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Feb 25, 2010

My ideal community

In my ideal community, every person, of every size and shape, with whatever strengths and deficiencies, is able to find a place fitting his talents and needs. The ideal community creates a special place for every member, which fits her shape perfectly, like a cocoon. The person's rough edges are met with softness; his baby spots are protected by harder covers. The community does not stop looking until such a place is found. If someone is hurting, or unhappy, it does not seek to expel; it is busy looking for a new place within itself where one is happy, and is not hurting others. The ideal community does not expel; it is endlessly accommodating. It looks for all the good things each member may have, and wonders how they can be put to a good use.

It does not judge, but rather is amused by the weird things people do sometimes. It marvels at wonderful things people do all the time. The weirdoes are collected like rare stamps or coins – if they were printed with an error, so much better! The ideal community can take any amount of anger; it is eternally patient and endlessly forgiving. It may correct and guide, but will not try to alter anyone's inner being. People are just what they are. The ideal community does not believe in evil – it does not have a use for such a category. It admits the limits of mutual understanding – people are sometimes enigmatic, even to themselves. It embraces ignorance about each other's intentions or motives. Yet it is generous with interpretations; it always assumes benign intentions, even when consequences are disastrous.

The ideal community does not like pride and arrogance, no matter how justified. It does not support righteousness, but rather treats it like any other human folly – tolerated, but not cherished; a cause for amusement, not for admiration. The strongest must share their strength with the weakest as a matter of course, without asking. The strong are graceful, while the weak are grateful. It knows no pariahs and no outsiders. With each new member, it reshapes itself to make room for the new people. It values neither its identity, nor its ideals. People are more important than both.

It speaks with a thousand voices, which are not harmonious, not merging into one, but still recognizing each other as different and distinct. It does not seek agreement; it merely strives to hear the polyphony of human voices. To hear is more important than to be heard. It is a connoisseur of the human drama; it follows twists and turns of people's stories, and abhors clean, logical endings. It finds pleasure in stories, and likes to hear new variations of the same story. It knows how to forget and likes to keep many versions of its history. The ideal community is suspicious of agreement, it does not believe in consensus. Its members agree to act together if necessary, without agreeing to think the same thing. They all try to take in other voices; to internalize the discord of the larger discourse.

The community is not preoccupied with itself – it is open to the world, and has a purpose larger than itself, and its own happiness. It treats change as just another story, like a chrysalis enjoys becoming a butterfly: hurts a little, but it gives it a new life.

Such an ideal community is a utopian dream; it simply does not exist. It cannot exist, nor should it exist. Yet dreaming has huge health benefit. Research definitely shows that much (Source: none). In real life, communities cannot be too tolerant, for excessive tolerance hurts its members and its purpose. It cannot be endlessly forgiving, because it consists of real people who may or may not be able to forgive and forget. People's weaknesses may become too much of a burden for the rest to carry. Real communities have a specific purpose, and cannot afford be endlessly flexible. With dreaming, it is important to wake up.


  1. Anonymous9:35 AM

    Communities are created and maintained through relationships. But as you and your co-authors state in the "Manifesto of Relational Pedagogy" (Bingham & Sidorkin, 2004), "Relations are not necessarily good; human relationality is not an ethical value. Domination is as relational as love." Thank goodness there are rules and structures in place to protect people when the these forms of relationality emerge and gain momentum.

  2. Lynette9:18 AM

    I absolutely agree with Dana...thank goodness for rules and structure and the ability to enact consequences when rules are broken in order to maintain the good of the community.