Sunflowervillager's Blog

Growing into community

Patience, Compromise, Focus October 11, 2011

Patience, compromise and focus seem to be the order of the day.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the University and I was fortunate enough to snag a few minutes with the professor I respect most. We had a conversation about where I’m at and where I’m determined to go. I told him my thoughts and plans. He understands me well. He helped me re-recognize that my classic obstacles is that “you want it, you want it all, and it you want it yesterday”. He helped me set it straight. “Get yourself the job, give yourself time to get used to it. Build your living community. It is going to take time and all of your energy as it’s no easy thing. THEN when that is somewhat established, you can do your non-profit or maybe go to grad-school. But if you try to do everything at once, you aren’t going to do any of it well”. This is hard stuff for me to hear, but I can listen and get myself to change when this man says it. It works: that its, it helps me polish myself so I can accomplish what I want to. So I keep going back, tears or no (usually some tears).

The other thing that Prof and I talked about, echoed in conversations with others I trust and respect, is the need for compromise. Hypothetically it is clear to me that I cannot wake up tomorrow in the world of which I dream. I have to compromise with the world as it exists, or I will become paralyzed in dreamer’s theory and never able to move it to action. The tricky part is how to compromise without feeling like I’m selling out. What is key here is to remember that I have a transformative drive. That is to say, my desire to build a better society is not affected by what work I do or who I do it for. Still, there are some things which I would find entirely too hypocritical in light of what I have concluded so far, such as working for a fast-food, factory-farm supplied establishment.

Recent events on a national scale, the Occupy movements, are something of growing interest to me. At first I felt only mildly interested – up til now, widespread perception and my personal experience of the effectiveness of demonstrations is that they don’t seem to accomplish much. Partly because in contemporary decades, they are too often too easy to ignore and dismiss. This time it is different. The protests on Wall Street have spread to other cities and towns across the USA. It is exciting to see so many Americans uniting around this kind of action. It is sprouting critically needed dialogues, between people’s convergent needs and suffering, and their diverse voices and experiences and concerns. My appreciation for this dialogue is accompanied by adrenaline rushes of excitement, this is the kind of dialogue which makes me feel happy, hopeful, excited.

This morning, a convoluted thought process brought me around to an epiphany about how my personal struggles are reflected on a wider scale, and vice versa. It was a torrent of thoughts and visualizations and experiences, and suddenly I found that my brain had rewired to allow a broader perspective, for compromise. For a long time, I have been very suspicious of all corporations. But what I came around to this morning was that we now have corporations which empower us. Without the companies that develop and make my laptop, my phone, my internet service, etc, I would be a lot further away from my dreams. I would not be now sharing this post with you, or having dialogues between towns or states or countries at the ease of touching my finger to a button or a screen. Some of these companies don’t just provide world-changers with tools, but themselves offer a renewed hope to families and individuals. There are companies with real benefits (not that fake bare-minimum stuff), with unions and potential for living wages. That’s not to say that we should not Occupy, ask questions, have dialogues. I still aspire for new economic systems (note the s), which provide greater stability and self-reliance in Americans. But we need some of those corporations, and I need to start being nicer to those. Wall Street is not going to go away tomorrow, and we’d be in some trouble if it did. I want to be clear, and encourage protesters to be clear, about which corporations (I will not say “who”) we protest, and why. I’m not mad at AT&T

Patience, me. Job first, practice wise compromises, continue dialogues and building relationships.  Patience world-changers, non-violent social revolution is needs be a slow process, full of dialogue and self-reflection. It also needs meaningful, sustained action and well-considered development of alternatives. Keep it up!

