We Need Each Other:
Building a Gift Community
By: Bill Kauth
Committed to Co-Creating the Culture
We’ve Been Longing For
You never change something by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes
the existing model obsolete.Buckminster Fuller
“No more prizes for forecasting the rain… only prizes for building the Ark.”
Don Beck of Spiral Dynamics
Second Draft Edition: November 11, 2009Note: This book is a work in progress, not yet a completed project. However, it is close enough to share and begin putting value into the world.
This Book is dedicated to Zoe Alowan,
the “protector of the feminine,”
with whom all things are possible.
The people whom I bless as collaborators include: Jeff Golden,
Charles Eisenstein, my “book coach” Craig Comstock,
David Kaar, Wendy Fullerton & Jack Leishman.
Influences: David Korten, Carolyn Baker, Dianna Leafe Christian,
Richard Heinberg, Robert Augustus Masters, Neale Donald Walsh,
Carolyn Schaffer, Marshall Rosenberg, Chuck Burr, Carolyn Myss,
Jean Houston, Gordon Clay, John Michael Greer, Cecile Andrews,
John Peterson, Andrew Harvey, Robert Moore, Robert Bly,
Ken Wilber, Michael Dowd and Peter Block.
WORK IN PROGRESS – 11/11/09: This book is the result of the
author’s many attempts to build community over several decades.
It exists in this form, at this time, as the highest truth about
what has worked and might work to build community
at this volatile junction in the history of our world.
EVOLVING PROCESS: As our best practices network continues to
evolve this book will evolve. Please share with us your
successes and failures as we learn and co-‐create together.
Preface: Book at a Glance
Imagine your community; carefully chosen, bonded, committed -
resonating at high frequency, playing and working together, healing,
and literally recreating the world.
“Building community… that’s easy.” I mumbled on my way to failure after failure. “It’s totally impossible.” I grudgingly admitted. As a life long social architect I’ve generated thousands of social communities (mostly men) around the world (via MKP http://mankindproject.org/ & Circle of Men). Yet the truly committed, deeply intimate community of women and men
together still eludes me like a snow leopard. I’ve glimpsed this rarified legend sometimes, as I’ve had a taste of such community.
I believe we are ready. We are in a time when we indeed need each other, women and men together. Everything is changing faster than any of us can cope with on our own. Major systems of war, economics and energy are ending. A new culture will come only from people who know and trust each other.
This book is designed to catalyze trusting resonant community, safe structures and the energy to build the new systems.
I invite you to view this book as a tool to be used. Write in it, follow your interest, choose the chapters that “call” to you. Follow what inspires you and design your community with heartfelt gusto.
Core-Gift-Community: A “core” is the special group of people chosen asfamily to be with, share with, laugh and cry with. The “gift” is the focus on “what can I give.” The word “community” comes from the Latin cum-munere. Munere is “to give” and cum means “among each other.”
We Need Each Other:
Building a Gift Community
Dedication & Acknowledgements
Book at a Glance
Table of Contents
Part one: INTRODUCTION & INVITATION
Chapter 1: Welcome To an Impossible Possibility
Chapter 2: Core Gift Community: Are you ready?
Chapter 3: Ways of being together: A four-‐stage map
Chapter 4: Context: Crisis is Opportunity
Chapter 5: Background: BK & MKP History
Part two: WHERE HAS COMMUNITY GONE?
Chapter 6: Stranded Among Strangers: Community is Gone
Chapter 7: Alone in a Crowd: Why No Community
Part three: A NEW VISION OF COMMUNITY
Chapter 8: What Is Community?
Chapter 9: Gift Community
Chapter 10: Feeling Into Gift Community
Chapter 11: Live Into the Possibility
Chapter 12: Bridging & Bonding
Chapter 13: Shared Principles
Chapter 14: Needing Each Other
Chapter 15: Loving Each Other
Chapter 16: Protecting Each Other: The Safety Net
Chapter 17: Co-‐creating the New Culture
Part four: HOW TO CREATE COMMUNITY
Chapter 18: Founders
Chapter 19: Vision, Purpose & Goals
Chapter 20: Core Community Values
Chapter 21: Structure of Community
Chapter 22: Finding and Inviting
Chapter 23: Do I have the Right to Choose?
Chapter 24: Selecting Members
Chapter 25: Self-‐Prep for Inviting Members
Chapter 26: Inviting New Members
Chapter 27: Membership Gates
Chapter 28: Commitment to Each Other
Chapter 29: Commitment to Place
Chapter 30: Commitment to Time Together.
