Loving Communities: Introduction, Theory, and Method

Roy Herndon Smith


Together, we lie
down in green pastures; we rest
beside still waters;

we find our ways through
the valleys of shadows of
suffering and death.

Evil afflicts us;
fear floods over us; we
attack each other.

We prepare a feast
for each other, we anoint
each others’ bodies.

We weep and we laugh;
our cups overflow; we dwell
for all of our lives

in the homes and hells,
the fields of blood and flowers,
we make together.


Throughout my adult life, I have sought to understand love in order to be more loving. I have also sought to understand how to help communities be more loving. Writing these posts is one way I am continuing to work on what I have, in the past, thought of as two different tasks, but which are, I have come to understand, two aspects of the same work. To love is to participate in loving communities.

In this post, I summarize the theory that grows out of my sense of reality as loving communities, the method I use in thinking and writing about particular events, stories, articles, books, movies, t.v. series, or whatever as constituting elements of reality as loving communities, and a listing of the discussions that result . I will be updating this post as my thinking develops and to keep it current as a table of contents for and summary of the whole series.

I introduce each post with a poem or a selection from a poem. Poetry creates and evokes visceral senses of reality as a whole. Articulating and attending to these senses (feelings, atmospheres, or moods) is essential to understanding reality as loving communities.


1. Reality

“Loving” and “community” name inherent aspects of “reality.” In the above sentence and in what follows, I place words in quotation marks to call attention to their being names for abstract features that actually only exist together in the concrete events that constitute “reality.”

By “reality,” I mean the whole of what is. The only “reality” we know is the “reality” we know in meetings between knowing and known (even if the “known” is known only as unknowable). Knowing and known continually co-create each other and reality.

By “community,” I mean the way everything exists only in and as gatherings of entities that co-create each other as “forms”—for instance, quanta, atoms, bodies, living beings, ecosystems, worlds, galaxies, the universe, selves, others, perceptions, feelings, thoughts, imaginings, memories, ideas, words, languages, and reality as a whole.

  • Human beings are living “bodies” that are communities of cells (that are communities of smaller entities) that exist only in and through continually co-creative interactions with internal and external communities of living and non-living beings—for instance, atoms, molecules, biomes, ecosystems, societies, the cosmos, and reality as a whole.
  • Human beings are “minds” that are communities of meetings between knowing “selves” and known, as always both known and unknowable, “others” that co-create each other and reality as the form sometimes called, both literally and metaphorically, “the space-time continuum.”

By “loving,” I mean sentient (or knowing or mindful) participation in the communal co-creativity that is reality. “Loving” involves:

  • “Trust,” or openness to “others.”
  • “Empathy,” “my” “feeling” with “others” in this moment.
  • “Mutuality,” implicit and explicit “acknowledging” that the “what” “I” “know” is also the “unknowable” “other” or “you” that continually co-creates “me” and reality as a whole as “I” and reality co-create “it” or “you.”
  • “Attuning,” through which knowing and known continually refine the forms of knowing (representations, schemas, tools, languages) to create, maintain, and restore trust.
  • “Working,” including:
    • maintaining the communities that constitute “us”
    • establishing and maintaining mutually sustaining relations between “self” and “other” and between “our” communities and “other” communities
    • nurturing and caring for each other, especially children
    • bearing suffering (pain, anguish, and affliction) together
    • healing wounds that can be healed
    • defending against threats and attacks that can be defended against
    • and mourning losses
  • “Playing,” the active form of being co-creative selves, others, and communities, including:
    • exploring
    • making new forms
    • experimenting
    • delighting in each other and all
    • and celebrating reality as communal co-creativity

All these aspects and movements of “community” and “loving” inhere in human reality. We are born into and as participants in loving communities. We can “realize,” or consciously attend to, articulate, affirm, and strengthen, these aspects, but, even when when we do not explicitly acknowledge them, they are implicit in each concrete instance of reality.

Loving communities are not a goal we seek to achieve; they are who and what we are; we begin in and only live and thrive in and as loving communities.

2. Trust

Trust is the primal form of knowing. Physical entities, such as atoms, rocks, and galaxies, only exist in continuously co-creative energic interactions with all other physical entities in the space-time continuum. Similarly, living beings only come into being and live through continually taking into themselves and expelling into the outside energy and matter; they are wholly interdependent with—they breathe—each other. Sentience, or sensing, or knowing, begins when an entity constructs a form or “image” in itself that “mirrors” or “echoes” the form of another. Sentience is active openness to what is other. Another word for this receptivity to the other is “trust.”

