We talked briefly about the state of communities, and he proposed to write a piece on it. There's been something missing in the spiritual community, and maybe we need to address it.
Without further ado, here's Cargill. .............
Facebook is a Hot Mess of Spirituality
I'm sick of Facebook. I'm sick of forums.
And I bet you are too.
If you've been in Spiritual Facebook land at all, you'll know that there are a ton of groups devoted to no-self, advaita, nonduality, enlightenment, awakening, etc. etc. etc.
You'll typically find two types of conversations.
a) insert quotation or spiritual belief -> everyone agrees and says it's beautifully said
b) "I disagree with" insert quotation or spiritual belief -> everyone takes a position and starts throwing arguments
But either way, neither of these conversation threads are helpful. It's about agreement, or disagreement, but it's not a mutual pursuit of truth or betterment. You're not looking to better yourself, they're not looking to better themselves, it turns into a flamewar.
And regardless of whether or not you've seen no self, egos get flared up.
These conversations are not conducive to anyone. They're a distraction from real searching. And if you haven't crossed the gate, they're not doing you any good.
The other option, is where things just get monotonous and robotic. It becomes procedural.
Which ends up looking something like this:
a: I'd like a guide to see no self
b: I'll help you see it. here are some questions.
a: I believe the self is __x__
b: it's not because __y__. look.
(repeat as long as necessary)
a: I get it now! Thanks!
b: Congratulations. Will you stick around to help show it to others?
It's transactional. You're unliberated, you get liberated, and then you're supposed to help liberate others.
The problem runs deep, and it's structural. This sort essay examines how we can make these groups better.
##Why try to fix this steaming hot mess?
It's all in the game, right? Everything's perfect as it is, so just leave it alone.
Because you know, there are people that want to be liberated, folks that are genuinely trudging along in their quest for awakening. And they want help, and need help.
Is this the best we can do for them?
People want enlightenment. They just don't know how to ask for it and how to get it. It's our job to make it as easy as possible.
Put yourself in their shoes. Try to remember from before you woke up, and how hard you searched.
Imagine running into facebook groups or forums where it's all about which belief system you subscribe to, or which guru you study under. Where the conversation always devolves to petty bickering, conflicting ideas, or pulpit soapboxing. Where the mods are supposed to be awake, but they're the ones most full of ego.
Imagine that being the impression you get of awakening.
You'll either join in, and continue to perpetrate the error, or you'll run away screaming.
"Fuck those advaita people, they're assholes. The mystical ki power/ energy healing people are much nicer. They teach that everything is love, and practice compassion, kindness, etc. etc."
And they'll have every right to ignore you based on how you act.
As someone interested in genuinely helping others wake up, it's your responsibility to communicate in a way that is receivable by the other person. It's their responsibility to look, but it's your job to make it as easy as possible.
That's why this is important.
How can we fix the community?
The most common approach to fixing the issue, is to set up rules.
Often times, you'll see rules like:
- no using abusive language
- no comments that are constantly disruptive or off topic
- no spam
- no trolling
- no advertising or selling
And these do work to prevent the most common abuses. These are good ground rules. I think everyone community should at the very least, have these rules.
Rules don't address the root cause
Rules act as a sliding scale.
The less rules you have, the more freedom a community has. But this invites folks who abuse "free speech" and turn the place into a pulpit, bullies, and egos that just want validation for their beliefs And you also get a lot of weird, erroneous thinking, that if left unchecked, WILL take over the group. You'll have a bunch of myths and errors being spread as if they were true.
On the other end of the spectrum, more rules and more moderation makes a place feel dead and empty. It becomes a nepotistic circle jerk where the only ones allowed into the club are those that conform, everyone else is banned. You're all just confirming each other's beliefs and status.
And ultimately it gives a small, elite, moderatorship all of the power. A community ends up becoming a dictatorship.
What was once a community of people who are brought together by a common cause, is now loosely held together by rules and common belief. It's not fun to stay there anymore.
And so guess what? We fractionate ourselves more and more. We break off into new groups, with a slightly modified rule set. And we just keep forming more and more groups that are essentially, cliques.
Like we're back in high school.
Why does it end up like that? Why do they feel like there's a lack of purpose.
The root cause is that the TYPE of communities that have sprung up, are broken. The problem is inherent in how we structure and set them up.
Communitiy of Interest
They don't work, because they're communities of interest. A CoI is a group defined by a few characteristics.
