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in praise of unintentional communities

Kelda Miller


Joined: Jun 30, 2007
Posts: 763
I kind of see intentional communities as the 'think-tank' within which a community-disabled people can figure out how to do it again. By 'do it', I mean sharing resources, communicating honestly, not having any big hang-ups with each other, and having a good time.

What an embarrassing no brainer! And yet all of us, I bet, have stories in which this simplest of things has gone very wrong.

So I enjoy my conversations with intentional community folks, and my random readings of 'Communities' magazine.

BUT, for many reasons I sing loudly the praises of unintentional communities. Of the community that is created by having different goals, different politics, different lifestyles, and that one uniting factor being just basic old geography. Neighbors.

One of the reasons I find this so precious is my general take on 'leaving society' perspective. My perspective is 'ON'T!'. Or maybe do it for awhile, till you start to breathe easier, and then come back to the messy world as it is.

That messy world needs you, needs people in a neighborhood who like potlucks, and dare to push the envelope of what a 'garden' looks like (to name an example).

When I was growing up in the suburbs I had some suburbian idea that the further you went into the city, the more disconnected and superficial people would be, and the further you went into the country the more hippie and earth-connected people would be. Not true!

There are plenty of people who live way out in the hills and own a 5acre ranchette just so they can sit on a riding lawnmower and feel agrarian. And there are plenty of people in the city who know the birds and the wind and what it means, who grow food in the craziest most wonderful places,  and whose ecological footprint is a fragment of their country counterpart.

So that's something to consider.

The other is that when my one and only connection to someone may be the fence we share, that is actually a very fertile edge. That is place. Even if they think I'm a sinner or a nutcase, most everyone can find a passing minute to talk about how lovely the flowers or weather is. And from being connected to that place, revolution comes. The place is the intention, no matter how much asphalt it may have.

I'm very happy that people are living in intentional communites. They teach me a lot. It takes a lot of support to not forget how important the flowers and the weather are, and that the earth works its magic on us everywhere, as much as we will let it.


Divine Earth Gardening Project
                                


Joined: Jun 20, 2007
Posts: 44
Location: Middle Georgia
I agree with you.
Sometimes people do need to get away from it all but then they need to come back and rejoin society as a whole.
Come back to the "messy world" as you so called it.
Besides coming back to the community look at what all you can teach others. Maybe you can make a small change in the neighborhood around you by showing others what it is you do and why you do it. Once others understand the strange ways of yours they will better like you and understand you. They may even take up some of your strange habits LOL
Good post thanks for sharing.
              


Joined: Nov 08, 2008
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
I would disagree with some of that.  The reason alot of people leave society in the first place, is because their different views come in conflict with society.  So saying to take a vacation from it and then coming back to it doesn't make sense.  In today's day and age, people have to be very careful with their different views, because the government can get in one's life so easily. 
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Actually, she does have a point.  Sometimes you get so close and involved and frustrated that you get kind if irrational.  Just like with family, sometimes you just have to go for a walk and get some space.  Sometimes just getting enough distance from a problem or situation can help you find an answer or an attitude.

And the solution isn't going to be the same for everybody, either.  And from the way some people act, they appear to LIKE beating their heads against a wall.  Some revel in causing problems.

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I think learning to get along and work with people who don't share your views is part of maturing. learning how to let go of the frustration and anger and just live and let live is a very liberating experience. if you surround yourself with people jsut like you exclusively you are depriving yourself of the oppurtunity for some enlightenment. we all need freinds and communities that we feel we have something in common with and sometimes an escape from the messy world is in order but I'm not so sure it is healthy to live permanently in such a narrow society.


[img]http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n52/havlik1/permie%20pics2/permiepotrait3pdd.jpg[/img]

"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Matt Ferrall


Joined: Dec 26, 2008
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
    
    4
Wow,good articulation Kelda!Personally,Ive never understood the drive to be around too alike minded people.I grew up in the country where I had to get along with people of all types.We lived on 10 ac. with many 5ac. lots around us.It was easy to bike around and see eachother.My family participated in whatever the locals put out there(Aerobics anyone?).And a few locals participated in what we put out(Bible school anyone?).I also went to a private school with only 15 kids in my grade so we had to learn to get along if we wanted to do any group activities.Wherever I have lived since moving out,I have never felt a lack of community.I got a car so its nice to have some moter heads around to give advise.Even the community drug addicts remind you of why you don't go down that routeand provide more entertainment then a soap.
    I could never understand the need to articulate community since to me its always there.Perhaps people that are really into articulating community feel some sort of lack thereof.I wonder if its because we are all so self contained and are brought up in such self referential environments that we've lost the ability to communicate and cooperate with the diversity around us or perhaps we cant even see any potential in that.
    In my own life,I must admit that I don't just rent to anyone on my property and like to be around like minded folks in  my immediate surroundings so I can understand that.Geography helps limit people too different too.But overall,I find myself in a perfectly acceptable community with out putting out too much effort and without much bureaucracy.-


There is nothing permanent in a culture dependent on such temporaries as civilization.

www.feralfarmagroforestry.com
              


Joined: Nov 08, 2008
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
I think it can actually be said that society causes less diversity.    Throughout history, people lived in small groups and developed different customs, different languages, and different ways of life.  With the global society as we have it,  we have created a society where difference in people have become nilch.  Most places everyone does practically the same thing. 