The psychologist Erik Erikson observes that what he calls “basic trust,” the openness to reality as a whole as trustworthy, is necessary for human life. As sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers have observed, the practices that construct the communities that constitute us as social beings assume and enact this visceral sense of reality as fundamentally supportive of our existence. As these thinkers also observe, the senses, paradigms, theories, and ideas, including those of scientists, through which we know the world and ourselves, presume this sense of reality as being ordered in a way we can at least partly understand and upon which we can at least partly rely.

Recognition of what Erikson calls “basic trust” as the ground of human existence highlights community as a category of human reality as fundamental as body and mind. Basic trust and thus human life assume networks, or communities, of interdependent trusting selves and trustworthy human and nonhuman others.

3. Religion

The understandings of reality as loving communities and of trust as the womb of being are “religious.” A “religion” is a sense of reality as a trustworthy whole. This definition is a variation of the understandings of “religion” a hundred and fifty years of anthropological, sociological, psychological, historical, and philosophical studies of “religion” have generated. It builds specifically on the Jewish religious thinker Martin Buber’s definition of “religion” as “the whole of human reality” and the psychologist Erik Erikson’s understanding of “religion” as the social institution charged with restoring, when threatened, basic trust.

By “sense of reality…as a whole” I mean that the word “religion” designates the usually unattended to feeling of, or what the psychologist Daniel Stern calls the “atmosphere” that pervades, each waking moment of each of our lives. This “sense of reality” is specific, tangible, and contingent—it differs from moment to moment, place to place, context to context; and it is, again to use Stern’s word, “global”—it composes, out of the disparate co-creative entities, qualities, and movements present in this moment, a whole. It is unique and new, discontinuous with all that has come before and will come after; and it recalls the past and imagines the future as familiar constituents of, and continuous with, this moment. It is the known unknown and unknowable other, or, to use Buber’s word, “Thou,” I meet; and it is the source of all that I know in this moment. Religion is the atmosphere that changes when a beloved person (or, more subtly, anyone) enters a room. It is the shifting feel of the world that happens with the movement from home to street to work. And it is the different sense of reality that accompanies a newly written, spoken, or thought word or set of words—most obviously, words such as “Christianity,” “Buddhism,” “science,” “USA,” and “MAGA”; but, in fact, again more subtly, any word—for instance, ”I,” “you,” “here,” “there,” “everywhere,” “or,” or “and.”

I place the modifier “trustworthy” in the definition to call attention to religion as the inherent complement to basic trust. As Erikson observes, trust assumes the presence of the trusted other. Basic trust in reality as a whole rests on the sense that reality as a whole is trustworthy—religion. While basic trust is “the primal form of knowing,” religion is the primal form of the known, the sense of trustworthy reality as a whole that is the ground and presupposition of all knowing.

Religion, understood in this way, is, just as trust is, inherently communal and loving. Reality as a whole is trustworthy to the extent that we sense it is a community that supports our existence as co-creative participants in it in each moment. In this moment, I participate in innumerable communities. I sit writing on a Sunday morning in Brooklyn. The air fills me and sustains me and I breathe it out, adding carbon dioxide and some warmth to it. The sunlight, gentled by the clouds, opens the world wide; and my skin, the clothes I wear, and my eyes color the light that reflects off of them. Mary, who was sleeping in the bedroom and is now up walking by me on the floor that creaks, holds me in unfathomable tenderness, as I hold her. I write on a computer others have made, using electricity generated by power plants others maintain; and I turn this electricity into black words that appear on this white screen and that I will be sending out to circles of readers, including you. You and these other readers, including myself in another time, are both absent, in the sense that you are not here reading these words as I write them, and present, in the sense that you are the known unknowable other to whom I write and who creates these words as much as I do. And each of these words, as it moves from thought to screen to you, carries with it the sense of the multitudes who have spoken or written it before me and will speak or write it after me; through it, these hosts of individuals, societies, histories, cultures, and languages touch and shape me as I touch and shape them. The word that opens me to the infinitely complex music of this co-creating symphony of communities is “love.” The word that opens me to the sense that this symphony is a whole that plays me as I play it is “religion.”

4. Empathy

Trust assumes empathy, opening to and feeling with the trustworthy other.

According to the psychologist Daniel Stern, newborn babies awaken into awareness in affective atmospheres—warmth, joy, coolness, sadness, fear, hardness, smoothness, serenity. A synonym for this primal knowing (or sentience) or basic trust is thus “empathy”—feeling with, from the inside, reality.

