When Cric House was a young community, just like a young child, it was very playful, spontaneous social, optimistic and even adventurous.
We just loved doing shit together. Didn’t matter what it was. We invited tons of wwoofers and interns, and could not even tell the difference between work and play. Everything was fun and exciting. When money was needed we found ways to make money, when work was needed we all got together to make it happen.
Cambia community is only 2 years old. Some could say that it hasn’t fully been born yet because we have not had consistent membership. That is completely fair and I can’t argue against that, but still, at Cambia we adopt much more adventurous measures than some of the older communities.
We are currently known for the community that has a boat that won’t float.
Why does a small struggling community that has so little money, labor, or other resources invest in such a challenging form of housing? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to get a used camper or a single-wide trailer with some water damage for cheap?
Why spend so much work building a pond instead of a doughboy pool with some bleach from the dollar store?
So the explanation for this insanity has to do with our age again. We are in some kind of teenage phase. It’s a phase where we have to wear our identity externally so to communicate it with the world as well as internalize it more thoroughly.
So there is one other part to this answer that goes beyond identity expression: in a small community, there is a greater chance of people saying “yes!” to someone’s crazy idea. That craziness could be art, it could be environmentalist ideology, it could be implementing a new ritual, and it could even be a financially risky move.
In older communities there seems to be much more caution and pragmatism. Much more of an institutional memory of all the ways and which things have gone poorly before when people were irresponsible. But there is also something even deeper than that: there are disappointments and grief that simply don’t get worked out, they are old scars that never heal, and they manifest in the unwillingness to rejoice in someone else’s party, because one’s own party didn’t go so well.
So communities end up recapitulating the normal biological processes of aging by turning every injury into chronic muscle tightness around it. With age, flexibility is reduced and tensions increase, certain routine ways of doing things turn into deep grooves of wrinkles, and a general tiredness sets in.
This doesn’t mean death. And even death doesn’t mean death because communities keep on being reborn all the time. And members of community X that may have been grumpy and conservative might become much more liberal and open when they move to community Y after it falls apart.
But I’m not sure this is actually always true, and I’m even less sure that its inevitable. In the same way that tribal cultures and religions can be thousands of years old but maintain elements of inspiration and vibrancy rather than cold pragmatism, there must be a way for communities to be able to pursue this quality. By analogy, There are endless anti-aging products, services, and exercises out there. We need to figure out how to be able to apply these to community to keep it thriving longer.
There was a time when colonizers simply treated land as though its useful when its young but after it has been worked for a few decades it will be depleted of its vitality and new land must be acquired. Everyone of us in the commune world knows a fair bit of what it means to give back to the earth so it can continue to sustain us, I think we ought to start thinking more of community as having similar depletion process if we don’t really know what the process of replenishing would be.
I would love to hear ideas!