Ora na azu nwa.

People were born to live in community.

We were not meant to be lone rangers; in fact we cannot be.  Every person is dependent in some way on some other person or persons.

But if you take the idea of community and expand it into a philosophy that is broader than what a basic community is,  then what do you get?


No, that’s quite what I’m looking for; I don’t like fifty-cent words. If seven or more syllables must be employed to denominate a concept, then it might as well be called antidisestablishmentinterianism.

Maybe the word would sound better if we shortened it to “communism?”

Actually, no, that’s not quite what I had in mind either. The term has already been appropriated, and has gathered, as I’m sure you are aware, more than a few theoretical and historical connotations.

Karl Marx certainly has his place in history, as the originator of the idea that workers can collaborate communally to produce goods and services without the oppressive oversight of capitalist overlords. But I digress.

If we just start by identifying the most fundamental unit of any human development, the family, then perhaps the next level of social organization, logically would be…extended family?

Like brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents.

Sure, but now I’m back in the seven-syllable territory again–extended family, and it sounds too sociological anyway.

I’m searching for a more concise, illustrative descriptor. What level of society builds upon that foundation of extended biological family? What’s the next level of human organization?


Well, ok, to use a quaint term with old-world connotations. I like it.

It takes a village. That’s a profundity enunciated somewhere along the line by our esteemed Secretary of State; she had appropriated the phrase, as is commonly understood, from a Nigerian Igbo proverb, “Ora na azu nwa”.

So let’s think about this idea of  village for a minute.  Maybe it’s a term more evocative than community.

But is the village obsolete? Is it just some feudal entity that has been bulldozed into the dustbin of history by a careless post-industrial society?


I can think of plenty of villages.

There’s the village of Creston, North Carolina, about twenty miles from where I live here in the Blue Ridge. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall place that is home to a few handfuls of folk, among them an industrious artisan German immigrant  from whom I bought a rebuilt violin several years ago.

And then there’s Birkdale Village.  It’s a trendy new commercial development, of the kind of retro  village within a larger metro area model, in burgeoning suburban north Charlotte, about hundred miles from my home.

There’s also Blue Ridge Village, which has since been renamed; it’s the first resort condo I worked construction on back in the mid-80s.

And Delmont Village, the old 60s-era strip shopping center about a mile from where I grew up in Baton Rouge back in the day.

Maybe “village” is my present neighborhood—a group of seventeen households on the north side of hill, just a couple miles from our chosen hometown. We all came here from other places. We have annual POA meetings and greet one another fondly while strolling along the lane on sunny Saturday mornings. But we have to go into town to buy groceries and gas.

Maybe “village” is what Pat and I were hoping to escape to when we landed in this university/mountain town in 1980 with forty or so other assimilated Christian families. As  refugees from the wider world of dysfunction and druggery, we purposed to raise our children together according to biblical standards.

Maybe “village”  is  the fading vision of our youthful  community, as it slowly  dispersed  over years   into a widespread scattering of distant families and long-forgotten acquaintances  … whatever happened to …(name)?, but the village survived as a remnant of old treasured friends, precious as gold.

You don’t need to buy gold now; just make good friends.

Or maybe “village” is what our local home-schoolers have, as Christian parents striving  collaboratively to educate their children according to moral standards that are higher and more productive than those of the broader secular world.

Maybe “village” and “community” are eternally elusive ideals that we’ll never realize in this world.

Maybe “village” is what some of my generation were seeking when they gravitated to Haight-Ashbury.

Could be that “village” is what the settlers on the west bank of the Jordan are striving for; “community” might be what their Palestinian neighbors hope to attain.

Maybe some will arrive at communite on the Left Bank of the Seine; others will accrue it when they invest in the Right Bank.

Maybe the elusive “village” is what the Democrats are wishing they could actualize on a nationwide scale: a society where everybody takes care of everybody else and everybody’s pretty much the same, with the rich having been  taxed into humble egalitarian submission so that the other two classes could actualize their potentialities because the impedimentary walls of plenty will have been torn down, enabling the wealth of nations to trickle into  the cracks that the neglected souls would fall into, and thus upgirding the social safety net,  depositing along the way a chicken in every pot and free lunch for all, since every man’s a king and every woman a queen, dont’ya’know.

Perhaps “village” is the nanny state that my conservative friends think Hillary was eluding to back in ‘96 when she evoked the African proverb while promoting her book and supporting her hubby. God bless her.

Maybe “community” is what the teapartiers will have when they successfully extract themselves from the oncoming green tide of “socialism” that they so gainfully and gunfully disdain.

Maybe “villages” are what we’ll divide ourselves into according to politics.

But if anything on earth even comes close to this elusive harmony called “community,” then  some irresponsible oil spill will probably foul it up anyway.

So Community is,  I surmise, what we will discover in that village we call heaven.  It must be out there somewhere; otherwise why would we have thought of it?

And why would the resurrected one have spoken of it?


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