Patch Adams, M.D.
IN CONTEXT #29, Summer 1991
For tens of millions of years, we primates have lived in tribes. I'm
sure we originally came together for mutual interdependence in child rearing,
security, and food gathering. The fun we experienced was a powerful
When we changed from hunter/gatherers to an agricultural society, we
left the traveling band and began dividing up individual plots of land,
with groups of people huddling at a distance by householding in villages.
As villages grew into cities, huddling happened in neighborhoods. As we
moved further apart, the experience of community was narrowed to the extended
family, then to the nuclear family, and finally to the solitary dweller.
This progression is otherwise known as the alienation of our society.
In my years of being a physician intimate with thousands of folks, I
have known very few people who felt part of a circle of deeply committed
friends. In fact, I find the vast majority of people feeling lucky to have
a few close acquaintances. Even in marriages I often don't hear the serenade
Yet ultimately, everything goes better with a circle of friends. Without
this circle of safety it is extremely difficult to erase the fear that coats
our health, relationships, economics, etc. This fear has been a major stumbling
block in reestablishing community and must be cast aside.
Community can be experienced in many forms, and I suggest exploring lots
of them. Live your life embraced by concentric circles. I have lived communally
for nineteen years, and it has been one of the most significant factors
in the progression of all of my dreams, both personal and public. Nothing
can let you dream more freely and outrageously than living with mutually
My wife and I have also been together for nineteen years, and I am sure
that community is the major reason why we still have a rich vibrant love
for each other. And child rearing - oh, this may be the best, because our
children have had such magical input from each community member.
My personal growth has also been enhanced by community. I graduated from
medical school head smart, but while living in community I have learned
to build buildings, farm, keep a goat herd, produce movies, do rope working,
unicycle, and so much more - all as by-products of intimacy. These things
are dwarfed, however, by the happiness I feel in being alive in the bosom
of so many friends. There is a security that transcends economics.
- Patch Adams
Patch Adams, M.D., is the founder of the Gesundheit Institute, a free
hospital based on the principle of maintaining health through community,
friendship, and plain old fun. Contact him for information at 2630 Robert
Walker Place, Arlington, VA 22207.