                                      


Joined: Aug 23, 2009
Posts: 25
What a lovely thought, Kelda! It is helpful to have intentional community spirited people express that spirit in their current communities.  That's how we get to have these cool pocket neighborhoods in cities that can in time influence the whole city.  It takes courage to reach out to our neighbors when we've been taught to fear one another and isolate ourselves inside our mini-castles.  There are no one-size fits all solutions and for those who crave community, this is a great idea.
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
I've tried living in intentional communities, and I found them not to my liking.  The reasons why are numerous, and not really important.  But I'm glad they exist. 

Susan, you are right about there being people who like causing problems--whether for conscious or unconscious reasons, this kind of behavior is rampant.  And I can tell you from personal experience that you are just as likely to encounter it within an intentional community as without it. 

One other point--you don't join an IC to get away from society's problems, or should I say that if this IS the reason you join an IC, you quickly learn that society's problems are actually magnified, not diminished.  It has a kind of magnifying lens effect.  The whole spectrum of humanity can be present in a gathering of twenty or so people.  Raise that number to 100 and you have a sampling of every kind of dysfunction--and function--that exists.  The difference is that in an IC you can't escape it and are often encouraged to confront it.  Which is very good work, if done conscientiously, but also exhausting.  So returning to society can actually feel restful!
Lee Einer


Joined: May 08, 2011
Posts: 169
Intentional communities can be and often are places where knowledge and values lost or at least atrophied in society at large can be preserved and nurtured.

They can then offer that which they have preserved as a gift to society at large when such is needed.

The role of monastic communities in the dark ages is a good example, I think.

The downside of intentional communities is that they can and often do mirror the very foibles which they were created to escape from, authority issues,  property issues, equitable distribution of labor being prime examples

I am not persuaded that physical proximity necessarily equals "neighbors." I lived in suburban Phoenix for more than a decade, and did so without knowing who my next-door "neighbors" were, let alone entering into relationship with them.

Where I now live, I met and interacted with my neighbors within days of my arrival. We talk over the fence, we give each other food, and are closely bonded. Neighbors (vecinos) here as a rule share in times of abundance and rally around one another in times of adversity; that is how we all get by. Feel the love? That's community!

The question I would ask about unintentional communities is, how unintentional are they? Isolated, alienated individuals in physical proximity do not constitute a community in my view, and the challenge in many so-called communities is to begin with that assortment of isolated individuals and actually build the sense of community that makes so many other things possible. 

nancy sutton
volunteer

Joined: Feb 22, 2010
Posts: 292
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
    
    9
Well put, Kelda.  As someone said, "Wherever you go, there you are!"  Maybe "community" has more to do with our internal attitude/expectations/openness than an our external circumstance...... sort of  


It's time to get positive about negative thinking    -Art Donnelly
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    8
Paul and Jocelyn review the comedy, "Wanderlust," which is about a dysfunctional intentional community in this podcast


www.thehappypermaculturalist.wordpress.com
Jim Montgomery


Joined: Mar 04, 2012
Posts: 1
Location: Portland, PA
Kelda, you make a lot of sense! Enjoyed reading, and agree, with your perspective...
Kelly Rued


Joined: Aug 20, 2011
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
I really agree with the original poster. My ideal "intentional community" is one where people take responsibility for doing their part in their current community, wherever that may be. If you are in maximum security prison, be the best neighbor in your cell block. If you are in the poorest subsidized housing in your city, be the best neighbor you can be. Upscale planned community? Be a good neighbor. Poly hippie wilderness commune? Good neighbor. I don't think the intent in "intentional community" has anything to do with moving to any type of preplanned special exclusive living situation. To me it's more about the intent to connect to existing communities or take responsibility for growing community if you perceive there to be a lack of one.