Chapter 31: Small Groups
Chapter 32: Gender Safety:
Chapter 33: Resolving Conflict
Chapter 34: Optimal Community Size
Chapter 35: Leisure Together: Playing and Praying
Chapter 36: Initiation
Chapter 37: Making a Living
Chapter 38: Gratitude: Living into our Gifts
Part Five: AFTERWORD
Bibliography – Books
Websites & Resources
Reciprocity: Part of the Gift
Chapter 1 Welcome to an impossible possibility
“Long-ignored, the gathering crisis of ecology, energy, economy, and society pierces our complacency now with undeniable urgency, and we realize we have no choice but to accomplish the
impossible.” Charles Eisenstein
It seems lately that everybody wants community and almost nobody has a clue as to how to create it! What’s going on? Why is it so hard? The answer is: Our current society is arranged so that WE DO NOT NEED EACH OTHER and we are just beginning to really understand the GIFT!
The truth is that WE NEED EACH OTHER, now more than in over a century. This book explores how our society has hijacked our ability to bonds with each other and how we might come to know that we do indeed need each other as we learn to live more fully in community.
Most research indicates that when we actually ask people what they really want, they always say; love, family and a community of friends. It’s what we all want. Given this deep hunger for community, why is it NOT available and how might we actually open to the community we have been longing for?
Social, psychological, political and economic design factors are all in play here. As I speak with fellow elders we recall a once vital sense of community that has been lost. And, it is lost forever because we have evolved well beyond what we remember. We must create something new and as yet unknown. Some of us actually do see the current
dramatic world changes as an opportunity for utterly new evolutionary possibilities of community. We have dared to hope for the designs that are just now beginning to evolve.
For thirty years I’ve been a social pioneer hacking thru the underbrush of human relating, leading to amazing success as well as many
disappointing dead ends. This accumulation of lived experiences has informed me about what does and what does not work. A new vision is emerging.
The times in which we live feel so scary, yet so ripe, so ready to birth deep community as never before seen. As data technology has
advanced from a room sized card calculator 30 years ago to a hand-‐held chip computer a thousand times more powerful, so the hidden need for human relationship capacity has evolved dramatically in that same time.
Let us seriously take the challenge of building long term, loving
community! We do this so that we can; feel safer, experience more joy, build a future, help evolve a new culture.
But something is in the way. Why does it seem as if we do not need each other? What are our inner blocks to authentic community? Are we far more entranced by the current system than we realize? These
questions allow us to imagine a possibility, which does not yet exist. If we dare to see a new vision we can move toward what we truly want.
As we discover our own courage to need each other, really need each other, the awesome power to truly be with each other, men and women face to face, we will discover how we can give our gift and meet the needs of each other. All our unmet needs for beauty, intimacy, love, support, safety and play are waiting for your “gift” in community.
As we accept this challenge it becomes our gift to the world. Most
people are not ready to unplug from the system until they see repeated examples of a better way to live. They need to see a workable solution and feel invited to walk towards something better, not away from something bad. Those of us who are already, as Gandhi said, “becoming the change we want to see,” will be the inspiration for those who follow.
The community we’ve been longing for is available to us as we leave the old story behind and open to the new story. Let’s explore this new vision together. Call it “gift community.” Allow me to guide you thru this book.
Chapter 2 Core Gift Community: Are you ready?
“We love: that’s why life is full of so many wonderful gifts.” :Rumi
We will be building this airplane as we fly it. The “Gift Community” is part of the much larger evolving GIFT culture, which is just beginning to show up as the next obvious worldview for humankind.
I believe that a significant part of humanity has evolved beyond
competition and me-‐first as a worldview. For the first time in history, many people truly feel fulfilled, almost brimming over. We long to simply give our gift, to lend a hand. We are after all social animals. We are cooperative beings. We love giving. We see beauty and we see each other. Our hearts are broken open and we love. We know how to give and receive love. In a word, we are ready for a “gift” community. This book is a gift. It is a social invention offered to you by a life long social entrepreneur. It’s my gift, it’s simply what I do. Take this gift and adapt it to your own designs and conditions. Please receive the gift.
If you felt gratitude at the thought or idea of receiving a gift, this book may be for you. If you felt some sense of “reciprocity” and it felt really good, not forced, then this book is definitely for you.
