Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Make a comprehensive list of the many communities—large/small, formal/informal, serious/silly—that you consider yourself a part of. For each community, reflect on what has led you to participate in these communities. Did you join a particular community because it reflected the values you were raised with (such as a religious youth group or)? The values/interests you are beginning to embrace on your own (such as a “simple living” club or a “literary society”)? The values/interests of your peers (such as a ‘greek’ organization or a “Maroon 5” fan club)? To what degree is your membership in these communities an extension of private and/or social aspects of your personality? Please explain.

Large Groups (as a fundamental part of me, born into and unchangeable)
a member of all things in existence
a member of all things that share the gift of being alive
a member of the human race
A citizen of America
Born in Hawaii
These are groups into which I was born. They cannot be really changed (though, I could technically change the American Citizen part). These are large groups through which I define myself as belonging. I feel a deep sense of kinship to other members of these groups, because they, too, are members of these groups fundamentally. The first two, "a member of all things in existence" and "a member of all things that share the gift of being alive" are defined as groups, according to my beliefs, which are pseudo-religious in nature, I suppose. I see everyone and everything in existence as a sharing in a great gift of being created, and I feel privileged to share that in common with everyone and everything. Though I know not everyone shares my perspective, I feel that it binds us all together, and I feel connected to everyone and everything as part of a large web of creation.

Groups of Choice
Member of an Aikido Dojo
College Student

There is less pseudo-mysticism inherent in these groups, as they have been chosen, but more of my personality in them. I consider myself a "geek"--an ordinarily derogatory term, but one with which I am comfortable. This is defined primarily by the activities in which I engage. This includes, but is not limited to playing computer games frequently, playing Dungeons and Dragons, playing card games such as Magic: the Gathering. All of these are social activities, however, and the people I play with are fellow geeks, fellow gamers, and they comprise a smaller facet of the group. However, I know that there exist countless others that engage in the same activities, and the common knowledge of the the games and the willingness to play are factors contributing to a larger community.

I am a member of an Aikido dojo. And it is less an extension of my personality, and something that has influenced my personality. A style of martial arts, Aikido focuses on peacful resolution and redirection of force. I consider myself a student under my sensei (teacher/mentor) Who is, in turn, a student under those of higher ranks. In effect, all those who study Aikido are students under the teaching of the founder, the O-sensei, who, though deceased continues to teach through lessons passed on through his students.

A similar sense of being a student reflects my membership as a part of a member of the Randolph-Macon community. And although I would like to think that this helps to bring me closer to my fellow students, I feel that other organizations within that community serve to fracture and form schisms within the larger community of Student of Randolph-Macon.

J2/ Growing up, you belonged to several communities, but the most obvious one was probably the community that you lived in...your neighborhood. As a young adult, you are moving away from that community and entering others. Help your classmates and me visualize the communities that you belong to as the neighborhood where “You” currently reside. In other words, if “You” were neighborhood, comprised of different houses with residents inside of them which represent the different communities that you consider yourself part of, what would it look like? From the list of communities that you wrote down for Journal 1, choose 4-6 communities and describe them as houses on “You” street. In order to help us truly understand the nature of these communities—their members, their shared beliefs, and the tensions/controversies within them—you may want to begin by freewriting about the following questions (adapted from Thomas Deans):
*What factors define the group (geography, age, interests, ethnicity, shared history, values, etc.)?
*How did this community come into being? What is its history? How does that history shape current practices and attitudes?
*How do you gain membership to this community? Can anyone join? Is it by invitation only?
*What are the rewards/costs of membership?
*Describe any characteristic language practices of this community. Do members use special terms/language? Do they assign new meaning to terms?
*What characteristics or “patterns of sameness” characterize community members (dress, rituals, behavior, values, etc.)?
*What tensions/controversies/areas of disagreement exist within the community? How are these areas negotiated or represented to outsiders?
*How might definitions of this community differ if they were told by insiders and outsiders respectively?
*How did you come to be a member of this community?

The street, Jason Street, in an effort to stave off any attempts at poetic pretention, is a street with a random selection of architecture comprising it. Most eye-catching on the street is a two-story building. Painted an off-white, the building has a strange, unfinished feel. Closer inspection usually results in a headache as the dimensions of the building twist in on themselves, in an escher-like style. This house is the residence of the artists on the road. They constantly redesign their home, and what was a two-story yesterday, may become a tool shed tomorrow. Constantly milling in and out of the doors, always on the go, they argue with each other incessantly, about the superiority of one art form over another, and sometimes their caterwauls can be heard up and and down the road.

The next house is so average, it borders on boring. It is a white suburban home inhabited by a "typical" white american family, the Grants. They are a little ill-at-ease next to the artist home, but so long as no paint splashes over to mar their property, they are relatively at ease. If ired, however, their aggression is of the passive variety and calls to the police are their complaints of choice. On their lawn, an American flag flaps in the wind.

