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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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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Dec 082015
 

It has been less than a year since I’ve got obsessed with an idea of creating an ecovillage in Newtown, Powys. At the 2014 local environmental charity’s Christmas party I still remember pestering people about starting an art and craft center. I think that would be a great endeavor, but it wouldn’t be enough for me. Just selling handmade and, hopefully, promoting creativity… “Hello, I am a local artist, would you like to buy a painting from me?” Is this how I want to spend my life? Not inspiring.

Building an ecovillage requires a lot of knowledge and creativity. Every new one should be a step forward towards… turning ecovilsystems[1]everywhere into an ecovillage. An efficient system of people, their creations and nature. Not a hippy hermitage but a part of the town for anybody willing to live by its rules: be more integrated with ones neighbors and with the Nature.

I am an introvert and by no means I am asking people to live all their lives in public view. I know the value of the room of one’s own and of a secret garden. But I also know too well the feeling of deep isolation of modern world. I want to build a social structure which would encourage the neighbors to became good friends or the friends to become neighbors.

I agree with Kevin Kelly that we can’t build an Utopia but we should always strive to build this work in progress, a world just a step better than it was before, – the Protopia. Our Good New Town growing on the side of the existing one. Happier, healthier, greener. So the rest of the town would follow.

We already have a lots of this Future shoots growing through the fabric of Present. What we need is to study the evidence with honesty and attention. We can’t afford to be dogmatic or to blindly follow what was done before. And this sounds really exiting form me, both as a scientist and as an artist. I want to read, to visit places and to talk to people. I hope to write about my discoveries on this journey in a way that would inspire more to follow. Let me know how I am doing.

 

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Oct 152015
 

I am very keen on studying people’s personalities and I think that to build a happy stable community everybody need to know of all sorts of differences in perception and behavior which stream from differences in personality.

Some types are naturally more flexible, others are more commanding. We need them all, but it is very important to make sure that the project won’t get completely taken over by a few. There is a good article (don’t bother about jargon type names) on the 16personalities.com website:

“There is a tendency to overcompensate when something we value is missing. Let’s say in this scenario, the thing missing is organization in the company – art can be a messy business. A Sentinel may become extremely rigid in response to what he sees as a lack of regard for the rules. A lot of “coloring outside of the lines” would not be unusual among Explorers. The Sentinel’s rigidity would be overcompensation by the Sentinel in an attempt to get control over the “lawless” environment he finds himself in.

However, we know from experience that dictators are rarely welcomed among free-spirits. It may be necessary for our Sentinel to be adaptive and to adopt a less rigid attitude if he really needs the job. Adapting, in this case, might mean survival. The question then becomes: Can the Sentinel take their extreme organization back a notch so as to function better among the free-wheeling artists? Can he stay true to his core self and the traits where he functions best while adapting to the quirks of a certain workplace? If he can stay true to himself while squelching his rigidity, it might save him a job. What is the cost of not being more adaptive?

Or, on the other hand, it might also indicate it’s time to find a new place to work that doesn’t feel quite so much like a madhouse. Either way, the situation requires a decision by the Sentinel about how he approaches this particular environment and how he’ll adapt (or not adapt) to it.

So, adaptation is one way in which we might get along better with the world around us. We need to remind that we are always adapting and that some adaptation is healthy. It’s part of what happens in a society made up of differing personalities and beliefs. We end up compromising by necessity. It’s inescapable. How else we will get along with others if we demand only our own way? Sometimes we just have to suck it up and change our behavior to make things work.

However, while adapting is often necessary, we should always be vigilant for fear that we might over-adapt at the expense of our happiness. When we give up our strengths to adapt, then we’ve gone too far. There is nothing more miserable than being in a place where we don’t fundamentally fit.”

I personally seen a community project which looked a bit like this example and it definitely has some misunderstanding going on. We need to build our intentional community in a way so different personalities would work in harmony not in discord.

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