This book is designed for the hundreds of millions of people already prepared to use a basic “how-‐to” manual of guidelines to co-‐create something heretofore impossible. And as it’s so new and untested we will be working together on just exactly “how-‐to.” It’s like the
Wikipedia, or any of the other popular share ware systems. Working together, each sharing our gift, we can make the leap into an experience of community which none of us knew was possible.
Two maps to help vision “gift” community: The next section is a brief 4 stage map showing how we are now and might soon be in community. Please give it a little study for you to know where you fit right now.
The other map I invite you to explore is more complex with 8 layers of human worldviews, each carefully building upon each other. This a Spiral Dynamics map and the most easily understood website I’ve found
To understand the Spiral Dynamics map requires some study. Those who already know it may recognize that this book is designed for “yellow moving into turquoise” and probably saying “Wow, let’s get on with it, I’ve been waiting for real Integral community.”
From a Spiral Dynamics perspective we are all evolving all the time -‐ like it or not. As individuals evolve so our society and worldview evolves. Many of us who identify as “evolutionaries” who have been doing this consciously for many years.
We are interested here in those who are devoted to the evolutionary process. We can see the process of our parents after WWII as the entrepreneurs who had it made – rich, successful, self-‐sufficient, and stuck in old rigid systems. All dressed up and no place to go.
Our generation jumped into full-‐out inclusiveness, we loved everybody. We had the resources, time and leisure to do deep inner work, both psychological and spiritual. We found our inner essence and we liked it as we individualized into healthy, self realized, transcendent world servers. All woken up and ready for something more.
This is the current leap for so many of us (yellow to turquoise). We are evolving now into an utterly unique capacity to see all the other world views or stories from which we came. We can see the beauty of all that has gone before as well as the limitations. As we evolve from the “old story” into another we take the best of how it has been and
integrate it as we learn to live from the “new story.”
This book reflects as best as possible at this moment the new story of community. It will include functional pieces of the old stories as we use the best of the best to co-‐create a more beautiful world.
Chapter 3 Ways of Being Together in Community
Overview of the four stages: The 4 stage relationship map follows human maturation and evolution. We begin relationships as children relating from a self-‐centered identity, an attitude of “What can I get for me?” This is normal developmental stage somewhere from toddler to adolescent, unless the child is very loved. As we mature in our ability to actually “see” the other as separate and fall in love and feel our needs and attachment dependency we usually cling in what’s called co-‐
dependent. Some of us continue to grow emotionally and socially and become more autonomous, self sufficient, differentiated and
individualized. We evolve to “equal but separate” relationships in which we each have our career, bank account, separate friends even homes sometimes. We love each other and when we are together we love each other and it’s great. This is actually a highly evolved “way of being.” AND there is yet another stage. As a self-‐sufficient free individual, my identity may be strong enough to consciously allow attachment to another. In this commitment I find an intimacy deep enough to allow transformational process. This “container” becomes safe enough to accelerate our inner evolution and outer manifestation. Here we feel fulfilled and need to serve, to give back. And so it is with community.
The following sections show “what people want” in each stage, “who they are” in the world socially and psychologically, then finally “where” in society people in each stage might be found. Each of us can be seen and see ourselves living somewhere in this evolving spectrum. This map allows us to see ourselves currently in community and imagine how we might want to “be together” with others in the future.
FOUR STAGES OF COMMUNITY:
#1 TOGETHER ALONE: “I am with people.”
What: People at this stage want to be with other people but not too close, they may have conversations but not go very deep, mostly talking about things, events or some ideas like political opinions.
Who: They usually find trusting other people somewhat challenging. Codependent couples or friends will move into these situations
Particularly narcissistic types can get attention here without any commitment.
Where: This sense of community people find through watching sports events, movies or going to a tavern or political meetings. They are with others, but it is mostly not personal; a shared experience or situation where hearts rarely touch.
#2. GLUED TOGETHER: “I belong to a community.”
What: The people here have a “want to belong” that is very strong. To be part of “community” these folks will give up their own beliefs and autonomy. To be accepted they will also give over much personal power, freedom and money.
Who: They would show up as dependent personality types and be vulnerable to cult type situations. It becomes attractive to people whom we might call “co-‐dependent’ or “needy.”
Where: This sense of “community” shows up in most main-‐stream religions. It is especially obvious in fundamentalist religions in the way “Jesus Saves” means “Once you are one of us, we’ll take care of you.”
