Deer Rock Intentional Community
On days when the news reaches levels of depressing
that warrant general alarm and the signs of change make the horizon
take horrifying shapes recognizable from logic and history, on those
days the dream of escaping to some utopia of your own specification
is so clear. After all, the deterioration in the social contract
between citizens and government that we´re witnessing must be
evident to other seekers. As the inhumane attitudes encountered on the
everyday street become the norm, the desire for solidarity and refuge
with souls of like mind grows in intensity. Is it a survival mechanism?
The sanity of radical action becomes so appealing, more than the risk
of losing what shambles remain of social relations. Day by day that
risk diminishes with the diminishing benefits and growing liabilities.
Social justice exacts such a high price from those who pursue it.
Mechanisms that gave citizens more direct control over the abuses
of government, such as jury powers to judge the fairness of laws and
their application, have been eroded. Protocols within
government for problem solving, even Robert's rules of order have
degenerated into gamesmanship exercises. The most primitive commercial
concepts have invaded social spheres that were once committed to health,
learning and reform.
So when a friend not long ago said that, in fact, there are utopian
experiments in considerable number being worked on all over the US,
it was the beginning of an odyssey to determine what such endeavors
were like, where they were, who were the members and whether they
were viable enterprises, these intentional communities.
-- the directory, writing and answers
A trip to the library produced a volume titled
A Guide To Cooperative Living that offered up-to-date information on
over 500 North American intentional communities and others on other
continents. Published periodically by the
Fellowship for Intentional Community,
the descriptions and images were mind boggling in their
diversity... environmentalists of all stripes, all religious persuasions
including conventional, newage, none and all, artist and craft colonies, myriad experiments
in governance and economics.. urban and rural, just forming and some
approaching second generation.
The next stage was to write to those that seemed to match the dream,
research the surrounding geographies, economies and people, til we
narrowed our search to variables that required visiting. Each seemed
to have some formal agreements that members subscribed to, a set of
operating procedures and finances as well as the physical realities
of people and resources like land, structures and/or plans to pore over.
-- new vs existing, old-hippie, neo-hippie and new age
Our variables centered on new vs existing, neo-hippie vs new age.
We were seeking a level of involvement that was pioneer village not
intensely intimate, a degree of freedom in economic and spiritual affairs
but consistent with simplicity, environmental and social commitments.
Existing communities offered a sense of security that appealed after
visiting the meetings of a local group that was just forming only to
watch the group disband for lack of agreement on timing and sequencing.
But the taste of excitement in deciding community direction with so few
past constraints, being part of the group´s fundamental choices,
learning how it was all done, held more promise than ´coming in late´.
We visited several relatively new groups, some more close knit, some
much more insular. One was modeled on a successful old hippie group in
the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of VA, giving the
basic structure some added viability. The group were neo-hippies and
very low-key and thoughtful but the finances were definitely shoestring
and encumbered by a substantial debtload. Decisionmaking was all done
by consensus and there was an air of both peaceful consciousness and
intense concern for meaningful survival.
They had been meeting for almost three years by then, two years to work out
the group´s principles, their operating practices, their legal
status as a non-profit, their fund-raising for the downpayment and
their land search.
Once they had found the land, began the negotiations on how to use the
existing facilities, what to convert, how and when, who could take
responsibility for various roles, who should move onto the land, what
sequence to proceed, what county requirements needed to be met, which
neighbors were hostile and how to generate the income to cover the payments.
The early days had drawn a large group together but the toll of constant
stress and suspense as well as the volatile personalities of the more dynamic
founders had whittled the group down to a handful. The largest single
exodus was the result of a cohousing group that started up closer to
the city. The lure of an option whose hazards were less imminent?
Deer Rock Inc.
-- the agreements, goals and beliefs
DEER ROCK, INC. MEMBERSHIP AGREEMENT
I, _______________________, petition for full membership in Deer Rock, and, if accepted, commit myself to the following beliefs, agreements and goals:
We aspire to express in the way we live our belief that:
1. We now face our greatest challenge: to create a wise, just and sustainable society in proper balance with all of nature.
2. Voluntary cooperation, not competition, is the fundamental model for human endeavors.
3. Conflict is a natural part of human life and can be resolved non-violently through solutions generated by cooperation and mutual creativity--solutions which often transcend those of any single person.
