Oct 162016
 

If the word eco-village is too loaded with images of low tech and countryside to be used for a nature- and future- friendly intentional community also in towns and cities, what could it be called? There is a therm for a nuclear family. Maybe there should be one for a Nuclear Community, as an alternative building block of any society? To put everything on the shoulders of a small present day family is being too harsh on people. Wait… Then if you say “I plan to build a Nuclear Community here” the residents will suspect you are planning to install a small nuclear power plant in their neighborhood…

Maybe it just has to be a “Good New Town“. I live in Newtown, Powys. Newtown is small yet it is the biggest town in Mid Wales. It is old. We all heard about “Good Old Days”, “Brave New World” and “The Good Life”… Some may also know about “Good Life Project” and “Good Sense Foundation”. – those are my influences for the name.

Whatever the name, I think for true happiness and healthy development this community should not be dogmatic. In his “What’s Left”


Nick Cohen paints a good picture of a political cult. In a way we could try to reverse engineer the good community based on his observations.

  1. The cult leaders “blacken” the word outside their group. We should support honesty and optimism in our perception. If you cry “Doom and gloom!” – that is what you’ll get.
  2. Cult members are not allowed to conduct an open minded inquiry into other points of view, especially critical ones. We should encourage this in ourselves and the people around us.
  3. Cults try to separate people from their friends and families, so they won’t change their mind. We should encourage warms and trust between people, and not just inside the community.
  4. Cults exhaust people so they have no time and strength to think for themselves. We should make sure everybody has plenty of time for reflection and solitude. Community building activities are no good if the people feel like loosing themselves and their way.
  5. That’s a tricky one. Cults make people to invest physically (labor) and emotionally in the cause, so it is just heartbreaking to walk out. The question is whether it is possible to built a stable community without any attachment? I think there should be some balance. It wan’t be e good community if people who feel they don’t belong any more can’t easily pack up and leave. This is why, I think, renting a place to live (potentially indefinitely with a right for inheritance) is better than owning. And a just mechanism for the community to terminate that renting agreement if a tenant completely refuses to cooperate.

Another interesting therm I came across is “Sacred Naturalism“: “a special respect and care for the scientific approach to understanding the natural world, and to the natural world generally”. “Sacred Naturalism honors and serves that part of human nature that seeks transcendence and longs for sacred community and ritual. It answers the real human need to feel a part of something greater than the self and the longing some feel for a connection (oneness) with community/nature/the cosmos. Reverence and awe of the natural world is enough for sacred naturalists who do not believe in a traditional, anthropomorphic god, but nonetheless view science and mystery as both valuable and compatible”. And there also is Sacred Ecology: “Contemplative practices, rituals, ceremonies, and other activities in the world that bring people into a closer relationship with the natural environment and other beings engenders deep caring. Indeed, many sacred naturalists share a desire to protect and nurture ecological wisdom, the rights of nature, a sustainable future, as well as human flourishing and well being”.

I think it is very important to have the feeling of sacred, mystery and communion among people, and there is no additional need for any supernatural beliefs to cultivate those feelings. The world and its people are beautiful and mysterious enough already. That said, you can not and should not force this point of view to anybody.

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Oct 132016
 

“We’re all mad here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

All in our different ways…

We understand that people differ from each other, not just by the way we look, but by many ways in which our brains work. This is good. I think a great strength of Humanity lays here. And I think for the communities of the future to be happier and more resilient, we need to study those differences and any dynamics they case in the relationships between people. This is something to use proactively in community building on many levels.

At the moment I am into the book “Make Your Sensitivity Work for You” by Alice Muir.


