Where Will We Gather? And How?

Last night at my welcome-home party, a neighbor suggested creating a flag that could fly outside homes whose occupants embrace mutual aid. He said we each have our own set of skills; no one can do everything, no one needs to. To which I replied, maybe here’s a new movement: DIO – Do It Ourselves.

Yes, since I’ve returned to Beacon, I’ve been comparing many aspects of life here to life at Earthaven. Initially, I admit, the subtext of my comparisons was, Earthaven’s where it’s at; Beacon will never measure up; let’s move now. It’s true, Earthaven is already a village. And I do hope (plan?) to live there at some point, in some form. Maybe I’ll be one of those writers who “divides her time between x and y”; maybe a fertile edge of village-building lies between (what feel like) my two homes.

What would it take for Beacon, a five-square-mile city of sixteen thousand, to revillage? First, I think of the distances – the etheric gaps, the strict borders, between my space and yours. The paucity of spaces that are ours, and invite us to gather. Next, I think of time: If most of us spend most of our time making money to buy food, shelter, and the like, what’s left over for village life? Walking the city’s neighborhoods, I find most streets (not to mention most stoops and porches) mostly empty. Though the city is geographically small, and there’s a commuter train station at its edge, most people mostly reach and depart their homes by car. Plus, the streets, though calm compared to those of Brooklyn, are still intrinsically hostile to foot traffic, as they were paved for cars. So how am I to chance across you on the path, exchange the latest gossip, learn from you that our mutual acquaintance needs a hand spreading compost, put her in touch with a friend who needs exercise? Yes, there’s Facebook – Beacon has more than one thriving group facilitating flow of stuff, services, information – but screen-mediated interaction exacts, I believe, a greater toll than we know: to “connect” with you on Facebook, I need to be alone (in a crowd, or not) with my screen, I need to make the money to access the technology to use the screen, I need to invest in extractive processes ravaging communities all over the planet. Bottom line – “connecting” through the Internet, using the Internet as a default mode of communication with those within walking distance, makes my heart sink. (Maybe it makes your heart soar.)

So. I am interested in this question, this edge. I do not wish to form some heroic plan for village-building; I do wish to listen. What’s the current here? What’s it flowing in favor of? What’s it flowing against?

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

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