A remarkable feeling came upon me just now. We were gathered in usual room for sharing. I looked about, and for a moment, it felt as if we could have all been strangers to one another – and what were we doing, sharing with these complete strangers the things that brew at the bottom of our heart, things that ought to kept for only ears of the most trusted? It sometimes seem such a miracle, and blessing, that this community has been forged; that a quiet intimacy flows through the gathering, such that we will know to not be afraid in revealing our troubles, but letting them float to the surface and be cast away by the collected strength of the community.
You must know by now, all of you, that I have a tendency to avert these uproarious activities. It is simply not in my nature to enjoy them. I far more prefer the quiet; the empty corridors, the sleepy pavilion, the breezy balustrade.. But in as much as I am discomforted by the activities, I do not oppose to your participating in them; I know how much it means to you, and what incredible joy you find in it. So I try, I try to sit by the sides and quietly observe, or if my head begins to hurt, I turn away to fiddle with some more soothing thought. But there are times when the on-goings become unbearable and I have to exit the room. And when I return, the emotions have already settled. My friends, could I not have felt slightly ashamed at having sat out the entire thing? – at having excluded myself from that circle of joy, wherein all of you had sung in exultant voices and tears welled in your eyes. Such a treasured moment, a common ecliptic experience, and I was absent. I do not know how to feel about all this, but only march over them, indifferent; a forced and tedious indifference.
I will admit that it was rather disheartening to hear of some members admit of their discontent with the community. To be more honest, it was a member whose words truly poisoned my optimism, smeared that dainty impression I have of the community. What was opined was something like this: I have communities of friends beyond this one in church, and I do feel quite more comfortable being amongst them. And could I not have felt, as I imagined some others might have too, that we were doing too little for each other, or that we had inadvertently taken this member’s demeanor to be something other than what is actually brewing dissatisfaction.
I suppose when all the time I thought highly of the worth of community, I assumed the others thought the same. I assumed too that when they appeared reluctant to attend sessions, that it was only because they were lazy; I assumed that deep in their hearts, they were still bound to the community by a sense of belonging and responsibility. And so to have this all proven otherwise, I naturally felt disquiet.
A vision fleeted through my mind this afternoon. I imagined all of us finding no purpose in community, slowly began to leave, one after another, until finally, there was no one left. We all went our separate ways. Some remained in contact, but the community which once banded us all together had lost its power. What will be of BASIC but an interest of the gossipers.
It is a terrible, terrifying vision. I hope it does not come true.
A man feels ashamed at having committed sin not because he owes a responsibility to his downcast morals, but because he is afraid of the thought of others discovering that he, usually such a man of form and dignity, is in fact capable of those lowly, pitiable, even frightening acts. Thus, friends are always important. And more especially, that they hold similar moral beliefs close to their hearts; so that whenever one loses his foothold on the slope of morality, he will always have a rope on to which he can cling and pull himself up.
I am glad that Father Brian called us together this morning to ponder the definition of community and question ourselves if we were, in the Christian sense of the word, a community. He told us he had gathered from hearsay that we were not as active as the other communities and that on special occasions like the adoration on Holy Hour, our members were sparse among the crowd. It worried him; led him into a thinking that we, having dissolved our core leadership, had lost all sense of direction, and that without a linchpin, we were loose linen with no collective endeavor. In fact, I think it quite frightened him, since there had been before, a community that allowed the social supplant the spiritual and thence had no reason left to continue in it. So, finally, he implored us to rethink our goals, to make the fertile the grounds for spiritual growth rather than just loll about in the soil.
For moment I had felt his words unjust. I have not been to a single sharing session where I was not reminded of the faith, of how God reaches into the lives of all, of good people around me whom by their actions inspire and are made true exemplars of the Christian life, of the struggles that our friends might be facing in deep silence, and of our individual responsibility to the community to keep ourselves from straying. Each time, I learnt something about myself, about others, about the faith, and if these all are not a form of growth, then my thinking must surely be ill-shaped.
But this is exactly parasitic problem. In our contentment, we believe in the righteousness of our every action. I was content being a part of a community and having people with whom I could share my beliefs, my joys, my experiences and my troubles. And though, admittedly, I did grow more through solitary introspection than through the knowledge shared in the community, I never afforded this tendency much attention. Community, for me, had served, and still does, more to remind than to teach. And I, in my contentment, saw no wrong in any of it.
Yet, the more I thought about it, about our sharing sessions and the regular Sunday ones, I could not help but to notice that indeed there was a hint of sloppiness. Though we may share and marvel at God’s intertwining with our lives, and pray as one in ardor and gratitude, there is this faint sense that our community is remains stagnated at a spiritual ground on which we have all comfortably settled. For the reason that it is faint, I fail to see, beyond the mist, the summit of spirituality that ideally we should hope to reach.
Perhaps, as some have mentioned, we ought to start by first reviving our leadership; for just as a society without a government will have “no navigation, no instruments of moving and removing things as require much force“, so it is that a community without a leader will have no collective spiritual direction nor impulse to move forward. Others have also suggested that we make a greater effort to understand one another, to listen more closely to the fluctuations of another’s heart and give support whenever needed, and to conquer, in our closeness, the impeding indolence set heftily upon us by life outside of our faith.