Communal Benefits

Hillman: The thing therapy pushes is relationship, yet work may matter just as much as relationship. You think you're going to die if you're not in a good relationship. You feel that not being in a significant, long-lasting, deep relationship is going to cripple you or that you're crazy or neurotic or something. You feel intense bouts of longing and loneliness.

But those feelings are not only due to poor relationship; they come also because you're not in any kind of political community that makes sense, that matters. Therapy pushes the relationship issues, but what intensifies those issues is that we don't have (a) satisfactory work or (b), even more important perhaps, we don't have a satisfactory political community.

You can't just make up for the loss of passion and purpose in your daily work by intensifying your personal relationships. I think we talk so much about inner growth and development because we are so boxed in to petty, private concerns on our jobs.

Ventura: In a world where most people do work that is not only unsatisfying but also, with its pressures, deeply unsettling; and in a world where there's nothing more rare than a place that feels like a community, we load all our needs into a relationship or expect them to be met by our family. And then we wonder why our relationships and family crack under the load.

... even the Norman Rockwell ideal of the happy, self-sufficient family is a distortion of what families were for thousands, probably tens of thousands, of years. During that time, no family was self-sufficient. Each family was a working unit that was part of the larger working unit, which was the community - the tribe or the village. Tribes and villages were self-sufficient, not families.

It's not only that everyone worked together, everyone also played and prayed together, so that the burden of relationship, and of meaning, wasn't confined to the family, much less to a romantic relationship, but was spread out into the community. Until the Industrial Revolution, family always existed in that context.

[James Hillman]
with Michael Ventura
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.13

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In stark contrast to the nuclear family, which tends to seal itself off from the outside world, relationships within the Ladakhi family naturally extend themselves into the broader community. It is sometimes hard to say where family ends and community begins.

Any woman old enough to be your mother is called "Mother," anyone of the right age to be your brother is called "Brother." We still see remnants of this in industrial society. In the more traditional parts of Sweden and Russia, for example, a child will call any familiar adult "Uncle" or "Auntie."

Most Westerners would agree that we have lost our sense of community. Our lives are fragmented, and in spite of the number of people with whom we come into contact in the course of a day, we are often left feeling sadly alone, not even knowing our neighbours. In Ladakh, people are part of a community that is spiritually, socially, and economically interdependent.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.186

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