There have been several things happen lately that made me consider what it is to be part of a community, any community, and how people relate to you, and you to them, as a result.

Miriam Websters Dictionary defines Community thus:

  • a group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood)
  • a group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.
  • a group of nations

This is a fairly common definition.

The questions I have been mulling in my mind revolve around the second definition. People with the same interests, like testing. Or maybe the same religion, or lack there-of. Or something. I’m not sure.

Simple, Obvious Communities

These are the kind that once upon a time,  I would have shaken my head at the lofty idea that this was some form of community. For example, voluntary communities like people in schools. Any level of school works, but let’s consider a college or university.

One community meets at 8:00 AM five days a week for calculus, or differential equations or… something. Maybe another community is in the intro-chemistry lecture. There is nothing stopping members of one “community” being in the other. I had the good sense not to push my luck and take courses like that at the same time. Way more work than I wanted to do – which made another form of community.

Then there are people who work for the same company. Mind you, the first company I worked for was fairly large for where I was living – some 2,000 people worked there, all told, in many buildings on their “campus.”

This could be narrowed down to people who work in the same building. Or maybe, we could limit it to the same Division or Department or Team. These might be individual communities.

Not terribly long lived, but still a community of sorts. People change positions, job functions, departments or leave the company altogether. They are no longer part of one of those other communities, but they may be part of a new community.

There are other communities I might belong to – like musicians, classical music performers (at one time) or blues and jazz performers (another time) or traditional/folk performers (still another time) or pipe band music performers (still another.) Each of these forms a community based on what the members do. That I was in another community that overlapped all of them, percussion performance, is immaterial. At one time in my life I was in each of these – several at once to be precise.

Then there are other communities…

These are the ones people are born into. Like, Caucasian Males for me – Caucasian Females for my sisters. There is the family community we were born into. In this case, most of us don’t have much say who are parents are. None of us have much control over what group we are born into. We may change that community to a point, but somethings we really can’t change. We’re stuck with them – and the associated communities that go with them.

There are also communities that might be chosen for us, like what religion we are raised in, if any. We might have parents who take the course of teaching us about many religions, then explaining why “we” (they) follow the religion we/they do and the church they go to. Some of us stay with that religion out of conviction and belief. Others may wander away and choose another faith. Still others may choose to abandon organized religion altogether.

Wow. That is a complex “community” configuration.

And still…

That is a pretty common model for communities built on faith or belief. You begin in one community, because that is what those around you do. Then you change yourself… or not. As children grow and learn, it is not uncommon for them to push back, question  and challenge the religious tradition they are raised in. How this period of growth is handled varies from group to group and faith to faith.

This is part of the process of determining what the person really believes, and where they fall in with religious life.

The problem there is, most religions and belief systems have core tenets of faith and expected behaviors. These boil down to, “These are the things we believe and how we act or behave; if you do not act this way and do not believe these things you are not in communion with us.”

So, if the religion says “Don’t eat meat” then if you eat meat are you really in that community of faith? How about “Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages (e.g., coffee)” and you do anyway, are you really in that community of faith? If the religion calls for respect and protection of women and children, even at the cost of your own life, and you willfully inflict pain on them, are you really in that community of faith?

What if your faith calls for complete non-violence?

What if one of the Commandments your religion says came directly from God says “You shall not commit murder?”

Most religions and faith based communities have ways and means for members who have “fallen away” from the faith. Many leaders will see some variance as “youthful indiscretions” while others will see similar behavior as suitable for damnation. (For me, the latter category likely have never gone through the maturing process where their faith has been challenged. They have likely never experienced the pain of trying to understand why they believe certain things and not others.)

If a person who violates the teachings of their faith or religion on a regular basis does so in complete disregard to the orthodoxy, the leaders of that faith community, are they part of that community? If a person “cherry picks” items so they feel better about their own lives, do they really believe what the community believes or are they setting out to a different community?

What about people who insist they are right, they understand the “true meaning” of what is is to be of that faith, and they fly in the face of the leaders of that community? Are they part of that community or are they part of something else?

Do people who claim to be part of a religious or faith community, who take self-directed actions “in the name of” that community, really do so for the community? For the faith? Or maybe for something else? Are they “faithful warriors” or are they attention seekers who only feel value if they can latch onto something?

What about testing?

In testing, we see people get identified (usually by others) as part of one “school” or self-identify as part of one school. This generally means you agree with certain tenets and theories (a bit like a religion.) The “community” is based on people agreeing on those tenets.

If those tenets are pretty loose, and the first is that the tenets are decent ideas and may need to be applied differently depending on the situation you find yourself in, how do you identify as part of that group?

Are you drawn by the “names” in the school? The community?

What if you question the bold statements and assertions of those “names”? Do you still belong? What if you disagree with those statements? Are you part of the club of those who declare their view is what is real and correct? “No real tester would…”

What if you see people slapped down (metaphorically) on twitter or some other social medium by these “names”?

When questioning is not allowed, or only permitted if the question
is phrased very precisely, how do you teach others the “rightness” of your position?

Are the people slapping others down acting for the community or for their own self-glory? Do they need the attention on them? Instead of the message they claim to be spreading?