“We have known that dialogue and communication are important tools for improvement. Werner takes it to a whole new realm by asserting that all transformation is linguistic.” Peter Block

I’m thinking about Roxburgh’s argument that “language worlds” both enable us – and limit us – from moving into the future kingdom. Peter Block in his book “Community – The Structure of Belonging” argues in a similar direction for different reasons.

As Stan Hauerwas points out in his memoir, books are friends with whom we join in a learning conversation. The best books thread the loose ends together for us and offer a new, more complete picture of something that is close to the heart of our calling. When I began to read in Peter Block, I knew he would become a critical partner in learning.

Block strongly integrates a spiritual perspective in the search for community and belonging. There were two strong threads for me in Part One, and I am going to share one today in preparation for sharing another later in the week. Block is bringing a particular piece of the story into clearer focus for me. Here is the introduction to Part One.

“The social fabric of community is formed from an expanding shared sense of belonging. it is shaped by the idea that only when we are connected and care for the well-being of the whole that a civil and democratic society is created…

“What makes community building so complex is that it occurs in an infinite number of small steps, sometimes in quiet moments that we notice out of the corner of our eye. it calls for us to treat as important many things that we thought were incidental. An after-thought becomes the point; a comment made in passing defines who we are more than all that came before. If the artists is one who captures the nuance of experience, then this is whom each of us must become. The need to see through the eyes of the artist reflects the intimate nature of community, even if it is occurring among large groups of people.

“The key to creating or transforming community, then, is to see the power in the small but important elements of being with others. The shift we seek needs to be embodied in each invitation we make, each relationship we encounter, and each meeting we attend. For at the most operational and practical level, after all the thinking about policy, strategy, mission, and milestones, it gets down to this: How are we going to be when we gather together?

“What this means is that theory devolves into everyday questions out of which community is lived: Whom do I choose to invite into the room? What is the conversation that I shall become and engage in with those people? And when there are more than two of us together at the same time, how do we create a communal structure that moves the action forward?” (p9-10)

* * *
“We have known that dialogue and communication are important tools for improvement. Werner takes it to a whole new realm by asserting that all transformation is linguistic.

“He believes that a shift in speaking and listening is the essence of transformation. If we have any desire to create an alternative future, it is only going to happen through a shift in our language. If we want a change in culture, for example, the work is to change the conversation — or, more precisely, to have a conversation that we have not had before, one that has the power to create something new in the world. This insight forces us to question the value of our stories, the positions we take, our love of the past, and our way of being in the world.” p14-15