On Community

Since I’ve volunteered to produce The Drinking Gourd Podcast for the Toledo Zen Center, Aaron has been reminding me not to let myself be used, or to get too much work on my plate again. It’s a valid argument, and one that has helped me avoid trouble in the past. Right now, though, I only feel positive vibes about this project, and I think I know why.


It’s been a long time since I really felt like part of a community. Work isn’t really a community — I’m talking about someplace outside of the work and family environments, where people with a common thread in their lives meet regularly and talk frankly and feel comfortable with one another. I suppose this would normally manifest as a church group, or a support group, or even a user group. For me, the sangha (zen community) has been emerging as a community of which I feel I am a part.

Going back to religion: in the Mormon tradition in which I was raised, any member of the congregation can be “called” to a particular position in the church, be it Sunday School teacher, pianist, clerk, or bishop (head of a congregation). It is generally understood that, if you are called to serve, you don’t turn down that calling. Some people do, sure, but it’s generally frowned upon. Even if it’s too much for you to handle, you trust that God (and the local Priesthood authorities) gave you the task for a reason, and that you will grow spiritually because of your calling, and you will receive blessings in Heaven.

In retrospect, I can see how serving a calling in the church can increase the feeling of community from each of its members. That’s sort of how I feel now. I feel like I’m contributing to the community by doing my part, and I don’t feel like the sangha is taking undue advantage of my skills.

It also doesn’t hurt that, almost any night of the week, I can drive just over five minutes to the dojo/zendo and drop off CD-Rs, or pick up the digital recorder, or just talk with Sensei, and then drive home — and only have used up 20 minutes of my night. As cool as the internet is, I’m coming to appreciate human contact more and more. You don’t get the same energy by reading someone’s words as you do from hearing them spoken, not to mention the fact that some people don’t have a proper mastery of the written English language.

So, even though I’m having to be reimbursed for the $30 I spent today on printable CD-Rs and printer ink, and even though I spend about two hours editing each podcast, and will probably spend another hour burning and printing CDs of each… I think it’s worth it.