 

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The stress you risk by wanting a different world as a poor person August 31, 2011

Filed under: economy,risk,solidarity,wage — Saera @ 7:50 am

After I read Walden Two, I gave it to Daniel to read. We talked a fair bit about intentional communities over the past couple of weeks. We came to the conclusion that to really move the Sunflower Village Initiative forward, we need to develop a village. This will allow us to demonstrate that a solidarity-oriented village can work. It will give us credibility with individuals, families, other intentional communities, donors, and other interested parties. While this plan makes sense to me, its implications for my personal life are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, it is bringing the village back to a very personal level for me: I can move forward on creating a village for me personally to live in. On the other hand, I am unsure of how to best make my living in the mean time.I had planned to develop SVI to the point that I could hire myself and then others to work on the project full and part time.

My personal situation lately has been feeling rather desperate. While I was in India, finances became very difficult and complicated for Daniel and myself. As I had difficulty finding a compatible job after my return, I didn’t find work until late July. Between Daniel’s hard work and my position as a nanny with a new family, it seemed that we were about to stabilize financially. Unfortunately, the physical challenges of Daniel’s work have led to some chronic health difficulties, and he hasn’t been able to work much lately. Additionally, we have had to spend some money on doctors fees. I’m not looking for sympathy or advice on the work situation here. It’s just that this is the nitty gritty reality of what goes on when you’re poor and idealistic in America. I feel frustrated that, finally having got together enough income between the two of us to start attacking our mountain of bills and debt, a source of income has been reduced by the way that income is gained. This is the sort of cyclical expletive garbage that makes me just want to quit America. I couldn’t sleep this morning I felt so stressed from trying to figure out how to deal with this cycle of poverty and work conditions. That kind of stress is one of the most ignored effects of poverty and one of the grinding and degrading conditions I hope for villages to eradicate.

Personally, I’m nauseous from work where either I sit on my hands and do almost nothing, or grind my body through repetitive and numbing actions, and at the end of the day, I still don’t know how two people working a total of at least 70 hours a week are going to pay for basic necessities, let alone attack the debt. One of the things I thought about yesterday was carpentry. It’s a possibility I come back to from time to time when I feel frustrated by school or idle work. I looked up carpentry in Massachusetts. The union offers training… which takes four years. I found that upsetting, like I should have listened to myself and quit college for technical school years ago. Here I am, with a degree, and still no jobs I want, except to ddvelop and run the Sunflower Village Initiative. Had I gone for a carpentry apprenticeship, I could be making money and building a village.

But there’s no changing that now. But I’m feeling a little calmer and, after writing all of this, my headache is gone. Because I’ve decided what I’m going to do. I’m not going to set an order, because all of these things need to move forward and all need current attention. So, starting with the most personal:

I need a new job, or at least a second job. I need to make more money, and far more reliably too. I need to work towards making enough money that it doesn’t matter if Daniel works or not: for now so that he can quit a job that is literally, according to doctors, wearing his body out, and for later, so that he can fully focus on school. In other words, I need to make a grown-up’s salary.

I need to actively form an intentional community. I have already put out feelers to a few people whom I think it would be great to start a village with. If you want to build a village with me, in all seriousness, let me know.

I’m going to continue working towards making SVI a tangible reality that can pay. This is the job that I truly want, and no one is making it but me. Maybe I could have gone about this differently, but I’m almost 27 and it’s time to act on what I’ve done, not what I might have done.

 

In the words of the illustrious John Gerber July 13, 2011

Filed under: economy,food/agri/garden,subsidiarity — Saera @ 12:33 am

http://world.edu/content/future-sustainable-food-farming/

This is a blog by one of my favorite professors, John Gerber. If it is unclear why local/subsidiarity approach is a critical component of the Sunflower Village Initiative, I imagine this post can offer some illumination.

 

 

 

Productive in the World July 7, 2011

I went to DELA (Don’t Eat Lunch Alone) in Springfield for the first time. I found out about it through the Pioneer Valley Local First group on Linkedin. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, Don’t Eat Lunch Alone is the idea that lunch can be used as valuable networking time. This group brings together people to discuss ideas relating to business and employment. I found the discussion interesting and I met some people who I think will be helpful with the Sunflower Village Initiative, so I’m glad I went and I’m likely to go again.