Newborn reality consists of changing empathic worlds newborns and mothers (primary caregivers) and all else create by how they respond to each other. Newborns and mothers (primary caregivers) compose, out of the totality of disparate notes and silences, the music of newborn reality.

This music, because it composes the whole of reality, continues in the absences of the mother (primary caregiver). The themes the rhythms and melodies of presence and absence, sound and silence, known and unknown, between newborns and mothers (primary caregivers) weave the notes that constitute reality as a whole into symphonies of newborn reality as a whole.

As empathic music, newborn reality is inherently, though implicitly, social. I write “inherently” to indicate that “social” does not apply to a part of reality, reality as a whole is social, it and all it’s constituents are communally co-creating co-constructions. Any instance of reality is, implicitly in newborn reality, a meeting of all with all that finds and creates forms (or schemas, or senses).

These forms are, first of all, as Stern observes, elements of social dramas, in that patterns of interactions between newborns and mothers (primary caregivers) compose them. For instance, a newborn and the morning light coming in the window together construct a preverbal form of what the child will later call “sunlight.” The window, a material social construction, literally frames this sense of sunlight; but, more decisively, the light carries with in, as an inherent element, the visceral memory and expectation of the newborn’s mother’s embrace. This sense of the mother’s presence informs the perception of “sunlight,” even when the mother is absent; the mother-nurturing-newborn social drama inheres in the perceptual form, sunlight; empathy, or social feeling with, informs the sense of sunlight, which, in turn, pervades the whole of reality with this empathic warmth.

This pervasive sense of sunlight is social and empathic in an additional way. The mother’s mother’s or primary caregiver’s and their ancestors’ and her and their communities’ and her and their historical periods’ senses of sunlight are all present in the mother’s actions and expressions as she interacts with her child in the sunlight; the newborn feels with, in, and through the mother all these social and historical senses of sunlight

This preverbal empathic sense of sunlight implicitly grounds every subsequent moment in which sunlight is present or remembered or imagined. As the newborn grows into a child and then an adult, each new meeting with sunlight and with remembered, imagined, and represented sunlight in new social and natural empathically known contexts builds on, without replacing or erasing, the original preverbal empathic sense of the sunlit mother-world. Even when, once language emerges, experienced as “sunlight,” an “object” explicitly abstracted out of and defined as existing apart from empathically known reality (which has been banished to the parenthetical margins of consciousness), this form, word, or representation actually only exists in moments in which it is implicitly embedded in and co-creative with all else in empathically known global realities.

What is true for sunlight or “sunlight” is true for all else—every particular entity, quality, sense, form, word, person, and world. Like trust, with which it is almost synonymous, empathy is ontogenetically and ontologically primal, both the historical (both personal and social) and the ongoing always present ground of reality as loving communities or co-creative meetings between knowing and known. Reality as a whole and we and all the participants in reality as a whole are continually empathically forming and formed by each other.

5. Other

Reality is co-creativity of all with all through empathic meetings between knowing and known. Almost immediately after birth, infants explicitly find and make the differentiation between mother (primary caregiver) and the rest of reality. This primal differentiated sense, or form, of mother encompasses, as as-yet undifferentiated parts of itself, the infant’s senses of their own sensing, knowing, intending, and acting. In other words, the infant, at this point, knows all else through and in the form of the mother; the form of the mother is the frame of reality empathically known or felt from the inside.

Recognition of the mother as the first differentiated form through which knowing-known reality happens exposes the primal and inherent paradox of knowing, that knowing is meeting the unknowable other. Even before knowing has differentiated the mother as the being through which knowing knows reality, knowing happens through known affective senses, but what knowing knows or meets through these primal forms is the forever new and unknowable other that is co-creating the forms and knowing as knowing co-creates them. This discontinuity between the known form and the unknowable other met through the form is the usually forgotten or implicit, but still present for all sentient beings, breath that, moment to moment, creates reality as the meeting between knowing and known.

Once the infant differentiates the mother (primary caregiver) from the rest of reality, but before the newborn has differentiated the sense of the whole of their own sensing, knowing, intending, and acting as a self from the sense of the mother, knowing knows the mother both, as if from the outside, a graspable and rememorable form, and, through this form, always at the same time, the ungraspable and unfathomable other in whom knowing dwells and through whom knowing knows any other reality, including reality as a whole. Throughout the rest of life, this sense of the mother, as the other through which knowing knows reality, shapes, usually implicitly, the forms through which knowing knows the other; any other, any reality, including reality as a whole, thus is a child of the mother; every other is what some feminists call (m)other.

