|Regular readers know that I’m infatuated with the idea of Intentional Community, and that I believe the only way we’re going to make major positive changes to our unsustainable culture is by creating ‘working models’ of a better way to live and make a living.
An Intentional Community is a group of people with shared values and shared purpose who agree to live together to further those values and realize that purpose. Around the world there are hundreds of ICs, but the large majority of them are very small (smaller than the average struggling-nation family) or very short-lived. For awhile I doubted that ICs had enough urgency and commitment to compel most members to stick them out when times got tough or disagreements arose. Joe Bageant’s son’s argument that ‘communities are born of necessity’ is pretty compelling. And in Second Life the turnover in ‘communities’ is enormous — many people change their ‘home’ as often as they change their clothes.
But while ‘accidental communities’ may outlast intentional ones, the evidence is that most of them are not happy places — nor are they sustainable in a modern world quickly running out of room, resources, and the essentials of life. We’ve left community formation up to accident, and we got what we deserved — greedy real estate developers telling us where we can and cannot live, turning the Earth into unnatural wasteland.
My study of indigenous, ‘tribal’ communities suggests that, while they are sustainable (at least they were until our civilization encroached irrevocably and dramatically into their habitat), they are not necessarily happy places, especially for non-conformists and especially when they abut other such communities (this seems to trigger an endless cycle of inter-tribal violence).
I have a perhaps idealistic view of the communities of wild creatures, which are not nearly as violent as the makers of sensationalist nature films would have us believe. From my studies of birds in particular, I’ve learned that life for other creatures in the wild is mostly joyful, peaceful and care-free. I’ve also learned that Gaia, the complex self-regulating system of all-life-on-Earth, is graceful, respectful, honourable, and astonishing.
If all-life-on-Earth can figure out how to live as responsible, sustainable, joyful and mostly peaceful life, what’s wrong with us? Are we really a rogue species, unable to fit into the ecosystem that has evolved so effectively for millions of years? Or are we just going about the business of belonging to Earth all wrong, and, if so, what do we need to learn (or unlearn) and show to get us back on the right track?
My fall-back, if I cannot find a way to join with others to be a model in community, is Radical Simplicity, a model of a personal way of living devoted to:
Perhaps because I’ve lived a prosperous, materially comfortable life, yet not found in it the happiness or health or well-being that I have always intuitively sought, it is easy for me to shrug off material measures of success. I can appreciate how those who have struggled for basic necessities all their lives would find my quest elitist, disconnected from the reality of the modern human condition. What good is a model of a better way to live if 90% of the people on this horrifically overpopulated planet will be completely unpersuaded of its value, even if they could afford to emulate it?
Yet I can’t shake my fascination with the idea of Intentional Community. In theory it still makes sense. For the same reason, I’m also still fascinated with the idea of polyamorism, the idea that we’re not meant to love or be loved by just one person, and that monogamy demands so much of us that we end up losing ourselves to compromise, or fracturing. I hear the two common objections to polyamorism: That it’s a self-indulgent and absurdly unrealizable fantasy of middle-aged males. And that it’s fearful, an attempt to insulate ourselves against the loss of love, against commitment, against responsibility, against being hurt. Maybe so.
(listening to House in the background — a woman says to her new lover, one of the House doctors, after he indulges her: “I need you to do what you want. I can take care of me…I need you to take care of you.”)
All of this internal debate inside my own head is, perhaps, the crux of the problem. I need to learn to let go, not to be afraid to be truly human, truly myself, to live in the real world. Not to be afraid of intimacy or responsibility. To be fearless. To try not to try too hard.
I need to think. I’m such a slow learner.
Or maybe I think too much. Maybe what I’m lacking is data. Maybe I spend too much time thinking and not enough time being. Before I can decide where I belong, perhaps I have to try belonging somewhere outside my own head.
Or maybe I should lock myself in a lab and learn biology and invent some dust that, spread from above the Earth, could halve the probability of women everywhere becoming pregnant. Or invent a meat, tasty as the finest on the planet, that could be grown in a test tube, in anyone’s garden, and spare the world’s creatures the outrage and misery of factory farms, and the horror of famine and hunger.
If not Intentional Community, then what?
I have no idea. I know it’s not political or social reform, or ‘free’ markets, or new technology, or revolution, or spiritualism. We’ve tried all these things for ten thousand years, and they’ve only made matters worse. And I know that there is no going back, that there are no noble savages, that history has many lessons but no better models of how to live.
When I know myself a little better, when I know who I really am and start to have an inkling where I might belong, maybe I’ll have some answers, some possibilities that make more sense. If so,you’ll be the first to know.
Image: Erskine Falls, Australia, photo from my Picasaweb collection
CollapsniksAlbert Bates (US)
Andrew Nikiforuk (CA)
Carolyn Baker (US)*
Catherine Ingram (US)
Chris Hedges (US)
Dahr Jamail (US)
Dean Spillane-Walker (US)*
Derrick Jensen (US)
Dougald & Paul (IE/SE)*
Gail Tverberg (US)
Guy McPherson (US)
Janaia & Robin (US)*
Jem Bendell (UK)
Michael Dowd (US)*
Nate Hagens (US)
Paul Heft (US)*
Post Carbon Inst. (US)
Richard Heinberg (US)
Robert Jensen (US)
Roy Scranton (US)
Sam Mitchell (US)
Tim Watkins (UK)
Umair Haque (UK)
William Rees (CA)
Archive by Category
My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2023)
--- My Best 200 Posts, 2003-22 by category, from newest to oldest ---
Hope — On the Balance of Probabilities
The Caste War for the Dregs
Recuperation, Accommodation, Resilience
How Do We Teach the Critical Skills
Collapse Not Apocalypse
'Making Sense of the World' Reading List
Notes From the Rising Dark
What is Exponential Decay
Collapse: Slowly Then Suddenly
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Making Sense of Who We Are
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Requiem for a Species
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Hard Part is Finding People Who Care
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
Our Culture / Ourselves:
A CoVid-19 Recap
What It Means to be Human
A Culture Built on Wrong Models
Our Unique Capacity for Hatred
Not Meant to Govern Each Other
The Humanist Trap
Amazing What People Get Used To
My Reluctant Misanthropy
The Dawn of Everything
Why Misinformation Doesn't Work
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
The Right to Die
CoVid-19: Go for Zero
The Process of Self-Organization
The Tragic Spread of Misinformation
A Better Way to Work
The Needs of the Moment
Ask Yourself This
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Making Sense of Scents
An Age of Wonder
The Truth About Ukraine
The Supply Chain Problem
The Promise of Dialogue
Too Dumb to Take Care of Ourselves
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
Several Short Sentences About Sharks
How Change Happens
What's the Best Possible Outcome?
The Perpetual Growth Machine
We Make Zero
How Long We've Been Around (graphic)
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
Loren Eiseley, in Verse
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
No Free Will, No Freedom
The Other Side of 'No Me'
This Body Takes Me For a Walk
The Only One Who Really Knew Me
No Free Will — Fightin' Words
The Paradox of the Self
A Radical Non-Duality FAQ
What We Think We Know
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
How Our Bodies Sense the World
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
Mindful Wanderings (Reflections) (Archive)
A Prayer to No One
Frogs' Hollow (Short Story)
We Do What We Do (Poem)
Negative Assertions (Poem)
Reminder (Short Story)
A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
My Other Sites
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.