The Trouble with Spaceships and Astronauts

The image of the community asSpaceship comes up occasionally in this blog. But I think that there’s a problem with the Spaceship metaphor for communities–especially if it embraces the idea that we are looking for a few special people (‘astronauts’, ‘superstars’) to venture out into the unknown with us. In order to understand my difficulty with the this, I want to go over what’s involved in sending out a spaceship–and, by analogy, creating community. It begins with hundreds of people involved with mining various ores deep within the earth. These are taken to refineries where thousands of others work to extract metals, purify them, and mold them into parts. From there, the parts go to factories where many, many workers assemble them into spaceship components which are then shipped (by more people) to the launching site where lots and lots of NASA employees work to fit them together into the final ship.

Not assembling spaceships, but could be...

Not assembling spaceships, but could be…

Meanwhile, there are scientists busy figuring out the best compounds to power these ships. Many more workers pipe the fuels to the launch site where others pump them into fuel tanks. At the site engineers test and evaluate every component and if their advice and warnings are ignored, it can lead to disaster. As the astronauts enter the spaceship and wait for the countdown, everything is coordinated and monitored by dozens of flight controllers in mission control. Yet spotlight is always on the few folks in the crew compartment.

Keeping an eye on it all

Keeping an eye on it all

The trouble with looking at communities as spaceships and astronauts is that it’s focused on a few ‘brave heroic souls’ who dare take on this mission, and not the vast diverse team of people who work together to make all this possible. Community is not a small group of superstars, it’s a team of flawed imperfect people (because we all are) who are struggling together to build a new world. Community isn’t a spaceship or a lifeboat, it’s a living, breathing organism that needs to be nurtured and supported, and it survives and thrives when there’s a diverse group of people living and working cooperatively and collectively.

A new image of community?

A new image of community?

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About moonraven222

I'm an old guy interested in everything, but particularly Simple Living, Intentional Community, Systems Theory, Permaculture, Personal Growth, Social Change, Social Justice, Sustainability, Love, Compassion, Communication, Forgiveness, and Healing.

8 responses to “The Trouble with Spaceships and Astronauts”

  1. leavergirl says :

    Yup. I had a problem with the lifeboat analogy. People don’t live on lifeboats. Lifeboats just ferry people out of danger. Spaceships? Well, they are off to conquer another planet. Ugh. 😉

    So yes, I go with incipient organism. After all, in the beginning were just cells coming together because being together seemed to give them an edge. A better way to be. And a whole new game was afoot.

    • moonraven222 says :

      Good points. I hadn’t thought of looking at lifeboats and spaceships that way.

      And I like your point about cells coming together. Emergence–it works for organisms and for communities.

      Thanks, Leavergirl!

  2. MILO says :

    the druid said to the spaceman “You need SHIPS to travel in space?!”

  3. March says :

    This was an interesting read for me, an outsider. The spaceship metaphor also bothers me because of the “we’re leaving rotten Earth behind” idea (I know, too much Hollywood.) The future, as they say, is now, and we need communities like Acorn and Twin Oaks right here, engaging the larger world.

  4. livemsic says :

    This was an intriguing story to read, thank you. I too, am an outsider who in the last five years has experienced a shift of some kind. I believe that communities like Acorn and Twin Oaks are the future even though I have never lived your lifestyle nor known anyone who has. What you are accomplishing there is miraculous and enlightened. A welcome change from what seemingly surrounds me in “civil”lization. I truly believe that work in its own way can be a positive, almost nurturing meditative exercise provided there is a common goal to motivate. I really love how kindness, compassion and love dominates your society. It is truly a beautiful thing.
    I really must visit, soon.

    • moonraven222 says :

      Please come and visit us. I think we are the future–or at least a future. And it’s absolutely true that “work in its own way can be a positive, almost nurturing meditative exercise provided there is a common goal to motivate.” You can see that here.

      But Twin Oaks, Acorn, and the other income sharing communities are also places filled with real, fallible human beings. I only wish that “kindness, compassion and love dominates”. Maybe someday. Meanwhile there are petty squabbles around here and people who feel slighted or jealous or hostile and occasionally take it out on others–but I still think we treat each other better than anyplace in Corporate America.

      • livemsic says :

        Thank you, moonraven222. I’ve been looking at the calendar and think I might try for a 3 week visit in August or September, if that is possible. Paxus has been very kind and informative in our brief correspondence over the last two days.

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