6. Self

The mother (primary caregiver) knows what the infant does not yet know, that the infant is a known as unknowable sensing, knowing, intending, and acting co-creative other, or self. Usually by about three months after birth, the infant, through their empathic immersion in the mother, and thus their sensing with the mother of the infant as a self, implicitly unites with this form the infant’s sensing of their own sensing, knowing, feeling, intending, and acting; the infant comes to know their self as an unknowable knowing co-creative whole other. From this point on, throughout the rest of life, knowing happens partly through, in, and as this self. Partly, but not wholly—knowing, usually implicitly. also happens empathically through and from within both the form or sense of each other knowing meets and the sense or atmosphere of reality as a whole within which knowing dwells. In other words, the “self,” as a known unknowable, is always embedded in the “other,” as a known unknowable, and in the whole of known unknowable “reality”; “knowing” always, usually implicitly, happens in, through, and as, not just the “self” considered as a verb or movement, but also as the “other” and “reality” considered as verbs or movements.

7. Mutuality

With the births, first of forms and the mother (primary caregiver) out of the primal empathic sea, then of others, and, finally, the self out of the mother (primary caregiver), reality reveals itself through and as mutuality— meetings, through forms, of knowing selves and known as unknowable others. In each meeting, each of these three co-creative participants in reality as mutuality holds within itself and is held by the others.

8. Attuning

As mutuality, reality happens through attuning the forms through which selves and others differentiate between, open to, and thus resonate more fully with each other.

9. Language

Before its full emergence, language is latent in the forms through which selves and others continually attune to each other. Knowing gives birth to language when selves differentiate forms and co-creative meshes of forms as others—words, phrases, sentences. Language makes possible more acute refinement of forms and thus more precise attuning between knowing selves and known others.

Language also makes possible abstraction, the apparent separation of forms out from global senses of reality. This separation is, however, only a seeming one; each explicit act of abstraction is implicitly a meeting with the abstracted form as a co-creative other embedded in and evocative of reality as a whole as it comes into being anew in that moment.

10. Suffering

Reality as continual co-creativity is also reality as continual destruction.

The bonds that bind together the entities that constitute a physical entity and that bind that entity to other entities continually break apart, eventually resulting in the destruction of that entity.

Interruptions of the ongoing co-creative interactions within a living being and between a living being and the living and non-living communities that sustain it continually occur, eventually resulting in the death of that being.

The empathic seas that continually give birth to known others that continually give birth to knowing selves continually part, resulting in suffering of three kinds: pain, the perception of injuries to the body

grief, the sense of the loss of a trustworthy other

anguish, the feeling of the self falling apart

11. Responses

Responses to suffering inhere in reality as loving communities. These responses fall into the following categories:

  • confirming what is perceived to be trustworthy
  • compassion with suffering
    • attending to suffering and its causes
    • holding suffering in love
    • bearing with suffering
  • defending against the perceived causes of suffering
    • mistrust of the perceived causes of suffering
    • flight from and fighting these perceived causes
    • construction of dichotomies between what is sensed to be trustworthy and the perceived untrustworthy sources of suffering
    • construction of hierarchies, each organized around or under what is sensed to be a trustworthy power, and the marginalization of the perceived sources of suffering
    • objectifying and attempting to control the perceived sources of suffering
  • healing the wounds that can be healed
  • mourning losses
  • celebrating reality as trustworthy

12. Loving religion

Religion is inherently loving, in that it enacts a trustworthy’s community’s ways of confirming, being compassionate with, defending, healing, mourning, and celebrating reality as a trustworthy whole.

13. Defensive religion

Religion is, at least at times and in part, inherently defensive in that it protects a community’s sense of reality as a trustworthy whole by:

  • restricting trust to a part or aspect of reality that is sensed to be, in some way, potentially indestructible and all-encompassing
  • restricting compassionate and reparative responses to suffering to the community of those associated with this trustworthy part of reality
  • constructing reality as a dichotomy between this trusted part or aspect and the mistrusted rest of reality which must be fled from or fought against
  • organizing reality hierarchically around or under the trusted part as the singular source of being, power, truth, and goodness. The closer an entity is to this singular source, the greater access to being, power, trust, and goodness it is sensed to have; the more distant an entity is from the source, the less good, true, powerful, and real it is sensed to be.
  • objectifying everything other than the trusted source or Subject

Defenses, even when necessary to defend a community and its sense of reality as a trustworthy whole, also weaken and injure the mutual trust between selves and others that sustains communities. When defensiveness dominates a religion and this defensive religion becomes institutionalized, it also becomes a primary source of suffering and threats to the community as it destroys the communal bonds between trusting selves and trusted others; it weakens and destroys love.

