Can Community be defined?

dancing couple

Can Community be defined? Maybe.

The dictionary’s first definition of “community” leaves much to be desired: all the people living in a specific locality. The second is not much better. It is, a body of people having a religion, a profession, etc., in common. It is not until you reach the third definition that the sense of the meaning of “community” becomes evident. Here, “community” is defined as “fellowship” or “similarity.”

The root of “community” is the same root that gives us “communication,” “commune,” “communion,” and even, “common.” The root com means with as in together. The English combination of “com” and “mun” comes from the French comun, and conveys the idea of two or more people involved in deep intercourse, or conversation, with each other. “Community,” then, in its truest sense, is that group of people who are in deep intercourse – think in terms of relationship – with each other. The operative word, here, is deep.

A few years back as part of a work-related project, Urban Paradoxes spent several weeks in 26 Cleveland neighborhoods talking with residents both individually and in groups. Everything that we heard from these conversations could be summed up in three words, “We need community. I have been thinking much about community lately, especially the lack of it in our lives. One reason for the lack of community in our lives is simply that we have lost the ability to deeply commune with each other, to share in each other’s pain, hurt, joys, and celebrations. We have become a me society— “It’s all about me” is our mantra, consciously, or not. And in the process, I think we have lost the ability to define community, let alone build it. “Community” has devolved to meaning the people living in a specific locality or part of a common organization, and nothing more.

Community building has to be a group effort. However, because our definition of community has degenerated into something less than it truly is, we are often at a lost to know what real community is. To this end, Urban Paradoxes™ will be adding a new page beginning July 15, simply called “Community.” We invite you, our readers, to share with your fellow readers your thoughts on community , as well as examples of community, of any type, at work. Please send them to us using the email link below.

Monday, July 07, 2008
© Frank A. Mills

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The transformation of space is always on my mind as I wander about urban neighborhoods. As I wander I try to be cognoscente of the inherent art and narrative of the space through which I move. The assumption that space = art + narrative raises all sorts of questions ,... Read more