Reinventing Community in a Fragmented World
The century saw the creation of hitherto unattainable wealth but ever wider gaps in its distribution. Above all, the century was characterized by the greater interconnectedness of events on a global scale, while simultaneously being subject to political processes of rapture and disintegration. It has been an age of globalization and fragmentation.
– David Clarke
There are days I imagine that the world is falling apart, one epic disaster at a time. From corporate greed to climate change, to the astounding effects of COVID, warfare, terrorism, racial inequality, homelessness, and all the symptoms of a dying planet, it’s hard to miss how the constant shifting priorities of those in power affect us as individuals, while less powerful beings try to attain wisdom, remain healthy, restore earth’s bounty, maintain balance, and care for their loved ones.
Take heart, dear readers. For each “fresh new hell” and societal travesty, there are good people with great intentions out there, working, often quietly, with fierce determination, to improve the world. They just don’t usually make the nightly news.
I find examples of strong community building all around us, from the rediscovery of old ways of doing things that can benefit us today to the resurgence of people helping one another. For example, the National Village Movement in the U.S. was founded to help seniors age in peace. The organization connects members with resources and one another with the goal of helping people ages fifty and older remain active and independent.
In Berkeley, California, Ashby Village follows a model with volunteerism as a cornerstone, using the capacity of people in the community to support each other, with services ranging from grocery shopping to rides to medical appointments, computer help, light repairs, gardening, and even pet sitting. Ashby Village volunteers include members, their families, college students, empty nesters, retirees, and others from the community.
The Village model pays much attention to Wholistic Wellbeing. Grounded in an understanding that mind and body are intimately connected, Ashby Village has a variety of offerings to address both, including mediation, short walks and nature walks, strength training, tai-chi and yoga; plus, they host monthly happy hours and potlucks organized by neighborhood committees and put together activities to help keep seniors engaged and socially connected.
I am always heartened to observe the old becoming new again. There can be so much wisdom in going back to the ancient ways of doing things, not only for social wellbeing, but also when it comes to building and infrastructure! In my homeland, India, stepwells, or water stores known as baolis or bwaris, were built over 1,000 years ago to bring water access to areas that would otherwise have been parched. Over time, modern sewage and irrigation techniques took over, and the stepwells were considered obsolete. In the 21st century, though, it became time to rethink the meaning of obsolescence. The good news story here is that at a time when climate change has brought drought to much of India’s farmland, devastating the livelihood of our farmers, these stepwells are currently being restored.
“It’s ironic that stepwells have been ignored, considering how wonderfully efficient they were at providing water for nearly 1,500 years,” said Victoria Lautman, author of the book The Vanishing Stepwells of India. “Now, thanks to the restoration efforts, stepwells will come full circle.”
Some stepwells also served as subterranean Hindu temples. They included pavilions with columns and stone carvings of deities. It was because the Indian government, along with heritage organizations, began to recognize the need to preserve the architecturally fascinating stepwells, that India’s most famous stepwell, the Rani ki Vav in Patan, northern Gujarat, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.
These two examples of how those who bring improvement to the planet, socially and physically, to help us to thrive in the future, give me continued hope that creative people and those with the best intentions for humanity will keep pushing forward with the continuum of learning that makes us human. This is Wholistic Wellbeing at its best!