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Civil Energetics

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Modes of Community [Sep. 21st, 2010|02:31 pm]
Civil Energetics


I started off with just 3.
(And then I tried to assign a number to each- you can see where *that* got me!)

1)There's the people I share a house with, and the dishes and the dog, and all the housekeeping involved. It's not exactly intentional community, in the the choices are often overwhelmed by the compromises. But it's real, and it registers when i talk to my housemates about it.

2)There's the community I participate in when I vote, or when I march in a street protest, and when I spend money or even just go outside my house. It's the opposite of intentional, I was just born into it. To the extent that I even call this a community at all, it has to do with the mercy I can muster for a bunch of offensive strangers who aren't asking for my forgiveness.

3)Then there's this idealized community of the mind. It started when I read Walden 2 and Brave new World, and 1984 as a teenager. Books like Always coming Home and The Fifth Sacred Thing and Ecotopia, are part of this conversation. It's intentional in the sense that I choose to open these books and let their ideas spill into my mind.

(Let's not forget the Whole Earth Catalogs, Coevolution Quarterly, Z magazine, and Utne Reader!)

For the last 15 years, I've been able to tap into this electronic conversation, that takes all the choicefulness and idealism of these paper stories, and hyperslices them into a constant hum. The intention is a bit harder to maintain, with spam-bots and popup screens and unwanted office humor, and more deliberate malicious software.

Those were my first three examples, but in working those out, I came across two more:

1a)Inside the intentional community of my household, there's the intentional community that remains when I shut my bedroom door and am alone with myself. Or when I'm traveling alone, or when I'm out in the world but alone. The intention there is sometimes hard to find: Short of killing myself, I can't very well choose to be anywhere else! And I'm not always very good company, either for myself or for other people.

0) Finally, there's the intentional element of falling in love, whether it's with a yummy looking individual, or a whole group of shiny humans. Usually it's with 4 or 6 other people who are the last ones left at a party, but I've felt it at Burning Man, at the Rainbow Gathering, at the WTO protests, and most recently at the successful autumn camp I helped host.

This fifth example of community is hard for me to wrap my mind around because it's so much bigger than I am. I suppose it's bigger than *anyone*, by it's very nature. I don't know that you can even make it happen at all, you can at most just remove some of the obstacles that keep it from happening, or decide to go ahead and try to interrupt it in whatever way you can.

It's the feeling I think about when WAR is declared... it's also the only real engine for peace that I can seriously consider.

An image leaps to mind, of five lily-pads in a pond. It's not possible to step up onto any of them if you're in the water... you have to jump from one of these platforms to another.

In this moment, I find myself doing a lot of jumping!