This past week, one of the topics we discussed as a larger group was community. How do we as individuals define community? What is a community comprised of? How does one know when they are a part of/not a part of a community? Are there rules for membership and entering into/exiting a community?
Naturally, I just listened and let the participants speak with each other most of the time. I end up learning so much more and often will (re)shape my knowledge and perceptions on these topics from what comes out of these conversations.
One aspect that stuck out to me was this idea of community as something that people figure out together. Where people come together and decide what the rules are for being in that community, what is appropriate behavior, what is required for inclusion, and what the boundaries are as well as how to maintain them. While I have certainly had these conversations in the many seminars I’ve taken throughout my time as a former graduate student, this felt different. Never mind what this author has to say, what this theory touts, what this specific paragraph says in this specific passage and how can we transfer that to the larger scene unfolding before us. Nah. When asked what this means, participants answered with what I feel are the most basic of needs: the need to be seen, heard, understood, respected, and included.
I say 'basic' but I do not underestimate the power that these needs hold. It should not feel like moving mountains to get people to listen and respect other people's’ boundaries and wishes, hold themselves accountable, or include people in conversations that directly affect them, and yet, this is the world we live in. These are the power structures we live within. These are basic human needs and yet only a few are afforded the privilege of being seen, heard, understood, respected, and included. Colonization knows the mana inherent in people holding space for one another and that is precisely the reason these needs continue to come up. Community as a place where people have their basic emotional, spiritual, and social needs met and where respect and boundary-making is maintained is enough to start revolutions.
This is me thinking through this topic, clearly. I have a lot of thoughts on community, as someone who has been a part of several throughout the years and who has had mixed feelings about my experiences. This week I was reminded while listening to these conversations that in order to figure out how to build community on a larger scale, maybe we need to tap into our naʻau more. Our naʻau reminds us of those basic needs that should be met; perhaps it could also guide us to how we go about constructing a world in which that becomes the norm. Where we listen to each other, to each other’s needs, and as a community we build a place where those are respected and fulfilled.