“We already have gift economies among friends and family. Perhaps expanding that within small communities is possible; it’s certainly desirable.” –Myth of Barter

Daniel Quinn, in his book, The Story of B, informs us that our current way of living, which is nearly a global way of living, is a choice that was made by one culture about 10,000 years ago and which spread to other cultures through conquest and violence.  That seems like a very long time ago, until we compare it to the time that humans have been around – at least 3.3 million years (if we consider the dating of stone tools to be a marker). Most of us have been assured that it is the best way of living and are pointed to those our culture has exploited and defeated as evidence.

“Look at how hungry they are, and how few clothes they have, and the shacks they live in!  How short their life spans are! How crime-ridden their neighborhoods are!  How miserably they live!  And most of them don’t have dishwashers in their kitchens!”

The ‘they’ and ‘them’ are usually people living in other countries under a different economic system – such as the people in China, Russia, Bangladesh (although their economic system is no longer much different than ours).

But perhaps most often, we are pointed to the past for comparison, and it almost goes without saying that our way of living is superior.  It has to be … because of … well, because of evolution!  The past is always inferior to the present and the future will be better yet!  We are not only making progress, but the rate of our progress is increasing exponentially!  Just look at the size of our tv screens!  How big they’ve become!  Or look at the size of our smart devices!  How small they’ve become!  We can wear them on our wrists!  Life has never been better! Or so we’re told.

If we are most comfortable with this story, we should be careful not to listen to the news or pay any attention to the alarmists and doomsayers – especially scientists who specialize in studying soil, water, air, populations, natural resources, diseases, politics, agriculture, climate … you know …  those who claim that we face a multitude of crises, a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that are leading to our possible extinction; the results of an unsustainable way of living.  And, even if we do listen to them, if this way of living is the best that we can do, why should we care if there are no better alternatives (except, of course, for a little fine tuning here and there, such as putting a better person in charge of making decisions for us)?

Suppose though, that the story we’ve been told is not true.  Perhaps we have choices that we don’t know about or there are stories that differ from what we’ve been told.  Maybe we could learn something from those cultures that we’ve long considered not worth paying attention to – those to whom we sent our missionaries to save them from their ignorance and lack of civilization.  Perhaps we are the ones who need to be saved and especially from the results of civilization – war, waste, depression and anxiety, domination and control, the buying and selling of life (which we call “making a living”).  How many of us dream of a different way of living, having a life that is not enslaved by debt?  A life where we are not in competition with our friends and neighbors so that we are not divided into winners and losers, the haves and the have-nots?

I believe we can make better choices about how to live, but those choices must be learned until we pass them down to our children as traditions.  We have to recover what we’ve forgotten. And that is why you might consider starting or joining a neighbors gathering, to learn how to be a neighbor and to care about other neighbors and, as a result, share your gifts with them.

Do we live in neighborhoods, or do we simply live in close proximity to others? What’s the difference? Well, neighborhoods contain neighbors. Neighbors are those we can call on when we are in trouble or need a helping hand. Neighbors care for one another and have face-to-face interactions with one another. Neighbors enjoy life with one another!

The purpose of these Gatherings is to learn how to be good neighbors; to create intentional communities of neighbors within walking distance.

An Alternative to Organizations – I

As I wrote in my last blog post, I have been putting most of my thoughts in writing on Facebook.  I have been surprised lately, to see how often my thoughts are repeats of what I’ve written before.  Usually, when I post, my ideas seem like they are fresh creations of the moment, rather than something which has been pulled up from the past.  The theme of ‘power’ has been a constant.  I wonder sometimes, if I’m like an uncle of mine who I remember as having a one-track mind.  On Sunday mornings, he would stand and offer a sermon with the same topic based on the same biblical passage –

A woman shall not wear men’s clothing, neither shall a man put on women’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to Yahweh your God.” (Deut. 22:5).  

Apparently, in his mind, all social problems were related to the disobedience of this law.  OK, so I admit that, in my mind, there is nothing  that isn’t in some way related to power.  But that is because I see the universe as constituted by experiential relationships which require power to come into being.  Therefore, power is absolutely related to everything. I also believe many of our ideas about power are fundamentally flawed which isn’t necessarily sinful (maybe pathological?), and I do see a connection between our ideas about power and social problems.  And environmental problems.  And economic problems.  And, as it goes without saying, political problems.

Well, this blog is dedicated to Neighbors Gatherings and therefore, staying consistently in my track, requires me to write about power in connection to my subject.  There are hints of this connection on my Neighbors Gathering website (which I will exploit in future blogs), but I discovered it this morning in a post on FB from three years ago. >> I am an anarchist.<<

I didn’t understand the connection at the time, so when I was asked in the comments following by my friend, William,

As a ‘REALIST’ AND PRAGMATIST I need a model of a society that impliments relational power. Cultural inertia is a fact. That fact opposes any sudden change unless there is a compelling change in the social environment, eg. a Pearl Harbor kind of incident. Perhaps the soon to be experienced global effects of climate change would bring about the conditions where the need for cooperation is paramount….  I do NOT have a model to even suggest which is why I need to have one.”

it didn’t even occur to me to suggest Neighbors Gatherings as a model of communities based on relational power.  I knew that Neighbors Gatherings were different from other forms of neighborhood associations (usually legally defined) and what I have experienced in organizations in general.  Now I’ve come to realize that Neighbors Gatherings is not an organization. But, I didn’t necessarily have the language tools to describe the difference.  For instance, I’ve always used the term “community” to describe what I was trying to create but recently ran across the term “communitas” which helps to describe the difference.  And, several years ago, I didn’t know anything about what ‘anarchy’ meant (other than the popular misconception), and now it has become a self-label.

So, with new tools, and hopefully more clarity, I’ll go back to what I’ve written in the past, make some revisions, and perhaps come up with something new and fresh.  And, I have to admit, I do it with a sense of urgency, or a sense of mission which may be due to the apocalypticism I was exposed to as a child. But be that as it may, it is part of me, I think it is justified, and I cannot help but express it.