The Question of Our Era
Can we feel united – without anyone feeling repressed, limited or controlled? Is it possible for us to feel both individually free and socially united? This is a question with deep historical roots. It might even be said to be the central cultural question of our era. Why?
Because child-like premodern community offered us unity through hierarchy, obedience and fundamentalism, and adolescent-like modernity offers us freedom through anything-goes egocentricity – but we have yet to find an adult-like way of combing the two, of creating community that offers both belonging and certainty-free openness.
Communities of Exploration
OneforOne is proposing the idea of Communities of Exploration, engaged in Four Spheres of Exploration, as a way of resolving this riddle. I call these Four Spheres: Reality, Self, Relationship and Conditioning.
In a way, the concept of Communities of Exploration is already a resolution of premodern unity and our modern unfettered individualism, because it incorporates both the idea of traveling together, in community, and freedom from any fixed, ancestrally-descending inhibitions.
But it is our agreement to engage honestly and openly with the Four Spheres, in everyday life – in the kitchen, in the bedroom, at the office, with our children, with our parents, at the club – that takes us from the realm of theory and good intentions into the nitty-gritty of our personal struggles, and that bonds us in compassionate, conscious community.
Honesty And Openness
And, obviously (I hope), you know I am not proposing ´one way´ to explore, much less ´the way´ to explore. We can explore the Sphere of Reality (our relationship with reality), for example, through science, through meditation, through hallucinogens, through travel… The means are endless.
But I do believe that if any of these spheres is not addressed with intense honesty and openness then the initial formation, and continued coherence of community will be jeopardized.
In The Sphere of Reality, for example, in which we agree to explore our relationship with this perhaps-infinite reality in which we find ourselves, if we settle upon (as final) some vague mystic intuition, or some so-called-scientific fantasy, if we fail to keep asking “of this can we be absolutely certain?”, then our Community of Exploration will falter and fall apart.
In The Sphere of Self, in which we agree to explore our relationship with ourselves, if we resist perhaps-challenging, perhaps-painful questions such as the possibility of our individual perceiving being unique, and therefore our birth-to-death journeys being traveled in complete aloneness, then our community solidarity will be shattered by our resistance, by our fear.
And again, in The Sphere of Relationship, if we are unwilling to examine the power dynamics of our relating, to face the question as to whether we truly live, in the present, seeing and feeling “this person´s moment is as real and important to them as mine is to me”, and (by the same token) “my moment is as real and important to me as theirs is to them”, then community will be choked by inequality.
And, finally, in the Sphere of Conditioning, in which we agree to explore our relationship with both our social and personal ´programming´ – both what society-as-a-whole and our individual upbringings have told us who we are, how we should behave, and what we should aspire to – if we are unwilling to learn and practice the necessary skills to be able to self-forgive, and forgive each other, our contractions and actings-out – then our Community of Exploration will shrivel up, because self-love, and love of each other, is the air that that honest, open exploration breaths, and without it, it dies.
These Four Spheres of Exploration, therefore, are no more than a frame. But a very big frame. A frame that can accommodate an endless variety of moods and approaches. But a frame, or ´metafocus´, nonetheless. They provide the subtle ´glue´, to support us in staying united as we travel in honest brotherhood into the unknown (true exploration is, by definition, always into the unknown). This way we harmonize premodern closeness and togetherness with the excitement and possibilities of modern individuality – enabling us to be: both united and free!