Susan Patrice has lived in and helped start a number of communities, and has been involved in various projects and support roles with the FIC.
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Living in Intentional Communities radically changed my life. That is not hyperbole, it really did. And of course, I, like so many others, wouldn’t have even known where to find intentional communities without the FIC and the many resources it offers.
My search for community began in 1998 after a failed experiment creating a community arts center. Feeling crushed and disappointed, I set out to find folks who were having more success. I found so much more.
My years of living in intentional communities, which I loving refer to as the boot camp years, prepared me for the work I am doing today as an artist and activist. My years of living communally put me in contact with daring, radical, loving, and fiercely idealistic people. Each giving, in their own unique and imperfect way, to the best of their ability, in hopes of shaping and creating a better world.
In some ways, they, like me, were oddly doomed to fail in a world that was just barely learning how to combine empathy, compassion and sustainability with loving leadership. But I have come to see these so-called failures in a totally different light.
While I don’t currently live in a residential intentional community, all the gifts that living communally brought to my life touch my work every day. Consensus, while intensely inclusive and often maddening, taught me to listen deeply, to never make assumptions in advance about the direction that a real conversation can take. Living in close proximity to strangers, which is heart opening and sometimes infuriating, taught me to have greater awareness of my impact, both positive and negative on the people I touch as I move through my day. I learned how to love the other, when at first it felt impossible. And most importantly I learned that trust must always begin with me. I can’t expect to live in a disarmed world until I learn to hold my own fears, prejudices, and aggression with compassion and profound responsibility. There is not a meeting, creative project, relationship, or collaborative interaction that isn’t influenced positively by my years of living communally. I am still struggling to fully embody these ideals, but I am ever grateful for the values and tools I am still integrating.
And while some people see the experiment of residential intentional communities as too removed to make a significant difference, I think it takes radical and sometimes even extreme creativity to counter current culture. I see these communities as amazing and sometimes intense laboratories that send essential ripples of change out into the world. And while we don’t get it perfect, and sometimes our hard efforts seem barely noticeable in the current moment, over time the ripples are undeniable. And sometimes, even what we view as our biggest failures are creating the next necessary, imperfect, and possibly grace filled step on the path to a better world.
I think the best thing intentional communities create is the communitarian. And whether those folks continue to do the hard work of learning how to live together and cooperate at the deepest levels, or whether they move on to a different calling, the world needs more people dedicated to a deeply shared life and the creation of cooperative culture.
It is with great appreciation that I say thank you to the FIC for all that you do to keep communities alive, thriving and growing. And for training so many of us in the hard work of loving leadership. Happy 30th Birthday, I wish you many, many more years of success.