The clicking sound of my shoes bounces against the walls of the buildings lining the main street of Park City this morning. Like an old western town, each buildings hugs to the side of the next with no space in-between, forming a continuous straight line of shops on both sides with a road straight down the center. The town is sleepy, as usual at that time of day. Restaurants are in the process of opening, the delivery trucks rev up and down the street, releasing the angry hiss of their hydraulics. The sound of hammering and drilling on a construction site nearby softly floats in with the pale yellow sunlight. The smell of Aspen trees is thick in the air.
I walk into a small restaurant called the Uptown Fare; a local’s haunt, which is known for it’s “home cooking”. The ceilings are so low that your first impulse is to duck down when you enter. I order a roasted vegetable sandwich, fill my water glass and sit at one of the tiny tables abutting the counter. A tall man comes into the restaurant. From his demeanor and the reaction of the staff, I can tell that he is a regular there. After making small talk with every person he passes getting to his table of choice, he sits down and strikes up conversation with me.
I have a secret love affair with conversation between strangers. After going back and forth for quite some time, and having just returned from Hong Kong he told me that he thinks that the downfall of mankind was the “mind your own business attitude” we have in the civilized world. He told me that he hates the fact that people don’t know how to connect with one another and that they judge each other because everyone keeps to their own. He informed me that he is a real estate salesman and that all the money he has made, he has made because he is not afraid to say the first word and make a connection. I commended him on his friendliness and then he asked me “what do you think was the downfall of mankind?” I was going to tell him cleverly that I wasn’t aware that mankind had fallen but then I figured… I’d rather humor him. I gave him my answer, which is… Property Ownership.
Humans are a tribal, community based species. It is encoded in their DNA. For thousands of years human survival depended upon each other. I could not even list all the negative things that have been born from the idea of ownership, especially property ownership. Think the caste system, think the British monarchy, think colonialism, think The Trail of Tears, think the battle over the Gaza Strip, think gangs, think of a single mother trying to raise her children and work a full time job alone. Think WAR. The suppression of the feminine is actually the result of property ownership. Once people owned land, it was crucial to have a successor and because of that, it was crucial to claim the female who would bring forth that successor and consider her as well as your offspring as “yours”. For the sake of this blog, let’s focus on a byproduct of property ownership... The idea of the single family home.
People were never “supposed” to live in isolated units. It is contrary to their health and to their happiness to have broken off into smaller and smaller groups. As the modern world progresses, a chokehold of isolation and loneliness is sweeping the world. We become more and more segregated from each other. Divided, we are weak. We are susceptible to outside control, including government control when we are divided like we are. We are desperate for community. This is the real reason we hold so tight to our religions. Most people who enter their churches on a Sunday morning are not there because of their undying belief in the teachings of the religion itself. This is why there are so many “Bad Catholics” and “Jack Mormons” for example. They are there for community. They are there because it is a place to belong and if they broke free from that community, they would be cast out. Humans fear being cast out more than they fear anything. They fear it enough to not ask questions.
This is why cults manage to recruit the members that they do. Cults promise both significance and connection. They offer people a place to belong and people to belong with. For people who lack a sense of connection and belonging and significance, those things are worth anything. As we saw with the Jonestown Massacre, they are even worth dying for. What has happened to make it so that so many people lack a sense of connection? One of the biggest culprits is the single family home. If you, as a child only have the option of fitting in with your mother, father and siblings and you don’t… your life will be one of isolation and emptiness. When a multitude of people and personalities is available to the child, the child is more likely to find someone to connect to. Also, in a single family home that is unhealthy, the child is being raised in an atmosphere of only the ingredients made available to him or her by those few unhealthy people that they have access to. Bigotry is one example. If a child experiences multiple perspectives, they will see that opinion does not equal truth. It will not be a requirement to adopt unhealthy beliefs in order to simply fit in with the group. And if they lose the love of one person, they can find it elsewhere. For those of us who were raised in single-family homes, losing our mother’s love or our father’s love often times meant getting no love from anyone.
It takes a village to raise a child. This is in fact how children are supposed to be raised… By a village. I am not going to tread lightly and say that it’s better to raise a child in a healthy community. I’m going to say it is crucial to raise a child in a healthy community if you want to give a child a shot at being healthy on all levels.
Do you know why parenting is so hard? It's so hard because it was never supposed to be a one person job. In fact, it was never supposed to be a two person job. Yes… a child will only be as healthy as the people around the child and so obviously it makes a difference what kind of community a child is raised in. But the thing to remember is that the more perspectives that a child is exposed to, the easier it will be for that child to pick and choose what is right for themselves.
Take a look at single mothers today. Our modern era, where technically a woman can financially support herself and survive on her own without a man has given men the right to relinquish their role entirely and let women “do it all” alone. With often times no support whatsoever, single mothers work full time to put their children through daycare. With transient attachment figures, these children often develop insecure attachment styles and interpersonal disorders. With no support, these mothers experience unprecedented stress levels that take a toll on their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
In a community the extraordinary responsibility of raising a child is dispersed among the members and the child has the option of spending time with whoever is the most “in alignment” at the time. To give you a practical example, this means that instead of huddling in a corner waiting for mom and dad to stop screaming at each other, the child could walk next door to spend time with another adult mentor and potentially get help working through their feelings. This means instead of yelling at the kids to stop making noise, mom could get some free time to nurture herself. This means dad would not be saddled with the full responsibility and pressure of providing. This means that if you got sick and lost your job, you wouldn’t lose everything and there would be people there to help care for you.
Intentional community is the face of the progression of our species. It is not just an unrealistic, irresponsible hippie ideal. Whilst right now there is no guarantee that intentional community would not just turn into yet another example of tribe against tribe, as we become more and more conscious, we move closer and closer to the possibility of a species-wide community, where there is no segregation between us… One human tribe. Right now, we seek community out online. We feel closer with our friends on face-book than we do with the people we physically spend time around. But the truth is, we need actual physical connection. We need to take our online communities and create actual, physical intentional communities. Our connection needs to be tangible, not just virtual. Today, I am more inspired than ever to start up intentional communities and host intentional community expos around the world. I credit so much of my own happiness to my decision to live in an intentional community. I dream of seeing people connect and form healthy, thriving tribes across the world.
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