Newsletter – August, 2000

**Companion Resources Newsletter**

edited by Paul D. Leichty

Volume 2, No. 8 August 2000

Are you a “survivor?” Last month, I asked the question: Are there situations in which a person simply cannot live in a community? In light of all of the North American media attention to the recently-completed TV series called “Survivor,” I would like to come back to our discussion of exile that we began last month. But first, a word about this newsletter. (Oh yes, be sure to read the P.S. at the end of this newsletter as well.)

Although I had heard about the TV series, “Survivor”, I had not seen it until all of the hoopla got our family curious enough to watch most of the final episode. For me, there were certain fascinating aspects that paralleled life in society as a whole, but also plenty of things that illustrated some of the worst features of that “real life.”

In the artificially created community on the island, the “game” was to be the last survivor. Playing the game required physical, mental, relational, and emotional abilities. Players had to cooperate in order to survive both physically and in order not to be banished by the others. However, cooperation to share the prize money at the end was not permitted. In the end, the goal was to think only of oneself to be the last one on the island. That meant that contestants had to both build alliances and break them when it served their purposes.

Too often, our Western capitalist mindset plays the game of life this way. The system is set up so that while certain alliances are necessary, the “winners” are not the ones who most fully cooperate and build community, but rather those who, at the right moment, use their power when they need to so they come out on top.

To that end, it is only natural that the powerful in our society have ways of banishing, exiling, or marginalizing those that don’t serve their purposes or play by their rules. Obviously, there are certain rules, certain laws, that cannot be broken without destroying the very fabric of a community. Exile is appropriate for repeated behavior that harms or has the potential to physically harm others. But as time goes on and the game of life gets more intense, the natural tendency is to want to get rid of folks simply because of lesser abilities, personality clashes, ideology, or other differences.

It is at this point that we as human beings stand on the brink of judgment between human selfishness and true community. What happens when a child with a disability threatens to disrupt my “career” aspirations? How do I respond when my young adult child starts using drugs and descending into a serious mental illness? What happens when the “golden days” of retirement are met by a spouse with Alzheimers disease?

Do we find ways of building community around those weaker persons? Or is our natural tendency a kind of “survival mentality,” a return to the “law of the jungle” where we seek to banish weaker persons to the margins of society while continuing to claw our way to the top of the hill?

“Survivor” takes to the extreme our short-term view of life’s struggle. In the corporate world today, the game is not just about survival and profits. It is about _short term_ gains. It is about this quarter’s bottom line, not about what is good for the company, the community or the world in the next 5-10 years or the next generation. The idea is to get rich in 40 days and then worry about both the consequences and the next few days after that.

A community-building perspective looks at the long-term good for the most persons possible. It tries to assess how what I do affects those right around me in the communities of which I am a part. Most of all, instead of trying to cater to the strongest, a community-building perspective looks out for those who are weak and marginalized.

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In today’s world, we have many tools at our disposal. We have the choice of using those tools to get ahead and push and shove our way to the top in a kind of survivor mentality. On the other hand, Companion Resources is dedicated to the principle that many of those same tools can be used to build community, to empower the marginalized, and create a better world for everyone.

If you would like to explore computer and communications tools for your family, church, or community group, visit the Companion Resources web site at https://companionresources.org or simply drop me a note about your needs at info@cresources.org.

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The survival mentality is individualistic. What we need are many survivors–survivors without the “survival mentality.” We need communities that go beyond short-term survival to endure and grow and nurture new generations. Communities need persons who help each other not simply to further their own agenda but out of love for other people, community, and God.

Blessings to all of you in your daily struggles to go beyond survival and grow together as a people!

Paul D. Leichty

The Goldenrod Community

Middlebury, Indiana

PDLeichty@cresources.org

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