Creating Community – How Do We Live Together?
At the March 7th members meeting we began talking about tiny house communities. Tiny houses are growing in popularity as people realize that they need to reduce their footprint on the planet and lower their consumption patterns. One of the challenges of tiny houses, though, is they can bring about a sense of isolation when they stand alone on a property. We are a species that thrives when we are able to balance our need for alone time with our need for social interaction, along with our interaction with the natural world.
Our exploration of community touched on three different aspects:
- Environmental Responsibility
- Community Interaction
- Relationship with the Larger Community
Recently, in writing a short description of the Community Land Trust model, I recalled a quote from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac: “We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” This is a profound shift in our relationship with the Earth, moving us from private owners of land to community stewards. With this shift in consciousness, we look to incorporate environmentally sustainable/regenerative practices in our site plan, building materials, and the physical functioning of the community. Permaculture practices and a sharing of resources help to lighten the strain we place on the planet.
How do we bring intention into our community relationships? Most of the community we experience in the world is not community of choice. It is community of circumstance. Yet, people yearn for conscious connection with one another. We spend so much time in isolation, often in front of screens or navigating the vast network of roadways we have created alone in our vehicles. Creating community with small private living spaces combined with community interaction spaces (large kitchen and dining area; meeting room; library; recreational spaces; community gardens; and more) is one way of enhancing conscious connection.
Bringing intention is also about making commitments. How do we consciously want to be with and relate to one another? The Golden Rule, found in many faith traditions, offers a beginning: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” M Scott Peck in his classic, The Road Less Traveled, defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” When this love becomes the essence of our commitment, community builds a network of mutual support for the elimination of self-limiting concepts and guilt; and fosters gratitude and forgiveness.
For those of you who like to delve more deeply into the subject of community, M Scott Peck wrote another beautiful volume entitled The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. He also created a nonprofit to help people understand and work together to form community, The Foundation for Community Encouragement. If you explore further, you will likely discover that what you thought you were experiencing as community is what Peck refers to as pseudo-community, the beginning stage of community development. Additional stages include: Chaos, Emptiness, and True Community.
The last aspect we touched on in our discussion was the relationship between the intentional community and the larger community in which it resides. We do not stand alone. Many of our basic needs are met through our interaction with the larger community around us. Here we have an opportunity to look at what we can give to our local community beyond providing a safe and healthy place for people to live. Our gift may come through individuals who have grown strong enough to serve in positions of local governance. Perhaps our gift takes more of a nonprofit contribution: growing healthy food to give to people in need; mentoring youth; offering educational programs; etc.
Another way of contributing to the larger community is through establishing a business or cottage industry. This gives residents a means of livelihood and supports the local economy. A business could take the form of a worker owned co-op, again strengthening the community building aspect of working together.
For a local example of a tiny house community, check out Newtown CDC/CLT Tempe Micro Estates website at https://newtowncdc.org/homes-for-sale/tempe-micro-estates.html.