From a city to an Ecovillage to learn to live together with a community. What will it be like? What challenges and opportunities will arise from this life experience? I follow the footsteps of other dreamers to see if it is possible to overcome individualism and collaborate in the creation of a different lifestyle. A better lifestyle? It’s all to be discovered!
With the kind translation by Mark Bruno
Living Together: Trying in order to Believe
Is it really right and human to spend a life in a block of flats in the city, or an independent house in a sleepy neighborhood? Of course!
The city is rich with work opportunities, stimulation, pastimes. The house is peaceful and quiet, a getaway from the stress of life’s affairs. For many, these are life’s ideal places. Places to study, to create a family, to work.
For others they are simply the place where they were born and raised, where they are used to live. A few people might complain about a bit of loneliness, the difficulty to create authentic relationships, a certain indifference and impatience among the residents, the stress of a career and the anxiety of competition.
And yet isn’t this individualism convenient? The possibility to concentrate one one’s personal growth, on valuing one’s talents, and the search of happiness?
Yes, it’s convenient. And the discomfort in being with others, even when it stings a little, is easy to set aside: we buy, we spend (and show off), have a little fun, and forget about it all…for a while.
Why, then, don’t some people want to be satisfied?
Why don’t some people find satisfaction in that steady job with benefits? Or, let’s lower the standards, in “decent employment” perhaps even in the field of study of their hard-won degree?
Why do some people feel the loneliness of “Good Morning – Good Evening” directed at the neighbor, when we can at least muster such a greeting without being preoccupied by the problems of their daughter, daughter-in-law, nephew, cat, the plant that drips on the furniture?
Why can’t some people accept that it is possible, even necessary, to think of one’s own profit, widened to include that of one’s family, so that it’s “everyone for themselves,” striving, competing, excelling, and in the end achieving economic well-being?
The Challenge: Truly Believing in It
Dreams should remain the stuff of adolescence, scale themselves back at the doorstep to adulthood, and in the end, surrender, more or less with the taking out of a mortgage or the arrival of the first child (never mind if the two should happen together).
Somebody says “no”. Somebody wants to believe that it is possible to work together to create something shared, bigger, more beautiful. Somebody wants to believe that human beings can collaborate and not just compete. Somebody (flaming mad, to be sure) prefers not to become rich but to have more time…for loved ones, self-care, good conversation, reading, a little improvised music.
Somebody believes that it’s possible to trust and regard someone else as another self. And they’re just as messed up in the way they go about living their private lives. This “somebody” has had many labels throughout history, depending on his time period: dreamer, utopian, hippie, communard.
Somebody has challenged the system, someone has rammed up against it, idealized their dream, perhaps changed or reworked it.
In any case, the dream is passed down to the next generation. An ancient inheritance, because the dream of “living together” has never remained just that, but has always sought to realize itself in social experiments in constant transformative tension.
Today, some of these experiments are called “ecovillages”. They are spread out around the whole world, all different yet sharing certain characteristics, such as being “intentional communities”, places where people choose to live together even if they are not necessarily relatives.
And now…we begin!
What does all this have to do with me? Simple (if I may so myself!). I’m one of the many people who have chosen to live this experience. To try to understand how a dream can take the form of reality. Mine is the challenge of a mother of two daughters, who spent 36 years at the edge of a nice city, unable to deny that sense of unease is relations, with a mind and heart full of memories that are not her own but of her grandparents, those who didn’t choose community but who lived it in order to survive.
I am not a hippie, maybe a bit naïve, someone who feels at ease in the world of books, and through my degree thesis I tried to understand something from them.
And now? And now, understanding that I didn’t understand, with the sensation of being little Nemo who leaves his anemone to swim in the vast ocean (“It was about time!” Nina would say.) I’ve arrived here, in the ecovillage that was the case study for my thesis.
And here everything that I am clashes with throbbing reality, labyrinthine like the alleys of the houses we live in, always in motion, sometimes chaotic (who is it that thought that ecovillages were places of peace and tranquility??) and always rich with life.
My perceptions are changing but not my desire to reflect…within the change.
If there are other dreamers out there (history says that there are), others who don’t want to ignore the sense of unease but want to find concrete solutions, others like me who have never lived in community but wonder if they might be a solution or a part of a solutions, other Nemos out there whom might be helped by these reflections to explore new realities…welcome to these pages, a trial year has just begun for this aspiring communitarian!