Popes and riots, purpose and community

Living in a place like Meadowcreek, you can hear visitors coming several miles before they arrive.  We welcome visitors.  I doubt we’ll ever get too  many.  We’re just too far off the beaten path and too hard to find.

I grew up even more isolated on a dirt road that featured foot deep ruts during the mud season. With eight of us kids, we didn’t really need visitors.

crowdBoth growing up and now at Meadowcreek, self-sufficiency is a goal.  We rely on ourselves.  We aren’t interested in the celebrities many flock to see.  Our rock stars are the expert stone mason, the master herbalist, the fellow who makes furniture by hand.  Our favorite stars are the ones that twinkle at night.

We don’t have much truck with famous people like the Pope or the Chinese President who millions of Americans are flocking to see right now.  We are much more likely to question than idolize such authorities.  There’s not much they can say that will help our farm be more resilient or sustainable.

The Chinese President arriving on the West Coast was far overshadowed by the Pope arriving on the East Coast.  I had to be on the road yesterday and turned on the radio.  Every channel was about the Pope.  Even the oldies station had up-dates on the Pope.  I turned it off.

Why are people so enthralled with celebrities?  Maybe because they don’t see the wonder in their own life.  Maybe they are stuck in the city or the suburbs far from the wonders of nature which enthrall us.  Maybe their city lives are so drab they need the excitement of seeing a celebrity.

Or maybe they need community.  Maybe they just want to be a part of the adoring throng.  Some people like to lose themselves in a crowd.  They love football games in big stadiums where they can cheer and boo along with the crowd.  Maybe all of us are susceptible.

Individual thought processes and behavior patterns do change when a person is in a large group.  Sometimes the changes are benign.  A quiet, reserved person yells and cheers at a ball game.  Active, irrepressible people become quiet and meek around the Pope or the President.

Sometimes the changes are destructive.  A crowd gathers after a shooting and becomes a riot.  Peaceful people are looting stores and destroying vehicles.  Or the cheering crowd at the football game becomes destructive after the game by turning over cars and breaking shop windows.

Simply by being part of the crowd, individuals can lose all sense of self and all sense of responsibility. Yet, at the same time, they gain a sense of nearly invincible power due to their numbers.

Riots, football games and adoring crowds for popes all are manifestations of the same phenomenon.  Part of us wants to forget all our mundane, daily concerns and be swept along by the passion of the group.  People want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

People need purpose and community in their lives.  Losing yourself in a crowd is a quick fix.  You get a momentary purpose and community.  Then you leave the crowd and go back to your life without purpose and community.

The trouble is that lasting purpose and community requires commitment.  We are wary of commitment.  We want our freedom, we don’t want to be tied down.  We are taught: “to your own self be true.”  Many wander the country or the world, looking for themselves.  Then, some show up at Meadowcreek, hoping to sink in roots at last.

When you have shared purpose and community, commitment is not an onus but a joy.  If you share our purpose of understanding and creating resilient, sustainable systems and if you like our community, then you might even make a commitment to Meadowcreek.

Maybe instead of going to the football game on Saturday, just come up to Meadowcreek.  Watch the wild turkeys walk down the road.  Hear the deer snort in the woods and the owls hoot at night.  Sit on the patio and watch the constellations slowly move across the sky.  Discuss hydropower and solar kilns and building soil organic matter. Work with us in the gardens, fixing up the houses or splitting wood for winter heat.

See if you find purpose and commitment here.  If not, you can always go back to the football game, the pope, or some rock star.