It’s increasingly becoming clear that our social, economic, political and ecological systems are in trouble—civilization may be heading for a global collapse. Chaos theory tells us that when stable systems become unstable they can reach a tipping point where the complex factors which produced the instability overwhelm the systems, leading to either a breakdown of order or a breakthrough to a new and different kind of order.
Human beings have survived system crashes in the past because of our tremendous ability to adapt and cooperate. In fact, a new view sees cooperation as the instrumental factor in the rise of civilization rather than competition and domination. The old view, articulated by Thomas Hobbes (on which we justify the existence of domination systems in commerce and government), was based on the mistaken notion that prehistoric human beings , in the “state of nature”, were autonomous individuals who, in order to survive, formed social groups. Paleontologists have discovered that even in the earliest primates, group behavior was the norm. Psychologists have found that children who are isolated from contact with other human beings do not develop a coherent sense of self. Physicists have discovered that the universe is an interconnected network of systems, fields, and events. Newton’s concept of the atom as a substantial object which needs nothing other than itself to exist—was wrong. In short, contemporary developments of the natural and social sciences have led us to the understanding that there is no such being, and there never has been such a being, as an autonomous individual. We are social beings through and through.
It is argued by many today, that we may not be able to survive as a species much longer. We are in the process of destroying the environment that we depend upon to support us. Survival continues to depend upon cooperation and healthy relationships—a recognition of our interdependence—but we’ve become alienated from one another and from nature. We are on a downward spiral as the more we become alienated from one another, the more we fear relationships, and the more fear we experience, the more we become alienated.
Our survival depends upon reversing the downward direction of this spiral.
The good news is that we are adaptable. We can change our patterns of behavior. We can, through our intentions, reconnect with one another. We can intentionally experience community. Some of us know that this is possible, because we are in the process of doing it. The other good news is that sharing life with our neighbors is just plain fun!
In the next few pages you’ll find our vision of how we can reverse the trend of hyper-individualism—by simply gathering with our neighbors and doing some “one-anothering”: laughing with one another, eating with one another, grieving with one another, comforting one another, teaching one another, praying for one another, correcting one another, protecting one another … or perhaps it would be much shorter and accurate to say that we are learning to love one another.
Our goal is to see a network of neighborhood gatherings develop that can benefit from our experiences.
The purpose of these Gatherings is to learn how to be good neighbors; to create intentional communities of neighbors within walking distance.