It is a pet peeve when I see people lament that they lived here or there for umpteen years and never connected with their neighbors or anyone in their community. Who's fault is that? Really, everyone is different and no matter how awkward it is, you owe it to your neighborhood to reach out and be the so-called change you want to see. I am a computer nerd/developer through and through. I am most comfortable right here in front of my multiple screens typing to people. But when I go out in the yard I still try to smile and wave to the neighbors. Before I plant on the borders of the property I go to the neighbor's door and talk about the plan first. I buy stupid stuff I don't need when a neighbor kid comes to the door for a fundraiser (and give lots of candy out at Halloween... though it was sad how few trick-or-treaters came even though we are on a very busy street... most people don't go in our neighborhood because they figure everyone is too poor to be giving out candy!).

I did not get a welcome wagon when we bought this house last winter. There is no easy way to connect to people here. That's no excuse (for me anyhow). If I want a community experience as a long-term homesteader in this area, I will have to work harder to find and create those experiences. That is truly the crux of intentional community to me, though obviously my philosophies play into that in a big way. I respect diversity and permaculture ideals in HUMAN "guilds" as much as in the plant world. We need the input of people who think differently than us to thrive and evolve (and they need our output). That's the human social system. If you go off with your own kind, you are missing the point of permaculture (in my not at all humble opinion).
ellen rosner


Joined: Aug 14, 2011
Posts: 116
I like the title of this post very much - "UNintentional communities"

It makes me think of where I live - we have a community cafe. Consciously ecological and low-priced. In fact every day there is a free food portion, anyone can have, or a person can work in the cafe in exchange for a meal.

When I go there - with no-pre-arranged plan - there may be no one there I know, or there may be 5 or 6 people I know.
If no one is there that I know, I may get to know someone new.
If I know different groups of people, I may bring them together, to get to know each other.

And there is a "core" group of people, that are often there. Sometimes I call them and arrange to meet them there. I knew them before the cafe, but I have gotten to know them so much better thru sharing a meal with them over the course of the past year. This group forms a secure little community bec we know each other, but we are delighted to welcome in new people, and then they become part of the comm'y too.

part of an unintentional but real community.

I am lucky to have this.
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3622
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  49
Bumping this good thread.--- I am very much in Kelda’s corner when it comes to creating community where you are. Brenda Groth has a neat saying in her signature “bloom where you are planted”. To me, this means to make the best of your situation, and to live the best life you can, wherever you have chosen to live.

My business and environmental activism are on public display all of the time, when I work in the city. Had I chosen many years ago, to find a few like minded individuals and moved into the mountains with them, living apart from society, any positive influence I might have would be limited to those few. We would all be “preaching to the choir”. I have spoken to many people here in Victoria who claim that things are very cliquey and that it’s hard to meet people. Nonsense. These same people would have trouble connecting whether they lived in New York, London or Katmandu. If you think people need to be more approachable, then you make the first move.

Last week, I was at a coffee shop and a young man who was seated near me, met and chatted for half an hour, with a girl that he obviously liked. Eventually, she had to leave before Mr. Scaredeycat could work up the nerve to ask her out or get her number. As a responsible member of the community, I intervened. I said, “excuse me, did you guy’s exchange phone numbers”? They agreed that they had not, and they immediately corrected that. She sat down for another five minutes and they planned another meeting. I asked for his “man card” for failing to seize opportunity and he ceremoniously handed it over. I passed them on the sidewalk on Sunday. It was their second date. I gave back the “man card” and we parted as friends.

This sort of interaction is not rare for me, although the conversations are more likely to be about, building or growing things. I’ve done thousands of dollars worth of business with people who I met in public places. I met Bill, who is a real estate agent, at a coffee shop many years ago. He asked me to meet him for coffee a few years back. He gave me an envelope with $1000 inside, and thanked me for several leads which had led to home sales. Bill is much more knowledgeable about home construction than your average agent and he always warns people off of problem houses. He won’t show stuff without making new buyers aware of his misgivings about a particular house. I shared this valuable information with a few people who were new to the market and they were very happy to find a good guy in a field known for sheisters.

Getting to know people is as simple as being friendly and approachable. It also helps to have something to talk about. I refuse to believe that there are whole towns or neighborhoods where everyone is unfriendly. I have lived in many different places and found that this is not the case.



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Michael Drotor


Joined: Mar 04, 2013
Posts: 41
Location: Verde Valley, AZ
I love this forum! Continually amazed at all of the stuff that gets posted here that challenges my mindset and really makes me think.

I've been having thoughts that I'm wasting time preaching to the choir lately. Feeling like it's time to build my pedal powered rv and go spread the sustainability love in places that have never heard of permaculture.

I have definitely found that I don't like cops, crime, or heavy traffic though so maybe my mission should be interaction with people in small towns or other countries.

While a big part of me wants to disappear into the wild with some good friends, which I plan to do at times, I definitely agree that the presence of forward thinking people in unintentional society is a good thing.
 
 
subject: in praise of unintentional communities
 
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