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The Beloved Community

“We make the beloved community

By being the beloved community

I spent today with members of the Web of Change Community – both board members as well as fresh recruits to the leadership team (I was one of them), in a planning & work session focused on how to make the Web of Change gathering at Esalen in October Web of Change’s best event yet. The room was full of people whose company makes me beam. There was a range of folks, from people with whom my friendship goes deep to others I was meeting for the first time.

My dear friend Sabrina, who connected me to Web of Change a few years back, kicked off the day reading a quote: “We make the beloved community by being the beloved community.” Today exemplified that for me. Not because everyone is perfect – they’re not – or that we perfectly exhibited  or even because I feel the need to be close with the 20+ people around the room today (I don’t). Today exemplified this idea because people showed up in a spirit of generosity, ready to roll up their sleeves and work with one another for something larger than themselves.

The beloved community is a concept Martin Luther King Jr amplified through his philosophy. The beloved community is not the faraway kingdom of heaven, as far from our daily reality as the prospect of getting wings. No, the beloved community is available to us, in the here and now. It is when and wherever people gather to treat one another with deep love and respect. In the beloved community we behave as though we are not wounded and weary, but instead expansive and open. The beloved community is wherever people have gathered in consciousness, wherever conflict is addressed through dialogue, where force is neutralized rather than amplified.

Today I had a lot of good conversations about the metaphor of compost … compost is the rich soil from which we can grow fruit, vegetables, flowers. But it starts out as garbage, as junk, as rotting produce, wet leaves, discarded foodstuffs. After time, all this trash becomes compost, rich black topsoil.

So it is with our negative and challenging emotions. When we discard them, we junk up the larger landscape. When we compost them internally, they become the rich soil from which new blossoms grown.

When I first began studying King’s work more than a decade ago, one of the most radical and important ideas I learned about the beloved community was this one: To behave as though we are already part of the beloved community, not that it is a distant future far away. When I take an honest look inside myself at how well I measure up to this ideal, I recognize there is a long way to go. But the learning opportunities along the way are seemingly inevitable. And every time I fall shy of my goal, I can recognize those negative emotions as going into the compost from which my garden will eventually grow. I’m grateful for days like today, when I am able to physically and in person connect me with folks who are so dear to me. In their presence, I feel the warm beating pulse of the Beloved Community emerging through us.

“The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

– Martin Luther King Jr

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