Busting Myths about Community Living

Get the answers to common questions about living in an intentional community.

  • People living in intentional communities come from various backgrounds.
    Photo by Unsplash/rawpixel
  • “Finding Community” by Diana Leafe Christian highlights appealing living alternatives for like-minded people who seek to create a family-oriented and ecologically sustainable lifestyle.
    Cover courtesy New Society

Finding Community (New Society, 2007) by Diana Leafe Christian presents a thorough overview of ecovillages and intentional communities and offers solid advice on how to research thoroughly, visit thoughtfully, evaluate intelligently and join gracefully. Intentional communities or ecovillages are an appealing choice for like-minded people who seek to create a family-oriented and ecologically sustainable lifestyle -- a lifestyle they are unlikely to find anywhere else. This section tackles common questions and misconceptions about cohousing and community living.

I don’t want to live out in the boonies.

You don’t have to. A total of 1,520 communities listed themselves in the Online Directory of the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) in 2006. (directory.ic.org) Of the nearly 1,000 communities which noted whether they were urban or rural, four out of ten said they were urban, suburban, or located in small towns. Six out of ten said they were rural. In this sample, anyway, at least 40 percent of the communities listing themselves online were not located way out in the country.

I don’t want to live with a bunch of hippies.

Few community members today consider themselves hippies. Some might identify themselves as non-mainstream or countercultural, others might identify themselves as relatively mainstream people who have an interest in community and sustainability. Many, such as members of cohousing communities, are essentially middle-class to upper-middle class people who live relatively normal lives — though more progressive, cooperative, and ecologically sustainable than most. Most communitarians are hard-working and responsible, not folks who fit the image of ’60s-era hippie stereotypes. What do most communitarians have in common? They tend to be health-conscious, environmentally aware, and politically and culturally progressive — the “cultural creatives” whom authors Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson describe in their book Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (Three Rivers Press, 2001).

I don’t want to live a “poverty consciousness” lifestyle with limited resources.

You’ll find many different standards of living in ecovillages and intentional communities. Some embrace voluntary simplicity; others have full access to the comforts of contemporary life. Nearly all communities use the benefits of common ownership to allow people access to facilities and equipment they don’t need to own privately — for example, hot tubs, saunas, pools, exercise rooms, yoga rooms, power tools, washers and dryers, pickup trucks, tractors, and so on. Newly formed communities often start off with limited resources and thus their members tend to live simply. As the community gets more established over time, it tends to create a stable economic base and its members gradually enjoy a physically more comfortable life — according to their own standards.

I don’t want to live with countercultural types who are trying to avoid responsibility.

Many people choose to live in community because it offers an alternative way of life from that of the wider society, yet most community members still raise families, maintain and repair their land and buildings, work for a living, pay income and property taxes, etc. At the same time, communitarians usually perceive their lifestyle as more caring and satisfying than that of mainstream culture, and because of this — and the increased free time which results from pooling resources and specialized skills — many community members feel they can engage more effectively with the wider society.

I don’t want to have to join a religion or take up some spiritual practice I don’t believe in.

You choose what kind of community you join, and you can choose from plenty of secular communities, or those which are spiritually eclectic and don’t have a common spiritual practice.  In the FIC’s Online Directory listings, of those which noted whether they had a shared spiritual path, 45 percent said they did, indicating that slightly more than half the intentional communities that listed themselves do not have a common spiritual practice.



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