The Dark Side of Communes

by Paxus Calta

from his blog Your Passport to Complaining

(Editor’s note: There is a link to the full presentation at the end of the post. – Raven)

I have 10 minutes today to present on how communes can help us move away from money centric economies. I love this topic and have quite a bit to say about it. So much to say, that it does not all fit into the time i have.

I think recruiters have an obligation to talk about the shadow sides of the things they are promoting. Here is the slide i did not have time for on the disadvantages of commune life in general.

  • Press your buttons
  • Sharing work, home, and money with a large group can be intense
  • Less autonomy (health care, kid care, snap long distance trips)
  • Less Privacy
  • Romantic breakups can be harder
  • Insular – reduced access to urban culture
  • Small social circle
  • Dramatically reduced chance of getting rich
  • Maybe shunned by family and old friends
  • No 401k (although there is phased community retirement)

Most of these points are self explanitory but i want to elaborate on the first one. Joining a commune is going to push your buttons. If you know what your buttons are, then you are signing up for a personal growth class by joining.  You will be confronted with this and have to grow, or suffer.  But the second possibility is that you do not actually know what your buttons are, and then coming to the commune can be a difficult and disorienting wake up call.  You could find out that you are crazy jealous and the partner of your dreams is polyamorous.  You could find out that you need much more alone time than you thought (because it had not been much of an issue before, because it happened “naturally”) and you need to adjust your schedule accordingly.  Maybe you like to make your own choices about which brand of shampoo or kind of desert you want, this could require some adjusting.

There are lots of advantages to living in a commune, but contrary to other peoples reporting, we have no illusions that this is utopia.

It maybe better than how you are currently living, but it ain’t no utopia.

My complete slideshow on Decentering Money

The Dark Side of Communes

Many Alternatives

by Raven Glomus

A little over a week ago, I was on the panel about Urban Communities.  Someone I knew from the co-op household scene in the Boston area made a comment that implied that I wanted to turn all the co-ops into income-sharing communities.  I think that she was exaggerating for effect, but it was true that she had gone to a talk I had sponsored on how co-ops could become communes.  However, I want to be clear, I like co-op houses and I don’t want them to all turn into income-sharing communities.

A Boston area co-op house

In fact, I think that all forms of communities are great: communes, co-ops, ecovillages, hybrid models (like Ganas), spiritual communities, even co-housing (which I regard as a toe-in-the-water for many folks who would be otherwise scared of any form of community living). What’s more important is that I don’t think that everyone should live in community.  Ironically, two of the folks that I built my first income-sharing community with in the 1990s now live by themselves.  I don’t think that everyone is suited for communal living, and the longer that I do it, the more I think that’s true.  I envision (and see myself working for) a world with many forms of community–and also, people living by themselves, with partners, with random strangers (if that appeals to them), in nuclear families, in extended families, etc.  Diversity is wonderful and I think that the end goal for me is, as I have written here, creating more possibilities.  I want to see a world with, not only more communities, but more co-operative and worker-owned and run businesses, and small businesses, family businesses, and cottage industries, and municipally run businesses, and alternative forms of agriculture, energy, and even government.  We need many, many alternatives.

So, why am I so focused on communes in this blog?  Because I think that communal living is one of the more radical ways to see how change is possible.  The Foundation for Intentional Community already covers the wide spectrum of the communities movement.  If you want to know more, you should check out their website, which I have already written about in this blog.

My goal here is not that everyone should live in a commune, but that most people should know that they exist, and they actually work, and anyone who is excited about them should be able to try one out and live in a commune if they like.  But they can’t do that if they don’t realize that it’s possible.  I want to see a world with many alternatives, and have communal living be one.

Many Alternatives

Emotional Flossing: Personal growth, social hygiene, and being triggered the commune way

by Liv Scott

Illustrations by the author

“What is the biggest challenge of living on a commune?,” I asked when realizing that the regenerative farm I was spending my COVID days was just that. It was as much an icebreaker as it was a question to ease my nerves, as I was taught growing up to proceed with caution when it came to communes. I awaited the answer.

