Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Roger and Me

For the past several months I've been enjoying a rolling (and freewheeling) email dialog with Roger Stube in Connecticut. Though we haven't yet been in the same room together, we're buddies. Roger is new to intentional community and styles himself as a political conservative (which I am not). Though he walks the other side of the street, he's curious and we have a lot to talk about. Think of it as cross pollination.

Recently Roger asked me to profile what kind of people are drawn to intentional community—a question I don't recall ever having addressed before. First, Roger ventured the following types, to prime the pump:

o  Idealists
Mostly likely young, may be disillusioned with the world as they see it. Are looking for a better way.

o  Disconnected
They want friendships/support they could not find in the outside world.

o  Lost
Don't know what they want to do with their lives and communities look interesting.

o  Conservationists
They want to lighten their footprint on the earth.

• • •
While I found that a good start, I added:

o  Social Change Agents
Those looking to make the world a better place and see community as a base of operations.

o  Integrators
Those looking for a more integrated life (walking their talk). While I reckon this is a subset of Idealists, it has a different flavor than what Roger described.

o  Simple Livers
Those wanting a simpler life featuring more sharing and less consumption. This is a flavor of Conservationist, though with greater emphasis on a life centered around relationships rather than material acquisition and consumption. That is, there is a positive side of this choice, not just embracing privation.

o  Authentic
Those drawn to a more authentic life (less bullshit and posturing; less attention to fashion). They are drawn to an everyday lifestyle where participants share and discuss what really matters, dropping easily below the veneer of social niceties.

o  Socially Awkward
Those who feel rejected everywhere else. While this is variant of Lost. These folks are not sure they'll find a home or acceptance anywhere.

o  Parents
Those looking for a great (stimulating, progressive, safe, supportive) environment in which to raise a family.

o  Concerned with Quality Aging
Those looking for security, dignity, and usefulness as they age and are seeking it through living among friends and neighbors in an inter-generational context (not a retirement home or gated community for the silver haired).

o  Spiritual Alignment
Those looking to live with those who share their spiritual path, both to walk the path together and to share their ecstasy.

o  Answer Seekers
Some hunger for charismatic leaders with answers to life's vexing questions. (These are the folks that Erich Fromm wrote about in his 1941 classic Escape from Freedom). These are people willing to surrender individual choice to the wisdom/authority of another.
• • •
Though I'm not confident that I've captured them all, this is a reasonably comprehensive list. As I reflect on it, it's pretty amazing that all of these elements can be folded into strong and healthy communities. But they can with sufficient attention to bridging and understanding the different lenses through which people in each category are experiencing life.

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