Community, Connections, and Ceremony

Community (noun): a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. Also: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

At face value both of those definitions of community make sense, don’t they? As I apply them to my own life, however, they don’t quite fit and I suspect I’m not alone in this. The issue is that I feel like I never really belonged to any one group, and I don’t honestly think that my current core attitudes, interests, goals, and values have been overly influenced by any particular fellowship. I spent most of my life feeling like the proverbial lone wolf that didn’t exactly “belong” anywhere, and I’ve moved around so much that until recently it’s been hard to associate very deeply with any one group or place. Smartphones and social media have a major impact on the way I connect with family, friends, and social groups, but I am often left with a feeling of being less connected using these platforms.

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Isn't it interesting how these tools that can connect us instantly with others can also leave us feeling even more disconnected? Our core craves for a more meaningful and tangible community. Many of us have gotten caught up in the always-on, over-subscribed, information-overloaded, continually-interrupted, "do-do-do" lifestyle that leaves us feeling stretched thin and stressed out. We seem to desire connection but feel the need to unplug in equal measure. Any of this sound familiar to you? 

...I feel like I never really belonged to any one group, and I don’t honestly think that my current core attitudes, interests, goals, and values have been overly influenced by any particular fellowship.

Along with a sense of belonging to community, another important thing that’s been largely lost in today’s world is the art of using rites of passage ceremonies as a way to connect us as individuals to the greater community and prepare us for the big life changes that life surely brings. As highlighted in Maureen McMahon’s article exploring rites of passage in the May 2018 issue of the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal there are indeed some groups using rites of passage effectively, but my own research and experiences shared by friends and colleagues show that the majority of us aren’t getting the benefit of conscious, meaningful, and personalized ceremony to ground us during times of personal transitions.

Coming of age, which is a specific kind of rite of passage that gives kids a sense of belonging and clear, shared personal attitudes and values, is largely missing for many kids today and that leaves a void that can be filled by unhealthy friends and social groups. My dear friend Mara Evenstar and I formed Conscious Rites as an inclusive and intentional community organization several years ago because we believe wholeheartedly in the power of community. Through it, we create and deliver unique coming of age programs as well as conscious, meaningful, personalized rites of passage ceremonies to support people of all ages as they navigate life changes like birthing/naming, coming of age, weddings/unions, becoming new parents, life celebrations/funerals, and others. Our heartfelt goal is to bring the lost art of intentional rites of passage ceremonies back to mainstream society and help heal the wounds of disconnectedness that many feel today.

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My “community” is a delightfully complex set of connections to a diverse set of groups and individuals that collectively make me feel like I’ve found my home, and I find that each of those connections teaches me something new.

What exactly IS community in today’s culture, and how does it apply to your life? Personally, since moving to the Ann Arbor area in 2009, my “lone wolf” persona has peeled away as I’ve discovered and embraced community organizations like SUN SHEN, New Myth Works, Crazy Wisdom, the Otter Creek Lodge, the MADD Poet Society, the Serenity House of Flint, the Cancer Support Community, the Stewardship Network, the Rising Phoenix Awards, and many others. I was inspired to start the nonprofit company The Intentional Living Collective as a way to connect these awesome organizations together to better serve communities across Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio. I find Ann Arbor to be a unique community that attracts energetic, creative, conscious people from all over the country. My “community” is a delightfully complex set of connections to a diverse set of groups and individuals that collectively make me feel like I’ve found my home, and I find that each of those connections teaches me something new. As a result, I am learning, growing, and changing in ways I’d never have imagined. So, I ask, what is community for you?  And what do you want it to be? Consider this an open call for collaboration.

Callan (Cal) Loo is an experienced, authentic, and creative participant in the journey of life. He’s something of a serial social entrepreneur, having co-founded The Intentional Living Collective, Intentional Legacies, Conscious Rites, The Rising Phoenix Awards, and The Village Wisdom Portal. He's a certified celebrant through the In-Sight institute, an officiant and priest, a certified personal legacy coach, a business legacy coach, a father of two amazing young adults, and a techie at heart that still also works part-time in the high-tech industry. Cal is passionate about helping others find peace, balance, and personal growth while navigating life's major transitions.  After pursuing life and a career around the country, Cal is happy to now call Ann Arbor home and you can reach him at callan@The-ILC.org or 734-680-6660.