Working, cooking, tidying, eating & living together.
I experienced community living for 6 months in Costa Rica. Helping on fields, I was sharing the everyday life with project coordinators and volunteers on site. Communal living is the cement that holds these places together and the key to their success.
Whether they are hippy, romantic or radical, we all have preconceived ideas about communities. However, it seems obvious to me that this way of living – which comes from our ancestors – allows us to connect with a more sustainable lifestyle for the future. Here are the 3 reasons for me:
1. To choose your tribe
My passion for community living began pretty early. I always believed in it, and was raised within it. My childhood summers were spent at my grandparents’ with my many cousins. There were often more children than adults. We were a self-managed kids tribe. The older ones would take care of the little ones. I learned at a very young age to see my family as an extended and flexible tribe made of caring and inspiring people. Since we don’t always have the chance to choose our family … we can look into intentional communities instead!
Full Circle Farm, intentional community in Ojai, California
When I was 5, I went to my first summer camp. It was in a farm. We would feed the rabbits in the morning and sleep in bunk beds at night. I soon understood that life will not get better than this. I then spent the rest of my childhood and teenage summers in camps, energized and excited by the potentials of community living.
Later on, my mother, my brother and I lived in a school (my mom was the head of the school, that’s why we had to live on site). I used the school playground as mine, and often shared it with the boarding school students. From rugby to basketball and handball, I have always practiced and loved team sports. This way for me, the concept of ownership and collectivity have always been tied together: from owning public spaces to owning victories or defeats.
Alone we go faster, together we go further …
Today, the magic of internet can potentially connect all humans on the planet. It is therefore going to be way easier to find people who share the same values or life dynamics.
« The website CoAbode links single mothers who want to live and raise children together. In Los Angeles, about a dozen young adults live together in one large house called Synchronicity LA. There, they make art together, hold salons, divide up chores, and trade off cooking communal meals four days a week. “It really feels like living in a big family,” Grant Hoffner, a longtime Synchronicity resident, told me. » – (Article’s link)
From single mothers, to farming communities, to senior co-housing, there is a community for every age and every need. In those places, common rules are established and distributed equitably. Intentional shared common values are the base for living together. Either you call it « co-housing », « commune » or « intentional community », the vocabulary changes but the principles remain the same.
One more time, as always on progressive subjects, Denmark and Sweden are the champions of « community living ». Co-housing is part of the public housing national policies and is supported by the government.
« Fourteen Forest Mice » by Kazuo Iwamura – When I was a kid, I was fascinated with these books. The images have remained engraved in my memory. I spent hours watching the wide frame illustrations … I even remember salivating by just looking at the food they prepared and shared!
But be careful!
From community to cult, it only takes a little step sometimes… For example, Longo Mai is a cooperative of international rural communities who campaign for food autonomy. I am really attracted by their project, I can’t wait to discover some of their communities in France.
The Twelve Tribes’ project may sound pretty similar. They have more than 50 rural self-sufficient communities around the US and the world. But their values are definitely not as progressive. We had the chance to share a Friday night meal in one of their community near San Diego, at the Morning Star Ranch. People living in the community are farmers, cooks or vendors. They all share the food and work together at an extreme level. Freedom and individuality are denied. Each member wishing to be a part of it has to sell all former possessions to the benefit of the community. Their religious rules are very strict. No child is allowed to have any contact with the outside world and women are forced to wear dresses and perform maternal duties.
… it’s a little less my jam.
It’s up to you to do your research. There are a lot of loving caring people out there. Websites like www.ic.org compile all different types of projects and places. It’s a new world to look into either you feel isolated, unsupported, or you want to save money, or just want to experiment a different lifestyle.
« The Way out », « The radical life » : fanzines produced by the Twelve Tribes cult
-Next episode: Why live in a community 2/3
-Last episode: Why live in a community 3/3
-How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, Bella DePaulo, 2015