There’s a vague feeling many of us have. A feeling that life should somehow be lived differently. That there’s something missing, but we just can’t seem to put our finger on it. We try to satiate it by getting that SUV, the nicer house, a larger TV, a smaller cell phone, cooler clothes, nice gadgets, new friends, more sex, yummy food, video games, etc. Perhaps we buy self-help books because we think there’s something wrong with us…that we shouldn’t be feeling this way. They offer a temporary feeling that everything is okay after all, but it doesn’t last long. We may find temporary relief in various ways, but that feeling always comes back. No matter what we do, there’s a feeling that we’re just not doing something right, or that there is something more worthwhile we could be doing. That somehow we’re failing, or living a futile life.
Perhaps your mind keeps going back to a certain feeling, a longing for life to be different. How nice it would be to not have to put on a social face and fend solely for yourself and your immediate family. It would be so nice to feel like life is safer and that, no matter what, there are people that are there for you. A feeling that there are people looking out for you in a benevolent, non-intrusive way. A feeling that your kids can be safe in and around your home and neighborhood. A feeling that you are a part of an interactive, mutually beneficial group, but it’s not a group with restrictive rules, cliques, or ridiculous expectations or a specific religion, but rather, one based on cooperation and honest concern for each others’ welfare.
That feeling we are looking for is a sense of community. Not a “commune”, but an actual interactive, equal community. We long to be a part of something interactive and real, but don’t want to sell all our stuff and go “back to the land”. We want to be able to have our own property, our own place, our own finances, and our privacy, yet we also want to be part of a loving, caring group. Many of us wish all of society were more caring, less sarcastic and cynical, less judgmental, more open and kind, less rude, and looked out for each other out of mutual protection rather than suspicion. We want to get away from all that, but not at the expense of all we’ve worked for.
Of course, not everyone feels this way. Many people like life just as it is and they have every right to continue living the lifestyle they choose. However, those of us who are not satisfied with current society have the right to live according to what we would consider a more sensible, effective, and satisfying way of life. These different ways of living can and do coexist.
Eventually, society will have to change to survive itself, and I have a lot of ideas on how it can make the transition from current ways of living to a more effective way, but in the interim, there are ways to get there without waiting for everyone else to “get it”.
This book is about how society can and eventually must change, and it is also about how we can bring those changes into our own lives without looking like freaks.
I know, when people hear about the idea of living “in community” their mind often immediately goes to some scene of hippies laying around and wasting their lives and escaping from society. What I’m talking about is the opposite of escape. It’s about living a life that’s actually more effective and responsible than what most people live, yet takes less physical effort. Living in community, symbiotically, in the various ways I will discuss, requires that a person be more conscientious and less burdensome on society. Symbiotic living will also provide a sense that you are directly benefiting from the fruits of your labor. You need not give up technology, or luxuries, or fun, or anything but your stress, loneliness, and feelings of futility.
If you’re willing to consider some ideas that could truly bring about a sense of purpose, contentment, safety, and meaningful success, sit down and turn the page.
First off, I’m sure there are a lot of assumptions and fears floating around in your head about what you might have to give up, how you might look to others, and what changes in general you might have to make in order to live “in community”. Let’s address some of those up front.
One of the main things to keep in mind is that different people are looking for different styles and levels of community. There is not one right way for everyone to live. That’s the most important point in this book, so I’ll repeat it. Read it slowly and let it sink in: there is no such thing as one right way for everyone to live. People have different spiritual beliefs, and some have none at all, which is perfectly fine. People have different morals and various political, social, philosophical, and other beliefs about what people should and should not do.
I’m sure there are some things that almost everyone can agree with. For instance, people should not be allowed to get away with harming, stealing from, killing, or defrauding others. Also, we are all looking for more or less the same thing: to be able to live according to our beliefs and be able to make a living doing that which brings us joy and hopefully contributes something to society. I’m sure most of us would certainly enjoy having less stress and hassle in our lives and wish things were run more efficiently and effectively.
There are also various levels of tolerance of differences among people. Some are uncomfortable interacting with those who do not share their religion, sexuality, political preference, race, diet, etc. Others are more “live and let live” and can tolerate almost any differences as long as they are not harmed by them. I must be honest and point out that if you are more interested in exclusivity and are not very tolerant of those who may differ from you, or if you hold tight to long-standing traditions, this book may not be in your best interest. This book is intended more for those who are more open to diversity and flexible about change.
There are limitless forms that a community can take, but it remains that there are some things that work and some that don’t.
In studying the explosion of communes, communities, and other societies that have sprung up since the 1960’s, I’ve noticed that there are certain traits that contribute to the longevity of the group, and other traits that create dysfunctionality and the dissolving of the group. These hold true whether the community is a project within mainstream society, a back-to-the-land hippie commune, or something else entirely. I will be discussing them throughout the book, as they affect pretty much every aspect of human interaction and relation.
To make a brief point, communities that are formed around a simple physical or moral principle do not have enough of a foundation to last long. Many communities form out of the idea that everyone involved should follow one particular diet, or religion, or sexuality, or whatever. Such communities are generally so focused upon that one principle that they neglect most of the other things that effective communities require. It seems that those that last are focused more on how to make a living rather than how one should live. The ones that are more tolerant of diversity of opinion and lifestyle do better because it takes human nature into account. It falls back to the main point: there is no one right way for everyone to live. Even people of the same religion have different ideas about all kinds of things.
I’ll share a personal example. For about three years I lived in a community that was focused on certain spiritual principles. Apart from those certain principles, people couldn’t agree on the things that those principles did not cover. How should the children be educated? How should we make money? What was allowed sexually? Are drugs ok? If so, which ones? What about having visitors who did not belong to the community? What if someone else wanted to join? Who should be in charge of community money? Who does what? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Everyone knew that there were daily meditations and community meals that people could choose to partake of (or not). Of course, who contributed what was not really worked out, so the meals could be feast, famine, and everything in between.
© 2015 William Suphan
- Roll With The Changes
- Start Giving A Shit