Claim your community.

Things have been a bit crazy lately.  There’s been so much going on, both at home and at the shop, that I feel a bit unhinged.  I’ve been trying to maintain a regular routine that includes exercise, meditation/devotions, and regular sleeping patterns, but these days, it just doesn’t feel like enough.

So, right now one of my guilty pleasures is watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9).   What’s odd to me about my current viewing habit is that of all the series in the Star Trek franchise, DS9 was my least favorite.  I don’t intend, or want, this to turn into a Star Trek debate over which was the best, it’s all personal opinion anyway; and some of you might be surprised that I’m even a Star Trek fan at all, and that’s the not the point either.  The reason I bring DS9 up is that this time through, I’m enjoying the series much more than I thought I would, and I’m finding it much more enjoyable than I remember it being when it was first broadcast.

Why do I seem to like it more this time around?  In a simple, single word answer: community.

There is an underlying current in today’s American culture that idolizes individuality.  We have single serve food items, from pizza to fruit cups – and don’t even get me started about those ever popular single serve coffee makers!  Carpooling and public transportation is an inconvenience for many of us (or simply unavailable!).  Even though most public schools offer a bussing system, we insist on driving our kids to school.  We can watch whatever we want, on demand, and our family members can watch something else in another room.  Have you seen the commercial (I don’t even know what it’s for!) where everyone’s dancing to their own music in the woods – and it’s silent because they’re all using earbuds?  Talk about an individualistic idea!

Don’t misunderstand, individuality can be a very good thing.  Not following fashion because you find it a silly ideal doesn’t really hurt anyone.  Being able to think for yourself should be encouraged.  Not sharing your water bottle when you’ve got a cold – no need to share that.  But, I’ve been wondering if our drive for everyone to be one-of-a-kind has left us lacking a sense of community in our day to day lives.

And I’m wondering if that’s part of the reason I’m enjoying DS9 so much more these days.  Yes, it’s a pop culture science fiction program.  But it’s a good example of beings living in community with a number of other beings – and many of them come from different cultural backgrounds.  The characters  are physically forced to be a community because of the location – a space station.  But within those physical parameters the characters form friendships, business arrangements, worship, raise families, handle crime, settle arguments, and celebrate religious and cultural events.

I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately – from the idea of neighborhoods to the larger idea of a global community, from family units to extended family and friends we call family, from personal circles to business circles, you get the idea – and I think DS9 has hit on that thought.  Sure, DS9 stretches this theme to include all humanoid lifeforms, but the theme remains.

Be it a large nomad family unit, tribal life,  a walled feudal city surrounded by farms that supplied the residents with food, or a city neighborhood, we have always relied on each other for things that aren’t always tangible – security, companionship, health, childcare, eldercare, nourishment.  And it’s this vague, not always tangible, reliability and sense of belonging that seems to be slowly eroding from our society.

Why do so many people look back on college as the best time of their life?  Why do so many people look forward to moving into a retirement community?  Why do some preach the value of family adnauseum?  Why do we join fraternal organizations or clubs?  Why do we attend conventions or festivals that revolve around a single theme?

Because we need each other and we need to feel like we belong to a family, a clan, or a community.  There’s something about that feeling you get when you finally feel like you belong somewhere – when you finally find a “home”.  It seems a bit contradictory to our society that this sense of belonging often occurs when we no longer stand out in a crowd, but rather when we find others like ourselves and we blend in.

I don’t live on DS9 – I mean really, it is a fictional place, I know that.  But it reminds me that my community includes people in my physical neighborhood, people with whom I share a hobby or interest, and people that I’ve never met.  Physically, if this is the place I call home, then by calling it home, I’m claiming it as my community and I belong here.

Have you claimed your community?