Life is sometimes very hard indeed. The balance varies for each of us to outlandish degrees. While access to money can ease the other crap into being more bearable, even wealth can be stripped away by misfortune. Nothing is certain. This is why community is so important. It is in connecting with each other, to share the good and the bad alike, that we make life bearable. This can mean exposing ourselves to more pain as we open our hearts to the suffering of others, but it is utterly worth it.
In sharing, we learn, which can make us better prepared for our own setbacks. In sharing, we develop resilience and resources to tackle problems. We develop banks of knowledge and insight so we’re not individually re-inventing the wheel as the same old problems come round again. Very little is new. Death and sorrow, poverty and exploitation, tyrants in power and the commons in peril – I could sing you songs from a hundred years ago that tell all the same stories.
There is an approach that resents and resists other people speaking from this distress. There are many ways to silence discomfort. Ridicule, suggesting it is ‘over the top’ making comparisons to those who are, by some undisclosed measure ‘much worse off’ we can make people in pain shut up. This means we do not have to feel any responsibility for helping them. The consequence of this is to increase social isolation and to increase misery by a number of means. Today I was told that by expressing when I am unhappy and getting support, I have got into a self-perpetuating cycle that encourages me to stay in a place of pain rather than deal with it. Nice one! By this means am I to be shamed into silence, and into isolation, whilst being told I am being helped. It is bullshit, and needs labelling as such. How do we handle, as communities, the people who undermine community? One for another day perhaps.
When we work as communities to support each other, what happens is that everyone who today takes a supporting role, gets to feel useful and valuable. You are holding someone up, this is massively useful and valuable. It also demonstrates your membership of the community, expressing and reinforcing bonds of connection. You know, that when you get into trouble, the same thing will happen – people will rally round with kind words at the very least. There may be useful advice, wisdom, practical help, insight, opportunities – all of which could not have flowed to you if you had not expressed distress and need in the first place.
We all have off-days and periods of crisis. It is part of being alive and being human. If I sit here telling you about how great my life is, because I’m published/married/a Druid/have good karma/think positive thoughts and I create an illusion of joyful perfection, that could easily make it seem that there is a reason why my life is damn near perfect, and your isn’t, and the reason is you. That’s also bullshit, and damaging. If I own my crap, and own that crap happens randomly to us all, you know that I am not somehow magically better than you, and there is no innate failure in you that explains why things do not go so well sometimes. When you own your crap in turn, I am reminded that there’s nothing uniquely wrong with me, I am about as flawed and confused as the next person, and that’s ok. We’re allowed. I’m not faultlessly compassionate or infallibly wise. I make bad calls. We all do.
We are all, also now and then graced with moments of shining awesomeness. If you’re in an alienated culture where you can’t mention the shit, but you dare to mention the glorious success, the odds are some irate bastard will knock you down for that, too. In a culture where knocking people down is normal, anything that isn’t beige and forgettable makes you a target. Just look at how we treat our celebrities! In a real community, there is room for the sorrows and the celebrations, for the triumphs and disasters, for the bad days and the good ones, in whatever mix we get them. There is room to delight in each other, be proud of each other, support, enable, nurture and help each other through good times and bad times alike.
If you’re sharing a word, a thought, a moment, you are part of that community for me and I really appreciate it.