We are curious creatures; we are made for community and define ourselves by separation. Some more than others.
Perhaps the nature of our innate dichotomy is more obvious in village life. The division between those with whom we commune and those we studiously avoid is so much more immediate.
Perhaps it is more obvious in me. When I was young, despite my natural introversion, I threw myself into social activities because I considered them a moral obligation; a way of being a better human being than I knew myself to be. I even chose social work as a profession/vocation. Life was about building bridges between me and other people, particularly those in some kind of need… I am older now though and increasingly reclusive. Finding energy to reach out is harder. I am in danger of retreating behind my garden hedges and being just another one of those people living a small life centred around me and mine.
It is not enough. There is so much more.
I was thinking again of those stories from the beginning of the Bible from the much-abused and theologically weaponised book of Genesis. Forget the creation myth for a moment and the meaning it may or may not contain. think instead of the strange stories that immediately follow on in the first chapters. The man and the woman naked before the eyes of everything in Eden. How they came to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and it forced them first to cover up, then pushed them outwards, East of Eden, where we remain, wondering if it might ever be possible to go back to the garden…
Perhaps you already see where I am coming from? Perhaps it is all about the sin of separation. Separation from the wild. Separation from the one-ness of all things because we thought we were above all that.
The stories in Genesis go on to describe how the separation grew wider because we also separated from one another; Cain killed Abel and rather than walking on the land, we started to own it, to build our cities on it. To raise up our empires on it. The measure of man was no longer found in connection but rather revealed in accumulation.
But back to me. Back to my own sin of separation. It is not enough to make my own personal Eden behind my own high hedges. Rather I need to consider again the call of the Spirit towards constant creative repentance. Perhaps this means burning some hedges (or at least chipping them to avoid smoke-fuelled conflict.) Certainly it must mean closing the gap a little when I find or make the opportunity.
Sometimes this can even be fun. Part of my gap-closing has involved becoming a director of the local community development company and we hit on an idea around the sharing of tea. Apparently, these wet acidic conditions on the west coast are good for growing the stuff. Who knew? What better analogy for community than the communal growing of tea bushes? We are starting out on a journey towards getting people to use a bit of their personal Edens to grow things for the common cup. If it works, perhaps we can share one.