Communities Based on Love

polyamoryOne 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:

  • Love: They have to care deeply about, pay attention to, appreciate and be generous to, others.
  • Passion: They have to be committed to their purpose, enthusiastic, energetic, positive and full of joy about life.
  • Trust: They have to have the courage, faith in human nature and self-confidence to trust others.
  • Strength: They have to be emotionally strong, not needy.
  • Self-sufficiency: They have to be able to self-manage, self-motivate, self-organize and think critically for themselves.
  • Honesty: They have to be honest to a fault, but tactfully so they don’t hurt others.
  • Intelligence and Curiosity: They have to care about how the world works and how to make it better, and willing and able to understand.
  • Sensitivity: They have to be attentive, open, perceptive, aware, responsive.
  • Imagination and Creativity: They have to be able to see things other than as everyone else does, and how they might be.
  • Responsibility: They have to be willing and able to be responsible for their own actions and inactions, and those the people they love.
  • Expressiveness: They have to be able to communicate well, orally, in writing, and with their bodies.

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
of what if
with one moment of yes

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13 Responses to Communities Based on Love

  1. prad says:

    it is not just a “wild and crazy” idea.it is a sound and sensible one too.there is nothing so practical as idealism.

  2. Rimu says:

    I would be extremely surprised if you found anything of lasting value in SecondLife. The people you seek probably spend hardly any time on the internet; they’re out there in Real Life, living.In SL it’s too easy to pretend to be something you’re not.You’re in the honeymoon phase of SL. It’ll pass.

  3. Neil says:

    The Intentional Community (whether in 2nd life or the real world) could be great for the people living in it, but is the world worse of because there’s 200 less remarkable people in it?How does the Intentional Community reach out and change the world?It would be useful to list and consider the differences (other than the obvious theological differences) between the Intentional Community and a monastery (Buddhist or Christian), and also where there is overlap between the two. I suppose we would need to speak to Monks/ Nuns and ex-Monks and ex-Nuns to get a true perspective on this.Personally, I’d consider a far simpler set of qualities to allow entry to a community, and introduce a programme of learning to help people gradually change and develop the other qualities. Maybe I’m naive.Perhaps just kindness, and a willingness to change. Without these two there would be no desire to join the community.Anyway we only learn by doing, so good luck with your attempts in 2nd Life.

  4. lugon says:

    My guess is things will move forward in a variety of ways.Neil, what you point out is important. We want viral monasteries, if there’s such a thing. And, I don’t know, such a monastery can be viral in at least two ways: by providing information to others (global villages with internet connections so that people learn from each other), and by providing students who go and grow their own communities elsewhere. The first (information) can be in the form of documents (how-tos, templates for reprap.org objects) or in the form of phyisical objects that can be replicated elsewhere.Others will wait for the revolution to come home, and will just grow some food in their rooftops, and maybe that will help things become easier when they are ready or forced to move to other less populated places.I find http://www.bethechange.org.nz/ initiative interesting, if it helps people “come together” (not in John Lennon’s sense, or maybe yes ;-)) and “find each other”. You need to wistle a tune so that others, who like that tune, may join you in your journey. And the NZ site may help people do just that, in small ways. Cultural creatives joining, clustering, learning and helping each other learn, a bit like “linux user groups” but with an atoms focus, not a bytes focus …

  5. Pearl says:

    Perfect people make perfect communities. Real people make real communities. It’s funny going back home I saw what connections bore out by choosing to get each other’s backs despite who other people are, being hot headed or ill spoken, resolute in being non-culpable, insensitive and warts-what-all. Just keep plugging away together anyway. It’s just the decision to stay and do good when you can’t help yourself, caring anyway, assuming the best anyway, accepting whether someone is good-hearted or not. You’re a community by not leaving.

  6. joan says:

    yup, i’m with Pearl. with the long list of qualities it seems to me you’re trying to control the situation too much. let go and accept instead.and sure, humans could have been created to love many naturally. but that is not the system we have evolved to. i worry that ‘imposing’ another (perhaps natural, perhaps not) way now with the system we have where patriarchy rules and inequality of men and women is still status quo would cause more harm than good.

