It's Question of the Week time on the @ecotrain, and this time there are PRIZES to be won. I just happen to be in the lucky situation that my day is relatively relaxed, and I saw the recently published prompt post, so I may be the first one to answer. (I know, I know: That's not going to make me a winner, it's my post that needs to be convincing.)
This week's question is: What 3 things are most important to you in the eco-village of tomorrow? Fortunately, this is something I've thought about long and hard... So let's see, what are the three most important things for me:
Okay, just because I mention it first doesn't mean it's not the number one priority. Though I still think diversity should be up in the top three. And yes, this includes ... a lot! Obviously, the usual stuff we tend to think of when someone mentions the word: diversity of cultures, religious faiths, genetic backgrounds, sexual orientations, etc. But I would even include such things as levels of education, preferred activities, and things that make one feel comfortable. Because these things are not the same for all of us!
Just a small example here: Once I spent some time wwoofing in an eco-village in New Zealand, where they took the premises of Live and Let Live and To Each Their Own highly seriously. There was a good amount of common land, but each member had their own plot, over which they had complete control of what to do and what not to do with. Oh no, was my first reaction, what if someone decided to chop down all the trees and build a strip mine? The reaction was a hearty laugh. Sure, they explained, I guess they could do that. But we as a community pick our neighbors very carefully. And it's important for us to give them this freedom, while knowing that they wouldn't be destructive. Also, if their freedom encroaches on our freedom to live the life we want, we have mechanisms in place to stop them.
Even though one of the requirements of membership was the adherence to the Principles of Permaculture, everyone had a slightly different interpretation thereof. As a result, while one property looked like a junk yard, another one had the feel of a zen garden, and still another one that of unadulterated wild bush. The residents of this village also enjoyed a great diversity among each other. Some were the tinkering mad scientist types, others were on the artistic, spiritual trip, and still others were unabashed rednecks.
And it worked! Sure, neighbors would make fun of each other. One purist would make comments about another fellow using aluminum doors, which he would never do himself, and the other dude would point out that the were recycled, and besides, to mind his own business. In this way, I think the community itself can stay open to change, as well as be attractive to a variety of mindsets. After all, one of the principles is to integrate not segregate, and that includes mindsets and attitudes.
2. Pulling Each Other Up
After pointing out the importance of letting everyone follow their own path, I should highlight the opposite, which is just as important: Positive Social Interaction. This includes inspiring each other to do great things. Passing on one's creativity to others, teaching skills and techniques related to all aspects of life.
Once we have embraced diversity, we should do something with it. And if there is a basic set of values that unites us (we don't even need to go very deep with this: having good food, clean water and air, and control over our place and or time) we can use the rest of our personal values, which others might not necessarily share, or not to the same extent, to creatively influence each others' lives.
On an individual level it's wonderful to have differences in personal priorities. As a community, however, we can benefit from these differences if we really apply them to different problems, whichever works most effectively. Once again, one could be worried about such things as fear, hate and ignorance finding its way into the community. On the other hand, the village as a whole has to be ready and prepared to fend of these kinds of negativity. And a dynamically responsive positive attitude could dissolve them easily, instead of suppressing or ignoring them.
An example I'd like to mention, though I'm not sure how good it is, is tall-bike-jousting. As much as I like bike related activities, and even a good challenge, I can't see myself getting on a contraption of 2-3 bike frames welded on top of each other, to go against my opponent, trying to push them off with a stick, similar to a medieval tournament. Broken bones and knocked-out teeth are just not my thing. But some people actually like it! So why shouldn't they do it for their enjoyment? And as the community? Hard as it may seem for me to imagine, these same people will have a different attitude when it comes to confronting the possibility of pain and physical harm. And yes, though I might not like it, there may be something I could learn from them...
3. Challenging Each Other
Since in my last point I mentioned the sweet pull, I should also focus on the bitter push. It's just the other side of the same coin, which is just as important, even though this happened to receive the number three on this short list.
It is true: hardship sharpens our edges, and easy cruising dulls us down. And yes, this sucks, but there is no way around it. Of course I don't want to impose hardship on myself, nor on anyone around me. Still, it would be too sad if the good life took its toll on our creativity, our motivation, our beliefs, or any of all the good characteristics that were formed by hard work and adapting to our given conditions.
What am I talking about here? A much needed kick in the butt! It's the kind of motivation that we got from our parents when they were doing a good job at parenting. It's the kind of talk our partner might give us, that we need to do (or not to do) xyz, as that is something highly important to them. And yes, although I don't have children myself, I can see kids also having a similar motivating factor on their parents. Most likely not a pleasant thing, but for sure effective.
So while I don't think your neighbors shouldn't be able to force anything on you, they can certainly express a need. And this need could become a challenge for you, which you would benefit from greatly if you accept it. In fact, submitting yourself to it may be so unpleasant that you would never do it if it weren't for the community asking you to. Once you've gotten over swallowing the bitter pill, the rewards will be magnified, as they are also shared by the community.
Differences, Inspiration, and Challenge
These are the three things I consider most important in a well functioning community. All the rest, whether we spend time herding goats, sailing the seas, or building underground chambers, is secondary. But now I'm burning to read what everyone else has come up with.
May the best posts win the prizes! Good luck to Everyone!
Please check out these great communities I'm contributing to: