Visioning SolSeed Intentional Communities

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This was a session at Sol 2014.

Contents

Participants

Discussion

Out on the lake

  • Eric: I’d prefer to be out in the sticks
  • Ben: I think we should be near a major city to find allies in all the circles of our Venn diagram
    • Eric: I agree that the first SolSeed commune needs to be urban for recruitment, but I envision multiple communes in all kinds of places
  • Shelley: I want it to be a beautiful place, which is easier when it’s farther from a city
  • Patrick: I think you’ll need an urban area to have access to technology

Back at the campsite

  • Ted: The Timeless Way of Building talks about how to make spaces that have an undefinable quality of “aliveness”
    • Ben: But how do you measure that?
    • Brandon: Spaces that have this quality would be used more
    • Ted: The book has patterns like the “window place,” where people sit in such a way as to include both inside and outside-the-window space in their perception
    • Another, clearly testable pattern is the “intimacy gradient”: the most private/intimate spaces should be farthest from the front door
    • Brandon: I feel we’ve accomplished “aliveness” in our back garden
    • The book talks about going to the target property and feeling out where things should go, rather than just looking at street grids
  • Ted: I cofounded a housing co-op in Chicago, buying a building with 7 other people
    • We didn’t have the funds to reshape the space the way we’d like, but it’s still a great place
  • Ted: I lived at Daybreak Cohousing in several configurations (with a partner, with a roommate, in a rental space)
    • The main problem at Daybreak was that the whole thing fell apart financially
    • The architecture was fascinating, focusing on connection and community rather than privacy, but relationships themselves are more important than architecture
      • Patrick: I visit with a friend every week even though he lives a half-hour bike ride away
      • Ted: People often connect through necessity of helping each other
      • Brandon: People you see a lot become people you see even more
  • Ted: If you build community with the people who are already around you in a neighborhood, that’s an organic way to do it that I’m increasingly fond of
    • In intentional communities you have intense inward focus that excludes connection with outside neighbors to some degree
      • Of course, the advantage of intentional community is a built-in expectation of relationships with internal neighbors
      • But I’d want a long process of establishment to ensure a new intentional community was built on a solid basis of good relationships; I think SolSeed is doing this very well
    • I love my current neighbors in my ordinary neighborhood
      • Brandon: How much of that connection came from your boys?
      • Ted: All of it, although it’s not just about age/school; we’re also friends with the older woman next door
      • Patrick: We have a similar experience; no longer making new connections with neighbors since I grew up
  • Ted: Cohousing is the worst of both worlds; no vision other than “we want to live in community”
    • Take a bunch of introverts who don’t know each other and don’t know their current neighbors and throw them in a building together
      • Brandon (much later): Like being at a social event at a business convention, vs. an event with family and friends
    • This problem probably gets much less severe in older communities, once people have bandwidth to get to know each other
    • Ben: Was Daybreak like that?
      • Ted: We had a 10-point vision, but it was only aspirational and didn’t make any real difference
    • Now that I’ve tried a bunch of different stuff, I’m a lot less clear on what’s best
  • Brandon: We should avoid “building a box and filling it”
    • Lord of the Rings metaphor: Don’t build giant centrally-planned dwarven cities; build more like the Shire, where it looks like growth can happen more organically at the “edges”
    • Ted: But in an urban environment, organic growth is stymied by the fact that houses only go up for sale very rarely
  • Brandon: Trying to build community and failing can be harmful to relationships
    • We set up a Saturday school with Meg and Lyric, sort of “SolSeed lite,” and when it didn’t work, our relationship collapsed
    • Ted: I know three families that get together around gaming, which is low-risk, low-commitment, and therefore it’s hard to imagine a dramatic breakup
      • Ben: Interestingly, Lion is doing a lot of game nights recently, but I don’t think he’s doing it to be low-risk
      • Patrick, Brandon: Maybe it’s like casual dating, a first contact that can become deeper later
  • Brandon: I get the sense that like me, Ted is a “signer-upper”
    • Ted: In college, I noticed that I was involved in lots of things but my friends were only involved in one thing: each other
      • Ben: I get the sense that that kind of intense single focus is what Lion is looking for
      • Patrick: My friends and I are somewhat like that; if I don’t wake up early enough to go to our regular meet, they’ll usually drive over to my place
    • Ted: I’ve always been aiming to make the world a better place
      • Ben: Maybe that kind of person is more likely to be involved in multiple groups
      • Brandon: But SolSeed has been a constant center for me as my other groups shift, because in other groups, if the goal stops being important to the participants, it just ends
        • Ben: But it seems like you’re willing to let the SolSeed movement die if something else expresses its vision and principles better
        • Brandon: Well, right now my ability to shape SolSeed is such that in the near term, there’s little risk that it will stop expressing who I am
        • On the other hand, I helped found the Buckman Neighborhood Picnic and am now moving away from it; likewise with Recent Changes Camp; they were temporary expressions of my “bring life” values, while SolSeed embodies those values themselves
  • Brandon: I believe that planning is futile (because of the Singularity), but practice is not
    • Ben: But planning an intentional community is what we were talking about
    • Brandon: I think planning is a good practice
      • Ted: But plans are useless
      • Ted: We have a single One-Page Plan for our family and our business, and had a difficult time filling in our BHAG, so we filled in a draft answer that seemed unrelated to our near-term plans, but it enabled me to do a workshop in Detroit later because it fit the BHAG
        • This ability to grab BHAG-related opportunities happens with my clients as well
        • Eric: The important part of planning is getting clear on your values; that’s why I made the snap decision to join SolSeed
    • Ben: What counts as practice?
      • Brandon: Practice is about growing your wisdom about some topic; it gives you a deep level of understanding of how something works, so you don’t need rules to follow
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