Living in community is a challenging and beautiful thing. As social beings, we need each other. Sharing our lives so fully, by living, working, learning and playing together, we forge deep bonds and develop a sense of belonging, a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves.
Living in a community can also feel like a trap. As individuals, we sit within our own singular experience of the world, wanting what we want with what can sometimes be a ferocious intensity. And yet, when we live in community, the needs of the group must, at times, usurp our own personal impulses and desires. The demands of others, their messy feelings and strange ideas, can interfere annoyingly with our own.
So what to do? How do we tolerate the frustrations of communal living, so we might reap its benefits? The best answer I have come up with so far is compassion. As this year’s Oliverian community takes shape, we are beginning to reckon with its beauty and its challenges. In this spirit, I used yesterday’s community meeting to share an excerpt from Roshi Joan Halifax’s book At the Edge. I hope you enjoy it:
“When we’re at the edge, in danger of falling over the precipice into suffering, compassion is the most powerful means I know for keeping our feet firmly planted on the earth and our heart wide open…
When… we offer compassion, it burns forth from our heart like a comet. This is the spirit…who hears the cries of the world and responds with a boundless heart – one that does not sink like a heavy stone in the waters of suffering, but that is broken open like a geode to the rare space within, glittering with light for those who are struggling in darkness.”
Interim Head of School