Sunflowervillager's Blog

Growing into community

A mouthful March 3, 2009

Filed under: family,intergenerational,social investment,subsidiarity — Saera @ 1:44 am

The term Sunflower Village Initiative has been kicking around in my notebooks and thoughts for about a year now. It’s the bigger picture for me… the idea that I don’t want to just start another intentional community. It’s a critical time in the existence of Terra, and we need something bigger than that. While I appreciate the many communities which already exist, I see the need for this to become something more. Right now a lot of the communities that exist are only for a select type of people. We need that to become available for everyone, without losing sight of what we’re about. I don’t propose a homogenization of any kind. I believe firmly in the principle of subsidiarity – that is, that everything that can be done at the most local level should be done first, and only then should the next level up be resorted to.

Any thorough study of history will yield the fact that the modern (sorry to use the word) nuclear family is a very recent invention indeed. Up through the earlier part of last century (the 1900s) in the United States, it was much more common for even the most urban families to have several generations living nearby, if not together. And more rural families, while sometimes quite distant from each other, were in tight-knit communities which relied on each other for survival. This trend for local, small-scale, intergenerational communities has been the trend for thousands of years of human existence, with good reasons. People most local to an area have the most knowledge about the real circumstances present and what has the best chance of actually improving those conditions. Anthropology and other social studies are finally showing evidence that humanity thrives on cooperation more than competition. We survive better if we help each other live, and we can do that by rebuilding community in the truest sense of the world. Right now we are so compartmentalized…. the people at home, the people at work, the people at school, the people in the actual towns where we live (since so many of us commute in some form). What if more of those people in different groups were the same people? Wouldn’t we have more meaning and context in our lives?

A week from last Wednesday, I fell hard on my hands and sprained a few fingers. I’m alright, really. I’m sharing this to make a point. When I moved to Northampton, I hardly knew anyone. Without the community that I’ve connected with through my Buddhist practice, I might be connected primarily with coworkers and Umass students. Both of these groups of people are good people, but when I was trying to figure out the best way to get the healthcare I needed, it was the people with whom I had invested the most. Although I didn’t need all the help offered, it felt good to realize how truly connnected I am to people who aren’t fairweather friends. That to me is a lot of what is missing in our society. The other aspect is a lack of that kind of intimacy with Terra. If we invest in her, like the people we love, she too can be there when we need her, not just when we feel like appreciating all she has to share.

My apologies if this first post is a bit rough. Sometimes everything related to these ideas gets so tied together for me that I have difficulties seperating them out so that they’re as eloquent and coherent as I’d like to become about all of this.