“We trigger each other.” It was so human and so true for moving through life, commune or not.

Without a car, in a pandemic, for five months, I was submerged into the small commune. What struck me most was the awareness of social hygiene of the community: the meetings to form a collective understanding of an individual’s growth and role within the whole. We certainly got on each other’s nerves, but we also held each other, bonded, and evolved as people together. 

Every human has baggage or “areas of improvement,” which we so often cannot recognize until a sudden disruption forces us to stop life, in order to see the pattern of ourselves. Our own pattern of responding when under a stressor ripples out affecting others. We trigger each other. Perhaps in the hectic pace of life we can, overtime, put our pattern together make it conscious and actively “work on it.” It takes time to see that pattern when interactions are brief and often shallow.

However, in the community, these ticks are apparent immediately, where we are constantly bumping up against people’s ups and downs of life. I saw how we quickly learned what each person needed on an emotional level during their ups and downs. It was remarkable to see how people got vulnerable and held each other through COVID anxieties, moods, disagreements, and mournings. Personally, I learned how to communicate my own emotional needs and to trust people in sharing my needs rather than bottling everything up until some idealistic romantic love comes along. I learned how to lean on and be held by others. I was flexing my emotional intelligence muscle.

All the emotional flossing, holding, trigger-induced growth on that small commune, I found beautiful. Yes, at times it was frustrating, but it was also special. It was how strangers coming together to live together can live, work, and build together. It is how basic needs of survival can be met, so the collective can be rooted in their ability to offer something outwards. 

This experience opened me up to a whole new way of thinking about the so-called emotional underbelly of human interactions – being triggered. We live in a traumatized and traumatizing culture, but safe collectives can be catalysts for our own self-awareness, emotional growth and trauma healing. I am grateful for my time living in a commune. Like any real challenge, it is where the true learning lies, so I am glad to have cast my caution aside, built relationships and experienced some healthy individual growth.

Emotional Flossing: Personal growth, social hygiene, and being triggered the commune way

Joining a Community: The Reality

by Raven Glomus

I have written a bunch of articles on starting a commune or community, and we’ve published more here.  In many of them, we talk about how hard it is and in at least one of them I stated that you should join and live in a community before starting one.  And probably for the majority of community minded folks it’s easier to just join a community as opposed to starting one.

Yet with all the posts on the perils and promise of starting a community, I realize that there have been few articles on what’s involved in joining one.

This piece was inspired by reading a post by a disgruntled former Twin Oaks member where he (at least I think the writer is a he) talks about how the community treats new members as “peasants”.   I’ve seen other things written about how communities build themselves on the labor of new members and that new members get less privileges than older members.  And there is some truth to this, especially in the larger communes like Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Acorn (as well as non-income-sharing communities, such as Ganas and Dancing Rabbit) but I’ve also seen things like this happen on a smaller scale in smaller communities.

A Twin Oaks visitor group

The biggest part of that is that new folks can’t understand how things operate really until they have been there a while.  And it takes a community a while to understand and trust new folks.  Just because someone has been through a three week visitor period (like they have at Twin Oaks) doesn’t mean that they truly understand the community or the community truly understands them.

I heard a long term member at Ganas say that a person would join them and within a day announce that they had finally found the community of their dreams and that they intended to stay forever and then a second person would come and say that the place seemed ‘okay’ and that they might stay a little while and see if they liked it, and generally the first person wouldn’t last six months while the second might end up staying years.  It’s not always true, but it often is.

The thing is that almost every community has people coming and going–many people idealize communal living and try it out before realizing that it’s not perfect and it’s not for them.  People who are willing to make compromises and don’t expect utopia and are willing to stick through with something they believe in, even through the rough patches, often do very well at Twin Oaks as well as other places.  Seniority makes a difference and I think that it makes little sense to give full privileges to someone who just got in the door and doesn’t even understand what they are doing yet and probably won’t stay very long and I think that’s the way most communities feel.  

