The Fundamental Problem: Trust

Here is a curious pair of statistics.  Louisa County Virginia has 33K people in it.  It also has four income sharing intentional communities (Twin Oaks, Acorn, Sapling and Living Energy Farm).  NYC has 8.4 million inhabitants.  NYC has only one secular partially income sharing community (Ganas) though there are rumors of another in Brooklyn, we are investigating.

a most extraordinary place

a most extraordinary place

What is going on here?

My theory, which is certainly disputed, is that the foundation of community is trust.  Here in rural Virginia we have it pretty easy at least materially.  Crime is low, we are practiced in being civilized, fair and pleasant to each other (though we don’t always succeed).  Building trust feels good, so we build it.

One of the first thing you are taught by the natives arriving in NYC is “trust no one”.  The city is dangerous and looking for suckers.  Not just financially, but emotionally and if you swing that way spiritually.  It can grind you up and spit you out if you don’t protect yourself from its wiles.

Beatrice disagrees.  Her experience is that the (non-residential) community she experiences in NYC is deeper and richer than other parts of the country.  Beatrice is part of Point A, a guest writer for this blog and is a world class networker.   She is also certainly much more experienced with the city than I am and I often defer to her wisdom.

There are other factors as well, of course.  Exceptionally high rents and real estate values means there is less room for social experimentation.  There is also in my mind a “role your own” mentality in NYC, where everyone seems to cobble together a housing/work/social situation which addresses the pressures of the city.  Generally, there is not much room for others in these ingeniously and carefully crafted arrangements.

Would you join the conversation?

Would you join the conversation?

We are having another event in NYC this very weekend.  In Prospect Park if the weather holds (back at the Brooklyn BUZ if it is raining).  If you are interested in forming community in NYC please feel invited.  Details of where it will be in the Park will show up on Facebook.  Or just email me at paxus at twin oaks dot org and I will hook you up.    Please do RSVP on the Facebook page or in the comment section of this blog post.

Catalyzing Urban Communes Potluck Picnic

Come join activists, artists, communally minded, and friends interested in sparking intentional communities inside NYC.  This lively somewhat structured conversation will explore how to form new communities in the city and what would it take for you to be part of them.  We are also welcoming of people who aren’t interested in living collectively, or who are not seeking an urban setting, but still want to help these kinds of living solutions to exist and are willing to put time into helping or advising.

Share food, share ideas, share dreams, share each other

Prospect Park (exact location TBD)

rain location: Brooklyn Urban dZong

starts 1 PM – ends 5 PM Sunday May 11

bring a picnic dish, preferably vegan

bring your own plate/bowl/flatware/drinking vessel

1:00-1:30 Opening Game and Potluck Feeding Frenzy
1:30-2:00 The Sharing and Solidarity Sermon (a focusing and inciting exercise)
2:00-3:00 Speed Dating Idea Factory: Pairs or small groups will talk to each other for a few minutes with different prompts relating to the Point A project and write down their best ideas on 3×5 cards which they leave behind when they switch partners to inspire and be added to by the next conversation.
3:00-3:30 Hot Idea Selection:  Which of these conversations do we want to develop and work on further.
3:30-4:30 A Deeper Conversation: Medium size groups will coalesce around the selected hot topics for a longer conversation.  Likely including a small group that wants to live in an income sharing community inside NYC
4:30-5:00 Sharing, Summarizing, Next Steps

The Best Name Tags Ever:  When you arrive you will be interviewed by a volunteer who will write you a descriptive name tag packed with relevant information.

The Churning:  Facilitators will be collecting the 3×5 cards and flitting between the group conversations to collect ideas and reinject them back into the discussion and the ending session.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

10 responses to “The Fundamental Problem: Trust”

  1. Onan says :

    Lived in NYC for decades, and I don’t think there was a trust issue there, nor do I hear or say “trust no one” about the place. On the contrary, there are all sorts of sharing communities there, and people are necessarily used to strangers, encountering so many each day, and often more immediately welcoming of them than in many smaller places.

    Real estate costs are extremely high there. This much is true.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Onan:

      Perhaps i am completely wrong. But i certainly have heard words of caution, especially around strangers who want things from you. From a light on their cigarette to spare change to your contribution to their exotic cause.

      Paxus at Acorn

  2. Michael White says :

    Pax, love ya but this is just not logical – ie because people do not live the exact way you choose to live then there must be a lack of trust? That trust is simply higher in your locale thus income sharing communities can emerge? What percentage of the population of the four communities in VA are people that did not emigrate to the region to live in community? How exactly is trust location specific? This requires unfounded leaps of logic that are just too much for me.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Michael:

      What i believe (and i am happy to be challenged on this) is living together and sharing incoming and both activities which require high levels of trust. It is not about how i would like them to live (tho i would like them to live this way) it is my wondering out loud why there are so few people living this way in the city. Certainly a significant fraction of the people who live in the communes here migrated here to live in them. But there are so many people in NYC, the absence of these communities seems to say something about the city. I am open to it being something other than a lack of trust, but given that there are income sharing communities in other cities, especially in other countries – why in NYC so tilted against these forms of sharing? I am open to your theories – as always.

      PAxus at Acorn

      • Michael White says :

        I think “why are there few intentional/group/community living options in NYC?” is a great question. However that’s not what I want to challenge you on. You are engaging in a formal logical fallacy called Denying the Antecedent ( I regularly read your very thoughtful and rigorous take downs of the nuclear industry / status quo and am inclined to agree with your point of view on many things. Thus its way disconcerting for me to see this sort of obvious logical misstep. I do not expect this sort of sloppy thinking from you 😦

      • paxus says :

        You are right.

  3. Chuck says :

    Too bad it’s on a Sunday. I’d consider going but that is Mother’s Day. If you happen upon anyone who is interested in forming a community in central/coastal NJ, I would be interested. I’m not much of a city person, anyway. Local to coastal Monmouth County (Ocean Grove/Asbury Park) here. Some decent property inland if people could go in on it. More likely a shared home situation than buying much land as it’s so expensive here.

  4. Tree Bressen says :

    Omigosh, your event format is only a hairsbreadth away from the activity “35”, you should try it! 35 is a quick and fun way for a group to collect and rank ideas.

    Each person writes down one and only one idea–their best idea–on one index card. Everyone swap cards. Then find a partner, the two people compare the two ideas they have received and assign a total of 7 points to those two ideas, based on their relative merits. They arrive at a QUICK consensus on the point distribution–0/7, 1/6, 2/5, 3/4–and write the # of points on the back of each card. Ready? Everyone swap cards with new people, and then everyone form new pairs, and do it again. 4 more times in fact (5 scoring rounds total), and then tally the results of the final card you are holding, so that each card now has a total of 0-35 points on the back. All this is super-tightly timed using chimes or something, say less than a minute to swap cards and change partners, and 2 min. each time to decide scoring–so in 15 minutes the entire group has collectively scored and prioritized ideas. Be strict, no one gets to write more than one idea card, must follow the timing and point guidelines, etc.

    Then the facilitator asks the whole group: “Is anyone holding a card that has a point total of 35? If so, please read it aloud (to everyone).” If no 35s, ask for 34s, and so on–count down as far as seems useful or as time permits.

    Credit here:, i learned this activity from Tom Atlee and have used it successfully at events.

  5. Kip Gardner says :

    There is a mountain of sociological data that shows anomie levels are much higher in large cities. I think that this forms a sort of ‘background vibe’ that is very hard to overcome, not impossible, but hard. It’s therefore not a lack of trust, but a disinclination to engage meaningfully and more than fleetingly.

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