Monday, November 25, 2013


My friend Susan has been urging me for a while to read the book The Moneyless Man.  She read it during her year of reading books about living a year of...  In The Moneyless Man, Mark Boyle decides to live for a year without using money.

What got me to read it was when Susan sent me information on Mark Boyle's new book, The Moneyless Manifesto. I immediately checked to see if I could get it through the library system and found that none of the libraries in my area have it.  They did, however, have The Moneyless Man and I requested it and read it.

The first chapter ('Why Moneyless?') outlines the reasons for going without money, including peak oil (see my post on Peak Oil, 7/18/08, for more information about that) and climate change (which is hard to avoid reading about at this point), money encouraging competition rather than cooperation, and 'money replacing community as security'.  This is the theoretical chapter.  He follows this with a chapter on 'The Rule of Engagement' where he outlines the rules he was going to live by over the year.  The rest of the book tells of his life and adventures living without money.

The book ends with the question of whether this is a year-long experiment or whether Mark Boyle will continue living this way indefinitely.  He does talk about his decision and anyone reading the book won't be surprised by it.

One of the things that intrigues me is that the author studied economics and business in college and then managed organic food companies in the United Kingdom for six years.  (Mark Boyle is Irish and the event in the book all take place in Ireland and England.)  It was during a discussion with a friend that he realized that many of the major world issues we all connected by one thread--our disconnection from what we consume--and money is the main tool to fuel that disconnection.  He goes on to point out all the marketing designed to encourage us to use money and consume.

This book encourages what I've been thinking for a while, that money is not a necessity in our lives--in fact, we would be better off without it.  For some of my ideas about what we do need, check out my series on 'Needs' (which I still think is perhaps the most important things I've written in this blog).  The series starts with Looking at Needs, 5/4/09, and ends with Our Needs: One Last Look, 9/19/09.  Perhaps the most important post in there, from the standpoint of living without money is Protection from Poverty, 6/18/09.  I may write more about going beyond economics at some point in the future.

Interestingly enough the whole of the book The Moneyless Manifesto is available to read (for free) online.  It's worth checking out.

Quote of the Day:  "Humans are not fundamentally destructive; I know of very few people who want to cause suffering.  But most of us don't have the faintest idea that our daily shopping habits are so destructive. ...
"... I wanted to find out what enabled this extreme disconnection from what we consume.  The answer was, in the end, quite simple.  The moment the tool we called 'money' came into existence, everything changed." - Mark Boyle

Monday, November 11, 2013

Issues in Community: Recruitment

One of the people at the co-op where I'm currently staying decided to sublet his room while he was away.  Since the other housemates would have to deal with whoever sublet, we interviewed almost a dozen people.  A few of them we decided quickly weren't appropriate.  With the others we ranked them and it turned out different people here had very different preferences.  We had a hard time coming to agreement about what we wanted.  And in the end, it didn't matter.  Most of our top choices, chose somewhere else.  It was less about who we wanted than who wanted us.

Recruitment is a tricky issue.  On one hand, communities need people and want good folks to live there, people who believe in what the community believes in and supports what the community supports.  On the other hand, interviewing people is a pain.  It takes a lot of time and can be very disruptive to the community.  In co-ops like the one I'm in, prospective members get an hour or two each, and sometimes are asked to come back for a second (or very occasionally even a third) interview before we make a decision.  It's a lot like job interviews.  At one point one of my housemates started yelling, "That's it.  No more people.  No more interviews." 

Twin Oaks, Acorn, and Dancing Rabbit all have three week visiting programs, the chief function of is to evaluate prospective members.  (Over the last year I used these programs to visit all of them and, in the cases of Twin Oaks--which I did the visiting programs twice--and Dancing Rabbit, I was very clear with them that I wasn't applying for membership--so you don't have to want to be a member to do the programs.  See my post Nine Communities, Many Thoughts, 7/1/13, for a wrap up on my community visits.)  Having someone visit for three weeks gives you a much better idea of a person than even several multi-hour interviews.  You actually get to live with them for three weeks.  A person can put on a good performance for a few hours, it's a lot harder for a few weeks.

But even three week visits have risks.  Acorn just experienced a nasty fire deliberately set by a visitor who had been asked to leave.  And communities have accepted people who seemed nice but had lied to them and put on a good show for the full three weeks and later caused trouble.   (Or in some cases, the person changed over time.)

