Top positive review
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Life changing and profound for those who choose to apply it...
on September 5, 2011
I am a community builder (Google "One Community Ranch") and this book is mandatory reading for anyone joining One Community and our world changing vision. Dr. Peck did a lot of research on the differences between traditional community and what he calls "true community" and this book is about how and why he came to the process of studying and teaching people how to get into true community, what the pitfalls are and what can be achieved with true community, a few examples of true community tracked over many years, and how it all applies to the individual and the world. Loaded with interesting stories, anecdotes, real world examples and experience, this book is a page turner and a good read for anyone that works with groups, in a group, or who would like to improve their relationships.
Seventeen chapters and 334 pages, the book is divided into three parts: The Foundation, The Bridge, and The Solution
PART I: THE FOUNDATION
Appropriately titled, "The Foundation" is the first 160 pages of the book and contains the real "gems" and details of community building and maintenance. If you read only this section you will be glad you purchased this book. Peck spends about 45 pages talking about the profound impact 4 "true community" experiences had in his life, the classes he has taught, and other details building his case for the true meaning and potential of community that he summarizes as this:
-Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
-Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
-Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
-A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
-A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
-A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others' gifts, accept each others' limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each others' wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
-A group of all leaders: Members harness the "flow of leadership" to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.
-A spirit: The true spirit of community is the spirit of peace, love, wisdom and power. Members may view the source of this spirit as an outgrowth of the collective self or as the manifestation of a Higher Will.
As a community builder and organizer with my own set of experiences, reading the first 80 pages of this book was hugely emotional as Peck described in great detail what I'd experienced myself but never thought to put into words and structure. Next Peck goes into detail about the 4 stages of getting to and maintaining true community: pseudocommunity, chaos, emptiness, and true community
>Pseudocommunity: This is a stage where the members pretend to have a bon homie with one another, and cover up their differences, by acting as if the differences do not exist. Pseudocommunity can never directly lead to community, and it is the job of the person guiding the community building process to shorten this period as much as possible.
>Chaos: When pseudocommunity fails to work, the members start falling upon each other, giving vent to their mutual disagreements and differences. This is a period of chaos. It is a time when the people in the community realize that differences cannot simply be ignored. Chaos looks counterproductive but it is the first genuine step towards community building.
>Emptiness: After chaos comes emptiness. At this stage, the people learn to empty themselves of those ego related factors that are preventing their entry into community. Emptiness is a tough step because it involves the death of a part of the individual. But, Scott Peck argues, this death paves the way for the birth of a new creature, the Community.
>True community: Having worked through emptiness, the people in community are in complete empathy with one another. There is a great level of tacit understanding. People are able to relate to each other's feelings. Discussions, even when heated, never get sour, and motives are not questioned.
The rest of this part of the book is about the further dynamics of community with two stories covering a couple communities tracked over years.
PART II: THE BRIDGE
In this section of the book Peck talks about human nature, our capacity for change, emptiness and vulnerability, and the stages of Spiritual Growth (Chaotic, Antisocial - Formal, Institutional - Skeptic, Individual - Mystic, Communal) in relation to community building and maintenance. These stages line up beautifully with Clare Graves' Spiral Dynamics stages of Human Values Evolution and are part of Peck's breakdown of the emotional/psychological/spiritual growth and transformation created in an environment of unconditional love and acceptance, why a person might be resistant to such an experience, and how to better understand and help them if they are. This section of the book is about 80 pages.
PART III: THE SOLUTION
Peck finishes the final 70 pages or so of his book discussing what the entire book means in relation to the world with the following subsections: Community and Communication, Dimensions of the Arms Race, the Christian Church in the US, The US Government, and Empowerment. Each of these sections is explored from the perspective of "where we've come from and where we are going" approach in relation to all the major points of the book and creation of True Community.
Here are two quotes from Peck that I think summarize this book beautifully, if you resonate with these, then you will love this book: "In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Sometimes consensus in community is reached with miraculous rapidity. But at other times it is arrived at only after lengthy struggle. Just because it is a safe place does not mean community is a place without conflict. It is, however, a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully." AND "If it is so channeled, life in community may touch upon something perhaps even deeper than joy... what repeatedly draws me into community is something more. When I am with a group of human beings committed to hanging in there through both the agony and the joy of community, I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon for which there is only one word. I almost hesitate to use it. The word is "glory."" If you want see what can be created from all this, check out our website and One Community: [...]