Thursday, April 30, 2015

Being Touched in Community

Being touched has many meanings.

1. Heart Connection
as in being affected by someone's plea or pitch

As humans, I believe we are hard-wired to want connection to each other. However, our societal conditioning doesn't necessarily reinforce this. In many ways, the hunger for community is fueled by this unmet need: both to be touched by others and to have others touched by us. I think we all want to be seen and held by those around us, and intentional community is, in part, an attempt to surround ourselves with people who care about the same things—making it easier to in touch.

This is more than others understanding and working respectfully with our ideas; it's about being seen for who we are and known for what matters to us, where meaning is deepest. I want to be clear that the essence of my focus is on being cared about and taken into account—not necessarily that you're agreed with.

2. Slightly Crazy
as in being influenced by wildness or spirit in mysterious or unbalanced ways

For most of us it takes courage to create or join an intentional community. It is far off the beaten path and looked upon as something rather exotic by most in the mainstream. In fact, one of the challenges for people living in community is being taken seriously. Many political activists, for instance, believe that living in intentional community is hiding out—creating a safe enclave out in the boondocks instead of engaging on real issues. (While I don't share that view, I've heard it plenty.)

I am an acorn that has wandered quite far from the tree from which I fell—so much so that my fellow nuts have a hard time conceiving of an oak growing out of my seed. As if the journey to new soil is not perilous in and of itself, I must also bear the stigmata of familial disapprobation or confusion. It is hard leaving the herd.

3. Physical Contact
as in bodies together

I had an experience of this last Sunday, at the end of Men's Group. After sharing that I was planning to take a leave of absence from Dancing Rabbit and try living with friends in NC, the evening concluded with the group giving me a "cinnamon roll." Starting in a circle with everyone holding hands, I dropped my left hand and then spiraled inward while continuing to hold the hand of the person on my right. The results was a spiral with me in the middle. I was acutely aware of both the smells and touch of the other men—and how seldom I feel that.

Because our culture tends to overlay almost all touch with sexual innuendo, there is a strong tendency to discourage touch excepting across the bonds of immediate family or where there is mutual consent to enter into the realm of sexual exploration. The upshot of this taboo is that people are starved for touch. Even where there is scientific evidence that touch is a necessary feature of health, we physically connect with one another seldom and often as carefully as handling porcelain when we do—as if we might break.

Among the many things I miss as a consequence of being estranged from Ma'ikwe is her touch: holding hands on walks, her touching my shoulder lightly when delivering me a cup of coffee at my desk, cuddling as our last act of consciousness at night.

At its best, community is about everyone being in touch.