How to Restore Community and Home

Community is simply home more broadly understood. And, although home is not always a location, its psychological contours can be, and indeed must be, understood as love. Not a whimsical flutter of a quickly fading eros, but what Simon May would describe as an “ontological rootedness,” is what we mean here.[1] In fact, over dinner at the Reform Club—after a few glasses of Rioja—Mr. May replied to my enquiry that, it is true, the enduring psychology of love is inextricably bound up with the concept of home. It is a pity he had not the time to continue that thought.

Community-building then is none other than home-building, and home-building is none other than—when understood broadly—love-making, though the narrow sense works as well.

But we must not think that community-building is creating the world we wish for, exactly as we think it should be—the error of the French Revolution. We inherit a community, and we will bequeath it to our offspring. Community-building means, without exception, that each person must accept that others have had an input and will have an input, and thus the community will never be quite the way we think it should be. It is a shared labor of love that spans centuries. Building community is never done, for it is the work of generations. But now that we have this warning out of the way, how do we build community?

At the risk of being redundant, I say that it takes time.

Edgar A. Guest helpfully reminds us that home-building—and therefore community-building—takes a lot of time but also a lot of fun. If we continue to use the home as a model of how we build community, Guest’s poem is an excellent guide:

Ye’ve got to sing an’ dance fer years, ye’ve got t’ romp an’ play,/
An’ learn t’ love the things ye have by usin’ ‘em each day;/
Even the roses round the porch must blossom year by year/
Afore they ‘come a part o’ ye, suggestin’ someone dear/
Who used t’ love em long ago, and trained ‘em just t’ run/
The way they do, so’s they would get the early mornin’ sun;/
Ye’ve got to love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome:/
It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it a home.[2]

And so it seems to follow that to build a community we must have a “heap o’ livin’ ” and some “romp an’ play” with others. Only when we increase the shared bond of love does that ontological rest begin to increase, the soul grows more anchored, and our very being feels as if it is grounded. But that which does the grounding cannot be just any love or any loyalty—for true love always entails the dedication of loyalty, or it is no love at all.

In Guest’s poem is the need for continuity, dedication to a specific place—in a word, “loyalty.” The “roses round the porch” take time before they become dear to someone “who used to love em long ago” and “years and years” before they become a part of you. Time has an endearing effect on things and people. But it is loyalty to people especially that makes a home. In fact, we might even say marriage is a portable h