Virtual community

My sweet, wonderful dog Daisy passed away last night, a casualty of the heat. Barely able to see through tears, I posted a picture of her on Facebook to say goodbye. There is something cathartic about grief when it is shared. We want to cry and lament, but I had to ask myself, why on Facebook?

This morning I could hardly stop the tears from leaking out of my eyes. But, as the day wore on, I found myself checking back to that Facebook post over and over again. By the time of this writing, there were 33 responses. I read them all, I gave thanks for each person’s compassion, and I felt so much less alone in my grief. Finally, my sore eyes got a rest and I could even eat something by 1 p.m.

It took me a bit to understand, but Facebook, and other social media, creates a community. Sometimes it’s goofy, sometimes way too political, sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes informative, but always caring and supportive when needed.

Oftentimes religious communities get caught up in the orthodoxy and orthopraxy (right thought and right action) of what it takes to be a community. They say you need to believe in certain things (like the virgin birth or the second coming of Christ); you have to behave a certain way (wear skirts, evangelize, tithe, never divorce, be straight); and you have to adhere to the authority of the church (even if you disagree). If you do all of these things then you can belong to that community and receive support. But oddly enough, none of these rules and regulations ever actually contributes to what makes a loving, supportive, compassionate community. In fact, I’d suggest that orthodoxy and orthopraxy are more apt to inhibit true community because they foster a Big Brother atmosphere (for those of you who remember George Orwell’s book “1984”) – someone is watching you and judging whether you are living up to the community’s expectations. For the record, companies, schools and families can behave the same way. Very manipulative and very sad.

It seems that, if we all  simply acted out of our shared human experience, we could create true communities almost anywhere. All it takes is a little love, a little empathy, and the ability to look beyond our differences to that which connects us. Today, I am ever so thankful for my virtual Facebook community and my Sacred Journeys community.