#3. TOGETHER SEPARATELY: “I am in a community.”
What: Here we find self sufficient, independent people who want
community, particularly of others just like themselves. They have been successful in the outer world and want to share time and co-‐creative energy with others so they look for established gatherings of people which they can join.
Who: These folks are detached, high functioning and individualistic. If/when they find others of like mind and shared interest they join in and slowly develop friendships.
Where: This type of community will show up as main-‐stream religions and especially in New Thought churches like Unity, Unitarian or ad hoc political activities and theater groups.
#4. BEING TOGETHER: “I am community.”
What: These folks have both healthy autonomy and intimacy skills including the openness needed to truly be present. Being together in an interdependent way serves their wants and needs for mutual security, growth, support, sustainability and transformation.
Who: Independent, self aware and strong enough to embrace
together. They want community that is accessible, not too big or too small and exists with a mutual commitment to stay “together” rather like a good marriage. This deep being together intimacy is the feeling essence of “being” community. From this place of fulfilled being there is ease in giving, receiving and living the gift.
Where: These free autonomous beings choose to “be present” together and committed to place-‐based co-‐housing and ecovillages. Beyond such deliberate living situations this appears new and untried. This just might be the evolving gift community.
SOURCE: I found this wonderful overview of four distinct stages of human intimate relationships developed by Robert Augustus Masters in his book: Transformation Through Intimacy. I’ve taken the liberty of reworking the model as a map showing four stages of community with Robert’s permission and support. For information on his many other books and training events see: http://www.robertmasters.com/
Context: Crisis is Opportunity
It is a scary time to be alive, but it is a wonderful time to be alive. It is good to know that there is so much accumulated intelligence and compassion among us. — Richard Heinberg
It appears that we will be building community in a time when the gap between heaven and earth is closing. Truth has always been available but only understood by a few. In the next few years we will have an opportunity to move out of struggle and into freedom. As the new story opens the old story is contracting in a perfect storm of crises.
This is an ancient Chinese motto: “Crisis is Opportunity”
Pronounced wei jee jyi chuan jee this ancient Chinese calligraphy tells us “crisis is opportunity.” The time has come for us to wake up from a long sleep and shift the entire old story of human consciousness from limitation to the new story of living the gift. It is a very exciting time in the evolution of humankind.
In this chapter we will first explore the crisis of the old story as civilization in collapse, then we will look at the new story of opportunity as seen in extraordinary rapid human evolutionary process. As we look at these very different views of the same situation I invite you to reach always for a higher truth. Each of us lives our truth to the best of our ability as we gather data, analyze it logically and intuitively then make our decisions. People I admire hold their truth lightly, recognizing a deeper truth when it shows up.
The Old Story - Context of Crisis: This will be intellectually and emotionally challenging for nearly everyone. In the index I offer an eleven minute presentation of on the “environmental tipping point” and if you see it and can bear it even as you cry in despair, you will know what we have to do. It’s no longer an option and it is utterly impossible. Only a miracle or many thousand or millions of them can save us. We’ll get to that below as we explore the new story.
Many of us sense that civilization as we have known it is coming to an end; we are in collapse right now. If we are paying attention at all, we must wonder what collapse is all about, when will it come, how will it affect us and what can we do? Indeed, collapse is slowly happening every day, as obsolete systems crumble step by step over years. As Carolyn Baker puts it, “I believe that collapse will look more like rolling down a hill than falling from a cliff, but some bumps in the roll down the hill will be more painful than others, and with each succeeding bump, it will be clearer
that words like “sea change” and “point of no return” are the only appropriate synonyms for our experience.”
The “crash” of 1929 took two years. This time we face the perfect storm of
economic, energy and environmental collapse all at the same time. Collapse simply means “TEOTWAWKI” as in “The End Of The World As We Know It” and we are all in this together. We will all be affected by climate change as the ecological systems of life are diminishing. The oceans are declining due to plankton loss in the food chain and over fishing. Our food systems are waning as topsoil depletion causes loss in total world grain. And the decline of cheap energy, on which our entire civilization is based, has begun as our already unsustainable global population keeps growing.
