|One of my intentions in life is to co-found an Intentional (Natural) Community, a collective of between 20 and 150 people, living and (through Natural Enterprises) making a living together, self-sufficiently, in harmony with nature.
The biggest challenge to achieving this, I think, is finding the people with whom to create community. In addition to having a shared purpose (the ‘intention’) those people have to have several qualities that are, I think, common in wild creatures but rare in ‘civilized’ humans:
In the natural world these are survival skills. Without them, you can’t stay alive, can’t stay healthy, or won’t want to. I sense that that is why wild creatures live in Now Time, profoundly aware of every movement, loving life and every experience it brings.
My Let-Self-Change project is to try to engender in myself as many of these quality as possible, as deeply as possible, without constraint or reservation. I am trying to love everyone. I am trying to become a better person. I am trying to become a model for others, because I believe that is the only way we can make the world a better place.
But so many of us lack these qualities. In this terribly world we see an epidemic of hatred, jealousy, possessiveness, low self-esteem, neediness, dependence, incoherence, greed, selfishness, superficiality, insensitivity. In a healthy world where a few people lacked a few of these qualities, the rest could get together to help and heal those who were suffering. But what do you do in a world where seemingly the majority are suffering from these negative, soul destroying incapacities? We can’t help everyone.
So if you want to find some people who share your purpose and have most or all of the eleven essential qualities above, to create an intentional community, a working model for the rest of the world, what do you do? In an earlier article I suggested that we might use Open Space, bring together by carefully-crafted invitation a large forum of people on the same quest, to interact and, through conversation, self-organize into fledgling Intentional Communities that would really work.
But even if we did that, we would then have the practical challenge of finding attractive, affordable, uncrowded natural places where these communities could be built. No easy task!
And then the other evening it struck me: We don’t need Open Space to convene people on this quest, nor do we need to find land for them to found communities. The tool and the place to do all this already exists, in Second Life. There are already thousands of people in Second Life (SL) exploring, actively looking for something that is missing in their lives, looking to meet new people. Sure, a lot of them are dysfunctional, negative, damaged, and lacking in the eleven qualities bulleted above. But a significant number of SLers are extraordinary people, and, I think, potential partners in Intentional Community.
I have met some people in SL who I have come to love very quickly. A confession: Yesterday’s story A Little Romance was not fiction. The entire dialogue in that story is real, taken verbatim from one of my instant messaging (IM) threads in Second Life. The lovely woman in the story is real, and the words are her words, ‘spoken’ in real time. We have forged a deep, trusting, loving friendship in a few hours together, using only our words and the gorgeous context-setting environments of SL, which let you simulate genuine introduction and real discovery, and find people — deep, true friends to love and build community with, right in Second Life.
I don’t know who or what this remarkable woman, or any of the other exceptional people I have met in SL, is or does in Real Life. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have proved that you can forge relationships as true and deep as anything in Real Life, astonishingly quickly, without ever meeting face to face or even speaking voice to voice. And if that is possible, it should also be possible to create a complete, functional Intentional Community full of loving relationships among people who have all of the qualities bulleted above, inside this imaginary world.
You probably don’t believe this, and if you don’t I’d ask you to read A Small Romance and see if it changes your mind. It changed mine.
What’s more, beautiful, limitless land exists in SL in which rich Intentional Communities could be constructed quite easily and inexpensively. They may already exist in ‘private’ spaces there (though I doubt it). I have seen some places there that would be perfect, lovely laboratories for experimenting until we know how to make Intentional Communities really work.
Now I come to a troubling thesis about such communities. I am convinced that (a) they must be polyamory, and (b) they must be exclusive. By polyamory I mean that every member of these communities must love each of the other members without constraint or reservation. That’s why emotional strength is so important. There is no room for the jealousy, possessiveness, neediness that pervades the Real World. Even in SL a distressing number of members brag that they are ‘owned’ by or even ‘slaves’ to, others. I’ve speculated on why this might be true — the brutality of the modern world, the pro-monogamy social indoctrination we receive from birth, pathological co-dependencies, and the jealousy and possessiveness and pain that our perverse meting out of love as a scarce resource leads to.
I don’t believe any of this is natural. I believe we are created, like most natural creatures, to love many others without limit, without fear, without shame, jealousy, possessiveness or doubt. The term for this is polyamory, which literally means ‘loving many’. It has a connotation of promiscuity, but that’s because we cynically believe that love of many means only sexual love. The love I’m referring to is more expansive, deeper, combining intellectual, emotional, sensual and erotic love. In a completely generous and genuine natural community that is emotionally healthy, where everyone loves everyone else and love is abundant not scarce, love pervades everything and is demonstrated in cooperative work, in conversation, in art and science endeavours, in discovery and imagination, and in sensory and sexual exploration of others in the community. There are no exclusive pairings, because there is no need for them. Physical and sexual caresses may be frequent, but they are also fun, casual and pleasurable, and never possessive. They are just another way of saying ‘I love you’.
I believe only people who have most or all of the eleven essential qualities bulleted above have what it takes to make such a polyamory community work. And while there should be no exclusive relationships within a polyamory community, I think it is essential that membership in the polyamory community itself be exclusive. By that I mean that new members of such a community would have to meet and be approved unanimously by the existing members. This would entail the founding members, as few as two or three, meeting and ‘feeling out’ people in the more social areas of SL, perhaps using the bullets above as a type of informal scorecard (but also going on instinct), and then, only after they had met and been approved by all existing members, would new members be invited to the private space in SL where the Intentional Community ‘lived’.
Could such a process create Model Intentional Communities in SL that would teach us what we need to do to make them work in Real Life, and teach us the qualities and capacities we need to acquire to make them work, and in so doing make the world a better place?
I think it could, and I’m going to try. This process may sound elitist, and perhaps it is. Just as a doctor can’t take every patient home with him or her, we can’t, alas, help everyone, though we should try to love others (both inside and outside our communities) and help them as much as we can.
So that’s my wild and crazy idea. I’m still thinking it through, but I think there’s something important here. I’d welcome your thoughts.
Photo by Rhonda Miller in this remarkable Metroactive article about polyamory, that ends with this wonderful poem by:
you have saved me from an eternity
Category: Intentional Community
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