Of Community and Communities

Posted on June 11, 2011


There’s a rarely spoken-about component to life, and it’s not exclusive to the Primal/Paleo camp. It isn’t a Primal Law. It won’t help you burn fat. It won’t give you rock-hard abs or enable you to do Turkish Get-Ups with tree trunks or hoisting women curled around your fist.

However, community can sometimes be more important than all those different things (and more) combined. Ever wonder why the fuck CrossFitters are so damn fanatical? Community. When things look glum and life is kicking you thoroughly in the jubblies, to what do you turn? Community.

It’s all too easy to forget that we’re a part of a community. Actually, we’re all a part of many communities, both large and small. I received two wonderful reminders of that this morning.

Where Everyone Knows Your Name
As per usual, I was up by 5:30am and at Bridgehead (a coffee shop) by 6:30 or 6:40, sitting in my usual spot in a comfy chair, drinking coffee and reading “The Blade Itself” by Joe Abercrombie. (Fantastic author, by the way.) Around 7:30 or 7:45, a guy I’ve spoken to a few times came in to grab a coffee in the middle of walking his dog. On his way out, he paused by the door and said, smiling, “You know, I’m beginning to suspect you’re a sophisticated homeless person.”

Hahaha! Yeah. . . point taken. I’m there almost every morning, and right when they open, which means I must look like a permanent fixture to regulars who arrive a bit later than I do — which, since I’m often one of the first people there, would be every regular.

On top of that funny interaction, last week, I had an incredible four-hour conversation with another gentleman who’s a regular there. So Bridgehead, formerly unbeknownst to me, has become a small community for me. It’s a bit of a sanctuary, and something I look forward to and enjoy.

Generosity Repaid. . . With Interest
The other instance I mentioned that happened today occurred a bit later in the morning. Some background first: Last night, feeling restless but not in a reading mood, I set off to wander through a neighbourhood I’d never been through before. I walked for a good hour, taking my time, not caring about economy of discovery — I often took side streets and looped back around to places I’d passed through already. I just kept wandering, looking around me, enjoying the act of walking through subdivisions in that after-supper quiet as dusk turns to evening. It was so damn peaceful.

Anyway, early in my wanderings, I happened upon a school with a baseball field that didn’t look like it was getting much use. A perfect spot to do sprints, I thought! So I went back there this morning. On my way up the street to that field, I saw two kids perched by a small roadside table set with a dozen plastic cups and two pitchers of icy lemonade. They spotted me a good block away and started yelling: “Do you want some lemonade?” (They yelled it about three or times, until they’d successfully synchronized their query, as little kids seem compelled to do.)

I stopped near their table, glad for an excuse to take a quick pause. Their mom, sitting nearby, pointed out to them that I didn’t have any shoes on. (In retrospect, I’m glad it was a cooler day today. As such, I happened to be wearing a shirt.) “Why are you running with no shoes? Did you lose them?” asked the older one. I thought that was pretty damn funny. “No, I like running without shoes. It feels better.” Then I saw that they were both barefoot and smiled. “See? You know what I mean.” They offered me a cup of lemonade but I said I didn’t have any money on me. Their mom laughed and said, “If he doesn’t have shoes, how can he afford lemonade?” That seemed to make sense to their 6- and 4-year-old minds.

I did my Tabata sprints in the field a short distance away. (And Odin’s frozen testicles. . . that was a killer! I’ve never done a Tabata sprint on foot before. I’d done Tabata Protocol “sprints” using my bike and via burpees but damn. . . actually sprinting is something else entirely! Exhilarating and utterly exhausting.)

I walked past them a few minutes later on my way back to my apartment. “Now do you want lemonade?” they asked. “It’s really fresh and cold.” Their dad was there this time and watching me intently. Good man. I reiterated that I didn’t have money on me, and the younger boy said, “You can have a lemonade, though.” and then proceeded to tell me why they weren’t going to the tractor museum but that they might go tomorrow but it might rain tomorrow but wait! the museum has a roof so that’s okay. . .  (I love kids, in case it even needs to be said.)

I said, “I’ll tell you what. If it’s okay with your dad, I will have one lemonade now because you’re right — I’m very thirsty — and I will come back in 15 minutes and pay you for four lemonades. That’s $1.” Their dad smiled and shrugged. He figured I wasn’t coming back but so what? It’s two cents’ worth of water and bitter-sweet frozen concentrate.

So home I went, having finished my lemonade. I got cleaned up and 25 minutes later I returned. I swear their dad’s face lit up more than their little faces. The older one, the girl, ran up to me with her money cup and I counted out the dollar in change. “Now look at his feet,” the mom said. I forgot I’d put on my Vibram FiveFingers. “There’s always something interesting with this guy.”

I got to chatting with the mom and dad both, talking a bit about “evolutionary health” (no specifics) and how I’d gotten into trying barefoot running. No, it wasn’t painful or hard. I explained some of the simple physics of running and contrasted shod running versus barefoot running in terms of impact and all that. Anyhoo, we talked for a few minutes and parted on good terms, everyone smiling, the kids wondering out loud when they were going to be rolling in their lemonade stand billions à la Scrooge McDuck.

(Holy shit. That was a long retelling of a pretty simple anecdote. With the way I can talk around things without getting to the point, I should be in politics.)

So there you have it. Communities exist everywhere and for every and any reason. Without the support and like-mindedness of others, a lot of people (including a number of you reading this) would have let various things fall through, like adhering to a Primal/Paleo lifestyle. Sometimes communities are comprised of people who don’t even know one another — potentially spread out all over the world — but who are tied together by a single commonality and the vehicle of unity that is the intarweebs.

Take a few moments to look around you the next time you go for a walk, or when you find yourself in a favourite shop, park or the library. You’ll see the spiderweb strands of community and commonality everywhere you go!

Totally unrelated, here’s a gorgeous National Geographic wallpaper for your desktop. I saw it this morning. Now that’s a quiet forest path I want to run along! I like aesthetic serenity in my desktop wallpapers. Or frenetic chaos. It’s gotta be one or the other.

Have a great day, all!