I Believe in Community Spirit
I believe in community. I was taught this at a recent party. It’s been a couple of days since then, and I’ve had the time to clear the cobwebs of only a few hours sleep and good tequila from my head. More than that I’ve had the time to look back and know a good party. I met and talked with people I hadn’t known; I also got to know those I have known much better—not necessarily through conversation but through spirit.
Most of us have been taught a solitary path to a place of spirituality—a personal prayer at the altar; a monastic withdrawal; meditation; time alone; a lone cabin in the woods; a desert chatauqua. I have taken up one or more of these at some point, and I’m here to confirm that at the right time they’re the right thing to do. Looking inward and steadying that shaky mirror that is self is essential to reflecting on what’s out there accurately and intimately. There’s another place of spirit, though, that we hint toward and don’t find as often as we should, in others.
In one fine moment from the other night I remember seeing my friends Jan and Ken dancing sweetly across the flagstone floor, Tony smiling and singing with the musicians, Gary listening to and talking with graduate students, Connie sitting next to me, my daughter Kory on my lap and pretty much the whole of us clapping and moving our hips and talking and watching with others.
In music we’ll talk about finding a groove, and you’ll know it well when you play with others—when you all fall into a rhythm greater than the song you’re playing, bigger than the individual players, and you sink into a beat like some collective heart. In one-on-one friendship it’s that time when you’re neither the advice-giver nor seeking it but listening through the words either is speaking to real communication. With lovers and spouses, it’s the looking into each other’s eyes with love during sex or doing the work of a house together without needing to divvy up chores. With gatherings, it’s that strange time when folk sink into a communal spirit, give up a bit of their individual fears and desires and just let the spirit of the party take them.
Music helps—people shaking their hips and asses together left, right, left, right is a kind of community. Good food helps too—food that has memory and care in it—organic, grass-fed cow raised by Jan and Ken, old recipes, Gary’s exotic hot pepper ice cream. Place matters too—the personality of a deck well made of home stuff (rock and wood), drifting between the indoors and the stars and dewy night air. Having a lot of good friends doesn’t hurt, but this is less important than trusting in the ebb and flow of meeting new people and new ideas and picking up on old conversations with more distant acquaintances.
It is easy to imagine community, a unified group of people, but hard for it actually to happen. I know for me it is easier to find a sense of spirit wandering by myself through a poem or nature, and I am sure others are not so different. When community happens, I’m guessing this is what it is—people gathered together, collectively and simultaneously letting others advance, and gaining in spirit by sharing in the whole. Music moving us along in the current of melody and rhythm, the food we eat connecting us, the drink we toast with and the talks we have smooth and slightly intoxicating—perhaps then we can give ourselves enough to community and spirit that the stars and the dry night air can confirm themselves. This is the stuff worth believing in.
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