Living in an intentional community is one of hardest things you can do. Why? Well, despite our social nature we’ve managed to create a hyper-individualized society. The luxury is that you don’t have deal with people very much, and people are hard to deal with! The downside is we’re left empty, turning to unsustainable pastimes to fill us up. And the irony is that the convenience of isolation leaves us largely helpless. When it comes down to it, we need each other more than ever. There’s the romanticism around the rugged pioneer going it alone, but that’s not really what we’re going for either.
Living in an intentional community is also one of the most satisfying things you can do. We need each other. This isn’t a bad thing. We need to feed each other. We need to love each other. We even need to fight we each other. Not violently we hope. But conflict is part of being human, and ultimately is part of the intimacy, the knowing of each other, that grows amongst people in community over time, generating a sense of togetherness and satisfaction that satisfies our soul and nourishes the world.
I’ve lived in intentional communities for a total of 17 years, mostly at Twin Oaks Community in Virginia. My extended family is hundreds, if not thousands of people. Community has shaped me. It’s given me the opportunity to learn skills like group facilitation, event organizing, business management, and plumbing. It’s where I’ve raised my son, who has indeed been raised by a village. It’s where I’ve learned what family means, how to love, and how to have conflicts with people and resolve them in a way that builds community.
There is an incredible variety of intentional communities, from secular to religious, with a handful of people to hundreds, those that focus on education and outreach, and those that are just trying to live a simple life. They come with different names, ecovillages, cohousing, co-ops, communes, but they all share something. They are people who have come together to share their lives along shared values. And whether or not you share all the values of a particular community, they are doing their part to bring humanity back together and heal the wounds of isolation and alienation.
This year I was hired as the new Executive Director of the Foundation for Intentional Community. Our flagship service is the Communities Directory. Right now we’re running a Kickstarter campaign to overhaul the Directory and publish a new print version. All intentional communities are welcome to be listed provided they don’t advocate violence and don’t restrict their members’ access to leave or communicate with people outside the community. There are over 2000 communities listed in the Directory. We provide this as a free service online, and as a printed volume for sale. The Communities Directory is the most comprehensive resource available connecting people to places that are making a difference in the world.
Recently Richard Heinberg, author of Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels, wrote on CommonDreams.org:
“Permaculturists, organizations of idealistic young organic farmers, eco-villages like Dancing Rabbit and The Farm, and Transition Initiatives represent what appear currently to be barely visible fringe phenomena. But the folks pursuing these roads-less-traveled deserve our attention and help, because they’re about the only people in the industrialized world who are preparing for the kind of future that’s actually within our means.”
Sharing and working together is going to become an increasing necessity in the coming decades. It’s a deeply appealing and terrifying notion, and right now it seems impossible to many people. But that’s why these communities are important. They’re attempting the impossible, and in doing so they expand our understanding of what is possible.
Please consider making a donation to our Kickstarter campaign and sharing this project with your friends. Whether you’re new to the idea of intentional community or a veteran, whether you think you’ll ever living in an intentional community or not, please consider supporting these important pioneers.
Over the last 18 years, Sky Blue has been a member of Twin Oaks Community, a housing collective, a student housing cooperative, and a cohousing community. He’s helped start two small worker co-operatives and a small car-sharing system. He’s visited dozens of communities and cooperatives, in the US and in Europe. Living in community and furthering the larger cooperative movement has been a primary focus of his entire adult life. He now works as the Executive Director for the Foundation for Intentional Community.