Many of us already feel TEOTWAWKI on a personal level as the economic meltdown touches us. As Carolyn Myss states in the introduction to Andrew Harvey’s new book called The Hope: “Our present cycle of change has come with new challenges so great that we are incapable of calculating all of them, much less comprehending the interconnected web of catastrophes the challenges portend. How can we comprehend or even imagine what tomorrow will bring? And I do mean tomorrow, as in "the next day." Already we have seen the monetary system collapse in a matter of days,
something no one believed possible. But as we are learning, nothing is the same as it was even last year. We are, all of us, now headed into a very different world.”
I've come to understand that aside from the obvious social, political, economic, and environmental challenges facing us, there are even more treacherous subtle forces at play. I consider them even more treacherous because we pay them no mind, yet they are reshaping us like silly putty. Specifically, I am aware of how change is increasingly rapid. We cannot calculate how fast business, money, nations, politics, ideas, and laws - - essentially anything and everything -- changes. We can't keep up anymore, not with our families, not with our friends, and certainly not with ourselves. And of all the things in life we fear most, change it at the top of the list. So here we are living in a world in which essentially out of control at light speed. Yet no one is addressing this fact, much less the emotional, psychic, mental or physical consequences of this crisis.”
Carolyn goes on to say that every change is global in magnitude and all changes are profound with significance well beyond our ability to grasp, leaving us on continual over load. Over the months I’ve been writing this book, nearly every day something significant shows up and I say “Oh, I’ve got to include that.” Finally, I decided to stick to the basics of core gift community and trust you to keep current as best you can. In the index, I’ve included some of my favorite websites, which in my judgment tell high level truth, and just a couple important informational sites.
My friend the prolific author John Michael Greer frames our current situation in the distinction between a problem and a predicament. He points out simply that a problem is something calls for a solution whereas a predicament has no solution. It is a predicament that must be lived out and he suggests with earthy compassion “...that predicaments don’t stop being predicaments just because we treat them as problems.” In the quote below John Michael advises facing our predicament
squarely in all it’s complexity. “So many of us want things all one way or the other, all good or all evil, without the terrible ambivalence that pulses through all things human as inescapably as blood. So many of us want to see today's civilization as humanity's only hope or as ecocide incarnate, and long for a future that will be either the
apotheosis or the final refutation of the present. It's far less popular, and arguably far more difficult, to embrace that ambivalence and accept both the wonder and the immense tragedy of our time. Still, it seems to me that if we are to face up to the challenges of the future that's bearing down on us, that difficult realization is an essential starting point.”
I may be getting obvious that I’m suggesting that coping individually with all this change may be too much, however with supportive community we can help each other. We do truly need each other in this time. Much of the trauma mentioned above is driven by our belief in the old stories of “infinite growth on a finite planet” and “humans own the earth.” Together we can stand in TEOTWAWKI and realize it is not the end of the world totally, but just the end of what we knew, freeing us to bring forward the new story.
Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön writes, “Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears, but from getting to know them well.”
The New Story - Context of Rapid Evolution: If you know the “environmental tipping point” and other material mentioned above you understand the need for miracles. Knowing the need has made some of us start looking for them, and guess what? They are everywhere.
Gaia is ailing and we are the immune system! This is my favorite new story which reflects the “magic” as everywhere. We cannot live separate from her. We need her! We need each other! We are her child, her lover and her protector. We intuitively know that we literally must devote our lives to healing her or we will die.
Paul Hawken a visionary environmental activist truly gets Gaia’s pain. His a newest book called, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. As he traveled all over the world teaching, people kept coming up to him after his presentations and giving him a card of what they were doing. After several year and thousands of card he realized there is something going on here on plant earth that is quiet and deep and gets no press. So he wrote his book about all the healing he actually see going on everywhere.
In Spring of 2009 at the University of Portland commencement address Paul offered the paradox with his encouraging observations; “When asked if I am
pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront
despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”
He offers a quote from the poet Adrienne Rich: “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”
He then continues with; “There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums. You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, peace, deforestation, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection.
Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power.”
The old story is pushing us rapidly into the new story. John Peterson, writing in Reality Sandwich (Sept./09) says “Perhaps what is most compelling to me is that history strongly suggests that the time is right for an upset -- they always happen about now in the historical cycles. … big punctuations in the equilibrium of evolution have produced extraordinary, fundamental reorganizations to life on this planet on a regular, accelerating basis from the beginning of time as we know it. We make progress as a species when we are forced in one way or another to evolve to seeing ourselves and the world in new ways. Necessity is the mother of invention, etc. So, it doesn't look to me like we're going to be able to do what might be needed to maintain the present system . . . and it is likely that we're at one of those extraordinary moments in history when each of us gets the opportunity to play an important role in not only transitioning to a new world, but also designing it.”
