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Rekindling Community, by Alastair McIntosh

rekindling communityI met Alastair McIntosh last week at Greenbelt, and his wise and passionate words struck a chord with me. I bought a couple of his books, and read this one on the way home.

Community is something McIntosh understands well. In the early 90s he brought the residents of the Isle of Eigg together to buy back their island from the local aristocracy, in a land reform case that has inspired countless others. He has served overseas with Practical Action, and now works with disadvantaged people in Glasgow.

This Schumacher Briefing looks at how to connect ‘people, environment and spirituality’. It draws on psychology, theology and sociology in an unusual blend of cross-disciplinary thinking. It’s quite technical, and a little advanced compared to what I normally read, but it did begin to click into place after two or three chapters.

McIntosh’s premise is that we are disconnected from each other and from the earth, because our modern world has talked itself out of metaphysics. We don’t even have a shared language any more for the soul, the spiritual, the deeper ties that give us our sense of identity and of place. And yet, community is built on three strands: soil, soul, and society. It requires all three, and “the breaking of friendship between any one of these three ruptures the fabric of reality.”

In order to restore community, we need to acknowledge the role of the spiritual – what McIntosh refers to as teaching ‘psycho-spiritual literacy’. Out of this inner work, understanding ourselves better, the outer signs of community can then flow. We can begin to take responsibility for ourselves and for others, learn to share feelings of both joy and sorrow, create and nurture shared values.

Those interested in stimulating community may find this book a little dry, long on theory and short on practice. If you’re looking for practical ideas you might need to look elsewhere, but if you enjoy psychology, this is a fascinating and unusual book.


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