I've spent the last 8 years calling Twin Oaks my home, and over time I've become dissatisfied with how small that world is - not just the actually property of Twin Oaks, but the larger network of people and communities it's directly connected to. Now I'm exploring living a lifestyle that's more integrated with the mainstream, and I realize that in 8 years I've forgotten just how BIG the mainstream world is!!
I've been in Chico the last 10 days. Having spent a total of about 7 years of my childhood here it's the closest thing I have to a hometown. It's a smallish city, with a "metro" population of about 100,000. It's a pretty liberal town - green, progressive city council members are often the majority. There is a "tree ordinance" requiring developers to leave a certain number of trees/area when developing a piece of property.
There are two intentional communities in the area (Valley Oaks Village, a cohousing community and Ripparia, a small landtrust), plus a number of "hippie flophouses" as Shandin calls them. The coolest thing I've come across so far is a new group called GRUB (Growing Resourcefully Uniting Bellies). Their mission is to grow as much food within the city limits for as many people as possible on donated land. They already have more land donated then they have gardeners to manage. They're also creating a "tree registery", a database of all fruit and nut trees in the city from which the owner are happy to have other people harvest. They had a fundraiser the other night at the Peace and Justice Center, and I was impressed by the number of people who came and their positivity.
Could I live here? Could I do what I want here? Here's what I want to do, in a nutshell: Pick a population center and help found and/or link a network of communal/cooperative entities that are providing housing, growing and distributing food, producing ecologically sound goods for money or barter, providing space for social events, arts and performance, and organizing, and engaging in community organizing and local politics.
Lofty, eh? Can I do this anywhere? I don't know. Certainly not if I let my insecurity and self-doubt get in the way. But you know, I think I've had this idea that I could get so many groups started so fast that it would quickly take over a city the size of Chico and Eugene. What was I thinking?!
Walking around downtown over the last few days, riding my borrowed bike through the suburbs, seeing all the affluent Bay Area escapees and the manicured college students, the banks, the designer clothing stores, and, of course, the endless stream of cars...
One of my big complaint about Twin Oaks and the Communities Movement is the prevelance of white, middle-class folx primarily interested in creating their happy little utopias, failing to recognize or engage in the essentially integrated reality of our communities with the rest of society, and failing to collaborate with the myriad social movements with similar aims.
Now I'm asking myself the question, am I capable of anything more? Insecurity! Self-doubt!!
I'm trying to pull myself back to what I consider to be an appropriate purpose for whatever I do: making life better for all beings. Is what I'm doing serving people and the planet? Make sure that I can say yes and then do as much of that as possible.
Egoism, success and failure, even hope, these are such tempting indulgences of the mind - but they get in way! Pema Chodron said in a discussion with Alice Walker, don't do what you do because you hope it will change things - do what you do because you believe that's the right thing to do.
Okay - take a deep breath, notice the fear, and keep moving fwd...