I’m still thoroughly enjoying Keith Thomas’s The Ends of Life. In his discussion of work as a source of fulfillment, I came across this passage:
In the early modern period, work and sociability were tightly intertwined. Women sat or walked together when spinning and sewing; and they chatted at the washing-place and in the market. Many married couples first met as fellow servants. […] Much work was still done within the household, on the farm, or in other little groups who knew each other intimately, shared the same values, and had plenty to talk about. [Emphasis added]
Now, I have often objected to the idea that like-mindedness is an essential part of community, since often it becomes a justification for including the folks we like and excluding the ones we don’t like. And when I so object I usually wield Bonhoeffer’s writings as a sledgehammer, since he was so clear about the need to transcend our differences with our brothers, rather than indulging them.
But the above passage reminds me that the search for like-mindedness, and the problems it gives rises to, belong strictly to the past hundred or so years. Most people for most of history have lived and died in small, tight-knit communities where like-mindedness was a given, for better or worse. So I need to be more precise, and note that while leaving your current circumstances in search of like-mindedness is unwise, the like-mindedness that God blesses you with in your current circumstances is something to be treasured. Corollary: like-mindedness is forged, not found.