The Different Drum – Community Making and Peace – by M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Book Review by Mike Nolan
Doctor Peck wrote this book in 1987 to “save all of our skins” by helping everyone understand the true meaning and incredible value of “community”. This book integrates Peck’s medical psychiatric education and real life experiences to explain what real community means, what it looks like, and how powerful it is in healing. I have been fortunate in that I know, firsthand, what community is – having achieved this mental and emotion state a number of times. With experience, I can tell you that Dr. Peck has done an excellent job in documenting the rarest of healing environments – real community.
One of the key issues of community and perhaps what determines if a group is even a community is the concept of inclusivity. Or as Peck explains, [real] Communities do not ask “How can we justify taking this person in?’ … instead the question is “Is it at all justifiable to keep this person out?” His position is that real community must be inclusive; a place where all members can admit their “brokenness,” their problems, their deepest darkest secrets – a place where others will not judge but simply accept unconditionally – the reason for this unconditional acceptance is every individual in the community realizes that “we are all broken and need each other to heal.”
The book has three sections, the Foundation, the Bridge and the Solution. In the Foundation section, Dr. Peck describes his personal experience of community and his efforts to teach and develop a working method to create community. The section labeled the Bridge details the relation between community and spiritual growth and healing. This section follows and relates to the first section of the author’s personal experience by providing a further analysis of the popularity and subsequent failure of group therapy in the late 1970s. Peck contrasts what happened to group therapy in the 70s and 80s by explaining what true community is and why a person might be resistant to such an experience. He offers guidance to address such an issue to those that strive to create community. True community is a safe place that has incredible healing power and is an environment of unconditional love and acceptance. This summary leads to the last section of the book, the Solution, a practical application of community to our current (or then current) world. A world now, as it was then, that is not in good shape. Daily we see the stories of violence, war, rioting, civil disturbance, sadness and evil. We do not know what brotherly love means, never mind actually experiencing it. Without a doubt, this world, our world, needs healing, inclusivity, unconditional love and acceptance – or community.
Dr. Peck’s book is about community making, avoiding war, developing relationships, brotherhood and real community. It is practical and honest, documents the difficulty with achieving community, but then describes the incredible beauty of people who honor and respect each other for the individuals they really are. This book is worth reading for no other reason than to learn of real community – even between two people in any relationship.