Greetings One & All:
As you can imagine, the writing of my memoir sent me into long reveries about the nature of community. What I tried to convey in my story is encapsulated in a quote I used by M. Scott Peck:
"When I am with a group of human beings committed to hanging in there through both the agony and joy of community, I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon for which there is only one word . . . glory."
I am struck by the words "agony" and "joy" paired in this quote. For I know deeply that this truly defines the roiling alchemy that is the communal vessel. It most certainly describes the way I grew up in the Bronx. The truth of the matter is that while many blossomed in the soil of our neighborhood, others felt alienated, bullied, un-seen and un-heard; when it came time to organize a neighborhood reunion in 2003, it was these folks whose absence was felt acutely.
And yet, is this not what community means? Is it not a place, where especially as children, we seek -- mainly by way of social Braille -- places of safety and adventure? Is growing up not a process of groping our way into discovery and revelation of what draws us close and what repels us? Could this process be any other way than a combination of agony and joy? Would we want it any other way?
When I was growing up, we swarmed with feral innocence across our environment and amongst each other. Like stones in an onrushing stream, tumbling and bumping and spinning over and into each other, we stone-washed our bodies, minds, and spirits in ways that seem all but lost in these over-protected times. There was hardly an adult in sight, only neighbors who periodically intervened to help us draw a boundary. And this was how resiliency was birthed. Even those who found more agony than joy in our neighborhood experience, I am willing to bet, fashioned their own resiliency with which to navigate the world they grew into beyond the neighborhood.
In scribing my memoir, I have looked at the gem of my neighborhood, my community. I have turned it to and fro, examining it's many facets. Amidst the agony and the joy -- nay, as a direct result of this complexity -- I tapped into an enormous well-spring of gratitude for the people and the place that honed me into the person I am today.
There is much to remember. There is much to learn. And, there is much to cherish.