Seeking community here. The fog of language. The separations. “Les associations sont très figés,” I offer the group of Baha’i organizers who try to enthuse me about their vision of service and community growth at Achene's house in Fontaine.
This is offered in response to a statement about how it is difficult to interface with the French associations.
I try to develop my own sense of what positive work is in the development of community. I log onto networked social software platforms like Twitter and Facebook, creating casual connections with people spread geographically. Many I knew from before and I feel closeness and kinship. But what is the common ground of life now? An illusion of community is created. It is illusory because we don’t actually have shared responsibility; or not by default, at least.
The Baha’i group impresses me with its effectiveness, but as always, I wonder about that which is not said. Only successes are shown. They seem to have such a confidence in their rightness of approach. But that approach is not up for discussion. The answers lie in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, their interpretations by Abdul Baha and translations by Shogi Effendi. Why choose this body of writings to found a new society? And why the reluctance to attempt to convince via the ideas and coherence and rightness of the vision? Instead I see the flexibility of a group that wants to govern, and its principles will adjust to the circumstance.
Wendall Berry writes about the value of community, and its role in protection of some human values. He always insisted community be tied to a geographical particularity, a piece of land. Only the ties and care for a particular piece of land is adeauate to create the shared identity and responsibility that fulfills the full sense of the word community.
The Transcendental Meditation organization also seeks a new government, a new organization of world society, here based on the writings and person of the ellusive guru who called himself the Maharishi. Here, the outreach is achieved by meditation and a highly unlikely link made to quantum field theory.
But with TM, the inward turn is encouraged. Indeed, through this turning inward, the benefits to society are assumed to flow.
How do we form a local community when so many have origins elsewhere? I look to my own family history, Jews dispersing from a misty Eastern Europe of my imagination. Shtetls in Ukraine and Moldova, complex political background in the Lithuanian city of Vladislovov on the German-Russian border. My step-mother’s Armenian relatives fleeing a hostile Turkey, marching through desserts to Lebanon and Syria.
And now I’ve gone back across the Atlantic, following abstraction, mathematics and science, trying to settle in a mountain surrounded cuvette of Grenoble. Does it do my own life justice to imagine there will be a complete stopping of this generational motion? Will I integrate into an old community, adding my spice and flavor to the mix?
The loose ties on the digital, social networks can drain meaning from attempts at coherent social organization. But they also create new possibilities, hinting at new stabilities.