A community or society in which defensiveness dominates is not, in the long run, sustainable.

A community or society is only sustainable to the extent that loving religion holds, limits, and integrates into itself defensive religion.

15. History

For at least 95% of the time human beings have existed (about 300,000 years), they lived in hunter-gatherer communities (of under fifty people) and societies (interdependent networks of these communities). Most of these communities held the elements of defensive religion—dichotomies, hierarchies, and objectification—in loving senses of reality as a whole.

With the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals 10 to 15 thousand years ago, humans increasingly gathered in larger communities and societies, each of which permanently occupied a particular place or ranged within a particular territory. These communities faced repeated and chronic subsistence (or existential) threats, especially famine, resulting from floods, droughts, and other environmental conditions.

Most of the societies that depended on agriculture and the domestication of animals responded to these threats by explicitly organizing themselves around institutionalized forms of the defenses. Institutionalizing the defenses resulted in these defensive institutions becoming the major threats to communities and thus the major sources of suffering.

  • The military institutionalized the dichotomy between us and them, resulting in wars and terror.
  • The state institutionalized hierarchy, in which a single source of power, truth, and goodness rules all else, resulting in domination and abjection.
  • The economy institutionalized owners’ objectification of nonhuman and human others as possessions, resulting in impoverishment, alienation, and despair.

Explicit and implicit defensive religions, cultures, and languages institutionalized “common” and official senses of reality as a whole as dichotomized, hierarchical, and objectified, thus construing war, terror, domination, abjection, impoverishment, alienation, and despair as inherent and all-pervasive in nature, societies, and selves.

Societies and communities organized around defensive institutions, religions, cultures, and languages inevitably seek to grow and dominate larger and larger territories. They thus inevitably destroy each other, the surrounding human and non-human communities that nurture them, and themselves.

Even societies and communities seemingly wholly dominated by the defenses continue to exist only to the extent that often implicit and marginalized loving institutions, religions, cultures, and languages actually hold the defensive institutions, religions, cultures, and languages within a sense of reality as a trustworthy whole.

The history of “civilization” began with the emergence of primarily defensive societies between ten and fifteen thousand years ago. These defensive societies systematically grew, until, within the last two centuries, they have come to dominate the globe and have almost wholly eliminated the hunter-gatherer societies that preceded them. Defensive civilization has proceeded through three stages, each characterized by domination by one of the defensive institutions and particular loving responses to the resulting suffering.

Early agricultural (constructed around the cultivation of plants) and pastoral (constructed around the domestication of animals) communities depended for their livelihoods on the possession of land—for cultivation, in the case of agricultural societies, or grazing, in the case of pastoral societies. These communities were much more vulnerable to environmental threats, sometimes caused by over-cultivation or over-grazing, than were most hunter-gatherer communities, which could and often did move when threatened. Many, if not most of them, were characterized by the following:

  • Military domination:
    • through simple hierarchies under warlords,
    • growing out of assumed in-group versus out-group dichotomies
    • and dualistic religion,
    • which objectified enemies,
    • resulting in wars, reigns of terror, and guilt
  • Loving responses:
    • egalitarian extended families and local communities
    • trade, interdependency, and cultural and linguistic co-creativity between communities
    • explicitly hospitable religion (love the neighbor and the stranger as thyself)

As agricultural and pastoral communities became larger societies that conquered larger territories, they formed hordes, city states, monarchies, empires, feudal civilizations, and nations, in which:

  • Hierarchical states, dominated:
    • leaders used militaries to defend, enforce, and extend their control over people, land, and resources
    • explicitly and implicitly theistic, culminating in implicitly and explicitly monotheistic, religions, justified ruling class objectification of those lower in the hierarchy
    • those on the lower rungs and outside of the hierarchy suffered abjection and erasure
    • those on the upper rungs suffered alienation and guilt
  • Loving responses:
    • egalitarian extended families and local communities
    • trade, diplomacy, and cultural co-creativity between diverse communities within societies and between societies
    • democratic movements
    • implicitly and explicitly pluralistic religions

