BACK AGAIN

It’s been a long time since I last posted my thoughts here.  Most of my written thoughts have been expressed on Facebook – more response there, and opportunities to compare my thinking with others.  However, I feel an obligation to continue this story of Neighbors Gatherings.  That story must include why the gatherings in North Port, FL ceased, and why I believe they didn’t continue.  And, of course, why my dream of starting a movement such that a global network of gatherings could come into being didn’t happen.

When Terry and I moved from Florida we were hoping to take Neighbors Gathering on the road with us.  But, in the six weeks of travel before arriving in Washington, we received several discouraging emails from neighbors.  I was amazed at how quickly what we had put together in our home, came apart. The gatherings became ungathered – although there were hints of problems before we left. Three in particular:

  1. No “home base”.  Although several neighbors had volunteered to hold gatherings in their homes occasionally, no one was willing to open their home on a regular basis.  Our home was recognized as what some called, the “club house”.  (What the gathering was or how to label it was always a problem for some.)  But, without a default location to gather at, there was no physical center.  “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” (Yeats).
  2. Rules were created.  One of those “rules” had to do with how often gatherings should occur.  It was decided that, rather than simply relying on the invitation of a neighbor opening their home to a gathering, meetings were to be held monthly.  And of course, rules were created because certain neighbors had a desire to be in control.  Rules and rulers develop together plus someone wanting to enforce the rules.
  3. Internal division.  A person began attending who was intensely disliked by another neighbor (the same person encouraging the creation of rules). It didn’t take long for an infection of disaffection to spread and shunning to occur.  Eventually the person was accused of  breaking a rule (taking a picture and publishing on FB) and was told to stop coming to gatherings.
So that happened.  Which raised the question in my mind whether the gatherings would have continued if we hadn’t left.  Were the gatherings ego-centered? Was I the center? Were they  dependent upon me?  And, if so, would I want to start again gathering neighbors in other places?
My wife and I started a “home church” in Wyoming several years before we moved to Florida and had walked away from it, because I could see how it was becoming institutionalized and dependent upon me to be the ‘pastor’ (I’m not a fan of the clergy/laity system). Plus, I could see potential problems ahead as my theology began changing radically.  I didn’t want to do that again.
How could I encourage neighbors to gather with other neighbors if I really didn’t believe their efforts would be rewarded (and it takes a lot of effort and commitment)?  If I wasn’t willing to be an example, practicing what I preached?  Better, I decided, to figure some things out – like, can neighbors really learn to get along with other neighbors?  Is the vision I have for an egalitarian, non-hierarchical (anarchic), peaceful world a pipe dream? Maybe … but maybe not.
More to come …

8 thoughts on “BACK AGAIN”

  1. I would say that people, in general, are gregarious. I also have some misgivings about "organizing work" and "organizers". It seems to me to be one more way to split a community into "us" vs. "them" ("organizers" vs. others). I'll have more to add about this in future blogs.

  2. If Hispanics know how to be neighbors, then I think someone needs to discover why and how they do it. I've got some ideas that I will be sharing in future posts, but looking at hunter/gatherers for clues rather than ethnic groups.

  3. And as Goria Arnold says, "I think modern society is so overly hectic and stimulating that people are too exhausted to do anything but become vegetables in their free time." This is something I have also always thought. Are there more comments on that subject?

  4. Don, look no further than the traditional Hawaiian 'societies' to learn about the "spirit of aloha". Whether related by blood or not, everyone becomes one another's auntie, uncle, cousin, etc. Children can be shared among families, or the duties of parenting can be taken over by someone in a better position to do it as dictated by need. Every day there is reason for celebrating, for sharing, for loving and being grateful.

  5. I would still like to know whether this neighborhood concept (in which I was included for over a year) would have continued to expand, or would have fallen apart eventually for one reason or another. It is not unsimilar to some other groups in which I participated, or even organized myself.

    Here are some generalizations:

    1. People enjoy being "joiners" and will often attend or participate in events as long as others do the organizing work. They do tend to like to sit back and enjoy their non-efforts.

    2. Those that are participators are divided into those who tend to truly "get into it" once they are there, also bringing food items for potlucks which they have made a nice effort to create and share, as well as organizing games and encouraging others. Or there are those that truly seem standoffish, whether introverted, or downright anti-social. With great effort from the others they can sometimes be encouraged to take part in the activities as well.

  6. A couple quick thoughts: Hispanics and African Americans are more open to their neighbors. I do believe that this isolationism is a very white American "disease. Secondly, I think modern society is so overly hectic and stimulating that people are too exhausted to do anything but become vegetables in their free time. Nothing left to give their neighbors. My hispanic neighbor embodies every single one of the traits of a great neighbor that you listed. He draws community to him. Perhaps most of us need a neighbor or a neighborhood project that gives us a focus for coming together. There have always been people who draw others, lead others, and those who only wish to follow. I think it only becomes a problem when leaders abuse their influence, or followers refuse to take responsibility for even themselves. I see your frustration in feeling like you wasted your time, but you may have planted seeds that are still dormant. Maybe you just need to find yourself a good hispanic neighborhood!

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