Human beings are becoming significantly more conscious and aware, drawn
towards spirituality and personal development in greater numbers than ever before. As hundreds of millions come to know the new story something is being initiated.
Indeed, humankind is going thru an “initiation” and like any authentic initiatory process, we may not make it. However if we look at the process of initiation and we might get a better look at where we are going. Ken Wilber’s world-‐view model of differentiation, change and integration talks about cycles as they alternate between differentiation (separation) individual development and integration (communal) social development. In his model every other evolutionary world-‐view goes from personal to collective. The wisdom needed for survival has been generated due to what he calls the “second tier” level awareness of all the other worldviews. Such people see it all, bless it and get on with what needs to be done. This represents the full quantum field consciousness shift we need to survive, we already have the knowledge and technology to do this.
This book is a call for “Second Tier” people to bond together to do what we know we must do. It is what we can’t not do!
Chapter 5 Who this book is for: A Personal History
When I read a book I always want to know “who is this author, what is their background and who are their friends?” So in that spirit I want you to know who I am in the world and who this book was designed for.
BOOMERS: My target audience for this book is people a lot like me: we were the children of the 60s, highly indulged upper middle class USA baby boomers. An almost embarrassingly fortunate historical sub-‐ group, we grew up with everything. Like every other generation, we took our “wounds” but had major compensations, enough money and cars, a college education. We believed we could afford to be idealistic until this assumption got shattered by the murders of our heroes. Some of us have been hoping for so long that we are afraid to hope any more and now just barely know what to do. For us this book offers a place to start and commit to something real and tangible that just might make a difference.
“To whom much is given, much is expected”: We did not ask to be born so pampered. But it was our golden fate and many of us used it well. We educated ourselves, trained in spiritual disciplines, endured endless psycho-‐emotional catharsis, practiced austerity, invested in our own evolutionary process. Now we have much to give back and some of us also have the time and resources to make a difference. Many of us feel a deep need to return our good fortune, to serve other people and build a more beautiful world. Like an unfinished calling, we must now give our “gift.”
My brothers are ready: I see and feel the readiness in the men of The ManKind Project to move into this next social evolutionary step. As “initiators of men” we do very well. The descent is deep, the ordeal fierce and the return into men’s community becomes precious to most brothers. Now, the next obvious challenge of true long term community with both men and women stands waiting. We have the skills, vision and volition. But how did we get here and how would I know? Allow me to share some history.
Community is what I have longed for all my life. I actually had a taste of it as a kid in our little middle class town in Wisconsin. In college
fraternities, parties and even political activism. In the 70s I took a job with a free-‐thinking social service agency and began organizing and training support groups like mini-‐communities. It was there, in my own beloved men’s support group that for the first time I found authentic community beyond what I had imagined possible.
The “Call”: As a psychotherapist in the 80s I made a living helping people while continuing to organize training groups. The women’s movement in those day embodied the transformations energy of the culture, so I identified as a feminist therapist. Early in 1984 something quietly dramatic happened to me at a feminist therapists conference on “Interdependence.” I saw so many conscious aware women working together that I felt thunderstruck with the fact that there was nothing for men. From that moment on my life calling became “doing something for men.”
Men’s Work: My epiphany led to the men’s rite-‐of-‐passage training called the New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). With the poet Robert Bly as our intellectual mentor, Ron Hering, Rich Tosi and I
focused our attention and opened our hearts enough to allow this work to flow through us into the world. A decade later our not-‐for-‐profit corporate container was called The ManKind Project (MKP). Now after 25 years, we have established communities in 8 countries around the world and directly served well over 42,000 men.
The Book: Some time early in that adventure I finished and published my book called A Circle of Men: The Original Manuel for Men’s Support Groups. In my book’s introduction I talk about my passion for
community and my history. That was 1992 and I’m still struggling to make something tangible of this undying vision of community.
Social Inventor: Since I left my psychotherapy practice behind me in the mid 80s I have been organizing people into groups which allow them to increase their social connections. They do this both through inner growth and social skills making them more receptive to social connection and community. Eventually I came to see all this as my “gift” and began to identify my profession as “social inventor.”