The book gives some practical advise on being a highly sensitive person – like many people are, me included. It is great that the book says there is nothing wrong with being sensitive and sensitivity comes as a part of a package of useful traits, often including also being intuitive, very perceptive, empathic, good listener, understanding, enthusiastic, interested in people, sympathetic, committed, a deep thinker, creative, imaginative, intelligent, reliable, trustworthy, good at seeing others point of view, aware of subtleties, different scenarios and consequences

Time to pat yourself on the head if you are sensitive – except that (I think) there are many shades and varieties of sensitivity with different traits and the traits themselves could be on different stages of development. But, I guess, it is a trait of modern psychology – even if nowadays they acknowledge that there is big variety within “normal”, they still fail to sort the details. I wish there would be a chapter on Jungian cognitive functions here – they are an approximation of course, but better to have one than no analysis at all.

There’s however a chapter on what could make somebody sensitive which, on the level of gut feeling, seems wrong to me. This is big profound rewiring of the brain by events, some of which are not even very traumatic. Can this really happen, especially later in life?

As far as I can understand here is an ongoing debate about nature versus nurture in us humans.  Steven Pinker fights the notion of the “blank slate” human in his book with the same name:

 

 

 

People are born a bit different to each other and, again, here lies our strength, not weakness.

An interesting perspective on the differences is in one in the Johnathan Fields’ podcast: the split between helpers and makers among us. I think it is a great observation. The source of so much struggle and guilt: “I should be helping someone, when I just want to create!” or “I should be making something while I just want to help! ”.

We all should stop beating ourselves for what we are and concentrate on how can we work together for everyone’s benefit.

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Oct 092016
 

We are humans. All our friends, mentors and family are. And we are here, dominating this planet. If we never developed, would other intelligent species took over the planet one day? Could dolphins, elephants, crows, chimps, dogs or perhaps rats give rise to a new civilization? Would they be “gentler” with the Nature and each other than we have been? We can not know at the moment.

For all our sins, we are the only force so far which could potentially save life from a global disaster like an asteroid strike.

Wishing for our civilization to disappear, I think, is an immature way of thinking happening sometime withing environmentally aware community. I too might have been like this – when I was ten.

In the book “Ecovillage at Ithaca” (a useful record of an ecovillage development and a part of my ever growing list of potentially useful books for creating new ways of living)

Liz Walker starts with describing her young son’s attitude, his wish for humans to “just die of” because of species disappearing at an incredible rate. She herself, although shocked, could see his point, as “at the beginning of the 21st century, we face a world that is falling apart at the seams“…

Is it? Or we humans just intrinsically like tragedy, our media picks up on this and paint us a, alas, desirable picture of “our world … drenched in the blood of seemingly endless warfare” and “miserable living conditions for much of the world’s population“.

If we wont to build a real better future, we have to deal with facts, not the ever-changing media theater. Violence, disease and poverty are the enemies of our future. What has been happening to them?

First, I would recommend the well known Steven Pinker’s book

where he meticulously proves the diminishing of violence through the history and talks about the reasons for this.

Here you can find the data on the global decrease of poverty.

Historical data shows that global life expectancy has increased drastically over the last couple of centuries, with substantial long-run improvements in all countries around the world” – according to Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Max Roser. Is this data good? Let me know if you find otherwise.

Life is wonderful. One of its miracles is the ability to recover. There have been a series of devastating mass extinctions throughout the geologic history of our planet.  In some cases up to 60 percent of species were gone. Of course, it took Nature from 20 to 100 million years to recover the biodiversity (see

 

for more information). We may argue, that the life would never evolve to be so inventive and resilient if not for those extinction events, but we don’t need another one. According to WWF at the moment we might be loosing between 0.01 and 0.1 percent of all species per year which is 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. We took over the planet, this changed all the ecosystems… Bit since we realised what is happening we ought to change. It could be that the knowledge itself makes it impossible for humanity to avoid the coming change.

Living this change, this is the purpose of the Good New Town project. It has to have solid foundation: verifiable data. Doom and gloom might induce some people to act – for a while. Only complete honesty can sustain the movement.

So let’s question every piece of information coming to us, examine the evidence and try to accept the world as it is.

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Oct 052016
 

This is a mindset clearly to avoid when building a better community. No group of people has a monopoly of goodness. People are people. We all think ourselves as being on the good side.

