Werner Erhard and his associates had rich insights into so many processes of use to us now as we build a world that works for everyone. (1) Here are his comments on building community. Many of these remarks were made in promotion of a “Community Workshop,” but they still merit reflection.
No matter how successful we are as individuals, we remain incomplete unless we’re able to recognize and express ourselves in community. We pay dearly for that incompletion by having to live in a world that doesn’t work, by living in a condition of unworkability. A fundamental purpose of the workshop is a context of community being brought into being where people can recognize and know themselves as community. (2)
It’s not just that because we’re successful as individuals we turn to community to have a new game to play. Community is really who we are. (3)
The problems of our times are so massive, so pressing, that they cannot be handled by individuals alone. The time for solitary heroes is over. We can no longer rely on old ways of thinking, old patterns of leadership and followership. If we are going to create a world that works for everyone, we must learn to function in communities; to be effective and produce results in participation with others.
While most of us have some private vision of community – what it is, or what it could mean for our lives – few of us have worked it through or had an opportunity to actually test it, to make it visible or tangible. While we may feel some personal power and efficacy in our work and in our families and relationships, we have little sense of our ability to make a difference in our communities. It’s not that we don’t make a difference, but there seems to be a gap or gulf between our desire to contribute and our ability to do so.
The Community Workshop is about closing that gap. It is about learning to create a vision – your own personal vision – for community, and then getting down to work on a practical, day-to-day level to make that vision real. In the process, we discover the principles by which a community can be workable, effective, and produce real, measurable results. We learn the skills of working together that can empower everyone, everywhere. (4)
Who you are is expressed by your visioning. You and I need to make a commitment to discover, or create, our vision for community. And from that state of envisioning, our projects and our actions will flow.
It’s not enough, however, to have a vision. You’ve got to know what’s going on in the world. You can’t be naïve.
If you engage in a project that emerges solely from some set of circumstances, no matter how successful you actions are, they will make no difference. If your project comes only out of your vision, then your actions will lack real impact on the circumstances; they’ll be mere idealistic notions.
The workshop is an opportunity to be responsible for a convergence of vision and circumstances which results in true community action. (5)
I want to work with people who are willing to participate at a very high level of responsibility and integrity. We need to be willing to work through the difficulties and frustrations that accompany a creative process. We need to transcend our personal interests, our own agendas, and search for what’s wanted and needed to create community. We’ll have to give up that last-ditch reaction to our frustration of not being able to get it done: ‘All right, I’ll do it myself.’ That won’t work any more. We need to learn to produce results by empowering each other. (6)
As a context, … the community now exists totally. Throughout the workshop we’ll grind and polish all that’s in this room: the ideas, the notions, the personalities, the individuality, the weaknesses, the strengths, the beauties, and the uglinesses. Who we are, in essence, is community – and the workshop will keep grinding away at everything else until we manifest ourselves as community. The stone which grinds us is shaped by the context we create for ourselves. (7)
(1) est Dictionary, at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/the-path-of-awareness/est-dictionary/
(2) Werner Erhard quoted in Joan Bordow, “Inventing the Community Workshop,” The Review, May/June 1982, 9.
(3) Ibid., 3-4.
(4) ibid., 4.
(5) Ibid., 5.
(6) Ibid., 5 and 7.
(7) Ibid., 8-9.