Where to start? It’s been one month, almost exactly, since I’ve really written anything except a brief apology for not writing.

Do my readers deserve an explanation of what i’ve been up to, or should I just dive into the thoughts I want to share tonight? A synopsis of my last month will suffice for now, I suppose. I’ve been travelling, falling in love, sharing the commune with a college friend, pondering on the nature of sanity and otherwise, travelling some more, falling in love some more, negotiating complex relationships, and thinking of the brilliant reflections I wanted to write about the last round of comments about the insular life of the commune.

I’ve noticed a pattern in my blog writing that whenever a great conversation gets going in the comments, I pull back from posting for awhile. I think I get caught up in my “perfectionist” persona, wanting type out a magnificent manifesto in response to the comments, and I don’t want to post anything until I post brilliance. Well, I miss writing this blog, so I’m just going to give it a go and see what comes out.

I struggle fairly constantly with the challenge that Patch was addressing in co’s comments. I came to the commune driven by a passion for emotional, social, and spiritual health — not just for myself, but for the world. I had worked in Cincinnati and DC doing “in the system” political change work, and I felt like I was beating my head against a brick wall. I felt like the work I did was band-aid work, while the knife continued to slash and create more wounds in need of more band-aids. I wanted to be doing “knife stopping” work, creating a different social and economic structure not rooted in oppression and exploitation. (When I mentioned this metaphor to a friend, he replied that a more apt visual is pulling drowning babies from a river vs. stopping the person who’s throwing them in… grotestque, yes, and perhaps more poignant). Said again by MLK Jr: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Choose the metaphor that works for you; it’s important for me to remember that BOTH levels are important. You can’t bleed to death while you’re trying to stop the knife, and those babies need saving once they’re in the river. It’s just not a one-person job. There are many people working in many ways for the overall health of our world.

So then my struggle here is asking myself how my life on the commune is working to create any real change in the world. It’s so easy to get insular and isolated here, focusing on the minor details of bureaucratic process and community budgets and interpersonal conflict. And yet, learning how to negotiate these things repectfully and healthily is important for creating the kind of culture we want to promote! That’s really the piece that I focus on — making the idea of a healthy culture accessible to people. The concept of CHOICE about what one’s life looks like, of ACTIVE CREATION OF CULTURE, of INTENTIONAL INTERACTIONS with people that involve deep communication. Any person can choose to live with other people in healthier, more sustainable ways, but only if they know that they have that choice. Mainstream culture promotes an ideal that seems stagnant and passive, “this is the way things are”, “this is what success is”, and “this is how normal people interact with each other”. I see my participation in the larger world as offering the idea that something different is possible, and my life on the commune is directed towards creating and living that possibility — one manifestation of it, at least. I don’t purport that we’ve got it all figured out. We’re living in search of something different than the obviously unhealthy and exploitative dominant culture.

So how effective am I? How effective are we as a community? I don’t know. We haven’t gotten any new members from the talks I’ve done in universities, and I’m okay with that. That’s really not the point. The seeds we plant have a long incubation period, and we don’t really know what the actual plants will look like. This is all an experiment based on a deep conviction that something different is possible, and absolutely necessary.

I struggle with not having tangible effects of my activism. No legislation gets passed, no sick folks get well, and no candidates get elected. I often ask myself “what am I really DOING here? Should I be working to develop affordable housing in Cincinnati?”. And then I go out into the city, and I remember the path I’m on to “restructure the edifice” that produces the need for “affordable housing.”

And, not everyone here is committed to the same ideals as I am. There are lots of folks here who are quite happy with their lives on the commune and wish that all the visitors and tourists would just go away and leave us alone. And they wish that I (and other people who do work like I do) would redirect our energy and labor to the garden and the tofu hut. Sometimes I ask myself if I’m supporting the community enough, if I should spend less time doing outreach and more time making tofu.

This is enough for now. It is a fairly constant question to myself, how/if I’m really affecting any real change. Thanks to Patch, Chris, Free, Pax, and everyone else who commented for fueling the exploration. More comments welcome (if you’re all still around after my prolonged absence!).

love, tickledspirit

ps — you’re all invited to come out and visit, just to see what we’re doing here. Check out our website for information about our Saturday Tours and our 3 Week Visitor Program.