Community is a group of people who live in the same place or share a common characteristic. Community is also the feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.
We talk a lot about community. Historically, it has been a central organizing element of human society. We grew up together, we shared social norms, we understood that we belonged and that belonging conveyed both rights and responsibilities upon us – to be productive and contributing members of our community.
Healthy community recognizes and honors our individuality, encouraging us to bring our talents and skills to bear for the betterment of the community.
The Second Mountain
Yet today, this is not what we see in many communities. Isolation abounds, demands for conformity stifle, and dysfunction – addiction, suicide, tribalism, terrorism, and the list goes on – fills the headlines as social cohesion frays.
Technology has linked us, but we’re not truly connected. And as New York Times columnist and author David Brooks relates in his new book, “The Second Mountain,” the social fragmentation we observe around us is at the core of many of the problems we see.
The book is a result of Brooks’ own search for answers in the aftermath of his kids leaving the house to make their own way in the world and his marriage ending. Burying himself in work was his first unsuccessful attempt to address what he later identified as a deep emotional and spiritual void. That recognition set him on a path to understand the stories of individuals who had identified a better way.
A better way, as he found, was not the easy path.
What marked these individuals was a willingness to give selflessly, without expectation of return, to invest in the people around them – people who needed help, people who needed to receive. Brooks calls them “Weavers.”
Weavers are engaged in social change at the most granular level. It isn’t about large social programs, but rather knitting together the strands of individual lives with intention, with determination, with love – over and over again. This is how social change happens. This is how you build community.
Brooks now leads a project at The Aspen Institute, a non-profit think-tank, called “Weave: The Social Fabric Project,” seeking to share these stories, these learnings, and to catalyze more of us to act.
Closer to home, as I read these stories and think about these ideas, I cannot help but see parallels to our community of petroleum geologists.
At one level, as we’ve frequently discussed in these pages, we exist as an association to foster deep relationships, to transfer wisdom and knowledge, to provide support in a profession that has always had its ups and downs in an engineering-dominated industry. These aren’t new issues, but as a new generation of professionals assume leadership roles in our companies, have we done everything we can to prepare them for these responsibilities?
And these responsibilities are growing, because on a higher level, we know that as petroleum geoscientists, we have an important role to play in ensuring that the evolution of our global energy system is as seamless and free of disruption as possible. We know that society is fully reliant upon us to do our jobs responsibly and effectively, and yet public distrust of the oil and gas industry remains high.
So, how do we respond?
We have an opportunity to practice the skills of weaving this month at our Annual Convention and Exhibition in San Antonio. ACE is all about Weavers.
Our organizing committee, led by Lorena Moscardelli and Edward Valek, has contributed countless hours and significant effort to bring you a conference that will stimulate with a high-quality technical program comprised of fellow members sharing their knowledge and scientific insights. We’ve also got a social program that will enable you to build relationships, help others and receive help yourself – to weave a stronger community. It turns out, ACE is by you and for you.
As we gather together, let’s emphasize how we can support each other, how even in tough times we stand together, how this community – our community – is important to us and important to the world around us. It’s worth investing in.
As Brooks reminds us, we each have a choice: “What will you be, a ripper or a Weaver?”