Our resident sustainability and eco-living writer, Davie Philip, wrote a powerful piece on nurturing community connections in our Autumn 2020 issue. Read it below.
Truth, Love and Community
Breaking out of our bubbles
by Davie Philip
“Relationship is the fundamental truth of this world of appearance.” – Rabindranath Tagore
We are living in a frightening, post-truth era, constantly exposed to fictions that divide us and atomise our communities. Nietzsche coined the term, perspectivism, to describe the idea that there is no objective truth, everybody makes their own reality. In these uncertain times we need to build our capacity for healthy dialogue, and to break out of our bubbles.
It seems as though there are more issues setting us against one another than ever before. The hard truth is that our world is fragmented, metaphorically and literally heating up, and is on the verge of multiple disruptions that we are unprepared to respond to on our own.
Centuries of competition and alienation have brought us to this point. Our centralised global systems, built on inequality and wealth maximisation, encourage and reward individualism. Leaving us vulnerable to shocks, fearful, lonely and unable to collaborate.
There is a long-held assumption that we are by nature individualistic and selfish. In his book Humankind, historian Rutger Bregman offers a different perspective. He says that most people deep down are pretty decent, and ‘our secret superpower is our ability to cooperate’.
When our outdated view of human nature changes, we will be more able to co-create a better world. We are a social species dependent on cooperation to survive and thrive. Rethinking how we relate to each other, as well as the living world, will determine our future.
According to Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘only when we’ve truly fallen back in love with the Earth will our actions spring from reverence and the insight of our interconnectedness.’ He also predicted that the Buddha of our time will not be an individual but a sangha; a community of people who practice together. Nothing in life is possible without community, and it is love that connects us.
The real work of cultivating community is relationship building. One of the most important predictors of our health is the quality of our relationships. The social distancing of this pandemic has highlighted the impact on our well-being from being unable to physically connect with others.
Strengthening relationships with people around us, and working on projects of common interest will help us seize the opportunities of these extraordinary times. Indian poet and philosopher Tagore wrote that “Relationship is the fundamental truth of this world of appearance.”
Buddha’s realisation was that interconnectedness is the true nature of all beings. Embracing this perennial truth, we move from ego-system to eco-system awareness and begin to act as an integral part of the whole. By shifting from silo-thinking to systems-thinking we will better relate to ourselves, each other and the world around us.
In many places we are witnessing an emergence of a new human culture rooted in this holistic world-view, one that is community-led, regenerative, circular, and healthy. But the truth is that this transformation isn’t happening as fast, or at the required scale that is needed. The urgency of this moment calls us to love more, connect deeper and sustain and revitalise our communities … together.
Davie Philip is a community catalyst and facilitator at Cultivate, the sustainability cooperative based in Cloughjordan Ecovillage, and a network weaver with ECOLISE, the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability.