Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Community as ... A Publication

By Ira Mickenberg
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Visions and Voices

After years of focused learning, focused producing
We take a respite once we retire’
And begin to look at qualities we admire
No longer finding material wealth so seducing.

Ollie is a community of retirees
Interested in learning and exploring,
Working together in a classroom of peers
Or mixing with youngsters with many more cares.

A sub-community was distilled
When retires responded to the mission
Of submitting writings and artworks
Which were published in “Voices and Visions”.

A community of people whom we trust
Will encourage creativity in areas explored
Before our mature brains turn to rust
From sitting at home and getting bored.

This community of participants can be expanded
Yet continue to be treated evenhanded.
Writers, poets and artists all amateur
Can meet, create and endure.

Out of the drawers and out of the subconscious
Will come products of our perceptions.
To be read and viewed by others
While works of others titillate our sensations

Such constant attention, words and senses
Will improve appreciation and mend those fences
Of preconceived notions and some hostility
Toward the “non productive” retired nobility.

A community of artists and writers
Who find this time of life in fashion
Will inspire others to expand their experience
And exchange their time of lethargy and ennui to one of passion.

While part of a group, each of us is unique
With no sense of failure for expressing our visions
We are exposing our psyches and taking a peek
Hoping to discover the creativity we seek.

Future works may be published or
Enjoyed for the process
At this time in our life
Participation supersedes acclimation.

A “Voices and Visions” community can get together
After speaking with the editors and enthusiastic contributors.
Workshops may follow, while friendships develop
Creativity exudes out of the nascent community.

Community as Truth Seekers

By John Westcott
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

A child is born, and begins his/her journey to death and return to dust. Learning would seem to be initially almost 100% experience based. But is it? Guardians of the young are quite limiting. Keep the precious one safe! Do not let him be around machinery.

There is the training following the values of the Guardians. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” and “the truth will set you free."

And then begins expansion into the official learning processes of the education system. Guardian influence begins to be in competition with books, instructors and pressures exerted by peers and personages chosen to be mentors and to emulate.

Finally, the acceleration of time leads to the career, the marriage, the children, the passing of the Guardians, and the ultimate end of life.

At all times, the person is with a community and often is in several communities at one particular period in time. However, I maintain that the one community which is most important to inhabit is always be a seeker of truth because decisions are based on one’s perception of truth surrounding each decision.

So What:
Limiting access to machinery means poor knowledge of things mechanical and poor skills in fixing things. American history instructors said America is the land of opportunity. O gee, it was forgotten to mention that one fall day in 1918, the German citizens of the hometown were deprived of their German newspaper with the destruction of the presses by 500 fellow citizens from a neighboring town, and the invaded citizenry was forced to sign loyalty pledges, and further demonstrate their patriotism/loyalty by the purchase of war bonds based on their perceived wealth. O yes, a Guardian did say that, “One day, father came home and said German will no longer be spoken in this house.” No German language skills!

So truth is hidden many times with obvious impacts latter in life as to knowledge and skills. However, there is another element of truth which is even more important. Truth is often obliterated by belief.

Belief is often associated with the egotism of the self. Seeking truth has to develop the awareness of all the capacities of the self. Seek out the opinions of others and explore the possibilities of the roots of others’ positions. Such exchanges will eventually develop the whole human being.

And another outcome is that awareness of issues will perhaps focus everyone to conclude that there really is a problem which does need to be addressed. And more importantly, if the full capacities of the self have been developed, a review of the various solutions will increase knowledge of all, and result in better decision making because the possible positive and negative outcomes of each solution can be reviewed in a more impartial setting.

Now What:
Currently, research indicates that facts which do not fit the beliefs of another will be ignored and the belief will continue to be advocated by the other.

The community of truth seekers will allow for rational decision making based on facts and careful review of possible outcomes of selected solutions to a particular issue or problem. Beliefs will give way to truth. Bad decisions based on possible faulty beliefs will be reduced, which affects all of us -- especially when beliefs impact the economics of all within the truth-seeking community.

Also, there will be an increase in respect, willingness to listen, and creativity in generating solutions. However, this will never happen successfully unless the egotism of the self is completely eliminated or minimized. I believe there is real truth in: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” and then “the truth will set you free."

Community as Family, Family as Community

By Pete Anderheggen
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

“I don’t think of it as working for world peace, he said. I think of it as just trying to get along in a big strange family.”
-- Brian Andreas, Drawing, 2003

My metaphor of "community as family" derives from several sources, the most recent being the one above that accompanies one of Brian Andreas’s illustrated stories.

I have two other sources. The first comes from Museum of Modern Art’s 1955 exhibition of photographs collected by Edward Steichen, entitled "The Family of Man." Published as a book, the collections consists of 503 pictures from 68 countries. At the time, it was considered, and I still consider it, one of the greatest of photographic collections ever  assembled. The second inspiration comes from Hillary Clinton’s book title, It Takes a Village, suggesting  that no person is raised in isolation from his or her community. The community is therefore, in a sense, the child’s family.

It seems to me that this metaphor of "community as family" gives us a powerful tool for positive caring and productivity. It brings the idea of love into the conversation.  We are, after all, expected to love our families and admonished to love one another. Certainly not all, but equally certainly, there are many, many very successful family enterprises. We already begin with a proven tool. Family enterprises can be, and often are, very successful.

And the metaphor works in several ways. If we think of the members of our community as our family members, we are more inclined (in most instances) to "cut them some slack." If we think of them as family members, we are more likely to remember our obligation to love and maintain harmony. Consequently our community, no matter what our enterprise, has a much greater chance of success.

Now, of course, some might immediately want to impose certain structures and strictures on such a metaphor -- parent, child, obediance by children, authority of parents. But the concept of family is  much larger than this. When we think of family in the larger sense, we immediately see that family does not even require immediate blood relatives. We have in-laws and we consider them family. We have grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins once, twice and thrice removed. And they are all family. Although I am suggesting family as a metaphor for community, it may be more fact than metaphor. I seem to recall that we have had some high-profile people in the government who have proven to be related.

In an article last September, the Chicago Sun-Times laid out Obama’s ancestry – including the genealogical, if not spiritual, relationship between Obama and Vice President Dick Cheney. According to the newspaper, they are ninth cousins once removed, with their common ancestor being Mareen Duvall, a French Huguenot who settled in Maryland in the mid-1600s. In an Oct. 16 interview on MSNBC, Lynne Cheney confirmed the connection, based on extensive research she did for her latest book, Blue Skies, No Fences. However, she calculates that Obama and Cheney are eighth cousins, one degree closer than the Sun-Times has it (Wikipedia). Whether or not it is eighth or ninth cousin, they are still family. They might do well, and we might all benefit from, their remembering this.

What is it about families that make them special? In close families, there is familiarity -- whether it is positive or negative. And that familiarity allows some sense of ease in a strange and sometimes difficult world. With regard to families that are not geographically close (my mother’s brother’s children some whom I have never met and others whom I have not seen in 40 years), the very fact that we are related, that we are family, gives some motivation to make them special. I am willing  to look for and appreciate our connections. If we could give some of that same appreciation and attention to people for whom we are not aware of connection, we would go a long way to developing harmonious community and all the benefits that flow from harmony.

So I suggest thinking of community as family. It has power and it is based in indesputable fact. Both maternal mtDNA and paternal Y-chromosome show that everyone carries genetic code of African origin. Humans’differing physical features – blonde or black hair, round or slanted eyes – are the effects of millennia of climactic influence and natural selection. We share a common genetic ancestry that far outweighs physical differences – 99.9 percent of all DNA is the same. Yet this does not prevent discrimination from infesting all corners of the world. To check discrimination’s advance, teachers could start by sharing with their students such scientific findings mentioned above. While knowledge alone cannot prevent prejudice, its spread can dampen the effect and show that we are interconnected not only through globalization, but also through ancestry. (Wikipedia)

Thinking about Community ...

By Jeffrey Wilson
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

February 24, 2012 -- Friday morning, 6:30 a.m. and I decided to take a peek at this week's writing assignment, and suddenly I realized I wasn't listening to Steve as close as I should have. I was both distracted and amused at how different people see things. A movie, screened at class, message, and a fine one it was, seemed so clear to me. But a fine gentleman and fellow classmate got a totally different message, and as he made his point, to use a 60s term, "it blew me away." Made me realize that we all see things differently, act differently and are different and I guess that's the beauty of community.

Multilayered, multicolored etc, just "multi" -- in general. His comments were so far from what I thought was a very simple message -- return local economies, think globally, act locally, etc. etc. -- that I got distracted. So I've decided to do a free-form, sort-of-jazz response to your community assignment.

Community,   COMMUNITY,   community    cOmMuNiTy

C       Common Good

O       Outside,                        Always thinking and acting outside the box, a smart thinking community is always looking many generations into the future

M       Mutual Respect,             Mutual respect and caring for the beauty of the different economic, social and ethnic cultures within the community

M       Multi                             Multi-directions in positive ways, social, infrastructure, educational, cultural, and on and on
U       User Friendly                  Easy one, user-friendly

N       Nurturing                        Nurturing, take any good seed from anywhere and grow it. The most important, your most valuable resource, your children. But all resources from any direction if they are good, need to be nurtured. Your community's future and the nurturing of it is the children's future, and yours too

I       Interest                          Interest breeds success and growth.  It gets people out and involved

T       Transparency                 Transparency, in the new totally linked world, there can be no "good old boys club" and "backroom politics," if true community growth is the goal

Y       Yours                              Yours, never forget that the community is yours, and that GREAT GIFT brings a stewardship responsibility. Where you live is where you grow, so always aspire to be great, in your people, your infrastructure, your museums, your parks, your schools, and on and on. Wherever your eye takes you within your community and beyond, is where you should be seeking out greatness and in doing that, you end up with community, in its truest sense!

Community as ... Centering

By Richard Kupstis
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Any kind of community needs compromise and cooperation. I saw a connection from my own art in this poem ... "Centering".


I make pots
Clay and a spinning wheel
My pots are a community
Of vessels from a common source.
Clay, of proper consistency
Can be spun to:
Plates, saucers, bowels, cups, vases and ewers
Other forms as well.
For this to happen
The clay must be centered.
Moved to the center at equilibrium.
A community of dinnerware can only occur
If clay has been centered first,
Then opened,
Expanded and shaped,
Fired and glazed.
To make a community;
A set of dinnerware.
We live in communities
That also require centering
Through compromise and cooperation.
Will our clay be:
The Arts, Local Business, Technology, Education,
Or something else?
Who(m) will center?
An individual or group.
Who will create equilibrium?
Compromise Cooperate.

Community as ... House Party

By Jesse Bendler
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

A poem

The community is not the house in which it is held
the collaboration of efforts is how it does meld
together are the people for a better evening
a place for enjoyment, happiness and no grieving
so gather them in and ill recant on how
to make fruitful a community it all starts now

The party is a place to enjoy yourself
The party is dead without resources
But in a party care not only for self
Or your buggy has lost all its horses

Come one come all you’re all welcome here
Just have a good time, please pass me a beer

You share one good beer a Samuel Adams octoberfest

Now the host readily remembers that one guy
Who gave his buddy the brew, he shouts “good eye!”

