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Monday, May 9, 2011

A Life Lived Together

 I'm re-posting this from a question I asked on another site so you tea sanctuary people please bear with the redundancy. These are a few thoughts I put together as an answer to why I am so interested in the idea of intentional community, especially in the United States. I am thinking that I will expand each of the three threads into it's own post later on. The introduction I wrote for my original comment is not really relevant in a stand alone context so I have created a new one for the sake of this post.
 I have been fascinated with the idea of intentionally forming a holistic community, mostly so that I could be a part of it, for something like six years now. For a number of reasons I have recently had the opportunity to begin working through my reasons for why I thought that an intentional community is such a great idea. While there are quite a few, I find that I am personally persuaded by three threads of thought: historical, philosophical and theological. While I hope that each of these threads is, in itself, enough to justify the pursuit, they have all played a part in bringing me to my own position of the subject.

   Historically people do not live or operate in isolation. In fact it is only in the last 100 or so years that we have developed enough technology to "sustain" isolated lives. So far as I can tell, we in America have treated this use of technology as a good thing. We talk about becoming more independent or reliant. Only in the last 30 or so years have people begun to question the value of achieving this level of independence. As that warning has grown, I have become convinced that isolation and merely voluntary interaction with other people is one of the negative rather than positive side effects of the scientific revolution. I believe that we are essentially social beings, which means that we cannot experience a fulfilled life (kingdom tao) outside of interdependent relationships (though in a few unusual instances God might call someone to rely solely on Him for the fulfillment of this need - Adam was not one of these unusual people).
The problem now is that the technology and the wealth already exist. As a result, we are not basically dependent on other people, at least not on people outside the nuclear family and work. All other relationships are purely voluntary. This means that rather than the more natural interdependence which existed and kept people fulfilled in the past. We are in a position which calls us to choose voluntary interdependence. But this is a choice we must make if we want to fully enter the tao.
  Philosophically I want to re-stress this concept that we are essentially social beings. I believe that the most basic unit of society is actually the family (not the individual) because the family is the smallest possible self-sustaining unit. This transition from an enlightenment individual focus, means that all relationship types need to be shifted up a notch when we consider their importance: friendships ought to be as important as we usually think family is, acquaintances as importance as friendship, social organizations (neighborhood, city, state, country) all need to make a similar shift. What I am trying to get at is this idea that there is no such thing as a fully healthy individual in isolation. Healthy individuals only exist in relationship to other individuals filling different roles. Although I may have implied differently above, there really is no such thing as voluntary interdependence. We simply are interdependent, by nature. Just as we are oxygen and food dependent by nature. Thus "voluntary interdependence" is about as redundant as "voluntary dependence on oxygen". It only needs to be said because so many people in our culture have incorporated "oxygen deprivation" into their world view.
  Theologically I believe that interdependence begins, and is modeled in the Godhead. God is love, C.S. Lewis interprets that as a statement of God's relational nature. Before all other things are created, God the Father is in a love relationship with God the Son, which is so powerful that the relationship itself, the love, is a further person: God the Spirit. 
  I believe that this essential relational nature is part of what was incorporated into the Imago Dei when God created Adam. That creation was "not good" yet because man was alone, God had only created half of a human. So the creation of Eve (and with her, family) created the first full humans; we come in pairs.
I believe that Jesus purposefully built interdependence into the church and made it integral to the tao. Paul is especially clear on this point; even our union with Christ is not based on just the two of us. We are members (plural) of his body. "Christ in us" means that we are joined together in Him. 
  My intention to form an intentional community is based on my intention to live a fuller life, an abundant life, to live according the tao which is the Kingdom of Heaven. And I believe that that kind of life is a life lived in voluntary, interdependent community with others.


  1. I totally agree with everything you said here. An intentional community sounds like a wonderful thing and definitely the way to have a more full life! We were made to need each other! If I go a couple of days without real interaction with others, I feel like something is missing. I feel like my life is being wasted. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

  2. love where you're going with this...

    and it reminds me of this quote resonating with the communal, epistemic-orientation in the Tao Te Ching:

    "Knowing others is wisdom;
    Knowing the self is enlightenment.
    Mastering others requires virtue/power (Te);
    Mastering the self requires strength;
    He who knows he has enough is rich.
    Perseverance is a sign of will power.
    He who stays where he is endures.
    To die but not to perish is to be eternally present."