A Sense of Community


As our modern times become ever-more chaotic, the fear of loneliness and uncertainty becomes an increasingly prominent feature in our life. Moral certainties have turned into lines drawn in the sand, constantly washed away by the waves of individualism, clearing the slate for us to write and rewrite our own narratives.

Nietzsche forecasted the death of God, the superiority of the church eroded, neighbourhoods turned into sterile suburban refuges, and the nuclear family gave way to plethora of novel household possibilities. We are now free from Rousseau’s chains of tradition. We are born free and we will live free.

No longer dominated by the church, we are free to further science. No longer confined to a traditional family, we are free to form households that better fit with our unique desires. Free from moral certitudes, our desires burst into infinity. We explore the dark corners of our subjectivity, experiment with our bodies, and seek self-identity in a multitude fleeting social groups.

Life has exploded with complexity, yet, our fundamental desire remains the same; we just want to be happy. But now, more than ever, happiness does not bring certainty, just as certainty does not bring happiness.

We have become artists of our own lines in the sand. Amidst the tides of modernity, we are tasked with redrawing ourselves again and again, but we need to remember that we can’t do it alone.

As the late Marina Keegan describes this in her book The Opposite of Loneliness, “It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team… Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers – partnerless, tired, awake.”

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    1. I think both. Although there is a trend toward small communities and flexible networks, many individuals still find a strong sense of community in traditional institutions such as the church and the military.

  1. Barbara Kingsolver, in “Pigs In Heaven,” nicely contrasts the Cherokee community, despite its poverty, with the world around it. The one has the sense of community, the other lacks it. The one is much happier than the other.

  2. Well put. I’d like to offer that it’s not just people. Look at people and their pets. Or those, like me, who look to nature for a sense of belonging and meaningfulness. Nature costs nothing and is available to rich and poor alike.

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