So when you join, be prepared for a rough patch at the beginning.  If you think that the community is what you want, try to stick it out.  It will get better if you hang in.

from the East Wind visitor page

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that you shouldn’t expect to get close with or even become good friends with the long term members.  They have already built friendship bonds with each other and they probably don’t want to invest a lot of energy in you, if they have no idea how long you will be there.  Instead, try to get to know the other new folks.  They’re in the same boat as you are and they will be looking to build friendships as well.  I noticed that when I was at Ganas I got close with a number of folks and they were all members who arrived around the same time as I did, or later.  I did build one close relationship with one long term member, but that didn’t happen until I had been there well over a year.  This same person basically ignored me when I got there.

So this is my advice to anyone joining an already established community.  Hang in there.  Be useful, be committed (as long as it makes sense), and seek out other new folks to make friends with.  If you can stick with it, you can create a nice life for yourself in community–but it will take time.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patron communards:

Aaron Michels

Brenda Thompson

Cathy Loyd

Colby Baez

Heather

Janey Amend-Bombara

Jenn Morgan

Joseph A Klatt

Kai Koru

Kate McGuire

Kathleen Brooks

Lynette Shaw

Magda schonfeld

Michael Hobson

Montana Goodman

Nance & Jack Williford

NorthernSoul Truelove

Oesten Nelson

Peter Chinman

Raines Cohen

Sasha Daucus

Suzi Tortora

Tobin Moore

Twin Oaks

Warren Kunce

William Croft

William Kadish

William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Joining a Community: The Reality

My Hopes for 2021

by Raven Glomus

Welcome to 2021!  The year 2020 is officially over.  One of my commune mates pointed out that nothing really changes as the calendar year rolls over, but there’s a lot of symbolism, especially this past year when so many (mostly not good things) happened all at once.

I will try to focus on commune related things in listing my hopes, but the coronavirus has had a major impact on the communes, and will need to be dealt with.  My first and biggest hope for this year is that, with folks getting vaccinated, we may be able to move somewhat beyond having to deal with the repercussions of the pandemic.  In terms of this happening, I’ve heard everything from late spring, to the summer, to sometime in the fall.  This will mean a lot for the communes.

The only good thing out of all this is that I think that the pandemic has increased interest in communal living.  It’s also made it hard to join communities.  So when some of the pandemic restrictions are lifted, I am very hopeful that many of the communes, which are at low populations now, will be able to bring in some good folks and increase their membership.

I also hope that this encourages some folks to decide to actually create communities.  There’s certainly enough interest in it–maybe with restrictions being lifted, some folks will decide to just do it.  I know that I am often discouraging of people simply starting communities, but if someone is really willing to begin the work (and a lot of this work is outlined on the blog) and reaches out and knows others who are also interested–and especially if they have some communal living experience, goodness knows we need more communes.  And I believe that if 90% of new communes fail, and we want to get at least ten new communes up and running, we’re going to need to start a hundred communes to get there, so I am actually in favor of folks starting communes, particularly if they are willing to do the research and networking they will need to do.

A big, pandemic related, hope for this year is that if the restrictions can be eased on time, there can be the usual August gatherings at Twin Oaks this summer.  I have never been to the Queer Gathering and I was planning to go last year but TO canceled all three gatherings.  My hope for this summer is that the Queer Gathering and the Women’s Gathering and the Communities Conference can all happen again.  I mentioned networking earlier and these are all great networking events.  If they happen (I hope, I hope, I hope they do) I would strongly encourage anyone interested in communal living to attend at least the Communities Conference, and if you identify as queer, the Queer Gathering, and if you identify as a woman, the Women’s Gathering.

Another hope for this year is that the communes continue to look at and figure out how to embrace racial justice, whether that’s by figuring out how to become more diverse or by figuring out how to support communities of color.  For horrible reasons, there was a large upswelling of interest in this over the course of 2020.  My hope is that this wasn’t another political phase but the beginning of some sustained work in all of our communities.

