The foundation for successful communal living has always been trust, the first prehistoric settlements had family units at their core, having lots of children was a way to increase the potential of the settlement, while at the same time maintaining a high level of trust.
Uniting the community there were those family bonds and whatever transcendental beliefs the particular community held, expressed in regular rituals and through shared moral standards.
The principal knowledge trasmission mechanism were stories, mythical stories that spoke about life’s mysteries, morality tales which instilled in the children the social mores of the community, but also stories about a dangerous forest or about the rhythms of the seasons.
If we try to understand these stories only in a literal sense, we underestimate the sophisticated nature of those ancestors, because we have lost the ability to think on their terms. There is a great deal of knowledge transmitted by those tales, which to the modern eye look superficially like dreams or made up stories
As modern science answers more and more questions at the material level and provides the technologies for the production of more and more things, many of the old questions remain unanswered or, worse still, get forgotten in a discourse that predominantly favours the material aspect over the metaphysical.
We lack the wisdom of a shared long term vision based on timeless universal values. Science, the main driver of “progress”, is only superficially rooted in humanity’s wellbeing while, at a deeper level, profit is the principal motivation.
The last ten years feel like a turning point, there is no shared consensus about the way forward, in many places people are split almost down the middle, a society cannot function in a stable way in these circumstances.
A number of emerging ideas are challenging the old structures and attempt to answer the deep-seated need for meaning, transcendence and connection that the current materialistic, globalised, science-first order neglects to address, needless to say these are only tentative steps to a new consensus, which will take longer to solidify into a coherent new paradigm.
As the limits and failings of globalised, top-down systems become more evident, any successful adjustment will have to be based on a new consensus which must by definition emerge from the bottom.
Modern day intentional communities share some characterics with those original, family-based settlements, people who choose to live together rely on a common ground about what is valuable, what is a good life, what is our role in the natural world.
They maximise their circumstances by pooling their energies, their knowledge and their resources. In this setting the promise of hard work leading to a life of abundance can still come true.
We are used to valuing things by price, but most of the things we cannot live without do not come with a price tag.