Working towards creating what some would call an intentional community, I am often told by interested folks that they want to live with “like-minded” people. Since I learned early in life that words often don’t mean the same thing to different people, I have been interested to know what “like-minded” means.
Does it mean?:
- We agree on everything?
- Faced with similar situations we always come up with the same solution?
- We have all the same beliefs on politics, religion and other controversial topics?
- Our world view is identical as to the cause, effect and solutions for evil or social injustice?
- We are focused on achieving all the same objectives?
- Our methods for dealing with problems are the same?
If any of the above represents a proper definition of “like-minded”, I fear that finding any two like-minded people in this world may be a daunting task. Even within a group of devout believers of a narrow religious sect, reaching complete unity of thought is extremely difficult as illustrated by the failure rate of intentional communities when group or leader-imposed unity of thought and action is the single-minded goal.
So, while living with like-minded people sounds like a nice place to be, in practice it is difficult to define, let alone live.
Take “like-minded” in another direction and I also wondered if it might mean “group-think” in a negative sense. Is it healthy for everyone to think the same? Think lemmings. Think Jonestown, drinking the cool aid and mass suicide. In these cases, wouldn’t independent, rational thinking have been a better solution?
Does that mean we should abandon the notion “like-minded” altogether?
I think not.
What brings “like-minded” back down to earth from the ethereal heights of utopian ideal is its interpretation in terms of broad principles instead of detailed tactics. When people deeply share and are committed to good principles and values like honesty, sharing, love, service to others or unselfishness, their daily actions reflect their core thoughts and beliefs. They may define themselves politically as conservative or liberal, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or hold even more extreme or unpopular views. But if they choose to treat each other with deep respect, love, concern and they choose to serve one another with all their hearts, why should it matter that we hold different views on issues outside our immediate relationships? These differences are the things that bring spice to a conversation, enlightenment to a thinker, breadth and depth of thought. The unchallenged mind is a lazy mind. Let us, therefore, welcome diversity of thought, but strive for unity in purpose, values and principles that uplift and build us as individuals and as a community.
This kind of “like-minded” is something to like.
We’ve found that while it is important to share a few key values, diversity makes a group stronger – having different skills to help each other out, different experiences in live that shape different viewpoints – with varied viewpoints the group is less likely to make mistakes – even if slower to make decisions. At least this has been my experience of living in an intentional community.