Community & Growth


This Vanier classic is a brilliant series of ‘starting points for reflection’ on the nature and meaning of community. For example, Vanier writes that our communities should be signs of joy and celebration. If we are accepted with our limitations as well as our abilities, our communities gradually become places of liberation, fruitfulness and fecundity.

Writing in a deeply compassionate way, Vanier says that a community grows like a child. “Each of us is on a journey – the journey of life. Each one of us is a pilgrim on the road. The period of human growth from the time we are infants in our mother’s womb to the day of our death, is both very long and very short. And this growth is set between two frailties – the weakness of the tiny child and that of the person who is dying.” Community therefore is founded on frailty. Wisely, Vanier calls us to be in touch with our vulnerabilities as individuals and as a community.

A community is also found on the trust its member have for each other, and for the process of growth. He speaks of the “gift” and the “anti-gift” within community. There are people who come as ‘saviours’. They have the intelligence to understand and sometime exploit the failings of community. They are attractive; they talk well. They tend to want to do their own thing and prove their points. If a person comes into community with this state of mind, it will be a disaster for them and the community: anti-gift.

The right way to come into community is to feel at ease there, ready to serve and be respectful of structure and traditions. A project or a new idea has to grow in collaboration with others and not as a way of proving anyone’s capability. Availability for service is one of the most marvelous gifts that we can find in community. The gift of availability, writes Vanier, can be transmitted from one person to another like a fire of love. It brings a community to life.

Thus, Vanier’s insights are most helpful to all service providers because they provide an orientation as to how a person is to show up and live community – safely, ethically, and respectfully.

The Right To Take Credit

You have to completely surrender the right to take credit for anything that God might do through you. (If you could take credit for it, then it couldn’t have been God. And what we need is God–not another charismatic charlatan trying to manipulate a fleshly response to increase their individual importance.) The very most you can do is point to practised values. And here three things must be emphasised: that these are revealed by grace, enabled by grace, and covered by grace. That is, they are practised but poorly and imperfectly–But God in His grace disregards and even hides this imperfection, because He values us.

The film-maker explains:
What started out as kind of a parody ended up something much more interesting. Read on for my full thoughts.

I recognized immediately the problem: it would be dismissed as an imitation.

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Several months ago, I discovered a white studio space on the edge of Los Angeles. The idea occured to me instantly to shoot something there, but what? A sequel to my minorly viral series of Superman videos? A music video? The blank white space stretched out before me and I clutched my beer and squinted my eyes and found myself thinking of something that felt unbelievably obvious:

I should get my friends to hit each other in the face.

The Kiss video had come and gone, and with it a huge legion of parodies of varying quality and intelligence. There was a sense of diminishing returns, one that set on with that inimitable quickness of the internet, an invention that seems to have given the entire world ADHD. The reception was initially warm, but after the truth of The Kiss video’s commercial origins were made known, a certain cynicism had set in about that momentarily beloved piece of film making.

To me, I was cynical from the start.

The Kiss video is beautiful, but it doesn’t ask a big question. The “question” of the video seems to be “Do you want to kiss a sexy person who conforms to your preestablished sexual interests?” The answer, I would assume for most everyone, is “yes, I would like that very much, that sounds like it would get me all horned up.”

So what’s the more interesting question? There’ve been a lot of imitators with variations on the original; I admit I haven’t watched most of them. The majority were either fake for “internet comedy” or asked an even less interesting question, like “What if it were a REAL (meaning widely considered ugly) person?” “Will these straight people hug these gay people?” Stuff like that, usually loaded with false, contrived sincerity, something I find repellent.

Sexuality wasn’t interesting enough. Too vague, too easy. There was the white space though. So…Violence. Sexuality, no. Violence on the other hand…

What is violence? It’s really just a label, isn’t it, if you let your mind go to a dark place. I decided to define violence as “nonconsensual physical interference;” wordy I know, but it lent itself to a wider idea. Something as simple as someone grabbing your butt or hugging you a little too long or too tight can feel violent; granted, not as painful as a knife to the gut or a bullet to the head, but still, violent.


But what if we took the non-consensual part out of it? What if you agreed, in some small way, to a measure of pain, and in doing so, earned the opportunity to inflict a little of your own, free of consequence, divorced from the more traditional contexts of a fight or anger or rough sex, and hit someone in the face?

What is trust? Do you trust someone not to hurt you? Are you even thinking about it?

Do you care if they hurt you if you trust them? I started asking all kinds of questions. I went totally up my own ass with this. What does trust have more to do with, logic or fun? How much fun is it to trust someone, versus how logical it is to trust them, to hit you in the face and be hit by you in the face?

Granted, it’s just a stupid internet video, but what isn’t, these days? I had a theory: if we let people slap each other, most of them, after the initial hit, will start testing each other and themselves, playing with their own boundaries. Maybe not every time, ut some timess. Most times. The theory was: people will want to do it more than once. The theory was: in this bizarre scenario, a slap won’t be a slap. It’ll become a different type of physical exchange.

The theory was: A slap, robbed of its violating context, is more intimate than a kiss.

My theory, as it turned out, was right, which was fun, and gratifying. But intellectual gratification is, to me, secondary to the visceral feeling that came from hitting, being hit, and better yet, watching everybody hit each other. I saw the strangest mutations of intimacy, and trust, in that empty void.

Everything you see on camera is real and spontaneous.

For more of this barely eloquent oddness, follow @uptomyknees