I did it. I read all of them. Okay, I looked through all the free ones that come with a membership of Foundation of Intentional communities and then bought some interesting ones after that. It is an actual trip down commune lane in the 70s through cartoon drawings over all liberal publications in the 80s to the 90s settling into the new century. Some of the articles are horrifying in today’s standards but reflect life back then. But they all talk honestly about building community and the real bumps in that road.
Here are some of the things I read and made notes about (I will share my notes to self with you):
Communities magazine issue Number 59 wonders if you should get a computer for your group. I think we now know the answer.
Communities Magazine issue 14 talks about tension building and people not trusting each other.
“Remember people not trusting each other will not trust a technique or resolve their disputes”
Communities Magazine Issue 28 has an article where they interview a few people leaving Twin Oaks (a Walden based commune). Some felt it was too chaotic but since it is the longest running commune that is probably not true anymore. One woman was criticized for breastfeeding back then, saying that wasn’t good for the parent/child relationship. The opposite peer pressure would be today. Back in the days of the issue, they said that bottle feeding would be better so babies are not attached to one person (must’ve been popular since kibbutz were like that too). The people they interviewed left and started forming their own commune (a smaller one). They didn’t say which one but there is one near Twin Oaks still to this day.
One person said,
“Now I feel a little sad about new people coming in all bright eyed and bushy because I think they are going to go through the painful process of disillusionment”.
That’s how I feel. I see newcomers come in with stars in their eyes and in my community, some didn’t even last a year. Even those that stay, start to change their attitudes and become more practical, less enthusiastic than the honeymoon phase.
Another issue reflects that those building communities are too busy to write articles. So the editors do interviews over the phone to get their full issues. I find that funny but so true. Only a small few take pen to paper and you’ll see the same voices. Even I barely had time to blog or podcast at all when I lived in cohousing. Leaving gave me more time, and lots more motivation.
One issue has some good advice to see if your forming group will be a good fit with each other. Take a vacation together. Have some retreats.
Another is practical and says that you should consider what a child wants. No one really asks kids if they want to be there. It can be heaven, but it may not be and some real social issues do come up. A few issues mentioned incidents of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. The level of trust in cohousing makes it easy for predators to find victims. Other articles talk about how the turnover of people is especially hard on children. Some families leave because they don’t want to raise their children in a turbulent atmosphere Most people who do leave communities state that it is because they couldn’t work through conflict that has to do with children. (according to one article) There are even memoirs published now by kids who have grown up, and not all of them appreciated the commune lifestyle for various reasons.
Ironically, as I moved into cohousing in the Fall of 2019 I bought a hard copy of the current issue called the Shadow Side of Community. It was all there – how conflict happens and can affect communities and it all happened to me and I didn’t understand what I was reading. I suggest everyone buy this issue and read it every month until it sinks in. These writers know what they are talking about. They have been living in a community for a long time!
One writer says to touch the shadow. Conflict is part of community life. They discuss how it plays out for those who choose to leave and those who stay. There are many examples of things that have gone on in many different types of communities.
Communities Magazine Issue 74 has a timeline of communes from the beginning of time.
There is a magazine dedicated to cults but I’ll review that later. It is a whole other can of worms but, don’t worry, I’ve learned a lot about cults since I saw first hand how scary groups can be and groupthink is real.
In general, everyone should read all of these magazines! They’ve done it all – formed therapeutic communes, 12 step communities, everything people still dream of starting today. You can learn from the words in these pages. The artwork and covers are great! I can taste the acid on the pages.