Only the people indoctrinated in a fundamentalist worldview perceive all what is on “other side” as always wicked, wrong, sinful, evil. They won’t give their opponents any chance, from the moment they open they mouth. The situation (from the side of the political Left)  is described, for example, in the introduction of Nick Cohen’s “What’s Left”

This is how conflicts start and grow. Search yourself and see if you change your moral perception of a statement depending on which “camp” it is coming from.  Fight it. We need to build bridges, not to burn them.

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Sep 162016
 

Culture of fear and mistrust in people’s ability to judge is a root of many evils. What if this tree, healthy and full of birds, falls on somebody’s head? There’s always a chance. Better chop it down. That’s how our local council thinks.

What if reaching a certain age, say 18 or 21, people just could sign a special paper saying I know the risks and take my chances. Breath deep, go and enjoy your life.

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Dec 132015
 
I am a scientist and I believe that scientific evidence is necessary for majority of important decisions. When we talk about building a community, there is another, much less concrete and easy to understand domain. It is people’s feelings and everything which is going in this bundle: values, relationships, openness, subjective perception, fairness, transparency, honest communication, unresolved conflicts, motivation, trust and so on. By no means I am an expert on this, just a very keen amateur and an observer.
I don’t think any organisation dealing with living people (all of course being vulnerable in one way or another), especially an intentional community, set as something intended to be beneficial and to recruit keen supporters, can go without addressing people’s feelings and their interrelationships, also the fairness of group’s practice from various points of view. No committees, protocols, agendas, rules, regulations and all the hellfire of bureaucracy can really deal with this delicate domain. I think we simply can’t build a better place without honest ethical/psychological considerations. It is not a precise science (yet?), feelings should not be used as the only justification for group decisions, yet it is something impossible to ignore or put under the carpet. Try – and see everything just sadly falling apart either in cold disinterest or in flames of a conflict…

The best way to deal with feelings and relationships, as far as I can see at the moment, is a constant honest conversation, both one to one between all the members of the group and within the whole group (on a condition that people are feeling safe to talk about their inner stuff). This should be done right from the beginning and on regular basis. Somehow this should be set as a group rule, carved in the founding stone.  It’s not some new age woo woo,  it is a necessity. There’s no way around it.

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If some members of the group see “feeling talk” as just rocking the boat unnecessarily, imagine a bunch of people, all very nice, but all of them have they own vision of where their enterprise is going, not aware that some people find their conduct strange, not very considerate or even unethical… Everybody are afraid to admit their vulnerability (without which there won’t be any trust and true friendship)… Lots of people loosing their faith in the cause just because they have no chance to talk about it honestly and affirm their feelings or because their feedback always seems to fall on deaf ears… Nobody is asked for honest feedback very often anyway… Members don’t know where other’s strength and experience lies and don’t know who to ask for help and advice in different situations as all the doors in everybody’s inner worlds are always shut… And I haven’t even been in an intentional community yet – but seen it all. This is deadly poisonous stuff for any group, really. Even more so for an intentional community.
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Nov 222015
 

I think it is worse than fear of terrorism. It is unreal. Yet we have many examples. Lets just promise ourselves that if we ever build our Good New Town, we won’t be afraid. We won’t be afraid to express ourselves, we won’t be afraid of non-existing far away person getting offended of our yoga poses or feather headdresses. If somebody is personally uncomfortable with me enjoying myself – lets have an honest face to face conversation about the issues and hopefully resolve them. Nothing should go under the carpet. art by Alexandra Cook

I am ethnically mostly Russian. We are not a minority world-wide, but I am in a minority where I live. It is surprises me sometime when people do, as they think, something Russian, and it isn’t. If they are close friends I may joke about this and correct them. But ultimately, it is their business as long as they don’t directly bully me for being Russian. As simple as that.

There is no ethical value in political correctness. There’s no wisdom or kindness in it. It what people scared of their own shadows do. And we want to live in a good new town…

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