Two houses over from that are the Tanakas, a Japanese family. Just as formal, civilized, and concievably boring as the Grants, their home, done in a Western style but with japanese influences, is home to a husband, wife, and young son. Typical they may be, but they constantly deal with neighbors coming over to inquire about their "Japanese" lifestyle.

Between the two houses is an empty lot, and every so often a few people gather to hold up plans and mutter for hours on end about building and construction. The group of people are of no particular ethnicity, but rather each is a conglomerate, and they are deciding how to build a house, and in what style. The neighborhood is, on the whole pleasant towards these folks, as they don't seem to cause much trouble, but each group watches them for any negative behavior they might exhibit from their "other" sides.

One house past the Japanese home is a strange structure. Obviously built with some sort of Gothic tradition in mind, the building looms, or attempts to do so at a rather puny single story. Every night, and most afternoons it is abuzz with people coming in and out of its doors, and shouts of "Two Damage!" and "Critical Fail!" can be heard from its walls. The Gamers live here, and though they've yet to cause serious damage to the neighborhood, the noise of their all-night games are often the cause for complaints from the Grants or Tanakas. Everyone's welcome to come in, though unless the newcomer comes bearing his own Player's Handbook, laptop, or deck of cards, they are greeted with suspicion--the people that live here are people that are used to being the subject of mockery.

In the other direction, the Artist house is flanked by an unusual property. It is an open lawn, well-kept, though no one has ever seen the owner use a lawnmower on it. It is a wide space, in the center of which is a gazebo of sorts, surrounded by a small moat of clear, running water. The lawn stretches back farther than it would seem, and tucked away, close to the horizon is a tree, with a treehouse high in its branches. In the center of that gazebo, however, sits an old man, mostly in meditation. He does not actively welcome others to his property, but the serenity of the place often attracts the curious visitor. Indeed, as one sests foot upon the green grass, it is as if the outside world is muffled, and all that can be heard is the wind rustling the leaves of a single tree there, cherry-blossom, of course. People come and go there, sometimes to speak with the unnamed master of the place, sometimes just to enjoy the solitude. Though none are welcomed there, all are welcome.

Two houses remain on the block. On the left of the artist house is an raised platform, constructed of wood, its top covered in thick mats of woven straw. Above it is raised a wooden roof, and this roof shakes from the impact of bodies upon the straw. The martial artists practice here, and the impact of their bodies thrown to the mat can be felt through the air by the casual passerby. There are no walls, only support beams. Anyone interested to try to practice with them are welcome, but a sign on the wall details specific rules of the dojo (school). Visitors must remove both shoes and jewelry before stepping onto the mat. Visitors must leave behind anger and a reliance on physical strength. Also, anyone who wishes to join them must be willing to give it an honest try. Every so often, the martial artists will walk over the fenceless line between the dojo and the nameless master's field. One there, they will practice in the open, or meditate.

The Grants tend to avoid both of these places, often unable to understand the martial artists or their reasons for practicing day in, day out, and unwilling to fathom the strange purposes of the nameless old man one property over.

The last house is a creaking structure, more stable than it looks. It would really have to be--if it were as stable as it looked, it would have fallen down years ago. the college students rent this house, and their piles of books and paper litter the porch. Through the large windows it can be seen that similar stacks adorn the insides. They often work late into the night, lights blazing into the wee hours of the morning. When not scribbling away at papers on every available flat surface, they are rushing in and out of their home, constantly late for class. Every so often, probably more than is good for them, they leave their creaky house to go out, sometimes to the gamer home, but often just for a walk, or out to the main road for other entertainments. Often, the unnamed old man will often leave his property (the only time he does so) and warn the students that too much hustle and bustle will be the deaths of them. They rarely ever listen. It's said that there is a chance that the college students will buy the home even after their time at their school is over.

Of all the groups, perhaps the most out of place are the Grants. There are strange people to the left and right, and though they get along well with the Tanakas and are not bothered by the comings and goings of the college students, the other members of the cul-de-sac unnerve them. They are there permanently, though--they've just bought the lease on their home, and Mrs. Grant is pregnant. Similarly, the Tanankas are often uncomfortable on the road. While they are not unnerved by the Martial Artists and old man as the Grants are, they are often exasperated by them, as constant reminders of tradition that can often trip up progress. The do, however, often have the old man over for tea. The Gamers, college, students, and artists are fairly self-contained, sometimes visiting one another, sharing strange bits of congruent wisdom--methods on how to paint a miniature model, the wonders of caffeine, or the most effective words for charming an adversary--be it a dragon, a professor, or landlord. The old man often watches with a smile on his face, but just as often will watch the sky, or greet a bird or squirrel living in his lawn. Whatever the outcome of the other's lives--if the Tanakas or Grants plan to move, if the Artists are evicted, or if the gamers blow the power grid for the block--the old man is content.

Jason, i don't know what to say... That was very pleasant to read. Thank you for writing it so well.
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