Byron Bay, Australia
It’s a strange experience, accepting an invitation to meet a bunch of strangers in a huge house in the forest. I felt like I was in one of those mystery movies, looking for clues for why we were all there!
The greatest single challenge in creating a sustainable Natural Community, or for that matter a Natural Enterprise (which is a form of Natural Community) always seems to be finding the right people. For it to work, you need to have a shared purpose, and trust and love for all the other partners in the community. If the chemistry is bad, forget it.
So I got to thinking about the Natural Enterprises I know, and the Natural Communities I’ve heard about, that work, and how their members found each other and made it happen. In some respects Natural Enterprises are a little easier, because you need to go in knowing what your shared Purpose is, and what Gifts and Passions you bring to the endeavour that complement (but don’t seriously overlap) those of your prospective business partners. Not simple, but it’s a bit more methodical than what I’ve seen among those in Natural Communities, whose members often seem to be drawn together for the strangest and most illogical reasons.
It is very much a self-selection process, and a self-managed one. There are a huge number of Natural Communities that are perpetually in the formation stage, always looking for the right site, the right financing, but mostly, the right people. Never realized. Perhaps the best idea is just something like a big Open Space event, where you work very hard on the invitation, and let whoever shows up find affinity where they will.
Or maybe not. Those people who created Natural Enterprises by discovering the people who shared their Purpose and had complementary Gifts and Passions, those people who have created Natural Communities, mostly small but sometimes bigger, mostly physical but sometimes virtual, mostly fleeting but sometimes enduring — these people all have one important thing in common:
They know themselves.
I am only interested now in finding community with people who know themselves. Not perfectly, of course. Parts of us constantly emerge and surprise ourselves, and we look at them and say “how can that possibly be me?” but it is, and it’s all good. One more piece of the puzzle, and we can see enough of it now that we recognize the overall picture, and know what’s missing to make it complete.
On Saturday I will probably disappoint a lot of the people at our second meeting. I am going to tell them that, rather than the Natural Community close to where we all live now that they’ve already picked out, a big, beautiful, hilly wetland East of the city, I would prefer to live in a Natural Community in a subtropical to tropical place, like Queensland (top photo above) or Costa Rica, or Belize (second photo above) or AÁores, and that rather than a large modern house with suites and a common area I’d prefer to live in a community of adjoined small multi-purpose units blended into the landscape (like the third photo above) made from local materials, by the members, together.
I will tell them that my dream is such a community with about 50 people in it, in the forest, not too far from the sea. I will tell them that my intention would be not to work hard there, but rather to spend my time in reflection, and writing, and in permaculture forest gardening, and that I would not be prepared to spend a lot of money or invest a lot of sweat equity because I don’t think life should be or needs to be that much work, or that expensive. I will tell them that I’d like our tropical subsistence hobbit-like permaculture forest community to be open to others as a model, to show them not so much a better way to live, as how easy and simple and joyful and responsible and sustainable life can be when you don’t complicate it unnecessarily. When you just be who you are.
I will tell them all these things, even though they will be disappointed in me (and will probably indicate, subtly, that I might find something better to do with my time than attend the third meeting), because I know what I want, and who I am and what I want to be and do. This yet unfounded community, far from here, simple and sustainable and lazy and responsible, is where I am meant to live. I know that.
In coming months, some of them will undoubtedly work desperately, idealistically, diligently, to make this promising fledgling community a success in the designated place East of the city, and will make themselves believe it’s what they really want, and in the process make themselves into something that they’re not just so they can be a part of this adventure, so that they can be admired and appreciated, and belong. Hey, not too long ago I would have done the same. I didn’t know who I was, and I was prepared to try to be everybody else, if that’s what they wanted.
The only thing that can prevent us from being everybody else is to know ourselves. No one can be nobody-but-themselves if they don’t know who that is. And we can’t possibly know who we’re meant to be in community with, all the people we’re meant to live with and make a living with and love, sustainably, until we know who we are, what makes us happy, what makes us unique. What makes us us.
That self-knowing is the start. It is the way out and the way forward. It is the only way. My self-knowing has taken an agonizingly long time, since I’m a slow learner. I repeat my mistakes because often I just don’t recognize them as mistakes, if you can imagine anyone being that self-unaware.
I’m sure you can do better, make it in half the time. I can’t tell you how, because it’s probably different for everyone. But it’s important. Maybe reading Patti’s book will start you on your way. Maybe for you it’s presencing, or meditation, or just paying attention. Maybe it’s getting outside yourself, or getting outside your head. Maybe drugs might help. Maybe learn to really love yourself, or write your future obituary and work backwards. Become the author, at last, of your own story. Get out there and try stuff and discover what you really love being and doing, and where, and how, and why. Stop waiting or looking for permission to become who you want tobe, who you really are.
Know yourself. With self-knowledge, anything is possible.
Without it, you are just everybody else.
Category: Being Human
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Dying of Despair
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Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
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No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
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The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
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No Noble Savages
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All the Things I Was Wrong About
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Healing From Ourselves
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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
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We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
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All There Is, Is This
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Under No Illusions (Short Story)
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Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
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Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
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The Other Extinction (Short Story)
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