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Creating community

May 24, 2012

Group dining together (Source)

The issue of community has been up for me recently, it is always a concern of mine, but something has changed.

Our international online artist’s group is doing a joint project called Space, Place and Story. We were all asked to answer several questions about what ‘home’ meant to us, and how the place we lived in affected our art.

In answering these questions my usual story surfaced, of feeling displaced here as an internationally oriented American in provincial northern Holland. And the feeling of loss I carry around with me having left several communities behind in the states and in Scotland, so far not being able to recreate an intimate sense of community locally.

It turned out that many in our group were dealing with similar feelings of being an outsider.

As my contribution to the project grew, primarily through some compassionate and perceptive questioning by one of the project leaders, Sibylle, my ‘usual’ story began to change. I saw how, though it had been uncomfortable, the breaking down of my professional identity here in Holland had made way for a deeper, more inclusive kind of art sensibility. I’ve been infinitely enriched by being here in another culture.

In a little book called, ‘The Community of Kindness’ from Conari Press, there is a story of how a woman always used to spend her childhood summers at a lake where other families would come year after year.  That ended when she reached adulthood.

‘The experience of being part of a community can be so powerful that iits absence feels like a deep wound. That’s useful because the pain reminds us that it is important to be connected to others. But at the same time, we can get stuck looking backward, mourning what is lost or even  trying to reconstruct something that cannot be put back together again.’

This, and the project with my artist’s group are opening new perceptions for me of what community could mean if I stop trying to recreate what I’ve lost, but look instead to what is here. The truth is, that in searching for my fixed idea of a close knit community of like minded people, I may have overlooked some of the many chances for connection that I have closeby.

Realizing this has also opened up a question about how my art could relate more to the issue of community and connection, and I’m asking myself, ‘Is there a way to enhance this?’

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7 Responses to “Creating community”

  1. Laura Hughes Says:

    Hi Sarah!
    This is thought provoking, as usual!
    My experience has been the reverse of yours: not belonging to a community in any of the places I’ve lived until I arrived in this little town in the valley.
    Living on a boat means I have a ready-made community of people who share the common passion of boats and canals.
    The people in this town are extraordinarily friendly and helpful. Shopping is a social activity and can take ages as numerous conversations are struck up with shopkeepers/staff in cafes and galleries who have become friends, and their customers, too! Nothing is too much trouble and help is always offered. It’s amazing and I’m sooo lucky!
    This valley has always been a creative place to live, not just artistically. The idea of the first building society was developed here! There are many community groups that meet to share art, craft, music, dancing, languages, gardening, cooking and so on. It’s a very rich place to live.

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Hey Laura, nice to hear from you. You are indeed lucky with opportunities for community close by. I am glad you appreciate it because it is precious.

      I guess I could find more of that here if I looked harder. I am a loner essentially, who avoids most things that require ongoing commitments. I can just about manage regular attendance to my Tai Chi class, which requires around an hour of public trnasport each way for an hour and 15 min. lesson.

      • Laura Hughes Says:

        Yes, I was convinced I was a loner too!
        For me it’s been finding, by accident, like-minded people with a common passion that has shown me that I do indeed need and enjoy being part of a community. You are so right: it is extremely precious. We had the option of moving out of this area and decided very quickly that we don’t want to leave as we have too much to lose and may not be able to again find what we have here.
        The effort you expend going to/from your Tai Chi class sounds like an amazing and determined commitment to me. I take my hat off to you.

      • szoutewelle Says:

        Thanks Laura. Yes I think one can’t underestimate the importance of community, I think you are wise to keep that. I’ve seriously uprooted several times in my life- changed cultures twice and languages once. I’m glad I followed my heart at the time, but if I’d known the price (losing my place in solid communities) I might have done it less casually.

        Well, as for the Tai Chi lessons, we live in a tiny village and most of the more quality cultural stuff happens in Groningen. I don’t drive here so public transport it is. It is lovely living in the country (in summer that is!) so the huge effort needed for these kinds of things is simply the down side of that. On the other hand, lot of good culture is on offer here in the area as well.

        I find that one discovers like-minded people one by one. So in my case, the community of like-minded people is very widely dispersed- over the whole world, really.

  2. Michael Davidson "Mon " aka Monocle Says:

    Hello Ssrah; Monocle here
    I think part of the creative passion that drives us to busy ourselves to feel think and create community is our desire to be connected to source; and that source is love
    The heart seeks love ; and the mind seeks uncertainity and debate . Thoughts create feelings
    and feelings create emotions ; humans tend to think that just because they feel an emotion; then therefore it is true . I am fat ; I am unworthy and then the old standby I feel disconnected (unloved)
    Love is the vibration and the resonance of the universe and the planet .It is the connection we seek in ourselves and in others ; it is the collective connection to our commjnity and to our sovereign self and its connection to our higher power or to GOD; as we understand him
    Most feelings of disconnect or lack we learned in childhood ; for some of us it was when our mothers left the room ; or didn’t come when we cried ; it was the disconnect we felt and it scarred and frightened us so by adulthood those feelings have become truths and fears ; that we tend to dwell on and mull over and seek out in relationships
    The truth is we are not alone ; we are courting and dating our heart and our higher self.
    The heart is of its own intelligence ; used creatively it gives us wisdom and heart guidence or heart intuition.
    As an artist that is the center from which we create from .The intelligence and the creativity will serve you all your days
    ; or the empty space the mind tells us is in need of ‘ Feelings of Lack or feelings of whats missing often goes back to childhood ; for most of us it was the feeling of disconnect when “Mommy ” left the room some of u

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply Michael, and for the reminder. I agree with this, especially with the thoughts about needy emotions arising from past hurt and lacks.

      Yet there is a fundamental need in all humans for social as well as spiritual connection. I think this drives us as much as any other internal force.

  3. Michael Davidson "Mon " aka Monocle Says:

    oops sorry for the typo at the end ; it should read “all your days ” end ……..thanks /m


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