Namely, they are:
* A group of people interested in sharing information and discussing a particular topic that interests them.
* Members are not necessarily experts or practitioners.
* The purpose of the CoI is to provide a place where people who share a common interest can go and **exchange information**, **ask questions**, and **express their opinions** about the topic.
* Membership in a CoI is **not dependent upon expertise** - one only needs to be interested in the subject.
It's a flat heirarchy, which allows information to spread widely. But because information is disseminated, it's tough to wade through what's good information, and what's bad information. And because the two are difficult to distinguish, we humans skip to using the next best heuristic: which argument is most convincing.
Instead of being helpful hubs of information, our communities devolve into debates and arguments, where one group or another is attacked or belittled. And so it turns into a popularity contest. Eventually, Communities of Interest dissolve into a ton of little cliques and niches.
Which is what we see in spirituality.
Surely there's a better model.
Form Communities of PRACTICE
A new type of community has a tough job to do. There are four key areas that it can improve on.
We can improve the onboarding of new members. Not only should it be a welcoming environment, it needs to be an easier learning curve.
We also need to be able to respond to new questions, new types of needs as they come up and as the group evolves. A static community is a dying community. Can we address new questions after someone sees through the illusion of self? We need to be able to do that, or we'll lose members on the back end.
Every single liberator knows the feeling of "I'm saying the same exact thing over and over again." Look. There's no you. Look. It gets FRUSTRATING. And why wouldn't it? You can only repeat yourself so many times. We need to eliminate that.
A better community will be an innovative community. You can only talk about "There's No You" so many times before you're a one trick pony. It's the core of enlightenment, yes. But enlightenment doesn't exist in a vaccuum. Let's use it to address other problems and issues in this world. It's the most powerful insight we have for dealing with cultural narcissism, for example. Let's wield it to create small, meaningful changes.
In short, a new community needs to:
- Decrease the learning curve of new members
- Responds more rapidly to needs and inquiries
- Reduces rework and preventing "reinvention of the wheel"
- Spawns new ideas
It allows us to teach faster, respond more quickly to evolving demands, reduces rehashing ourselves, and allows us to evolve new ideas. It's dynamic. It's free-flowing. In other words, it's a living, thriving community.
That's what a community of practice does.
- A CoP is a group of people who are active practitioners.
- CoP participation is not appropriate for non-practitioners.
- The purpose of a CoP is to provide a way for practitioners to share tips and best practices, ask questions of their colleagues, and provide support for each other.
- Membership is dependent on expertise - one should have at least some recent experience performing in the role.
Seekers of all kinds, be it spiritual enlightenment or truth, would benefit from this type of community. Let's make one.
If you wanted to learn how to take photographs...
And you joined an online community, and you ask "What's the best camera to buy?", you'll quickly be directed towards the search function. It's a common question, and it's been answered again and again and again. And that answer is, "Depends on your situation and what you need."
And if you picked a camera, and you start to take photos with it, you'd have more substantial questions like, "What does ISO, aperture, and shutter speed?" And there would be links to a comprehensive blog post or wiki entry that has a complete answer for you.
As you gain more and more experience and take more and more photos, you'd be able to ask more detailed, in depth questions. "How do I recreate a photo with this style? How do I take a photo with this effect?" And you'd get recommendations based on your equipment and what equipment you'll need, etc. etc.
Detailed answers for detailed questions. A community based on practice and experience. Practical answers, demanded by practical questions.
Instead of being a community to share opinions and ideas, it's a community to share expertise, tips, and best practices.
That's the kind of community we want to emulate.
A Community of Practicing Awakening
The spiritual community is a hot mess. Every thread devolves into debates and arguments, where posts or people are attacked. It's all posturing and pontification. And that's because it's a community of interest.
We need rules, but rules are not the answer to this structural problem. We have to build communities of practice. If we want better communities, we have to nurture our communities with practice and experience, instead of argumentation over conflicting ideologies.
A community of practice is built by practicioners, in order to share tips, tricks, and best practices, ask questions from colleagues, and provide support for each other. We can do that with our spiritual community.
What do you think? If you like this post, reply and tell us how you think we can make the community better! We want to hear from you.
You can follow Cargill on facebook , where you can find out more about his upcoming step-by-step guide on awakening.
photo credit: colour me hot by bigheaddude2000 on deviantart