The Exceptional Community

Excerpted from a work in progress
The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard
by Anastasia Rosen-Jones and Marge Hulburt

See two articles derrived from the work of this manuscript,

"The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard," Baltimore Jewish Times, October 3, 2008

"The Middle East Crisis In Our Backyard,"
Frederick News Post, Religion and Ethics, June 14, 2008

Discussion on "exceptional communities," excerpted.

"Let us begin by exploring the notion of a community as a system, defining our main terms, system and community. A system is defined as pertaining to or affecting the entire body of an entity as a whole.

A single person, animal or plant is a system in and of itself. The individual aspects, body-mind-spirit, of each of these living entities affect one another. In order to be whole or complete, each one of these entities must operate fully in and of itself and, simultaneously, as a part of a larger system. 

In other words, while the individual is complete of itself on one level, this is not truly its totality. Each is dependent on something larger. That larger entity includes the smaller components, uniting with them as aspects of itself. This larger organism is then a part of an even larger whole.

One example of this reciprocity and interlocking of systems is the likening of an individual to a leaf on a tree. The leaf is an entity by itself. We can see that if we pick up a fallen leaf, it has a discernable shape and structure that is unique to it. We can call this leaf a system. 

When the leaf is attached to a tree, it is a part of a system, a much larger one. The entire tree with its many leaves, branches, roots and so forth is a whole with parts that foster the growth of one another. They are all units of one functioning organism, a system in other words. (Example's courtesy of Murat Yagan.)

The tree, in turn, is a part of the ecosystem in which it is found. And that ecosystem is a part of a still larger system. These systems are, of course, parts of the entire universe. Where it all ends, nobody knows. 

What is particularly important here is to note the smaller units. We can, then, put our attention on observing the striking difference between the fallen leaf and the leaf still on the tree. The latter is alive while the other is dead!

As individuals, it is critical that we be aware that we, like leaves on a tree, must function as a part of the whole or “system” in order to be alive. Conversely, when we view ourselves as separate from the overarching system or systems of which we are intrinsically one, and act according to this illusion, we, like the fallen leaf, are deprived of that which nurtures growth and sustains life. 

Acting on this illusion, we seek “power over” when instead, living life on life’s terms to its highest order, means building “power with.” Seeking the latter, power with, rather than the former is essential to thinking in terms of parts affecting the whole, in other words, as a system.

Commonly held views of a “community” define it as “a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and are bound together by various interests, characteristics and values they hold in common. 

A definition of community that is more exceptional, however, holds that a true community has several other distinct characteristics. 

These qualities carry the commonly-held view of a community forward into an extraordinary form – the exceptional community. 

One characteristic of the exceptional community is that the members are particularly like-minded regarding the necessity for resolving conflicts in ways that represent social justice in a superlative fashion. A second is that they function synergistically. The presence of these two attributes separates the exceptional community from all other communities.

To the extent that members not only share common values, interests and characteristics (i.e. like-mindedness) in a particular locality and under one government, but also consistently seek to function synergistically, they set themselves on a course of evolving. Evolving as a group produces an “exceptional community.” 

The exceptional community is a thriving, healthy system that makes every possible attempt to maintain harmony and peace. In the exceptional community, violence could, someday, even become obsolete because the conditions that foster violence become unnecessary. 

In today’s world the exceptional community is an important model for creating a “culture of prevention,” a significant deterrent to the proliferation of power abusies, social injustice and violence.

The fingers of one hand working together are one example of synergy. Another example of synergy is a football team, intent on making touchdowns and winning a game. Each member has his responsibility and position from which he carries forth his best effort to achieve the goal which has been agreed upon by consensus. 

When the players get onto the field and ”play” well together, we, typically, speak of their performance as being the payoff of practice and proficient “teamwork.”

Players, coaches and supporters are, generally, pleased with this show. It marks the fitness of the team. Synergy has been attained, manifest through unified action. Even if the team does not achieve the goal of winning the game, they often take pride in how well they played it.

Synergy implies a state of well-being within a given system; cooperation between integral parts, the combined elements producing harmony in motion. Synergy is so completely potent in its movement that individual capabilities are realized and collective goals achieved. 

Synergy is elegant and artful. It is “Olympic Gold” in pairs, figure skating competition. Excellence beyond envisioned aspirations grows out of synergy. So gratifying is this state that the healthy organism readily seeks to repeat the experience, righting imbalance as quickly as possible in order to, again and again, realize the abundance of synergy.

The parts of one’s body do not work in harmonious accord when one or more parts are out of alignment. For example, when we do not get a good night’s sleep, the whole of us, body, mind and spirit, does not function as efficiently the next day. We sometimes describe ourselves as being out of “sync” in such instances. Conversely, when we are well balanced, we are able to perform in such a way as to evolve to a higher state of being.

To regain this state after a day when we have been out of sync, we often need to get that much-needed good night’s rest. Similarly, for a community to be one that is maturing and evolving, members must constantly strive to maintain synergy. 

In an “exceptional community,” this means resolving disputes and conflicts and solving social problems as quickly and energetically as possible. Being like-minded on these objectives, the entity we call “community” can advance and transcend ordinary difficulties.

Building on the two definitions I have just introduced, system and community, the main principles of this article can be stated as follows --

1. Like-mindedness and synergy are essential building blocks of exceptional communities.

2. Where like-mindedness and synergy exist in pockets of communities, these pockets can have a positive impact on the overarching community or system.

Understanding and utilizing these principles promotes peace and excellence in communities -- provided we use them as signposts to help ensure that our communities function as healthy systems and make adjustments accordingly to transform pockets of sabotage and dysfunction. A third principle –

3. Exceptional leadership in these pockets plus exceptional teamwork fosters exceptional communities

-- inviting us to note the potential each individual person, adult or child, has for contributing to the development of the exceptional community whether the individual functions as a leader or as a part of the team. Exceptional communities depend as much on the former as on the latter. However, in this article, we will pay particular attention to the key role of leadership in transforming a system to its higher levels of potentiality.

Nonetheless, the central formula I will offer -- for overcoming separation and developing synergy, thereby laying the groundwork for creating exceptional communities -- applies to both leaders and team members.

Excerpt from The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard
Mss in progress by Anastasia Rosen-Jones and Marge Hulburt 
Copyright, Anastasia Rosen-Jones and Marge Hulburt, 2007