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community

A slippery idea, sometimes (as in the Thatcherian phrase 'care in the community' or 'dump the mentally-ill in the nearest bus-shelter') quite deliberately empty. But I have my own idea ...
C/004

A couple of years ago I met an Orthodox Jew, and was fascinated by this chance to talk to someone whose practice and observance goes back centuries. We didn't make any particular effort to avoid all the possible areas of controversy or irreconciliable difference; we just found more than enough to talk about without touching on them, and one of the ideas we considered was what actually makes for a community. I don't normally think in pictures, but suddenly saw one corner of a wire-frame cube and a label on each of the dimensions: back, sideways, up. Remember that this possible insight is offered in the context of religious belief.

Back
Continuity with people who have gone before, which doesn't have to mean blindly following them in every detail but which does require acceptance and respect of the essentials.
Sideways
A true and generous sympathy and solidarity with the people who are in the community with you now. This will demand a degree of flexibility, and the strength to allow some divergence on unimportant matters.
Up
A lively relationship with God, real enough to have an influence on how we act here and now towards others, whether or not they are in the same community.

I'd say that the first two directions are also essential in any other form of community. Given the speed of change we are still experiencing, that means the Internet fails my community test on the first count. Given the presence of people who have nothing, absolutely nothing in common save the fact of having a Web site, the Internet also fails my community test on the second count. Hopeless, then? hardly my place to say, but I think not: given time, we shall see the development of a cluster of Web communities.