And my final hope for this new year is that folks find fun in all of this.  A lot of 2020 was grim and we have a lot of work to do, building back community membership, creating new communities, and continuing to work on racism (and classism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and creating access for people with disabilities and…) and that we find a way to be joyful and even playful in all this because we will never attract anyone if we are all too damn serious.

What are your hopes for 2021?

My Hopes for 2021

ic.org: A Review

by Raven Glomus

I said that I wanted to review stuff other than books this week.  So far I’ve reviewed an academic article and a deck of cards.  Today I want to look at a website: ic.org, the website of the Foundation for Intentional Communities (aka the FIC).  If you are interested in any type of community, from communes to cohousing, or any aspect of community living, this is an incredible resource.

The first and perhaps most important aspect of the website is the online Communities Directory.  (There is also a print version of The Communities Directory, published by the FIC.)  This is the best known and probably most utilized part of the website, but it is so important to know about, particularly if you are looking to join a community.  You can look up communities by location of country and state or province or you can look up communities by type (including ecovillages, cohousing, communes, co-ops–including student co-ops, and spiritual communities–including Jewish communities and Christian communities).  This is also an important resource if you already have a community and want to list it–particularly if you are looking for folks.

But I also want to point out some of the other resources that they offer–that even frequent users of ic.org (particularly for the Communities Directory) might not know about or think of. 

First of all, since I was reviewing books here a few weeks ago, the website has what used to be called the Communities Bookstore.  They offer all sorts of useful books including two sets of books culled from some of the best articles in Communities magazine: The Wisdom of Communities and The Best of Communities.  (The FIC used to publish Communities magazine until last year.  Unfortunately, they lost a lot of money.  Now the magazine is published by GEN-US –the Global Ecovillage Network – United States.)  Three of the books that I reviewed (the two by Diana Leafe Christian and The Token by Crystal Byrd Farmer) are featured–by links, because they are better purchased directly from the authors and the ic.org folks assist you in doing that.  But they also offer books on ecovillages, group facilitation, a book called The Encyclopedic Guide to American Intentional Communities, and, of course, The Communities Directory.  

Plus, beyond books, they have a section devoted to videos and virtual events.  And, perhaps best of all, they have a couple of pages listing ‘free resources’ that they offer.

They also have a store resource directory that organizes the resources by category, starting with Finding Community, Creating Community, and Living in Community, with several subcategories under each.

Plus,they have a list of classified ads (including from communities actively looking for folks), a list of events, and a section with ways to get more involved.  The Foundation for Intentional Communities that manages all this is still struggling financially, so (particularly if you are a frequent user) perhaps you should become a member and put in a little cash that way, or at least buy some of the books through their online store.  

This website is an amazing resource so if you are even slightly interested in communes or other communities, I think you should take advantage of it–and support the folks who are doing it.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patron communards:
 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Colby Baez
  • Heather
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Kai Koru
  • Kate McGuire
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Montana Goodman
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • NorthernSoul Truelove
  • Oesten Nelson
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen
  • Sasha Daucus
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Twin Oaks
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

ic.org: A Review

Why live in a commune?

So, I thought that this was a super simple question, but I got a bunch of interesting responses to it. The question:

As you can see, I got twenty comments (although a couple of them were mine–Raven’s). What’s more important is that many of them were thoughtful responses to this relatively simple question. I will start with my response, which Facebook seems to have shuffled to the top.

I got a response from someone with similar aspirations and I responded using (unintentionally) the Commune Life handle.

Here are a bunch of the other responses:

Here’s one from Dan Parelius, former Twin Oaker and avid Commune Life follower, which I had to respond to:

And then more stories of the ups and downs of communal living:

Finally, someone had to send one of those meme pics, and indeed, someone did:

Why live in a commune?

Finding and Creating Community: A Review

by Raven Glomus

Diana Leafe Christian has written two books that are often found on the shelves of many community folks and are very useful for anyone interested in community.  The first, and oldest, is called Creating a Life Together (subtitle Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities); the second is just called Finding Community (How to join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community).

