Phoenix Riting! – December 16th, 2021

Phoenix Bee


Being human nowadays is hard, especially in a tiny community. Once upon a time, small communities or tribes were the human norm, but my, how things have changed. Now, we participate in what we like to call ‘global community’ (an oxymoron). Emotionally and cognitively, our brains can only relate to a handful of people–a hundred and fifty or so–because for millions of years of evolution, that was as big as communities got. Now, we struggle to juggle thousands of connections, many with others we never meet and likely never will. There isn’t much emotional space left to process face-to-face relationships with real attention and integrity. Too much is getting thrown under the bus.


We get into trouble when we project our own values, developed from our personal histories and belief systems, onto the community where we happen to live. We assume that what we value is ‘right’ and that other’s differing values and beliefs are wrongheaded. I am sure it’s easier to feel ‘right’ when we are directly connected to millions of others who agree with us. Our ability to stay so connected around the globe, while undeniably awesome, has to compromise our ability to negotiate values with our neighbours.


Modern communities all tend to lack a cohesive identity, and Hornby is no different. Our population turnover is large. A lot of residents come and go, in part because of housing and economic uncertainty. We aren’t the same bunch we were just a couple of years ago, and each batch of new people bring their own norms which differ from those of previous versions of this community. This Hornby of the twenty-first century is decidedly not so free and easy as the old Hornby of the twentieth. What are our shared norms and values? Do we have them? What will it take to create a set of workable guidelines that we can all agree on?


People are so different, the ways we view reality are so diverse, and despite what we may believe, there is no universal standard of right or wrong, other than the most basic ‘don’t lie, steal, cheat, hurt or murder anyone’.


I remember the ‘old Hornby’ that I fell in love with, and I still believe in it. The values we shared centered on protecting our shared natural environment, encouraging innovative and creative building, and defending our right to define our unique island lifestyle against intrusive outside authorities. Many folk lived closer to the edge, building or inhabiting funky old homes that now would not be considered habitable, but it was considered more important to be free and alive than safe and comfortable. Had we wanted safety and comfort, we wouldn’t choose to live in such a remote location. We made our own rules. Now, no place is remote anymore.


Is it better to stand strong for freedom and integrity, or for safety and security? What are we willing to sacrifice for what we value most? How can we share and sift through what is most important to each of us, to achieve a consensus that works for all? Is that possible? I look forward to another Hornby visioning project, and encourage everyone to take time to think and talk about what we want from, and what we have to offer to, our community.


As always, I want to know what you think! Contact me with feedback, questions and ideas for columns at