My first posts at Times & Seasons were about building zion-like communities. I’ve wanted to expand on those posts in the year and a half since I originally wrote them, but whenever I try the words refuse to come.
Why? In part it’s because communities are difficult and complicated. Mostly, however, it’s because the ideal community that I envision is so dear to me that it pains me to put it into words. I feel like the words do violence to the vision, and a part of me fears that, in transit from vision to writing, the vision might get lost.
That said, I’ve reached a point where I realize that there’s no moving forward until I’m willing to get started. So here’s my vision of the place I hope to inhabit.
First is affordability.
Life is too wonderful to spend it worrying about finances, and too short to spend unnecessary hours in the workplace. I hope to spend the time I have in the society of my loved ones, in appreciation of art and nature, in creative works, and in learning through study and observation.
I think the first trick to making all of that happen is to live affordably. My target number would be to have expenditures somewhere around $1,000 per month in food and housing for my whole family.
Next is space.
The $1,000 per month target isn’t really all that unrealistic on its own. When my wife and I were first married, we lived on less money than that by renting room in a house in Springville, Utah. The recent “microhousing” movement also provides options for extremely affordable housing.
Living in a tiny residence is fine as long as you have accessible space around you. Places where you can meet with people. Places to walk or hike or swim or nap. Places where your kids can play (that’s the crucial one — being cooped up with highly energetic kids and nowhere to take them is rough).
Modern homes are multi-purpose structure. They are recreation areas, study areas, sleep areas, dining areas, entertainment areas, childcare areas, work areas, and socializing areas, all combined in one. I think I could be happy with a tiny home that functioned as just a sleep area if I knew that there were other facilities nearby to meet the other needs.
Next comes distribution of labor.
It usually takes me about 30 or 40 minutes to make dinner in the evening. I figure every other family on my court is spending 30 or 40 minutes making their dinners as well. For six households, that’s four hours of time spent each night making dinner. Making dinner for all six houses might take me longer than 30 or 40 minutes, but it certainly wouldn’t take me four hours.
I think this sort of duplicated labor takes place all the time. In childcare, home cleaning, yard work, laundry, etc. I’d like to live in a community where households don’t have to waste time doing things on their own that could be accomplished much more efficiently together.
Next comes technology.
The internet and computers are hugely awesome. I wouldn’t want to live in a community that is so focused on simple living that it would forgo the advantages of technology.
Next comes education and job skills.
I’ve been blessed to have been trained in marketable job skills. I’m a computer programmer. It’s not my #1 passion, but it’s not a bad gig by any means. And it’s been very reassuring to know that I’m very likely to be able to find work if ever the need should arise.
I want to live in a community that provides an education in marketable job skills, both to children and adults. I imagine a community where those who have job skills serve as teachers and those who desire job skills come as students. Of course the economics of that exchange would need to be worked out, but I think it could be handled within the economy of the community (see: distribution of labor).
Next comes self-determination.
One potential problem I see with intentional communities is that they need rules, obligations, and expectations. That’s not to say that rules, obligations, and expectations are inherently bad. In fact, they’re necessary in order for of my previous points to function. However, as much as possible, I would hope to see the community build around autonomous households. This is the point I have the least to say about right now, not because it’s not important, but because I just don’t know much about community governance.
So that’s my start: affordability, space, distribution of labor, technology, education and job skills, and self-determination. I hope to come back to this again in the not-too-distant future to fill in some details and perhaps add some additional principles. But for now, it’s a start.