Monday, June 25, 2012
Is community possible when you’re alone? That was my question as I came up here back in May. How on earth could I understand community when I’m living alone in a place where I didn’t know anyone? My definition of community has grown-not changed, just grown. It has a wider scope now to incorporate a new concept. Community is people sharing an experience. It can be fleeting or it can be substantial. Dorothy Day said, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community” (Braughton, 120). Community is a desire to be with others whether or not you took the same path to get there. It is the recognition of others’ raw humanity-the humanity we all share-the wants, the needs, the desires. Community consists of seeing in others what we feel in ourselves.
The best way I can describe it is meeting other people here in Alaska. We’re all up here for different reasons, we all came here from different places with different intentions, but we’re all up here at the same time. Most of us came by ourselves and most of us are searching for similar things-adventure, new experiences, and nature. We didn’t plan a community, we might have hoped for it (more than likely we did), but we found it, sometimes in the most odd places. Community doesn’t have to be intentional, as M. Scott Peck pointed out, AA groups were started with, “no dues, no budgets, no buildings” (78). Rather, “all this has been done with virtually no organization, the founders having brilliantly sensed that excessive organization is antithetical to community” (78). Community is not a planned date, time, and location; it is finding the truth in each other, the humanity of being with other people.
I thought at first that my community was going to come from the local church, but I have found that it came from a different kind of sanctuary-the mountains. I have spent my weekends doing long hikes, forgoing church, and incidentally enough, I have made connections on the trails. Everyone hiking is out there for various reasons, some spiritual, some physical, some emotional, but we’re all out there and more than likely you’ll run into familiar faces. Bonhoeffer talks about the idea of community transcending the physical connection of person to person and going into a spiritual love that recognizes the person of Christ that connects each one of us. I agree, and I also add that community doesn’t only come from the church. Trust me, I know the importance of church and the community to be found there and I definitely miss the school masses (shout out to SMC!) but I have also discovered that God isn’t confined to 4 stone walls. He is in the breeze at the top of a mountain, the ocean and silt beaches, and forests and vegetation. Spirituality is realizing the amazing structure of our body and being thankful for the gift of movement, of breath, of thought-it is recognizing how very blessed we are as we stand 4500 feet above the sea and look down to the beach where you started. Or as you’re sitting outside for dinner and you look at the surrounding mountains and see the spot where you stood looking down. But, I digress, community can be found on the mountain trails as surely as it can be found in a church or school.
For example, remember those people I met on Lazy Mountain my first weekend here? Whelp, I saw them at 11 pm on the Flattop trail down in Anchorage. 50 miles south of where we met on some random mountain trail, I was hiking to the top for the solstice sunset and ran into Matt and Julia. We joined groups and hung out for a bit after hiking to the top together. We chatted about the various hikes we had done since and future plans we had, for hikes and otherwise. We talked about where we came from, what we were doing here, what we were doing after, and took the time to get to know each other. It was a chance meeting, twice, but I found community in that-the openness to communication, to adventure, to authenticity. Sunday, I was hiking up in Hatcher’s pass and we ran into a guy we had met the weekend before down in Eklutna on the Twin Peaks trail. We talked with him for a bit both last weekend and this weekend (he went to Gonzaga, boo! Just kidding!), and went on our way. Community takes on a different form but it is still community. It is the connection of people in a common endeavor, looking for similar things or just in a similar manner, and finding it in the most unexpected of places. Community has not required me to live with others, it has taught me to seek out others who are at the same place at the same time as myself and learn from them.
The combined group on Solstice (with a photo bomb in the background, everyone’s so friendly!)