Positive regard for the host providing
an environment so outstanding
now I know there’ll be no fighting
and no need for reprimanding

the people came in to enjoy the time
meet new friends, existence so fine
most brought a couple brew
others couldn’t swing it
those who couldn’t were only a few
they can have this yingling, yeah

Those who didn’t bring a drink to sip
Were not thrown out for lacking the stuff
Because was they who brought the pizza and chips
We understand that times are tough

And sharing what you have is the whole point
Be it a pizza a beer or a toke on the joint

Create the environment that you want to be in,
Cuz the party ain’t over, and you’re not leaving


By Andrew Beaudoin
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Community is as what community does
It’s where I am and where I was
It can be solid or it can be symbolic
But making it your own, now that is the trick

It's neither here nor there
Neither abundant or rare
Something independent
Or something you share

It is what you make it
It is what you feel
Make it your own
Then it will be real

This is a quick poem that I wrote, now some can criticize the lack of poetic figures, like metaphors, symbols, in-depth language, etc. But to me, it gets the point across in an easy way. I wrote it very quickly because I like to use the first ideas that come to my head, exactly how they arrive. Otherwise, you start changing things and it ends up nothing how you intended. I believe to always go with your first instinct because it shows what you truly feel. Basically, this poem describes community as a constant personal change. The first stanza explains and basically says: Community is everywhere you are, and everywhere you have been. It was the house/city I grew up in, all the schools I attended, and where I live and what I’m doing right now. And within these communities, it's up to you to make it your own. By this, I don’t mean change, because you can't physically change the community, but you can change and make the experience. For example, you can't change the city you grew up in, but the way you lived in it, the way you explored it, etc., can make it personal to yourself.

The second verse is an extension of this first. It is basically saying: It is constantly changing and you may be within a community for a long time, or a short time, but there will always be more than one ... and, most times, it doesn’t last forever. For example, my school communities have changed, as right now I am a member of the UConn community, but I won't be forever once I graduate. In addition, what I mean by it being independent or something you share, is that it is also an extension of how you experience the community. If you keep to yourself and don’t explore and make it a unique experience, you will fall under the independent category. But if you explore, meet people, work together for new ideas and change, the community is thus shared. It is basically being by yourself and independent versus experiencing it with the other people around you within the same community.

The last stanza basically bring these ideas together. It's very easy to read -- simple and understandable. Exactly what a community should be to you. It essentially is what you make it, just like life; life is what you make of it. Same thing for your community -- if you ignore it and do not care and treat it as a place you just “live” in or “work” in, etc., then it will be a really boring and bland place to be. Where as if you make the best of it and live in it exactly how you want to, it will be exciting and you will love everything about it. Life is your own choice. You choose the path you wish to walk, and you choose the community you are a part of. Because you have control over what community you wish to join, you should join one you will be happy with and thus you will do everything within it 100% and you can essentially call it you own. Within these concepts is "change," as well. Community, again, is constantly changing and some may last longer than others; and most aren’t forever. Because of this, you can’t just sit on it and expect it to some and be a great place.

Moral of the poem -- and the moral of community itself, just like life -- it is what you make it.

Community as ... People

By Jason Vargas
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

We, as people of the human race, have formed communities in order to establish areas where people of similar ideals or beliefs can live together, essentially forming enclaves that may become a nation. I have learned that people are what makes a community. Communities that have involvement of its citizens in the active care, preparation and entertainment of their town/city are usually the most ideal communities.

In these communities, people work together to create and develop their town/city into a lively gathering of people. The reason that this idea of community matters is because having the involvement of people as a community is such a wonderful quality that every town/city should have. When people work together to better their community, it creates a warmth that everyone wants to be part of. Would you rather live in a community where everyone knows one another and it is a lively, happy place; or one in which nobody actively participates in the community and it is an unsatisfying area to live in?

The more that people are involved with one another and the happier they are in their communities, the more they can accomplish and the better their moods will be. I’m sure many of us have visited a really nice town/city and wished we could live there; not necessarily because it is a rich community, but rather because it is an ideal community to live in.

If all the communities in the world were ones of happiness and involvement, where people helped one another and created things to better their communities, then the world would be a better place. If we adopt this sense of community, then perhaps many people would live happier lives and not stress out so much.