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Prad: Thank you.Rimu: Maybe. I remember someone telling me the same thing a few years ago about blogs :-)Neil: The IC is not insular — it needs to be out in the larger community (SL or RL) helping others learn what they’ve learned (and also looking for new members). Interesting comparison with monasteries, though I woulkd say monasteries have preset rules and rigorous disciplines that an IC would not — it’s much more democratic. Thanks for wishing me luck.Lugon: The whole point is to create models that work, and then share those models with others — you don’t have to open membership to do that. I don’t think we can save civilization, so I’d be content if the models and learning we get from our IC would be useful to those in the Real World after civilization’s collapse (they’re going to need some workable new models). I think the process for finding other people is just to be open, honest and clear about what you’re looking for — kinda like the dating scene in a way.Pearl: I do what I can in Real Life to help, but I know it’s not much. To me it’s not enough. I have to do more, have to prove to myself and to others that there is a natural, better way to live. I think this is a promising and immediate way to try to do it.If anyone wants to join me in SL, go in, find your way around for awhile, and then if you’re interested e-mail me your SL name.

  8. Radical ACE says:

    Yo! I’m a regular reader of your blog and intensely interested in all of this.I just feel like noting that I’ve been playing a game similar to SL in multiple ways, except in an easier, faster 2d version, named Furcadia. I am the owner of my own island on there, and my character strives to keep away from being associated with any kingdoms or large communities and just make her own small community. Her “crew” really, and really; even if most of this is all just a game to play pretend and roleplay, there’s some really amazing things one can accomplish with a group of friends. (Polygamous as well, though heavily with the emotional love included as well. Heck, my character doesn’t even believe in marriages after two failed ones.)But yeah, all in all, I just felt like I should get in on this with you guys. I may be young, but DAMMIT I’m going to help piece together how to fix this world even if it kills me!At least I’d die in a fun adventure.

  9. Hi Dave,Living in a virtual community, is not much different than living in a dream. That is my opinion, whether you agree or not.Any community has to be real and not in cyberspace to actually see a person behave in the real environment. In the cyber virtual environment I can create a persona (a mask) and think i am someone i am actually not. How is that going to help anybody? There are a few real intensional communities that exist in pockets, did you hear about Osho’s Community in Pune, India. It is a Community based on a theme of Spirituality, but everybody works and maintains their own expenses in unique induvidual ways and its truly international and respects freedom and creativity.Come and experience a real community first hand. This is an invitation.Love all your postings just giving you feedback about what i feel.Sincerely,Srinath

  10. Jerome says:

    This is the answer:I volunteered in Factor E Farm for a few days and that is the best experience I had for a long time. So far, I dont know any other farm in the states that are close to their goals and ideas…You can learn more about them at:http://factorefarm.org

  11. Theresa says:

    Everytime I go to SL I wander around help island and think about buying an island for purposes similar to what you describe. Mainly for co-operative playing (and it is playing, not living. Living is hard). I hate the way people fly all over SL when they should really learn to walk first and wish there were more people who would proceed with caution and do things in the natural way and not OD on everything. I don’t see how it could work or be a useful model. Firstly, its owned by the Lindens and you sign up with big brother the minute you join. Secondly, I don’t see how you can fulfill the long starving needs of people for unconditional love without opening up a pandora’s box of painful past experiences. Self sufficiency is important but I doubt you can find five people living in our world who can look at themselves and say “I am authentic”. I mean, its hard enough to get to that point in real life, in SL can you really look at your beautiful made avatar and believe it is your authentic self? Well I’ve tried to convince myself that “this is realer than me” because the real me in the mirror is a stranger. Not working. I do think it might be a good game for pre-teens to learn good ways of living. I don’t mean disfunctional teens, just kids between 9-15 years. Even with that, I don’t think it would do much for young girls to help them come to terms with their evolving bodies and lack of the “good looks” that they see in the media (and will see more of in SL).Nice idea though. If you go through with that, I would add tolerance to the list of desirable qualities. Tolerance, because even in an intentional community there will be peripheral “outer world” family members who may not have any of those qualities. Even in a real life intentional community people have children who may grow up without some of those qualities despite our best efforts. Have fun with it all anyway. I do find that online support groups can give great emotional support sometimes and at very little cost (timewise) to the people giving their time and emotional support. I honestly have never felt drained by having someone lean on me in an online relationship, but in real life? Hellish.

  12. Vinu says:

    Nice Concept by some of the points made in the comments are valid.A Community with a purpose – would fall into something I call ‘complexity science’ domain.One should have a few basic rules and others guidelines. Things I would list would be around 3 or 4 things say:1. Love (if defined in a broader way it would include Trust, Honesty, responsibility, sensitivity and expressiveness)2. Curiosity (same way lots of them when coupled with Love and Curiosity are derivative in nature i.e Intelligence, Passion, Imagination, Creativity)3. Strength (ability to Deal with the unexpected, loss, randomness)I think self-sufficiency will be something that will evolve. But its should absent for the community to grow initially. There needs to be constant activity – either CONSUME and CREATEWould like to know your thoughts over email … Keep writing on this line of thought :-) I am curious :P

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