The word 'community' used to have fairly simple connotation: small groups of people drawn together due to some common element or cause: art, music, faith. Perhaps the most obvious was proximity, that is, the small town. None of these things has vanished entirely, but the noise of modern existence can make us forget. There has also been a kind of extension of the community concept, and the Internet has been the culprit. Perhaps 'culprit' is an unfair word choice as mostly, this is a good thing.
Yesterday, I had lunch for the first time with an old friend. Sounds funny, doesn't it? Well, I have "known" BC's Mary K. Williams for several years. That is, all of our contact has been via the Internet and the telephone. It's interesting how these online communities form and evolve. I "met" Mary because of an e-conversation we had about some technical hooey (website statistics monitors, I think). We hit it off on a number of topics. She then became part of the BC-related Mondo Group, a writing collective started by another BCer, the fabulous writer/musician polymath Duke De Mondo.
After mountains of e-yakking, Mary and I met for lunch. A little strange, yet very nice. We're both writers, struggling to figure out how to make a successful deep dive into the craft. We're also a part of this virtual community that has members spread all over the United States, from the east coast to the south and all the way to Los Angeles. There's a contingent over in England as well and even one crazy dude in Shanghai. Membership in this group somehow enriches us, giving insight into different angles on the many topics discussed.
None of this is to say that the original community has vanished. Greg Brown's latest record is proof of that. A live recording taken from a show he played to benefit the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. Now here is a community: folks drawing together to protect not only a river but a way of life. In this age of political shallowness and the cynicism that it spawns, this is a more direct and sincere way of getting things done. Just listen to the passion and love coming out of Brown's baritone, it's the voice of community.