Sunday, May 5, 2013

Without a Community

Like 'The Man Without a Country,' have we become neighbors without a community?

From afar, we gaze at the horizon:
a shining city, vigorous in diversity,
shimmers mirage-like across the water,
beyond our longing reach.

We wonder how it slipped away,
how, following modest success,
pursuing permissible desires,
we drifted from what once held us.

From our place of alienation
in the middle of muchness
our satiated dissatisfaction senses
the absence of a buoying presence.

As The Man Without a Country,
condemned to a life adrift,
have we become neighbors
without community?

We claim to have said nothing seditious;
no outright dereliction of duty,
no AWOL abandonment,
no seduction by an enemy.

Heady aspirations and a penchant
for an ordered, controlled aesthetic
trumped what, for its discordant disparities,
resonated vibrantly in connected lives.

We moved upward and away,
outward and beyond to pleasant places
known more for sanitized sameness
than salty neighbors and complex diversities.

Changing places like musical chairs,
we did not consider our absence
a matter of any consequence,
nor feel the claim of our new locale.

Do these environs require less than what we left?
So long as one routinely mows the lawn
and keeps respectfully to oneself,
the fa├žade of a safe neighborhood holds.

Repeatedly, we congratulate ourselves
on having plenty of room and
spacious surroundings in which to
entertain ourselves at our whims.

But in the glow of endless shows
and a million ads trumpeting our lack
we discover ourselves to be alone,
drifting anchorless in a stagnant sea.

Not knowing we were given to each other
to clothe a community with grace,
we ripped ourselves away from a fabric
intricately woven of people and place.

Late we learn the value of a house
is measured in caring neighbors
instead of state-of-the-art features
and steadily escalating equity.

Separated by miles and years,
the gifts of place and neighbor
beckon beyond narrowed circles
and insulating boundaries.

Though we have drifted far,
the rudder that steers us away
would bring community close
if we had the courage to risk again.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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