There are thousands of “communities” out there in the world as a result of my social inventions. I feel good about these communities as they have an atypically high level of trust. Most of the men of MKP have been tested in the fires of the NWTA and it’s follow up Integration Groups for some years. They have embodied a fairly sophisticated skill-‐set which includes intimate communications, emotional literacy and conflict
resolution. All this which allows a high level of trust in a relatively short time (months vs. years -‐or-‐ years vs. decades). I cherish my work in the world as my joy.
I failed at Community. The list of attempts that did not work is long and painful. When I talk about my having “failed” my friends tell me to stop using the word “fail”. I do know that Thomas Edison failed ten thousand times before he got the light bulb right. And I fully understand the deep learning that comes from the willingness to take the risk and “fail.” I love the phrase “failing forward” and do get that with each experiment I’m learning something even if it is what “doesn’t work.”
I live in Home Town Community: Many of us here in Ashland, Oregon have friends and a good healthy sense of community. There are several hundred “warrior brothers” (MKP men) who live here. We like the flow in and out of various sub-‐communities. It feels free and easy. We care for each other in a good way and have a very high sense of belonging to something like community. I envision much more.
THIS BOOK is my latest adventure in deep learning. I do not have a highly polished template to share with you in 10 easy steps. This book represents the learning garnered from many years of trying and finding out what does not work as well as well as many successful steps. Let us co-‐create more successes that show up as loving long term community.
Generational collaboration: One of my hopes for this book involves the integration and coming together of the creative boomer crowd and the younger “Gen-‐X” or “indigo” demographic. I hope for an alliance of those of us who have paid a lot of dues to grow emotionally, spiritually, socially and those who were born into a more evolved consciousness, our grown children. We all bring our gifts and if we share freely our potential then we can exponentially open to astonishing possibilities.
Chapter 6 Stranded Among Strangers:
Why Community is Impossible in our culture
Community is gone and it’s almost too painful to talk about. Just what have we been robbed of? Was our social heritage stolen without our explicit knowledge? Why are there no models of community?
Where has “community” gone? It’s the big question all of us seem to either ask or feel deep in our bones. For so long I quietly wondered “Is it me, or is community just impossible?” My intention in this section is to invite us to see our dilemma of absent “community” from both the deeply personal and socio-‐economic perspectives. If we know why our society is the way it is, we may feel more motivated to do what-‐it-‐takes to make wiser decisions as to how to build the community we long for.
Humankind has never been here before. We are looking out into the unknown. We have evolved from 150 thousand generations of hunter-‐ gatherer tribes to 50,000 generations of subsistence farmers. Now in a dozen generations we are industrial users of billions of barrels of
petroleum. The power of such virtual free energy created a life so crazy-‐ making different from anything our ancestor could ever have imagined.
Most poignantly we lost our connection with the earth, the mother that nurtures us all. We lost gratitude and our simple humble soft animal essence. Not too many generations ago we did not even know we had “selves” separate from our tribe. Suddenly we do not need anyone in particular, as all those other people became interchangeable units serving us in forgetting our alienation from “Our Mother.”
Charles Eisenstein in his book The Ascent of Humanity, presents the very best overview of just why and how community has become impossible in our current culture. He lays it all out from pages 201-‐207 in Section 2 called Alone in a Crowd of Chapter 4 called Money and Property. I could not possibly say it better. With his permission I’m including it as the next chapter. You might want to read this section a few times to understand the truth that you already know yet could not put in words. Understanding this cognitively will help a lot as we move into exploring what to do.
Chapter 7 Alone in a Crowdby:
“It should not be surprising that money is deeply implicated in the dissolution of community, because anonymity and competition are intrinsic to money as we know it. The anonymity of money is a function of its abstraction. The history of money is the history of the gradual
abstraction of value from physical objects. Early forms of money possessed intrinsic value, and were distinguished from other objects of intrinsic value by their portability, storability, and universality. Whether camels, bags of grain, or jugs of oil, early media of exchange had an inherent value to nearly every member of the society.
As society specialized and trade flourished, more abstract forms of money developed that depended not on inherent value but on collective belief in their value. Why trade actual bags of grain when you can just trade
representations of those bags? Paper money, and to a great extent coinage, depends for its value on collective perceptions rather than practical utility. You can't eat gold.
