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And what of this word, 'community' that seems to stretch into both past, present and future, a noun that holds up its own four pillars or syllables? What of this word you spend a life time searching for, physically, mentally, metaphorically?

In your once-new language it derives from French, before that Latin and refers to 'that which we have in common'. But sometimes you find yourself in a community with which you have very little in common. Sometimes you have to search hard to find common ground. Sometimes the ground under your feet is all you have in common.

In the language that was once yours, 'community' doesn't translate so easily into one word. It diverges and branches off, each translation providing a different aspect to the English word, a tree of many branches that somehow houses them all.

You encounter it first when you're a child. It's all around you, not by choice but by someone else's design. You're too young to know the meaning of it; you're in the middle of it or on the sidelines of it. There is only this, the space, the place, the people, the animals, the beliefs (if there is a belief), because at this point in life the Internet does not yet exist. At least not for you.

When you sit in the kitchen with your grandmother, who comes once a week to help your parents look after you and your brother for a few days, you encounter (but do not yet understand) another type of community. Cross generational, this is one in which you meet over a shared love of the magazines that she brings, magazines designed for her generation, but which you nevertheless love because she does. Doing the crosswords with her and eating the cakes she has baked feels like a common space of love too.

Later in life, the world will expand (and contract) and you will find other communities, not always physical ones, spaces that exist in your mind, in communion with other people's minds. You will learn to seek like-minded communities. You will learn to sit in non-like minded communities, you will begin to love them, for different reasons. You will begin an on-going journey of finding what you need in order to stay with the unrest and the vibration of both.

When you are a teenager you begin to yearn. For something else, something other, something you do not yet have words for, another community perhaps. You spend years looking for this and for a while mistakenly reinterpret Cesare Pavese's famous words as the reason for why you must keep moving:

"Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it."

You think the point is to be off balance, constantly, and so you move through the world, finding a new kind of community perhaps, but one that is in flux, one that is never permanent, except for the glint you recognise in a stranger's eyes; the need to move.

One day you wake up and decide to stay a little longer. And then a little longer. You realise you can make the world come to you too, that travelling is beautiful (but only when it's voluntary), and you long to be able to walk into your local newsagent and buy the paper with a nod to the person behind the counter, who nods back because they know you. 'For a short while, at least', or so you tell yourself.

Then you find a space, a place, somewhere that speaks to you and this, if nothing else, those elements that Pavese spoke of - the sky, the water, the dreams - is yours at this moment in time and perhaps that is a community too.

You take tentative steps towards that which you are, that which you have maybe always been one way or another, but not quite dared to call yourself - a poet, then a writer, a worker in words and images - and now there is another community, one that you discover both physically and in a virtual form. New technological wonders. As before, sometimes it's only the ground beneath your feet that you have in common, in this case, the words. There is room for it all.

Four syllables hold up the word, many more hold up its meaning.


What does 'community' mean to you? Tell us in the comments below...

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