Sensible Life ~ A Thought

At the last minute, John learned he would be unable to join this year’s Connecting for Community gathering in Cincinnati April 23 – 26. In the email he sent to the participants to express his disappointment at not being there, he reminds all of us that relationships in a personal world are the antidote to senseless lives.

Dear All:

I’m abject about not joining you but I’m just now up to looking at the computer — which isn’t very far up!

I thought I might send a few words to the group to recognize their commitment. Peter would call this “A thought”:

I think you are gathering to consider the nature of a sensible life. A sensible life is one where all our senses are engaged — taste, smell, touch, seeing and hearing. A convivial life. An abundant life.

One way of understanding our current dilemma is that we have created an artificial environment that is an assault on the use of our senses. The result is that many of us are living senseless lives.

How did we become so unsensible? We were seduced by the siren call of “progress” — a progress that embraces technology, management and competition as the tools for a better life. And yet, each is a way to deprive us of our senses. Technology has created a tool-ruled rather than a relationship guided world.

Management has emerged as the method by which tool-ruled life is controlled. Managers create systems that are power pyramids designed for a few to control many. Competition ensures that control. Competition is a word that means “for me to win, you must lose.” It demands radical individualism that prohibits personal collective relationships that could threaten the pyramid and its technology.

The enemy of the senseless life is the world of the personal.  It is the world where we see each other and the magnificent natural world around us. Instead of glass screens creating images that we consume.  It is the world where we can hear one another’s stories and songs. Instead of electrically marketed noise.

It is the world where we can smell the good earth, coffee, puppy’s breath and death. Instead of the deodorizers and disinfectants that send lies to our noses.

It is the world where we can taste the memorable home-made food that is chronicled in time-worn, stained recipes on index cards. An encyclopedia of tastefulness. Instead of the salt, sugar and cholesterol cocktails created by the technology of the taste managers.

It is the touch of the baby’s hand, the feel of a hammer and saw in the basement workshop, the caress of love, the touch of care. Instead of feel of false power created by touching a steering wheel or a gun.

~ John ~

Images: Graphic recording by Avril Orloff courtesy Connecting for Community; home page collage courtesy A Small Group

About the Lead Author

John McKnight
John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

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