I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, and we’ve also been having a lot of conversations in JoyRide around belonging, connection, and even loneliness. I’m always fascinated by the roots of particular words and how they have been adapted into our understandings over time, and when I looked up “community” in the dictionary, it seemed outdated and a little hollow.
For the most part, the concept of community is based around living in the same place- a shared location- and certainly, up until relatively recently, that was certainly the case. Your community was your village, town, area, neighbourhood, and your place within it was what helped to define your identity. When I dug a little deeper, I found this definition from The Atlantic, in 2017:
“Community,” … is rooted in the Middle French communité. The word may have come to suggest a “body of people who live in the same place,” but, initially, it meant something much simpler and much more powerful: “joint ownership.”
For many of us, our geographic location is no longer the primary definer of our identity or our sense of community. For a long time, I realised my struggle with community was based on this older definition; I had mistakenly assumed that my sense of community would be derived from the people who lived around me, and for the most part, I neither fitted in, was accepted nor related to these people.
So where was my community then?
What I love about my work is that I am always called to challenge my own perceptions. If my community was not the people who lived around me (with the exception of a tiny few) who were they? And if we let go of the old definitions of community, does that liberate us to think and connect in new ways?
For me now, community takes shape around feeling; the feeling of belonging, the feeling of caring, and the feeling of mutual interest.
Once I wriggled out of the rules that had limited my understanding of what community meant, I realised that my true community is connected by those threads, but our feet stand on different locations all over the world.
Yes, it’s joint ownership. But not of land and space. It’s joint ownership of the feeling of care and belonging. And when I think of it this way, community is not limiting nor binding, but transcendent.