Monday, January 22, 2007

Community and Time

I spent a good chunk of the day sunday at a TLS meeting. It was quite fruitful, we came to some conclusions on the wine issue (more info later), brainstormed ways to think about branching out into celebrating more of the hagim as a community, and clarified some outstanding minor issues like whether "vegetarian", as we use it, includes fish (it doesn't).

one of the issues we didn't have as long to discuss, as there was an exciting and packed agenda, was a set of questions about how to partner more fully with a larger number of people to help TLS run. This led me to the connected question of whether we are a "community" and what that would mean.

A lot of people come to TLS nearly every time. i was confronted this last week with the realization that some folks have come 6-8 consecutive times and i still don't recognize them by face and certainly not by name. for this i should be embarrassed. Are we really a community when people don't even know the names of the other folks in the room?

Perhaps we are many communities, some larger, some smaller, all overlapping. For sure, as people come more often, they get to know a greater number of people and make connections. The experience must be a good one or folks wouldn't come to so many consecutive TLS shabbat experience. i am excited that word has spread so far that people would come who are two or more degrees of separation from me, or any of the other folks who help facilitate logistics and the such. that is really cool, but presents a challenge.

i am invested in TLS being a community that helps create an accessible experience without sacrificing its songful or soulful aspects. I am also committed to it being something that all sorts of folks can try out and see if it fits. if they feel it does, i'd love to see them take a more active role in any of a variety of ways. i love that people experience new ways of davening, hear tunes for the first time, experiment with expanding their comfort zones...all these things are beautiful. Because so many people have done such a good job at creating a songful and soulful space, many have come to enjoy it.

Ilana S. cited a passage that perfectly sums up situations like this one:
I found this in the April, 2006, newsletter of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek. It was written by a member of the congregation:
"Maintaining connection is an important consideration among all communities fortunate enough to be struggling with the challenges of growth."
We too are struggling with the growth and are blessed to have the chance to imagine how much richer the web of relationships will be now that it is somewhat bigger. How many more partnership can be made around social justice issues? How many more bands can find their missing instrument? How job seekers will find perfect work? How many will find that two-hand-touch football game they didn't even know they were looking for?

One night when AriJ and I were jamming in the key of what-excites-us-about-JITW i dreamed of getting a bagillion* amazing people together and letting shabbat be shabbat. I didn't realize some of the complications, but with help and sage community members artfully shaping a culture, we got a lot of folks together and man was shabbat shabbat. They hung out and sang, they danced and ate, they davened and, well, davened. When all was said and done, lots of people made incredible friendships, some met partners, others developed some initial blueprints for the revolution.

New ideas, initiatives, and dreams busted out like an 8th grade science-class-volcano. It was shocking and awesome to watch. so much collaboration was waiting to be released. I get the sense that, with the right set of catalysts, a very similar thing would happen at TLS. Lots of cool things have been coming out of the group all along, but many connections are waiting to be made and i wouldn't be surprised if more blueprints of the revolution materialized.

maybe i am still too close to the JITW experience to understand it, but my sense is that the catalysts at play there were:
  • anticipation, people had heard about it and where often excited to see what the fuss was about
  • amazing people
  • time, you came, and for 25+ hours, you were there, meeting people, schmoozing and relaxing, no rush from one 2-minute conversation to the other.
  • non-scheming oriented, we just came to make shabbat, everything else was gravy
  • shabbos

i wonder what other catalysts were/are important in JITW being a source of such intense connections and building a robust network. I wonder what catalysts would be useful in speeding up the reactions in the TLS world and what tools could help create a lot more connections and intensify them such that people are collaborating on things they are excited about with other TLSers and crazy schemes get cooked up and change everything from the DC waffle making scene to living wage campaigns to new music. there is so much potential, how can we all shake it loose?

*spell checker wanted to change bagillion to bazillion, evidently the latter really is a commonly accepted number.


At 1/22/2007 , Blogger BZ said...

"How many is a Brazilian?"

KZ agrees that "vegetarian" with no modifiers doesn't include fish. Hence, our kashrut policy explicitly adds "(Fish with fins and scales is also ok as long as it is labeled or self-evident.)"

At 1/23/2007 , Anonymous chorusofapes said...

As for some catalytic activity, perhaps as TLS retreat (I know I know, its just like JITW, but this is designed for community members to shmooze together long term).

The Havurah movement did retreats on some local farm until it grew to big for its britches.

At 1/24/2007 , Blogger BZ said...

Those retreats (on Weiss's Farm) evolved into the National Havurah Committee.


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