4. Reason and intuition are not incompatible, but are complementary.
5. Every person has profound and inherent dignity and worth regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, financial resources, or spiritual/political beliefs.
6. The human spirit is challenged by accumulated pain, fear, dogma and emphasis on material goods, but is nurtured through a simple lifestyle which incorporates love, work, humor, free inquiry and expression, art, music, and individual spiritual practices.
7. When a proper balance exists between the independence of the individual and the interdependence of the community, each serves to enhance and complement the other.
8. Power and responsibility, though originating with individuals, are best shared with families, small groups, the community, and society.
9. We care about each other's physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being while taking individual responsibility for our own needs.
10. Our Children embody the hope and promise of the future and deserve special and considerate attention.
I will strive to abide by these basic agreements of the Deer Rock Community to:
1. Avoid physical and emotional violence in our relationships with children and adults, and treat animals with respect.
2. Deal directly, openly, honestly and respectfully with each other while avoiding abusive behaviors such as manipulation, putdowns, backbiting and secretiveness, and, if conflicts remain, to seek mediation or other forms of conflict resolution.
3. Treat people in other families as individuals, and urge family members to do the same for each other.
4. Seek consensus with the participation of all concerned as the most valid basis for action in our community.
5. Treat all guests and visitors respectfully.
6. Encourage fulfillment and observance of community agreements by reaching out to people through work and love rather than with threats and coercion.
I understand that the community has made the following general agreements and, at this time, I support these goals to:
1. Share power and responsibility among all members, and where hierarchical relationships are agreed on, avoid abuses of power and ecourage the sharing of skills.
2. Encourage spiritual and cultural diversity, art, music and other forms of celebration within our community and in the larger world.
3. Create a nurturing, pro-child environment within which parents and parental figures take primary responsibility for particular children.
4. Foster the lifelong education and growth of every community member.
5. Strive to be vigilant against institutionalized oppression such as sexism, racism, ageism and homophobia in both policy and individual interaction.
6. Promote friendly togetherness through responsible community events which will provide a sense of inclusion, integration and celebration.
7. Provide voluntary care to those members who need our help due to advancing age or other disability so that they are not forced to leave their home unwillingly.
8. Encourage the growth of our community until we have approximately 75 full members.
9. Allow for the raising and controlled breeding of farm animals and pets within the community, so long as they are treated kindly and do not interfere with the health and harmony of others, nor exceed the carrying capacity of the land.
10. Encourage the establishment of member owned and managed businesses.
11. Actively support the intentional communities movement as we are able.
12. Purchase adjoining or nearby land when we are financially able and when that would help us reach our goals.
13. Hold our land in common and preserve it through proper stewardship, designated wilderness areas, and ecologically sound use of our resources so that each generation acts to benefit the next seven generations.
14. Sustain our individual involvement in the community by contributing our ideas, talents and energies in a spirit of active commmitment and participation.
15. Periodically reexamine and reformulate our stated beliefs and agreements so that they truly reflect our evolving consensus.
I have read and agree to abide by the purposes and agreements stated in the Articles and By-Laws of Deer Rock, Inc. I understand that the purposes, agreements and goals in these documents and in the Membership Agreement will remain in effect until such time as they are changed by a consensus agreement of the active members of the Deer Rock community.
If my observance of these agreements is questioned by another member, or if I wish to question another member's observance, I agree to discuss the question first with the other member and, if necessary, meet with the conflict resolution committee or other mutually acceptable person to examine the situation and search for mutually agreeable solutions.
The reality was that this was a debt-burdened non-profit, holding a
beautiful, but somewhat neglected piece of real estate and committed
to somehow guaranteeing that utopian principles would prevail, short-term
as well as long-term. The financial ramifications of buying into this
operation were not inconsequential.
Coming to DeerRock
-- the area, geography and people,
-- the university, spirituality and the Waltons
-- the group, the land, and the finance report
-- admission day
-- finance vs bonding focus
-- consensus process by Butler
-- alphas and sharing power rules
-- bravely objecting
-- young people, missing from the group, and the equation/rules
-- huddled masses knocking
-- pace, intensive, slow but further and better
-- conflict resolution, in theory and practice
-- fundraising, mortgages, SoL leaseback, expenses, safety reserve
-- loans and buy-ins
-- improvements made and possiblities
-- organic orchard aging, cider making shortcuts, adjusting to agri-timing constraints
-- the world of logging
networking and consensus.