Saturday, May 15, 2010

'All morality, like politics, is local'

I’ve thought and written a lot about being involved in my community of Hillsdale.

So I was curious what others would write about community as I settled into the chapter of readings devoted to the topic of “Building Local Community” in my “Sense of Place” course book anthology.

The “group-guided” course is offered by the Northwest Earth Institute and is centered around discussion of shared, stimulating readings.

All the readings were excellent in this chapter, but one essay by the clinical psychologist Mary Pipher provided me with new insights into community.

“Home,” Pipher writes, “doesn’t have to be where you were born or grew does have to be a real place that you have committed to over time. I has to be a place where you have friends and know the names of many people you meet....It’s where when you sit down to talk, you don’t have to discuss Tom Hanks or Benecio del Toro. You have real people in common.”

That’s what Hillsdale, a neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, has become for me, and I’ve lived here “only” 20 years.

Pipher continues, “Communities are about accountability, about what we can and should do for each other. People who live together have something that is fragile and easily destroyed by a lack of civility. Behavior matters. Protocol is important. Relationships are not disposable. People are careful what they say in real communities because they will live with their words until the day they die.”

Because of this need for community civility, Pipher adds, “We behave better with people and places we will see again and again.”

Bad behavior, like “road rage” and war, happens between strangers who will not meet again.

And so Pipher says, “All morality, like politics, is local.”

A lot of the connection between neighbors is sharing our stories and our space, she notes. What is our shared history? What are our civic events and celebrations? What are our public spaces — trails and parks, plazas and markets ?

Pipher writes, “Those communal places are needed now more than ever.”

And increasingly, with the lure of “virtual worlds” and fabricated "television" neighbors, we have to consciously make our communities and commit to them.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Joyce's Prayer

Joyce stood to speak out of the silence of our Quaker meeting this morning.

Her words shook the stillness.

“How do we pray for an entire body of water?” she asked in a strong yet sad voice.

A collective sigh met her determined words.

Her query spread like the oil slick itself.

How do we pray for the endangered and dying creatures? she asked in deliberate, measured cadence.

We would pray for the birds and reptiles and other critters in the reeds and marshes.

How do we pray for the Mississippi Delta and the fragile coastal lands in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi?

And we long to pray for the already hurricane-ravaged Louisiana.

And what of the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed?

And in the Gulf of Mexico, what of the suffocating creatures of the deep? How do we pray for fish and crustaceans?

We pray for an entire eco-system, she said.

“And we ask forgiveness.”

“And we pray for healing.”

With that, she sat down to the prayer-filled, somber silence of Friends.

Labels: , , , ,