I also went to the Forbes Library and wandered around until I realized what I wanted to look at: Treehouse architecture. I found two books, one of which I know I’ve seen before used and desperately want to buy but can’t. So I read that until the library closed. After  picking up my partner from work, we came home and I grabbed a quick dinner of canned soup and grilled cheese, then left again. I went to a volunteer training for Habitat for Humanity. Now I can volunteer on sites for them, not just stuff envelopes. 😀 I’m really excited about the non-profit skills I’m going to learn from them, in addition to house-building skills.

 

Saera on Economy June 15, 2010

Filed under: economy — Saera @ 6:31 am

huh, thought I posted this last fall and I guess I never did.

 

“Visions of Utopia” documentaries on intentional communities around US December 3, 2009

Filed under: economy,existing communities,geography — Saera @ 10:27 pm

Watching  the “Visions of Utopia” DVDs is an educational and inspiring experience for anyone interested in intentional community and sustainable social movements. One of the things that I found most eye opening was the incredible diversity of intentional community styles. While I knew from reading and study that intentional communities could be very diverse, it was quite a different experience to hear about the development of the communities, to witness some of the physical culture of the communities, and to hear the perspectives and experiences of a variety of community members. A special treat for me was the inclusion of Twin Oaks. I first encountered Twin Oaks while researching sustainable living and intentional communities at the Boston Public Library. I discovered Twin Oaks, a Walden Two Experiment, which is an accounting of the first five years of the Twin Oaks community. I was very inspired by the history and practices I found. Later, I was delighted to discover that the community still exists, now with a membership of 85 adults and 15 children. I have occasionally visited the Twin Oaks website. To see the place and some of its inhabitants in the “Visions of Utopia” documentary was very exciting. In watching the videos, I came to better appreciate the cohousing model. Still, I am most excited about the intentional communities which have a sustainability focus, particularly those which incorporate gardening and other sustainable, self-sufficiency supporting practices. I thought it was interesting that in some communities, founding members were initially primarily interested in the practicality of sharing material resources, but found that one of the most important resources were social, revolving around the deep emotional bonds that formed from sharing high proportions of activities and people’s lives. The multi-generational aspect of all the intentional communities portrayed is an important indicator that this kind of approach to living is something that does not just function for people in any one age group. I am glad that the documentary allowed space for children and young people to talk about their experiences growing up or living in these intentional communities. It demonstrated their appreciation for this lifestyle. All the children appeared healthy and happy, and those who were interviewed had glowing, healthy countenances, and spoke clearly and intelligently. They seemed to share an appreciation for access to many different adults and for the diversity that surrounded them. Parents valued the sense that children were safe in the community, even if they did not watch them every moment. Many people also commented on the value of sharing responsibility for raising children. Some communities do have a low proportions of youth, but they are generally aware of this and taking steps to enable the intentional community to pass to following generations.

 

Notes from cashiering November 24, 2009

Filed under: community structure,economy,interconnected,organization — Saera @ 7:55 pm

Ziplines
Source of energy: human muscle + gravity
function: transportation of people and light – medium loads between central house and satellites (and between satellites?)
Avoids walking in snow/rain, unnecessary trips.
Further research: potential for carrying children/sick/elderly/handicapped

Blog Topics:
-giving and getting
-The relevance of Spiritual development
– Religion and Respect in a village setting
-the grand scale/international level
-Fiction and Inspiration
-Family and Social Structure
-Expectations of accomplishment
-Shifting ideals into reality
-planning a collective future.

Giving: types
-Reciprocal gain: expected return of investment in terms of personal expectations of behavior and benefit
-Fostering/Care: giving with the vision of inspiring and demonstrating compassion similarly.
-Giving of true appreciation: giving inspired by the presence of a person in one’s life

Risks and complications of giving and receiving: dependency, incurred debt, competition, complex relations, taboos.