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Community is always something more than the sum total of the individuals present. Pseudocommunity, chaos and emptiness are not so much individual stages as group stages. The transformation of a group from a collection of individuals into genuine community requires little deaths in many of those individuals, but it is also a process of group death and group dying. The whole group seems to moan in travail. Eventually, all groups succeed in completing or accomplishing this death. They make it through the emptiness, through this time of sacrifice into community. This is an extraordinary testament to the human spirit. What it means is that given the right circumstances and knowledge of the process, on a certain but very real level we are able to die for each other.

When its death has been completed, open and empty, the group enters community. In this final stage a soft quietness descends. It is a kind of peace. Maybe a member begins to talk about being very vulnerable. There is eloquence. There is hush. It goes on a long time, but it does not seem long. There is no uneasiness in silence. Another member speaks in response, but there will be no attempt to heal or convert. It maybe anything soft and gentle. It will be a gift. A great deal of sadness and grief may be expressed, but there will also be much laughter and joy. There will be tears in abundance, tears of sadness and sometimes of joy. Sometimes, simultaneously they will be of both. Then something very special happens. An extraordinary amount of healing and converting begins to occur - now that no one is trying to heal or convert. A community has been born.

What happens next? The group has become a community. Where does it go from here? What is its task?

For groups that have assembled specifically for a short-term experience of community, its primary task may be no more than to simply enjoy that experience and benefit from the healing that accompanies it. However, it will have the additional task of ending it. Somehow, there must be closure. Men and women who have come to care deeply for each other need time to say their goodbyes. It is important for short-term communities to give themselves time for ending.

If the group has assembled with the ultimate goal of solving a problem, planning a campaign, healing a division within an organisation or engineering a merger etc. then it should get on with that task, but only after it has had time to enjoy the experience of community. This is important to cementing the experience sufficiently. The rule should be, "Community building first, problem solving second".

The task of the community may be the difficult one of deciding whether or not it will maintain itself. This is a decision that should not be made quickly. In the joy of the moment members may make commitments that they then discover they are unable to fulfil. The consequences of long-term commitment should not be taken lightly. If a community does decide to maintain itself, it will have many new tasks. Community maintenance requires that multiple major decisions be made over time. The community will frequently fall back into chaos or even pseudocommunity in the process. Over and again it will need to do the agonising work of emptying itself. Many groups fail here. They have forgotten that maintaining themselves as a true community should take priority over all the other tasks of their community. In case you should conclude that life in community is easier of more comfortable than ordinary existence, it is not, but it is certainly more lively and more intense. The agony is actually greater, but then so is the joy. During times of struggle the majority of members in a true community will not experience joy. Instead, the prevailing mood may be one of anxiety, frustration or fatigue. Even when the dominant mood is one of joy, a few members, because of individual worries or conflicts, may still be unable to feel a part of the community spirit. Yet the most common emotional response to the spirit of community is the feeling of joy.