Thoughts on Community Arrangements
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whilst a permanent grouping of people is psychologically
desirable, and should be aimed for, it is Important not to be dependent
upon this possible eventuality. People change and move on; others may take
- whilst a permanent physical location is psychologically desirable,
and should be aimed for, it is important not to be dependent upon this
possible eventuality. Interim locations may be necessary and final locations
may prove non-viable.
- a group of people defines for itself a rhythm or cycle, which may
be relatively fast or slow. Some may not adapt to the rhythm satisfactory
to most, and which effectively organizes them in time
- a group of people has a life cycle which may be shorter or exceed
the lifetimes of individuals in it. This may create problems.
In the light of the above, it is useful to consider the activity as a temporary
experiment which may, if it is successful, become permanent. A 3 to 5
year experiment is preferable to running the risk of disappointment from over-commitment
to the psychological security of a "permanent" community.
individuals need their own physical space to survive in e community
and it is important to agree on needs in this respect. The space should
offer total privacy (both from direct interruption and from indirect
interruption through noise, community pressures, etc.)
- individuals need a certain amount of psychic space to survive in
a community, aside from any private domain to which they may retreat. Over-crowding
or excessive interaction with others (or their "things") may dangerously
- groups of people (whether defined as families, like-minded individuals,
groups of children, etc.) also have their own physical and psychic space needs
- common spaces are required for a satisfactory sense of community
to develop and be maintained
- the above spaces have to be provided by viable compromises with the physical
structures available, which generally tend to erode them. Such structures
should preferably be set on an adequate area of land to take care of the needs
for a "roving territory" or psychic space
Communal life, in the sense of one building, may increase tensions where
conflicts can emerge uncontained by the above spaces (e.g. over noise, decor,
privacy, duties, cleanliness/tidiness level, luxury/necessity level, etc.).
The difficulty increases with the number of distinct groups and interests
in the community. At some stage a better solution is an appropriate (and slowly
changing) mix of communal living (i.e. most facilities shared in one building),
partial communal living (some facilities shared in one building), and community
living (buildings in the same area, separated by distances varying from metres
to kilometres, according to the preferences at a particular time).
the mix of people makes or breaks a community. Little is known about
how to make a fruitful mix happen. Too many people of a similar type
finally result in a sterile, predictable or unhealthy environment. Too
many dissimilar types finally result in internecine squabbles and fragmentation.
Compatibility binds together; incompatibility stimulates new structures
and syntheses. "Obvious" participants may not be appropriate;
unlikely" participants may be most significant to the life of the community.
- as an experiment, en effort should be made to absorb people of very different
types so that their special attributes contribute to the stability, fruitfulness
and growth of the community
- formal: tasks have to be performed and individuals have to perform
them. Whilst role rotation is desirable, it is not always possible, so that
role conflict emerges just as in any other organization -- in which role conflicts
are used as vehicles for the expression of personality conflicts. Such difficulties
should be contained by de-organizing community life as much as possible so
that tasks are selected and performed within and by self-selected groups within
their respective spaces according to their own times. The space/ time structuring
is therefore a container for potential conflict.
- informal: these develop naturally. It is not useful to formulate
rules and restrictions until cases present themselves. These should be handled
flexibly rather than rigidly and conventionally.
5. Financial participation
the commune movement seems to make a big issue of community of property.
This is a rather unnecessary and (melo)dramatic step. A mixed system of
private and joint ownership seems more practical.
- given that any community may well be of a temporary nature, whatever
the desires of the participants, it is illusory to attempt to pool all financial
resources, particularly since participants have different levels of assets
and income. It is preferable to contribute equally to different budgets or
to participate unequally through a form of shareholding in certain activities
(e.g. purchase of a building, or rental of parts of it). All projects should
be realistically costed and financed so that the minimum of tension results
from the inevitable inequities.
- such an attitude towards financial matters has led (in other instances)
to the conclusion that at some stage, for financial and tax purposes, several
bodies can be created to manage the community activity:
Community members can participate to different degrees in these bodies.
--- a property company to own and control the land and building
-- an operating company to control any profit-making enterprises of
- -- a non-profit association to relate the members of the community.
- the implication of the above possibilities is that individuals can participate
financially in the community to different degrees, depending upon their willingness
and ability to do so. For example, at the lowest level of participation,
an individual may simply sub-rent a room in the building. (This level may
be sufficient for all when launching the enterprise and during the early phases.)
- clearly individuals may leave the community (or never physically join)
without withdrawing their financial investment in it immediately. This ensures
greater financial stability and continuity.
6. Economic viability
whilst it is neither necessary, desirable, nor possible that all individuals
should contribute equally (or even sufficiently to cover the cost of their
presence and use of facilities),it is important that someone tor some grouping
of individuals) should be financially responsible for anyone in that position
who does not contribute in full measure. For example, children would be
the responsibility of the parents, unless some others wish to assist in
case of special need. Non-financial contributions to the community should
be taken into account in any assessment.
individuals (or family groups) may finance themselves by external economic
activities or subsidies (conducted externally or within the community building
as a workplace
similarly, groups of individuals within the community may well engage
in external economic activities (conducted externally or from the community
as a work place)
- the ultimate control of the community should he in the hands
of the permanent members (as reflected by their financial or equivalent
commitment) and not in the hands of those just passing through, even though
they may be in a majority at any one time.
- the community life should be under-organized rather than over-organized.
The organization required should relate mainly to the spaces occupied by the
individuals or groups occupying them. (Relationships emerge naturally to
safeguard the stability of the community; a community should have no more
need of a constitutional document than does a family.)
8. Reason for existence
the reason for the community is to create a living (and possibly working)
environ- ment which is:
- meaningful and stimulating
- creative and fruitful
- economically viable (and possible advantageous) for those who participate.
- the argument is that by combining the economic and psycho-cultural resourcesrepresented
by the potential mix of participants, a much more organic and adaptable grouping
can emerge than is the case with the simple nuclear family
- such an environment may prove suitable for:
- an alternative work environment,where suitable economically viable
activities can be developed. More meaningful work activities may thus
become possible, or else desirable activities which would otherwise be
uneconomic may become feasible
- a meditation/retreat/re-creation environment may emerge as a central
function which makes the community a focal centre for outsiders
- it is of great importance that the subtle range of skills and attributes
necessary to bring about the right kind of organic community should be given
every chance to emerge and bear fruit, for the benefit of the individuals
concerned and for the community as a whole
9. Purpose and principles
- it would have a straightjacketing effect on the community to live by an
explicit code or set of principles -- particularly when the implications are
implemented to the letter in daily life. This is even more true given that
such a set of principles would have to be somewhat artificially elaborated
as an activity of the intellect, which does not necessarily respond to all
the needs of human beings in a community
- it is preferable that the binding purpose of the community, for those who
need one, should emerge from meditation and reflection in silence -- possibly
as a group. Rather than be expressed in words, this purpose should preferably
be expressed in activities which different groupings of those participating
could each initiate and organize, if they so wish, in the light of their own
understanding of the needs and possibilities of the moment and their own potential.