by Gaya Erlandson

Whatever the problem, community is the answer. 
— Meg Wheatley

We are at the beginning of a revolution in collaborative living and collaborative consumption. Converging environmental, economic, social, and political concerns have helped catalyze an effort that has been germinating for decades, that of living locally. At the heart of this is the call for community — for places and social arrangements where people share lasting, healthy personal relationships and genuine interdependence. It is time we heed the call.

Our goal is to provide a more complete picture of what is needed — and what is possible — for older adults living in communities. The articles we include are “the best of” those published during 2010 in Itineraries, the Second Journey quarterly; most articles have been revised or updated, with completely new ones sprinkled throughout. Our four sections reprise the focus of the four issues: Community: Envision It!, Community: Build It!, Community: Live It!, and Community: Celebrate It!

You will find most of the articles have been revised or updated, with completely new articles sprinkled throughout.

Our goal is to provide a more complete picture of what is needed — and what is possible — for older adults living in communities. The articles we include are ‘the best of’ those published during 2010 in Itineraries, the Second Journey quarterlyOur four sections reprise the focus of the four issues: Community: Envision It!, Community: Build It!, Community: Live It!, and Community: Celebrate It! ”

Part of the excitement from focusing on elders derives from the fact that some of the most innovative designs for community living target people over age 55. Also exciting is the fact that today we have a bevy of new tools needed to enhance community building (a subject which will be one focus of the articles in Section 2).

 

Questioning is not something we do but something we are — an elemental force. Nothing shapes our lives so much as the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never dream of asking.  — Sam Keen

Paradigm Shift

Political unrest in Greece provides recent evidence that the international banking system is faltering. Reports are of protesters of 700,000 to over 1 million people gathering in the streets of Athens; they were joined by many thousands elsewhere in this country whose population is only 11 million. The people are refusing to be impoverished and enslaved by the debt that international banks claim they owe; their protests have been met with beating and imprisonment. A former European Central Bank Chairman forcibly replaced the Greek Prime Minister.

This recent development comes on the heels of the many “people’s movements” of 2011. The “Arab Spring” which began in Tunisia and quickly spread to Egypt, Libya, and now Syria has involved millions of people opposing corrupt regimes and unjust economic practices. Launched during the fall of 2011, the Occupy Wall Street revolt spread quickly and has become a growing international movement. The question isn’t will what’s happening in these efforts change how we live, but when and how.

It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth. — Thich Nhat Hahn

The good news is that people are uniting. I believe that one of the most generative things we can do for ourselves and for future generations is to create loving communities. While our focus in the essays that follow is on housing for those in the second half of life, genuinely intergenerational communities are required if modern society is to take its next evolutionary step. When we are in healthy relationship with each other in neighborhoods where we negotiate, make decisions, and collaborate well, all manner of social, economic, and environmental issues can be addressed effectively. And all manner of creativity, resilience, and joy can resound.

We are called to see things differently. In his bestselling book, The Great Reset, Richard Florida claims that great economic and social crises also represent opportunities to remake our economy and society. To seize this opportunity, however, we need to view the current crises with a new consciousness. As author and peace activist Sharif Abdullah, who lives in Seattle, tells us:

It is only through a profound shift in consciousness that a new society will be born. We all must undergo this shift. A change in consciousness always precedes any change in institutions, laws or social patterns. The necessary change is specific: from “I am Separate” to “We are One.” Einstein said that we cannot solve our problems with the same consciousness that created them. Our deep divisions and seemingly insurmountable problems are leading us to new ways of working together (see commonway.org/node/42).

By emphasizing collaboration, we start to develop and explore those interpersonal skills and structures that are required. It clearly takes us from me to we, forcing us to ask How do we do this in a way that works for everyone? After all, we highly value unique, individual expression. Seeming paradoxes as seen in the old paradigm of separation, however, are easily resolved or transcended when we shift to a different consciousness.

Paradox of Me and We

In the old paradigm of individualism, the needs of the one are seen as being in competition or in conflict with the group. In the new paradigm of oneness, however, we individuals actually are supported more than ever to do our own thing. Everyone is assumed to have a unique contribution and thus is encouraged to develop their unique interests and talents. Like cells in a body, the benefit of the one benefits the many. The improvisational band provides a good metaphor that helps understand this synergy at a more complex level.

Before improvising in a band, each musician develops his or her proficiency. Going beyond the rote expression of notes on a page, each learns how to tune inward. Some who improvise say they are but vessels for inspired music that comes from aligning with their muse (“muse” is, of course, the root word of music). Expressing our unique voice is a developed and practiced skill.

Living our joy and shining our light brings blessings to the world and is the greatest gift we can offer life.  — Maya Deva Adjani

When musicians improvise together, they start with some riff within a key that is familiar to all. As they play, no one knows where it will go. What is required is that each listens to all and simultaneously expresses what s/he is inspired to play. The better each musician is at authentic, inspired expression, the more s/he conspires with, and thus contributes to, the group.

If you have ever heard or participated in such an ensemble, you know that intermittently someone hits a note that is both dissonant and excruciatingly compelling. Sometimes that person will sound their note or phrase a few times — perhaps louder than before, creating the discord and chaos needed for the next section of flowing, harmonious improvisation. Somehow, all of the musicians shift to a new key and style that is in resonance with one another, and the cocreated music continues almost magically to evolve.

If you asked one of the musicians to play what s/he had just performed, it would be impossible. The improvisation was within the context of the band. In other words, it was the experience of being in the group that allowed him or her to rise to a whole new level of musical expression, joy, and proficiency. In a cocreative, collaborative context, the unique, inspired contribution of every individual is needed for our grandest collective contribution and inspired evolution.

Revolutionary New Structures

We are, indeed, at the beginning of a revolution in collaboration — in how to live and relate with one another, in how we perceive the world, and even in how we experience ourselves. The world is changing dramatically. The familiar structures of the 20th century are sounding discord and chaos that will give way to who knows what. It is time for us to create the new structures. Among the most immediate and important of these are multitudes of competent, collaborative communities.

When we support and depend upon one another locally — to organize, communicate, negotiate, cocreate and thus collaborate effectively together — in concert with nature and our higher callings, all manner of new designs and possibilities emerge. Rather than simply waiting to see how the future unfolds, we can sound our callings and cocreate our future — one that our families and we can live with and thrive in for generations to come. It is time.

It is the long history of humankind that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. — Charles Darwin


Gaya Erlandson is a psychologist, writer, teacher, social architect, and community consultant. Certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, she loves to coach couples, facilitate groups, and offer trainings related to conscious relationships and living the new paradigm. Gaya lives in Lotus Lodge — a shared home near Asheville, NC, which is situated on 2.5 acres of land with a pond, stream, and organic gardens. Lotus Lodge and its community was the subject of a recent news segment on CBS Early Morning — an experience which in part has inspired the project she is now working on, a how-to book on creating and maintaining shared households. Visit her Web site: LivingNewStories.com. Or contact her at cocreating@charter.net or (828)581-9036.