June 17th, 2006


What is it to belong?

One of the challenging things about the two week permaculture design course I took with kcatalyst was, interestingly, the cultural piece. I'm used to being among "my people" in most settings, whether I'm with my family (who are my people in one sense) or my friends (who are my people in another sense), but with all of whom I'm very comfortable and have established patterns and ways of being.

Even when meeting someone new, I often am meeting them through someone I already know, and that usually gives me information about them. And if I don't care for them, I don't end up spending time with them.

The funny thing about a course, then, is that I'm meeting people without context beyond (presumably, though this turned out not to be true across the board, either) a shared interest in the topic of the class, in this case, obviously permaculture. Beyond that, any shared values are purely chance.
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All of this led me to be thinking a fair amount in the last couple of weeks, then, about what it is to belong, to be a member of the community, and to share unspoken values. Many of us do value diversity, theoretically, but a community, by definition, has limited diversity, as you have to have enough in common for the community to cohere. And it's interesting how talking about how open-minded we are can have just the opposite impact for the people who are on the edges.

I'm not sure that this is a problem, per se, so much as something that I'm enjoying mulling over, and, especially, comparing my experiences across different groups and situations. But it did mean that, while I was sad that the course was over when it was, I was extremely pleased to be back among "my people", whatever that means.