16. Current situation

The development of more powerful technologies led to “modern” civilizations, in which:

  • Economic objectification dominates, resulting in:
    • explicit (corporate) or implicit (state) capitalism
    • oligarchic, authoritarian, and totalitarian hierarchies
    • increasing commodification of, initially, material goods, and then non-material ones (labor, services, care, love, knowledge, selfhood, health, joy, and life)
    • the technical illusion (from Didier Anzieu, The Group and the Unconscious)—the belief that threats can be eliminated and suffering can be fixed using the right tools or are problems to be solved using the right techniques,
    • ontological (for instance, subject-object, nature-culture, mind-body, spirit-matter) dualisms and implicit or explicit trinitarianism (for instance, economy-environment-society ((Ethan Miller, Reimagining Livelihoods 2019, University of Minnesota)))
    • reification of abstractions and ordering lives around these abstractions (such as missions, purposes, meanings, causes, capital, productivity, and growth), resulting in alienation from the rhythms and texture of actual, concrete living
    • explicitly and implicitly monistic religions, including, nationalism, scientism, psychologism, individualism, collectivism, and determinism
    • total war, genocide, cultural genocide, destruction of families and communities, environmental destruction, isolation and depersonalization, radical alienation, and despair
  • Loving responses:
    • strong extended families
    • mutual interactions in which participants confirm each other
    • lasting small groups (3-12 people) in which participants meet face-to-face- and trust, mutually sustain, and repair breaches of trust with each other
    • lasting large groups (20-100 people) in which participants share livelihoods (Ethan Miller 2019) and develop loving cultures
    • networks of local, ecologically embedded, intergenerational, sustainable, and interdependent communities
    • cooperatives (worker, owner, and consumer)
    • affirmation of human, including political and economic), communal, and environmental rights
    • pluralistic democracies
    • personalization
    • implicit and explicit animism,
    • ontological communitarianism


A reflective method to help sustain and strengthen loving communities by strengthening their senses of reality as a trustworthy whole. (This method is a modification of the one presented in Roy Herndon SteinhoffSmith, The Mutuality of Care, Appendix A, Chalice Press, 1999.)

3 movements:

  • Description: Beginning with a particular event or cultural form and attending not just to what is explicit and obvious, but also to what is implicit, hidden, and marginalized, and not just to the event or form itself, but also to the event or form as embedded in and constituted by multiple communities,
    • describe:
      • the pervasive sense, or feel or atmosphere, of reality it evokes
      • what is assumed to be trustworthy
      • how trust manifests
      • what is assumed to be a threat to what is trustworthy
      • how suffering manifests
      • what the responses to suffering and the threat are
      • how compassionate responses (attending, holding, bearing) manifest
      • how defenses (flight/fight, dichotomies, hierarchies, objectification) manifest
      • how reparative responses (healing, integration, and mourning) manifest
    • Trace the contours of any cracks—contradictions or seeming contradictions, anomalies, feelings or thoughts or senses that don’t fit into the overall sense and raise questions about it
  • Analysis: Throughout the analysis, continue to attend not just to what is explicit, on the surface, and obvious, but also to what is implicit, hidden, and marginal.
    • Begin with the cracks. Ask what makes them cracks—what makes them contradictions, anomalies, or unfitting? Enter the cracks and redescribe the sense of reality from within the cracks.
    • Is the sense of reality as a whole, seen from within the cracks, predominantly defensive or loving? Use characteristics of defensive and loving communities and religions, discussed in parts 10-15, to help with this analysis.
    • If the dominant sense of reality as a whole is defensive, identify the perceived threats and the suffering underlying them, how the defenses defend against these threats, and how deployment of the defenses may be threatening and weakening communities and increasing suffering. Identify where and how loving responses to the specific ways threats and suffering, including and especially those growing out of the defenses, are occurring..
    • If the dominant sense of reality is loving, attend to how specifically loving responses to suffering are occurring, how they are embedded in communal contexts, and how they are specific to the particular kinds of suffering and threats present. Identify how defenses are used when necessary in response to these threats and how communities compassionately respond to the suffering caused by and repair the damage done by deployment of the defenses.
  • Imagination: Imagine, based on the description and analysis:
    • how to strengthen the loving responses to suffering
    • how communities can more accurately identify threats, more clearly determine whether the threats can be defended against, and more effectively minimize the suffering resulting from the deployments of defenses.
    • in specific situations with particular communities, how to strengthen loving religion—the sense of reality as a whole as trustworthy.