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Personal Village: How to Have People in Your Life by Choice, Not Chance    by Marvin Thomas order for
Personal Village
by Marvin Thomas
Order:  USA  Can
Hara, 2003 (2000)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Marvin (Marv) Thomas suggests insightful methods for adding support to one's life. He tells us that 'community is the greenhouse in which the flower of humanity can bloom.' Thomas shares his own experiences, cycling between happiness and loneliness as his community of friends came and went. From a strong circle of people, Marv created his own 'personal village'. He encourages others to do the same, and his book explains concepts and methods for creating a personal community, with case studies. In conversational, layperson's language, Thomas gives the sense that he is speaking to the reader one-on-one. For me, one of the his most meaningful statements is: 'Intimacy increases in direct proportion to the amount of personal sharing between two people. Both have to share. Both have to listen.'

The book has a well-organized layout with checklists, graphs, and charts, and an overview at the beginning of each chapter, with sidebars for central ideas and concepts. Each chapters is followed by a summary and list of Resources. The author introduces new terms to us, such as 'single- or multi-stranded', sympathy circle, mishpoche, and andron. He discusses colliding forces which corrode quality-of-life: too many leisure-time choices; hurrying too much resulting in impatience; aggressive advertising igniting a need for instant gratification; information overload with less inner space for friends and family; increased mobility which scatters community members, and more products at high prices vs. the 'mom and pop' stores where we are personally known. 'The family is the original personal village ... the central hub' states Thomas.

The author introduces 'The Intimacy Continuum'. Outlined in graphic form, the Continuum defines low-to-high intimacy relationships, ranging from acquaintances to affiliates to confidants. 'The Essential Ingredients of A Healthy Community' include people, common ground, trust, rules of behavior, a sense of interdependence, and effective communication. Thomas states that in the 'evolutionary journey' of intimacy, there are tendencies to become unhealthily over-dependent. He cites excellent peer resources old and new, including psychologist Abraham Maslow's well-known 'hierarchy of needs'; Swiss Doctor Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's 'Five Stages of Grief'; and famed SF author Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land. Reference is made to the 1785 Code of A Danish Guild: 'If a brother's house was burned, or he lost his ship ... all the brethren must come to his aid. If a brother fell dangerously ill, two brethren must keep watch ... After his death they must assure that his children were provided for'.

Personal Village is a mind-opening read about the growth of civilization, and the effect that developments in technology have had upon human beings. Marvin Thomas's book is a guide and a wake-up call. In his Epilogue, the author offers these words: 'When a mother cares for her child, that is greatness. When a song is sung, that is greatness ... When a sunset is watched, that is greatness ... we need each other: our personal villages.'

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