IS THERE A PLACE FOR US?
4/9/11 Hello All ! Here is a very well written inquiry from Morgan about the in’s and out’s of “community”. Well worth reading as he searches for answers which may well not be far off from your own.
Eric ============================================================== IS THERE A PLACE FOR US? When I read articles about intentional community, I see a limited number of formats, or paradigms professed. The two most common I see are Permaculture focused and what I will call seclusion paradigms. There is also Co-Housing which is a little different from the first two in its method of creating community.
In Permaculture, there is a push to shift the way we live within current systems to be more sustainable. The concept is often transitional, with an assumption that the system in which we now live will fail (either a hard or soft landing, depending on who you talk to) and that having healthy Permaculture techniques in place will ease the transition to a less technological way of living.
The seclusion groups are focused on an almost complete withdrawal from society as it currently stands. Sustainable techniques are still a core of these groups’ philosophies, but within a self-sustaining society that does not interact more than absolutely necessary with the dominant culture.
Co-housing is the `grown up hippie’ of the three. Co-housing as I have seen it applied in the northeast creates deliberate physical communities within society. There is a common land base, but the homes are individual and privately owned. Rules are set and maintained by a body like a condo association safeguarding the culture and common property within the physical community.
When I examine these three options, I notice a huge obligation is placed on the individuals interested in such groups. In permaculture and seclusion groups, the focus is on the end of civilization as we know it and this creates a sort of artificial pressure to encourage cohesion. For the seclusion style groups, individuals must give up much of their existing lives to participate fully in a community.
The choices become limited just by joining because locations for these groups are often very far off the beaten path. It is a life commitment, not so different from a career diplomat who gives up their home to live their ideals abroad. Those participating in these communities also see a barrier to re-entry into regular society if they chose to leave, due to a gap in employment and lack of progress in wages or savings that might have occurred in `regular’ society.
The co-housing system is also a huge commitment, but a financial one. The homes in these communities are priced to absorb the costs of common space, often resulting in properties far above average market rates and priced so high, that only the accomplished professional can aspire to own one.
These folks are still fully engaged in society, and their community structure is often based around family style living; or a sort of `chosen family’ for individuals who may not have a biological network that works well for them. These communities absolutely require a high level of income and financial competency for participation.
I have participated in intentional community over a ten year process that took us from book store discussion group, to in town shared housing and expenses with aspirations for land. But when the time came that one smaller group had resources and others did not, those without the financial resources had to either pull up roots and follow the leaders, or be left behind. The group divided and essentially fell apart.
Why, because the community itself was essentially based on the residential status of the group members. Without the “glue” of shared living space or expenses, it didn’t stick. Those with local obligations couldn’t go, and those with the means went. In the long history of humanity, basic physical security was an enormous part of community cohesion. You could not survive without the tribe, village, etc., except in rare cases.
I do not believe it has to be this way. In fact I think the modern society and all its safety nets, emergency resources, various living situations, and subsidies make it almost impossible for the `external pressure’ model of community cohesion to be the primary driver of the group. I own a home. I have a life I like within the overarching culture though I have great frustration with the culture itself.
I want community, but I have no need to go to someone else’s home base and I have no desire to pull up stakes and give up all I have worked for. This I believe is the position a great many people are in, but they associate intentional community with the primary forms that require major material commitments or sacrifices from individuals. What are the choices for those who cannot meet these terms?
I adore sharing living space with individuals in my community. There’s no doubt that it enriches my day to day life when I have that. But not everyone is going to have the wherewithal financially to jump on board with major money based models. And because survival isn’t dependent on group attachments in modern culture, the seclusion style communities have limited appeal.
When one doesn’t desire to live in these situations or when it isn’t practical to co-habitate, what are the options? My push here is to generate a conversation about what constitutes community. Can we have a sense of commonality, mutual support, and connection that is not dependent on outside pressures for survival? Can we have a system of human interaction that is not dependent on physical cohabitation to force social interaction? I believe there is immense untapped potential in the IC concept and this appears to be the biggest space yet unfilled or not fully considered. Thoughts?
Hello Morgan, Thanks for such a well written and inquiring note here about community and your own search. As the founder of The Mariposa Group community, I’ve studied “community” in just about all of its shades and hues for a good number of years, along with the interpersonal dynamics which so often determine what (and how) succeeds and fails in the community quest.
What I suspect would help you tremendously right now, would be for you not only to raise the questions you have, but also to present your own best vision of what would work the best for you community wise. What vision of community would excite and please you the most? I certainly appreciated hearing your very intelligent thoughts and observations here. It would be great to hear what you see yourself desiring the most at this point in time. In essence, perhaps providing your first pass attempt at answers to your own questions. I know that I would love to hear them.
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