"Community is a consequence."

Plough is a quarterly magazine that my wife has subscribed to now for about six months and it the type of publication that makes you proud of the print medium. Within the Winter 2018 edition, there is an essay from Philip Britts entitled The Gods of Progress. Britts wrote this essay after World War II and so it makes one wonder why it is up for the 2018 conversation, but it is among the more timely essays of our time. I hope you would take the time to read the essay and would encourage you even more to subscribe to Plough.

Here is pull quote worth considering:

"Community is not a system for solving the economic-social problem. Community is a consequence. Many such communities have been organized and have failed to stay the course. Community is the consequence of people being kindled with the glow of love.
Photo by  Joris Voeten  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joris Voeten on Unsplash

I submit that when thinking about community, it may be helpful to think of a fire. The smoke is the by-product of the fire, but smoke allows the fire to be discovered by others. It is the flames of love that build the smoke of community. And just as fire is lit by flint and steel, so too love is lit by the flint and steel of humility and curiosity.

Community is a consequence of love which comes from humility and curiosity. 

Curiosity over Inquiry

In our current polarized political and social climate, many have observed that some of us stay in a little bubble, insulated from hearing others. This is a problem. Part of the solution to the little bubbles we live in is asking questions. If we think that it is unhealthy for everyone to live insulated from one another, then questions are a way that we can move beyond ourselves, develop empathy, and foster understanding. In my observation, the problem with that solution is that we have forgotten how to ask questions to achieve this end. Specifically, we are a people who inquire over a people who are curious.

Inquiring is a word that comes from an idea of "seeking". Seeking is something that we do when we know what we are looking for. When I lose my keys, I seek them out. I know what they look like and so when I find them I know it right away. Bono and the band U2 know what they are seeking in the song says "I still haven't found what I'm lookin' for."  

When the spiritual journey is framed as a quest seeking a known variable, then we will ask questions like an inquirer. When we ask questions of another in the spirit of inquiring, then we are are not checking our judgment at the door. Sometimes our questions, under the guise of understanding, are in fact just a way to gain knowledge to build an effective counter-argument. Inquiring is the way of asking questions that does not require us to leave our own biases and judgments out of the question. Journalists are great at inquiring because they are looking for something (usually a story, but the best journalists are more curious.) Journalists often know ahead of time how they want an interview to go, so they use particular inquiries to direct the conversation to their desired destination. 

Curiosity is a word that comes from the Latin word "care". When we are curious we are asking questions with a spirit of care toward the other. It is a spirit that is not judgmental and thus we are willing and able to ask questions without "seeking" a predetermined outcome or goal. The curious person is a person who is interested in you and your story just for the sake of who you are - not to get anything from it. It is why curious people are interesting to be around because they are caring to all that they meet.

Using a simple Ngram search, we can see the number of uses of the word inquiry is more prevalent than the word curiosity and that both are near all time lows in usage. 

The more we are in the spirit of inquiry and less in the spirit of curiosity the more we may remain in our filter bubbles of confirmation bias. Would asking questions without judgment break us out of our bubble? I wonder...