As you might guess, Creating a Life Together is about how to create and build communities, Finding Community is about how to find and join the community that is right for you.  Both books are filled with useful and practical information.  Obviously, if you only want to get or borrow one, whether you want to try to start a community or just join an existing one should determine which book you look at, but if you are just interested in the subject of community, they are both useful.

A warning, however, for commune interested folks.  Diana Leafe Christian is not overly fond of income sharing communities.  In her first book, Creating a Life Together, she devotes all of one very long paragraph to “income-sharing economies”.  She points out that “Relatively few communities do income-sharing…”  In Finding Community, the more recent book, she devotes a whole chapter to Income-Sharing Communes.  Here she starts off by saying that “About ten percent of intentional communities in North America… are income-sharing communes.”  Later in the chapter she asks the question, “Why Are Income-Sharing Communities so Well Known?”  She mentions that “income-sharing communitarians tend to be activists, if not enthusiastic proselytizers, for their radically non-competitive way of life.”  (Doesn’t she sound a bit annoyed?)  But even here, she tries to give good information and points out that income-sharing communities will appeal to people who have a passion for economic justice, want to learn a variety of new skills, and are comfortable with living simply; conversely, they are not likely to appeal to folks that are interested in financial autonomy and independence or who are looking for a greater degree of comfort or amenities.

As I said, the books offer a lot of useful and practical advice.  I will pass along two of my favorite pieces of wisdom.  The first, from Creating a Life Together, is a warning about “‘Magical Thinking’ and the Anti-Business Attitude”.  Her point is that if you are trying to create a community, no matter what you think about our legal system and our corporate culture, you can’t form a community in this society unless you deal with the financial and legal aspects for the way that they are (and really and carefully learn the pieces), and don’t try to pretend that they are the way that we might want them to be.

The other is a quote that I love which she uses for the title of her closing chapter in Finding Community.  She attributes it to Zev Paiss.  “Community–the longest, most expensive, personal growth workshop you will ever take!”  It is true that community is less expensive in income-sharing communities–but sometimes (as she points out in several places) they are even more intense.  This is a good warning for anyone who hasn’t looked carefully at the pros and cons of communal living.  The ideals are great, but the price might well be higher than you might expect.

I’m not saying that you should run out and buy these books, but if you are seriously interested in community, I suspect that you should also have one–or both!–of them on your bookshelf.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patron communards:

Aaron Michels

Brenda Thompson

Cathy Loyd

Colby Baez

Heather

Janey Amend-Bombara

Jenn Morgan

Joseph A Klatt

Kai Koru

Kate McGuire

Kathleen Brooks

Lynette Shaw

Magda schonfeld

Michael Hobson

Montana Goodman

Nance & Jack Williford

NorthernSoul Truelove

Oesten Nelson

Peter Chinman

Raines Cohen

Sasha Daucus

Suzi Tortora

Tobin Moore

Twin Oaks

Warren Kunce

William Croft

William Kadish

William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Finding and Creating Community: A Review

Communes and Tribal Society

by Raven Glomus

Communal living is important.

It’s what this blog is all about and it is how, I believe, we are meant to live. At the same time, many people find communal living hard and new communities fail at a rapid rate.

On Facebook I started exploring this paradox over several posts. In this one I decided to look at why, if we are tribal animals, communal living doesn’t come naturally.

Yes, I got thirty-one responses (actually, a few of the responses were mine, responding to other comments). Here are a lot of them, beginning with a quick response from Nyle Alantin, followed by a two part comment from Lucy Perry, which elicited a much longer comment from Allen Butcher.

Then there was a back and forth between Zamin Danty and me:

Then Katya Slepoy stepped in, eliciting reponses from Theresa, me, Allen, Rejoice, and Dina Ciccarone.

Then Allen wrote an extremely long comment that got a response from Delaney Calyx which elicited two more comments from Allen:

Finally, another commenter, Mary Hall stepped in and started a back and forth with me and Allen.

Communes and Tribal Society