Trade Offs

“Were your parents disappointed that you joined the commune?” Aurora (new member Angelica’s mom) asked me on our long bus ride from Richmond to NYC. “They were not thrilled, but it was a big step up from me spending time in Ukrainian jails in their eyes.”

Which got us into the discussion of trade offs. Part of what is so rich about the “Should I join a commune?” discussion is the tremendous set of trade offs. Are you willing to give up fast internet to not have a boss? Could you give up the accessible culture and vibrancy of the city, so you no longer had to worry about money (no bills, virtually no living costs)? Would you be willing to live in a smaller space so that you had access to all of the resources which are collectively shared?

trade offs see saws

People come to the commune for lots of different reasons. Many are seeking a place to feel like they belong, a sense of clan or tribe. Others come because they want to dramatically reduce their ecological impact. Yet others want to reduce their stress or have more flexibility. But the reasons to come, often turn out not to be the reasons to stay.

To “make it” in the commune most people need to feel like they have friends to hang with and/or feel supported by. In the dozens to types of work we have, are there some which make you feel good about what you are doing? If you come from an advantaged class background, you are likely living with far less access to resources than if you stayed in the mainstream. If you grew up poor, you are likely living with at least some people who don’t realize how much easier they had it not coming from that background. Is your love life working with this small number of prospective partners?


Sometimes the missing piece is love

Sometimes the missing piece is love

I try to talk with people who are leaving the community about their thought process, about why they are choosing to move on. Most leave with good feelings about the commune overall. They need to try something new. Or they have an opportunity which is calling or won’t wait. Some feel like they are stuck or not growing as they would like to. Others never intended to stay and they have decided now is their moment.

And some leave less harmoniously. They have a difficult break up, or did not find the friend network that wanted. Some people don’t feel they have enough privacy or personal space in our hyper village. Others can’t make the diet work or miss watching live TV. Some feel disconnected from the events of the world or their need to influence them.

Then perhaps commune life is not for you

Then perhaps commune life is not for you

Every community has it’s own flavor, and for many it is an acquired taste.

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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.

One response to “Trade Offs”

  1. Red River says :

    In my limited experience with income-sharing communities, one has to have a very high tolerance for interpersonal drama in order to thrive on a commune. There’s also the fact that, while communities like TO make clear they are not therapeutic communities for those dealing with mental illness, some members and visitors have rather odd personal habits or behaviors that make it difficult for others to form friendships with them. Like — not saying “hello” or speaking to others for a long spell, or not showering/bathing for a long time.

    I concluded that commune life might be great for someone who is at the extremes of personal behavior and/or who thrives on other people’s personal drama. Not being in those categories, I realized that commune living is not for me.

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