The next stage of the abstraction of value came with the divorce of money from even the representation of physical objects. With the
abandonment of the gold standard in the 20th century, a dollar came to be worth. . . a dollar. Currency has become a completely abstract
representation of value; indeed, the abstraction is so complete that it no longer really represents anything at all. The parallel with language is
uncanny. Just as words have lost their mooring in the reality of our senses, "forcing us into increasingly exaggerated elocutions to communicate at all," so also has money become not just a representation of value but value itself. The last thirty years have witnessed the final step of this
abstraction: the gradual elimination of physical currency altogether in favor of numbers in a computer.
Just as words increasingly mean nothing at all, money is also nearing a crisis in which, so disconnected from the utilitarian objects it once
represented, it becomes nothing more than hunks of metal, pieces of paper, and bits in a computer. Our efforts to stave off this eventuality (of
hyperinflation and currency collapse) mirror the logic of the technological fix, postponing the day of reckoning.
Money is abstract not only with regard to objects of utility, but also with regard to people. Anybody's money is the same. While camels or jugs of oil or any tangible object has an individuality connected with its origin, money is completely generic and thus completely anonymous. Nothing in the digits of your savings account statement tells you who that money came from. One person's money is as good as another's. It is no accident that our society, based increasingly on money, is also increasingly a
generic and anonymous society. Money is how the society of the Machine enacts the standardization and depersonalization implicit in its mass scale and division of labor. But more than just a means to implement
depersonalization, money also pushes it further.
To see how, let us return to the paradise of financial independence,
ignoring for now that the security it promises is but a temporary illusion, and instead look at the results when it is actually achieved. Often, it is when the semblance of independence is achieved that its emptiness becomes most apparent. Simply observe that the financially independent
individual, among other equally independent individuals, has no basis for community except for the effort to "be nice" and "make friends".
Underneath even the most well-‐motivated social gathering is the
knowledge: We don't really need each other. Contemporary parties, for example, are almost always based on consumption—of food, drink, drugs, sports, or other forms of entertainment. We recognize them as frivolous. This sort of fun really doesn't matter, and neither do the friendships based on fun. Does anybody ever become close by partying together?
Actually, I don't think that joint consumption is even fun. It only passes the time painlessly by covering up a lack, and leaves us feeling all the more empty. The significance of the superficiality of our social leisure becomes apparent when we contrast that sort of "fun" with a very different activity, play. Unlike joint consumption, play is by nature creative. Joint creativity fosters relationships that are anything but superficial. But when our fun, our entertainment, is itself the object of purchase, and is created by distant and anonymous specialists for our consumption (movies, sports contests, music), then we become consumers and not producers of fun. We are no longer players.
Play is the production of fun; entertainment is the consumption of fun. When the neighbors watch the Superbowl together they are consumers;
when they organize a game of touch football (alas, the parks are empty these days) they are producers. When they watch music videos together they consume; when they play in a band they produce. Only through the latter activity is there the possibility of getting to know each other's strengths and limitations, character and inner resources. In contrast, the typical cocktail party, dinner party, or Superbowl party affords little opportunity to share much of oneself, because there is nothing to do. (And have you noticed how any attempt to share oneself in such settings seems contrived, uncomfortable, awkward, inappropriate, or
embarrassing?) Besides, real intimacy comes not from telling about yourself—your childhood, your relationships, your health problems, etc.— but from joint creativity, which brings out your true qualities, invites you to show that aspect of yourself needed for the task at hand. Later, when intimacy has developed, telling about oneself may come naturally— or it may not even be necessary.
Have you ever wondered why your childhood friendships were closer, more intimate, more bonded than those of adulthood? At least that's how I remember mine. It wasn't because we had heart-to-heart
conversations about our feelings. With our childhood friends we felt a closeness that probably wasn't communicated in words. We did things together and created things together. From an adult's perspective our creativity was nothing but games: our play forts and cardboard box houses and pretend tea parties and imaginary sports teams and teddy bear
families were not real. As children, though, these activities were very real to us indeed; we were absolutely in earnest and invested no less a degree of emotion in our make-‐believe than adults do in theirs.
Yes, the adult world is make-‐believe too. Roles and costumes, games and pretenses contribute to a vast story. When we become aware of it, we sense the artificiality of it all and feel, perhaps, like a child playing grown-‐ up. The entire edifice of culture and technology is built on stories,
composed of symbols, about how the world is. Usually we don't notice; we think it is all "for real". Our stories are mostly unconscious. But the new edifice that will rise from the ruins of the old will be built on very different stories of self and world, and these stories will be consciously told. We will go back to play.