Community Healthiness: the Origins of Sin and Virtue, Love and Hate, Freedom and Prison

I read a beautiful quote on Quora the other day, from a five year old.  Her father had asked “How do we show someone we love them?”, and she responded “We play with them.”  I love it!  We sing, dance, and play.  Sometimes we play hard. When we love, we are strengthening our communities.

Communities, in the healthicine hierarchy, cover a wide range, from couples, to families, to partnerships, companies, corporations, churches, and governments.  Any group of people, even people and animals living or working together. Communities, healthy communities, can be competitive, cooperative, or even playful.

Let’s look back in time, before there were any communities. Adam lived alone in the garden of Eden. His constraint consisted of one rule from his God. You must not eat from the tree of knowledge. God made no other requests, no other rules.  Adam had no needs that were not met by the garden, and thus no need to make requests of God. Was it possible for Adam to love? Was it possible for Adam to sin – alone in the garden?  Let’s consider sins first.

The Ten Commandments:

Thou shalt have no other gods
No graven images or likenesses
Not take the LORD’s name in vain
Remember the Sabbath day
Honour thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not covet

Adam had no other gods. Thus no need for graven images or likenesses of his Gods. In the garden, all of his needs were met, thus there was no need to take his LORD’s name in vain.  There was no Sabbath day, no need to remember. No need to rest or recover from and reflect upon his sins.

No father nor mother to dishonor.  No-one to hate or kill. No-one to commit adultery on, or with. No-one to steal from. No-one to bear false witness against.  No-one to be jealous of.

Because Adam had no community, he could not sin. Or could he? What about the Seven Deadly Sins? The seven deadly sins are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.

Lust – not possible without a community.  Gluttony? “ it is considered a sin if the excessive desire for food causes it to be withheld from the needy” – not possible without a community. Greed – not possible without a community. Sloth? “ failure to utilize one’s talents and gifts” – to what end could Adam utilize his talents and gifts, with no community to benefit from his work? Wrath – against whom? Envy – of whom? Pride – who could Adam demonstrate ‘pride’ to, if there is no community. Sins are not judged as sins without a community to pass judgement.

It was not possible for Adam to sin. Adam, alone in the garden of Eden was also not capable of representing the Catholic Seven Virtues, which are the opposite to the seven sins: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility – except perhaps with regards to the other animals in the garden. There were no people to be kind to, no poor to be charitable to, no disruptive people to be patient with, no children to try his diligence or kindness.

We might also ask, did Adam love the garden? Did he love the animals? The trees? Did he love his God? I don’t believe the concept of love existed until the arrival of Eve, until the arrival of a community.  Love, like sin, requires community.  Love is an aspect of community healthiness. As is hate. In the garden of Eden, without a community, it was not possible for Adam to love.

When Eve arrived, Adam became part of a community. It was possible to sin, it was possible to be virtuous, and it was possible to love.

Every community creates demands on individuals.  Even with only two individuals – maybe one wants to be in the sunshine, when the other wants to be in the shade. But both want to be together. Conflicts arise naturally, and because there is a community – these conflicts can be dealt with, or not, can grow, or fade. The serpent arrives, and makes suggestions, which create more conflict. The community has grown. God, Adam, Eve, and the serpent. So far, only one rule, in theory, one ‘restriction of freedom’. Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge.

Once Adam and Eve ate from the tree, their families, and their communities grew. It wasn’t long before Cain killed Abel.  Murder, is a symptom of community illness, not possible when Adam was alone in the garden. Murder is only possible in a community.

As an aside, we can also see that, until there was a community, Adam had no concept of ‘freedom’, because there was no community to constrain him. Is it possible to have ‘freedom’ without the existence of constraints? As our communities grow, and grow more complex, the line between sins and virtues is not so simple. Is it possible to experience freedom, if it is not possible to make our own judgments, decisions, and choices between sins and virtues?

How can we tell if a community is ‘healthy’? Extroverts can be very involved, well connected to their communities. Introverts might be less involved socially, but might provide support in other ways, more to their nature. Psychopaths and sociopaths have very poor connections to their communities.

CommunityNetworks

Some communities are very well connected, others poorly connected to their members – and to other communities. Some communities are very rich, complex, complete and healthy.  Some communities are very hierarchical, others are more egalitarian. Others are very thin or poorly connected.  This is the nature of communities.

What are the dimensions of community healthiness? In the book: The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, by Patrick Lencioni provides a very interesting set of concepts that might be applied to the measurement of healthiness of communities. Organizational health, according to Patrick, is about integrity. “An organization has integrity – is healthy – when it is whole, consistent and complete…”  Patrick also noted that some conflict is healthy (no conflict is unhealthy), as is some confusion, and also some turnover in membership.

Is this how we can measure community healthiness? Communities, in healthicine, are a much broader concept that Patrick Lencioni’s organizations.  Patrick’s interest is in helping organizations – companies and corporations, to be healthier and thus more profitable. But this view does not consider the interactions between organizations – which are often unhealthy by design. Companies and corporations are often in competition. Communities are sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing.

What is community healthiness? When we look at the hierarchy of healthicine, it’s not difficult to imagine measures of healthiness for our diet, our organs, our bodies, even our minds.  But how can we recognize healthy communities? How might we identify, and work to improve, the healthiness of our communities?

Every community also has ‘community’ aspects.  Some communities might be very inclusive, others, very exclusive. This defines the communities link back to individual members.  When we look at Patrick Lencioni’s measurements – some communities might be very sound, whole, consistent and complete – others might  be unsound, inconsistent and incomplete.

Sins, and virtues are dimensions of community healthiness, at the individual level, and at the level of community. Individuals can sin.  Individuals can be virtuous.  Communities can sin, and can be virtuous.

In the garden, communities were very simple – families, and then tribes.  But today, we have communities, of communities, of communities. Our communities, and many layers of communities interact, and some communities (corporations) are ‘legally’ recognized as persons.  But today, these are persons who cannot ‘sin’.  If we are to improve the healthiness of our communities, we need to recognize that communities can sin, and that communities must strive to be virtuous. The openly displayed goals of many of our communities – corporations – include greed, envy, pride, wrath, and gluttony. This is an unhealthy shame. Maybe it’s time to expand the confessional? We know that communities can tout their virtues. But can a community speak? Can a community confess its sins?

to your health, tracy

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