containers without looking into the individual. Such an easy way to see society. These people fit this genre; thus, they also have these mannerisms.
Its easier to deal with people when they fit into these tight descriptives. We don’t have to take the time to get to know the individual underneath. We can make all kinds of decisions of people without taking the time to get to know them. Plus, this helps feed into the “Us v. Them” narrative we’ve all been fed over the decades. Fuck, we do it as casual sports fans. We do it as Pagans. We even build divides in this manner at our jobs – the workers versus the administration. All because we’re too lazy to get to know the individual underneath. Libras are like this. Fluffy bunnies are just vapid airheads that can’t see the power of the dark. Trump supporters are all white supremacists that want to destroy the American government. And then there are the suppositions of the diametrically opposed perspectives to each of those perspectives, and all the perspectives that are not named. Except one. That we’re all people here. We all have a right to live. We all have right to express our opinions. And our rights stop at the tips of the noses of other people. But I am allowing this to tip into a previously written post.
We all choose our own communities. We do. I chose to be on my Path as a Druid. This Path appealed to core values that I have concerning nature, our environment, and the application of my beliefs to all of that. I chose to use Facebook because it’s a convenient way to stay in touch with a large group of people. The people I have friended there are a part of my own community. I post there to share information, get things off my chest, and even share a laugh. I post to be a part of a community that I value, even when we disagree with various points. Choosing my own community is a freedom I greatly value.
About a decade and a half ago, I came across a term that has always intrigued me. “Intentional Community.” According to Wikipedia, intentional communities are defined as:
…a voluntary residential community(ies) designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision, often follow an alternative lifestyle and typically share responsibilities and property. Intentional communities can be seen as social experiments or communal experiments. The multitude of intentional communities includes collective households, cohousing communities, coliving, ecovillages, monasteries, survivalist retreats, kibbutzim, hutterites, ashrams, and housing cooperatives.“Intentional Community”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intentional_community
I would also note that much of this can also be applied to the communities we form within our Paganism. We might not cohabitate together, but we share our lives together to whatever degree that we feel comfortable. Whether that be through gathering for celebrations of the Wheel of the Year, rituals around the cycles of the moon, or just getting together around a fire to talk and enjoy life – we collectively share together and make a community – intentional or accidental. We choose to be a part of all of that, as well as how deep we will be involved. We might not share households, spouses, children, pets or what have you. We still share ourselves. We can even decide how exclusive we choose to be.
Alia is still correct. We choose our communities. Alia, after graduating, went on to work with a few of her friends in developing an office for counseling people who are dealing with mental issues in their lives. She’s still that same black-lipstick, lip-ring goth…with a whole lot of tattoos that she didn’t have back when we ate lunch at our local Community College. Me? I’m the same Pagan I was back then, except that I eventually found my way into Druidry. While Programming Logic wound up being her elective, for me its been the basis of computer career. As I think back and remember those days, the two of us sitting back-to-back at the edge of the concrete, using one another for support…we formed our own little community out there in the northwest Louisiana summer. Just for a single semester. But it existed. Amazing what you learn during your lunch breaks while at college, eh? 😉