It all comes down to daily life. Yes, there can be splendid moments of other worldly transcendence, but choosing to live life as a human means, at a minimum, eat, sleep, breathe, poop. There are cultural add-ons like taxes, sidewalks, and math class, but ultimately, there is just no escaping those basic human needs and the activities and factors that have grown out of securing them. It is certainly meaningful, fun, and necessary to create and attend events and activities that are outside of those that occur everyday, but ultimately it is the venue of the home base that feels the most real, space and people included. Why is that? Why do humans have such a division between home life and outside life? Is it architecture, the mere dichotomy between indoor and outdoor space and having to travel between the two? Is it the fact that the the sun rises and sets, giving us days season years that make the repeated acts seem somehow more real? It is easy for me to get focused on projects and really feel in the flow of them, but then they are over, and I look at each new project and think that someday it will be over too. I want something all encompassing, something that integrates daily life with those bigger projects and a sense of reverence pervading throughout. It seems like intentional community is the only way to make that happen, where each action is an expression of the choice to sustain life and practice the glory of being alive. But does it have to be on a farm to make it happen? Why is it that growing your own vegetables or building your own house or pumping your own water makes life feel more integrated and real?
Maybe it is because of the extraordinary mass of stuff in our lives. Even a trip to the bathroom involves toilets made of ceramic, metal, plastic and any number of pieces produced and shipped by any number of other factories, toilet paper made obviously from trees then put in more factories, toilet paper holders, cleaning products with chemicals and more factories and more trucks and more shipping and industrial designers coming with bottle designs and graphic designers designing labels and marketers figuring out the demographics of how many people are buying the products, and all of this before even considering the amazing complexity of the systems of pipes and structures getting water to your toilet and then flushing it away to another building to clean it and maybe even back into the ocean…basically endless systems requiring endless resources and endless people so that any given day you may have been relying on the work of thousands (millions?) of other people just to go about doing “normal” activities.
And that’s what feels real about living off the land. Cutting out that noise. Living in consumer culture we are surrounded by larger and more complex communities than ever before in human history, and we have no idea who these people are and where these resources are coming from. When you are sustaining yourself on your “own” land, you have a direct relationship with all of the elements in your realm of experience, human and otherwise. These relationships are deeper and stronger because you depend on them for survival, but also because of the simple fact that you are aware of them. Each element of your life can be something that you choose to be directly present in. Do you need to be on a farm to live intentionally? No. But in cities and suburbs, the task of even identifying all of the elements of your surroundings (let alone their origin, history, or function) is nearly impossible. While it may not be necessary to know these things, the more you are unaware of, the less connected you are to the systems in place, and the more you are a cog in someone else’s machine. If it’s a good machine, well, then great. But how do you even know if it’s good if you don’t know what the machine is?
This is why I feel strongly about having a community that isn’t cut-off from the rest of the world. It may seem counter-intuitive to say that after railing about how alienating it is to be part of a system you have no connection to and how important it is to live simply, but that is precisely why intentionality is so important. Maybe my naive fantasy is to live completely cut-off from the consumerist world for a few years and then like Zarathustra come down from the mountain and start to spread the word. But these massively tangled global systems are where all of the people and resources are, and that is where our work as world-waker-uppers is. Because guess what? All of those people tangled in the systems are world-waker-uppers, too. All of them.
We’re seven billion strong.