I have a feeling some of us are getting a little disillusioned with the term “community.” It seems to be carelessly thrown around at the same time as global political isolationist upheavals and rapid advances in biotech and infotech are breaking families, economies, and countries apart. Some argue that the concept of community is exclusive in nature, bringing people together who only share the same beliefs and alienating others who differ from them. This is all true, real, and the reality of our world today.
Forget Donald Trump’s wall and “shit-hole countries” references. Ignore psychopaths hiding behind religious cloaks and boasting they have the key to paradise. And forgive the “chosen race” for a moment caging entire people in open-air prisons. Community is not so bad. There is another side to the story. And it is good! It is comforting, life-giving, and nurturing.
What we cannot deny is that the very essence of our humanity that sets us apart from computers is our life-force (emotions and spirit) driving our awe-some physical bodies, both of which thrive on connections, interactions, relationships, and touch.
To put it simply, we cannot thrive in isolation. This is backed by scientific evidence. There has been much written on the direct link between healthy human relationships and longevity and happiness —overall well-being. The work of Dan Beuttner is one such fascinating window into what he calls “adding life to your years.” Beuttner, along with a team of scientists, identified areas called Blue Zones that had the highest number of centenarians on the planet. Okinawa, Sardinia, and Luma Lima in California average 9-11 more healthy human years than the rest of the world. What they share are many common lifestyle choices we are all familiar with. (Yes, a whole, plant-based diet is a common denominator.) But the two others that really stand out are ikigai, which translates into life purpose (the reason you wake up every morning), and moai that in Okinawa means tribe or group of friends. I believe the two are closely linked. Our life-purpose connects us to other beings. A 104 year-old woman in Luma Lima still drives her car to volunteer at 7 different locations. She is part of the seventh-day Adventist community that meets regularly to discuss shared values and interests, especially their religious adherence to weekly nature walks. (It is in the Bible. So is a plant-based diet.) Turns out if all your friends go out regularly for hikes every weekend, you are more likely to be influenced to do the same. One is more likely to be obese if they have 2 or more obese close friends.
Isolation kills, as Beuttner found out. We cannot live our lives hidden behind a screen. What we need is a safe offline space to be human — with other humans. (We also need to spend time in nature and connect to animals.) We do not have to share beliefs, gender, skin colour, or passports. What we need is to share the intention to honour the essence of our humanity and live our highest human potential, with compassion lighting the way. This requires finding the courage to be open to ask provocative questions, curious, open-minded, and vulnerable. This is the power of community in its human, offline form. It is what brings life to our years and helps us get it right, because we only have one go at this.
If you are reading this, it means at the very minimum we share a sense of curiosity and intrigue. It is from that platform that together we can explore avenues to feed and raise our human consciousness, share, listen, and contribute to not only enriching ourselves, but to the betterment of our society, country, and world.
This has been the seed for the recently launched Adventures of the Soul —Community with Readers Jordan. As you know, I see compassionate living as the choice that recognizes we are all connected to the earth and all her inhabitants. These connections thrive on our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. In simple terms, what is good for us is good for our neighbour, the stray dog outside our garden wall, and the earth. That has simplified living for me and given me the space to not only breathe, but feel compelled to share. It was that sharing that developed a connection between me and my favourite retail outlet in Amman: Readers. We share a love for books —real offline ones. (Books are essential components of my moai.) From there, the seed was planted for the beauty of our human, real-life, off-line connection: to create a community of growth-seekers.
Our first gathering met under the theme of kindness (compassion and giving). The conversation was inspired by Give and Take by the author and business psychologist Adam Grant.
On the wall at Readers you will find our Tree of Kindness. The idea is very simple. Everyone is invited to write down their wish/dream. It could be something as simple as a special meal they are craving, or a desire to connect with someone they are interested in meeting. It could be a project they wish to see happen or a job they are seeking. Our hope is to create a network of true givers —and compassionate humans bringing joy to one another one leaf at a time.
I believe all of us are committed to embodying a life of compassion and kindness. This means taking small steps everyday to put into action what inspires us and motivates us. A support system is crucial to our success. This moai is not a wall like Trump’s. It is a tree that keeps giving, moves toward the light, and brings beauty onto everything it touches. Our community is not exclusive. It is life-giving, and welcoming.
That is the case for community.