James Bond likes co-housing

Okay, that’s a lie, but it made you look, didn’t it?

And there’s a kernel of truth… a very small kernel. It turns out that a place called Brazier’s Park, now one of the oldest secular communities in the United Kingdom, was the childhood home of  Ian Fleming, the author who created James Bond.

I stumbled across the reference to Brazier’s Park in a report by Fiona Sielski Waters who visited a number of U.K. cohousing communities with a touring Belgian group.

Yeah, Poirot meets Bond.

This is “cohousing,” not “co-housing,” but her report shows an interesting range of settings and forms, and occasionally a glimpse of the challenges and joys of community living. Worth a read.

The Age of Loneliness

“What do we call this present age,” asked George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian (The age of loneliness is killing us, October 14, 2014). Looking at increasing trends toward social isolation, he suggests we are now entering the Age of Loneliness.

This is hugely destructive (for example, loneliness has the same impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day) because, Monbiot argues, “we were social creatures from the start, mammalian bees, who depended entirely on each other. The hominins of east Africa could not have survived one night alone. We are shaped, to a greater extent than almost any other species, by contact with others. The age we are entering, in which we exist apart, is unlike any that has gone before.”

Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these shifts alone fail to explain the speed of our social collapse. These structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology, which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our time….

See The Great Affluence Fallacy for some thoughts on how to counter this trend.


The Great Affluence Fallacy

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times (The Great Affluence Fallacy, August 9, 2016), describes a centuries-old competition between commercial and communal society:

In 18th-century America, colonial society and Native American society sat side by side. The former was buddingly commercial; the latter was communal and tribal. As time went by, the settlers from Europe noticed something: No Indians were defecting to join colonial society, but many whites were defecting to live in the Native American one.

Reflecting on why “thousands of Europeans,” according to contemporary accounts, might have chosen to reject European ways for a more tribal lifestyle, Brooks speculates: “It raises the possibility that our culture is built on some fundamental error about what makes people happy and fulfilled.

Fast forward to today.

Brooks notes: “As we’ve gotten richer, we’ve used wealth to buy space: bigger homes, bigger yards, separate bedrooms, private cars, autonomous lifestyles. Each individual choice makes sense, but the overall atomizing trajectory sometimes seems to backfire. According to the World Health Organization, people in wealthy countries suffer depression by as much as eight times the rate as people in poor countries.

“There might be a Great Affluence Fallacy going on — we want privacy in individual instances, but often this makes life generally worse.” (See The Age of Loneliness for George Monbiot’s thoughts on this.)

Brooks finds hope in a new generation who seek stronger social ties.

Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community while living for autonomy, I get the sense a lot of people are actually about to make the break and immerse themselves in demanding local community movements.

Co-housing, for instance?

Thoughts about Community

Creating an intentional community is the primary motivation behind our co-housing project. Our understanding of community continues to evolve. Our ongoing conversation has been stimulated by some of the following thoughts.

Furthering the common good does not require that we forego self-interest, but rather that we are able to see our own interests linked to those of others. It requires a society that enables citizens to express the very human need to act on our deepest values as well as on our private interests.

Frances Moore Lappé, Rediscovering America’s Values

…Individualistic material progress and the desire to gain prestige by coming out on top have taken over from the sense of fellowship, compassion and community. Now people live more or less on their own in a small house, jealously guarding their goods and planning to acquire more, with a notice on the gate that says, “Beware of the Dog.”

Jean Vanier, Community And Growth
[We stand by the ideas, even if we can no longer stand by the man. (In 2020 an investigation concluded Vanier had sexually abused a number of women during a more than thirty-year span.)–DT, July 2022]

There is no such thing at any stage of human development as life without relationships. In this later stage then, the only uncertainty is whether we will decide to live inside ourselves, alone with our past relationships, or trust that the life made glorious by others in the past can be made glorious again — by new meetings, new moments, new spirit.

Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years



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