I can’t say that this is the ideal utopia, but at least it is a start. If I talked with others about what I think is the best way for "Community as People" to happen, then perhaps it’ll broaden their views of people in a community and may allow them to become active members.

Humans are social beings by nature and the more socialization we have, the stronger our bonds will be. Strong bonds will lead to friendships ... and, hopefully, friendships will create peace and allow communities to truly shine.

Community Is ...

By Christina Johnson
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Community as friendship ...
Community as belonging ...
Community as unity ...
Community as home ...
Community as work ...
Community as religion ...
Community as education ...
Community as choice ...

When I see the word "community," two other words come to mind -- common and unity. Community is anything that unites a group of people, small or large, around a similar or common ground. As a child, community consisted of where and with whom we would ride our bikes in summer or whose doorbell we would ring first when school was cancelled for snow. It was about the people, not the place. Today, community is who I choose to spend time with, where I choose to be and what I choose to do.

Community is the place where you feel most at home and the people you feel most at home with. It doesn’t stop at the borders of a town. In fact, it’s borderless. The word "community" doesn’t represent a place, but the feeling of belonging. It’s knowing that you are where you want to be, where you choose to be and with the people who also choose to be there. That’s what unites us all -- common ground, common needs, common desires, likes and dislikes. This common ground can bring a group of people together and also push them very far apart.

There is no definition of what or who community should include. I have certainly learned that my family community, the people I know by blood relation, is probably a group of people I would not necessarily choose to know in my life. This is not to say I don’t love or connect with them, but if we did not have that common ground of family relation, we really wouldn’t have much else in common. Our interests lie in other places, but yet we stay bonded because we all came from the same starting point together and that’s what keeps us united. My friends are the people I have chosen to surround myself with, they are a different kind of community to me. They are the people who share my interests, needs and wants and we come together over those things.  Our class is a community, had we not all had a common need for this class, whether that need was fulfilling a requirement for graduation or a desire to push yourself past the point that you were at when we started, we most likely wouldn’t find ourselves sitting together once a week having vibrant discussions.

This idea of community gives us all the satisfaction of belonging. When we meet another person or group of people who share our needs and interests we realize that we are not alone in this world and that is a very necessary, very pleasant feeling. Our society can be a very cold place. It can be a battle to get through the mundane work days or to get through a crisis of some sort, which we will all experience at one point or another. Having a group of like-minded people who support you and care about your well being can give you the strength to get through the ugly points in life. Life in general is not easy, many times it’s not at all fun, but having people to lean on or give you a friendly gesture makes it so much brighter. Without that we would all be floating along doing what we must and then we would die. Life without community is not what I would call a fulfilled life at all.

Knowing what we have learned so far about community, as well as all we still have to learn, it’s important that we take this information and use it to our advantage. There is no excuse for not making the most of what we have. Even when we have very little, having people to share it with changes your perspective. Although I believe many have adopted this idea of community, many are not enough. All of us need to adopt the idea that we are not alone, we are responsible for each other and we have others around us who know exactly how we feel and exactly what we need and want. Social networking is an excellent example of taking advantage of community. It allows us to expand our communities across the world. It allows us to reach someone who could be lost without that simple connection to another who understands them.

I once heard a bereavement counselor explain that it only takes one person to make a huge impact in someone’s life. Everything in our lives and in our society is done on such a grand, oversized scale these days that it is easy to slip into the mindset that we are helpless to what is happening around us and around the world. It’s easy to give up and forget that we have the ability to change anything around us if we want to and I can guarantee that if you want it changed someone else does, too. If we all very simply step outside of that and look at the small ways we can make an impact, it will inspire social change. This activity reminded me of the phrase, “the personal is political.” It took me a very long time to understand what that means, but I now understand that if you want to stop world hunger, you have to feed someone. That goes right to the heart of what community is and what it can do. You don’t need to sell your home and donate the money; you just need to share what you can within your community and watch a real change take place.