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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Community conundrums

   I've been thinking a lot lately of community. How do we define who belongs to our community? Is it as simple as who we like and want to see as our community? Is it anyone who follows tha same spirituality we do? Is it the larger pagan community? Or is it more subtle and complex than this? I don't actually have an answer yet, except that community is a nebulous thing that can include people where I live, people I choose to interact with, people online in groups I choose to belong to, and people with common interests to mine. Doesn't really clarify much, I know, but it's a work in progress.
   I started wondering about this a little while back after someone began trolling a facebook group I was part of. Another person extolled the troll to keep frith on the board and was promptly told that no frith was required on an imaginary group that didn't qualify for any rules of hospitality. Without digressing into a discussion of frith versus grith in situations like that, I thought the situation raised some interesting questions about how we define community and how behave based on our definitions. Both CR and Heathenry view hospitality - both being a good host and a good guest - as an important quality as do many other cultures. Does this only apply when we feel like it does? Can we pick and choose the circumstances were we must be polite, as the facebook troll said? Is it okay to be an obnoxious jerk outside our percieved community because hospitatlity somehow doesn't apply?
   Personally I don't think so. I think that in the world we live in today nothing is as cut and dried as it may have been a thousand or two thousand years ago and our community is a fluid, shifting thing. I have people in my community who hold antithetical religious views, political views, and social views but I still consider them a part of my community and I feel I owe them hospitatlity. I can't use my own religious views as an excuse to act like a jerk and then brush it off with "Oh, well, you aren't really part of my community so I don't owe you anything". Another key aspect of any recon. community, CR or Heathen, is a person's reputation and that is influenced by how someone treats other people inside and outside the community. Hospitality is one part of being an honorable person, in my opinion, and I don't think you can go into a situation with the attitude that it's okay to be dishonorable because the people you are dealing with aren't within your community. Maybe an odd sentiment for someone who is fulltrui with Odin, but that's where I'm at with it right now. The gods have a lot more leeway with some things than people do. Of course if someone else starts it first how you react to it is a different issue, but it's that initial approach, that first defining of what is appropriate based on who is and isn't part of the group that I'm thinking about. It's true that there is a structure to it, especially n Heathenry with it's clear ideas about innangard and utgard, but defining what falls where in a modern context can get very complicated...hence the conundrum....


  1. What is and isn't part of your community seems to be fairly well cemented for most people. The problem comes from two sides. First is that though it is quite cemented in each of us, we find it elusive to define. For example, you know that you define your online community as part of YOUR community, but you might not have been able to define it that way before you were confronted by the troll. Second is that everyone is going to have a different view, however slight, of what community as. Combining these two problems can cause big issues when confrontations occur.

  2. I think it's always important to have high standards of behavior for yourself, regardless of whether you are in your current community or no. Given that the lines of "community" are so much more negotiable than they used to be, and most of us are self defining who is part of our own community, you never know whether that person who is a stranger now might not end up as part of your community later. Some of the best friends that I have ever had initailly were my opponents

    While you might take more ownership of hospitality while in your own space, I think that being courteous to the best of your ability wherever you go both makes you a better person and upholds your reputation and the reputation of the community that you represent in the world.

    Over the door leading from my kitchen to the world at large, I have a plaque that says "Because nice matters...".

    Because it does. And it's good to be reminded as I step into the world....