One person at the co-op I'm currently at didn't want to be part of the latest decision making process because he had been enthusiastic about two previous members when they were being interviewed, and both of them turned out to be difficult people to live with.

And that's the hard part of recruitment.  There really isn't any way to tell until you've lived with someone a long while, but if you don't do recruitment, you won't have people to live in your community.

Quote of the Day:  "I saw a larger and larger part of the community sitting around on the front steps of the dining hall smoking cigarettes and drinking their wake-up coffee at 11 in the morning, and heard them ridicule as 'workaholics' the people who made the money and kept the organization together.  It looked possible, even probable, that this once-promising community would be undermined and destroyed by it's own people. ...
"I knew this phenomenon was not happening at Twin Oaks, and the difference seemed to be that Twin Oaks selected its members with some care." - Kat Kinkade

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tools for Connection

Whether you're talking about social change or intentional community, you're talking about dealing with people.  Sometimes connecting with another person is easy.  Sometimes it's not.  Almost always it's interesting.

I've recently come across a couple of tools to help deepen that connection.  I've already blogged about a few connection tools: Nonviolent Communication (11/25/10), Stephen Covey's 'Habit' of 'Seeking First to Understand' (see my post Seek to Understand, 11/11/10), and just plain being willing to listen (see Listening to Each Other, 6/7/10).  Here's two more, both oriented toward building connection in a group context.

The first is something developed by Paxus who is at Twin Oaks and Acorn.  It's called Transparency Tools and consists of a variety of exercises designed to help people to share intimate information about themselves with each other and explore their histories and emotions,  particularly within a 'transparency group' (the link gives more information about these groups as well as the tools themselves).  I've done some of these exercises at the last couple of Communities Conferences (see my posts entitled Update 1: The Twin Oaks Community Conference, 9/9/12, and  Circling Around to the Communities Conference,  9/5/13) and found them pretty helpful.  They're particularly good for people who know each other but want to deepen their connection by learning more about each other.  (Note:  Paxus just blogged on the dangers of doing Transparency work with the wrong people in a post he captioned 'Winos with Power Tools'. )

The other one is, surprisingly, a deck of cards--but a deck oriented toward understanding groups and group processes.  Its called group works and each card is a description of a useful tool for groups.  In some ways it's sort of a book about how to use groups to increase connection and create better group experiences, except it's in card form.  The whole deck is available on the internet (via a free download) but having them in my hands feels more satisfying to me. (You can buy the deck from the same website, which also has longer descriptions for some cards and lists of resources for many topics.)  There are 91 cards with topics ranging from Setting Intention to Trust[ing] the Wisdom of the Group. I'm currently making my way through the deck, a few cards at a time, trying to learn them better.  If you do any work with groups (which again can include intentional communities and social change work), this deck might be worth checking out, at least online.

Quote of the Day:  "How can you reconnect with your love for one another? What will nourish your sense of unity, in a way that welcomes the individual while honoring the long-term well-being of the community?" - Tree Bressen (catalyst for the group works deck)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Through the Darkness Once More

I was going to write something else (and will soon) before I realized that it was nearly Samhain.  Turns out, with all the traveling I was doing last year, I didn't even write anything at the beginning of November--a time when I usually write something about the approaching seasonal darkness. (See Darkness, 11/1/08, Out of Darkness, 11/1/09, Death, Decay, Impermanence, 11/1/10, and Darkness and Despair, 11/1/11 for previous posts I've written on this subject.)

This is a time that's important to me as a way to acknowledge all the messy, unpleasant, and scary things in life that we'd otherwise try to avoid.

This year it's coming to terms with the fact that I have no control over life.  Life is going to happen as it does no matter what I do.  For those who may be wondering what I'm doing personally (beyond the occasional post on some subject or other), I'm waiting on a forming community that I'm very interested in.  However, the founders (who I've spent a bit of time with) are looking for a piece of land and I'm hanging out a couple of hundred miles away in the Boston area, looking for things to do until I actually have a real place to go to.  It's a bit frustrating.

But that's life exactly.  The darkness here is that we never know exactly what is going on--seeing the trajectory of our lives is never clear.  We guess and try things and move in directions that we think will take us where we're going, but we can't really see. 

The darkness of this time of the year speaks to me.  It says, wait with patience.  It says, you don't know.  It says, quiet, peace, wait.

Allow yourself the darkness in your life, and may it comfort you.

Quote of the Day: "Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content." -
Helen Keller