Growing up in rural Ireland, I experienced a strong sense of community associated with place. My family lived in a small town; we knew everyone and extended family lived close by. Now, before you think I'm going to create an idyllic picture and write of a hankering for times past, let me assure you that knowing everyone was not always a good thing; there was nowhere to hide. That said, the positives absolutely outweighed the negatives. When life threw you a curveball, you could be certain that the community would rally around you. There was a clear sense of collective joy at births, marriages, confirmations, Christmas, etc., and when a family experienced a tragedy or death, the community rallied to provide support.
As an adult, I have moved several times for school and work. When I have found myself in a new location, I have always attempted to recreate community. I imagine that several of you have had this experience too. This need is driven by a strong instinct to belong. If we tune in to Mother Nature, we'll quickly observe that other two- and four-legged creatures also have an instinctive need to belong; they organize in packs, herds, troops, pods, flocks, and so on.
There is also a second instinct that men share. We're living in the last minute of the history of human evolution, and for most of that history we've been in competition with each other. This strong instinct to compete with each other is grounded in the search for scarce resources.
For those of us doing inner work today, this instinct to compete is often a barrier to being in community. In fact, these two instincts can make us feel schizophrenic. We have both a great desire to belong to a community and a strong desire to compete with others in that community.
This schizophrenia tends to keep our interactions at a superficial level, but as a culture we cannot afford to live this way any longer. The high rates of suicide and disaffection amongst young men point to a growing need in our world for a community of men who are doing their inner work and providing community-based leadership for future generations.
This takes courage, but not the same kind of courage that it takes to fight a lion. This courage is about the willingness to be appropriately vulnerable: to share what we struggle with and where we see God working in our lives. This means we have to step out and participate in community, even when we feel tempted to anesthetize ourselves to the inner journey and the risk of sharing. Part of the function of Illuman is to create sacred space for men who want to take that risk.
So where do you see each of these instincts (to belong and to compete) playing out in your life? Where are you finding community-or not? Where might you need to create it?
President, Illuman Board of Directors