Appendix B

Intentional Community Guide

Creating an intentional community brings up practical questions of housing, environment and sustainability. In addition, you must think about whom you could comfortably cohabit with, if not under the same roof, then at least as a neighbor. Here we're not just concerned with short-term comfort, but with building something that will endure—a spiritual structure, if you will. Below are outlined the author's own aspirations in this regard. If you haven't seen the action plan in the addendum of "Managing the Spiritual Neighborhood," I recommend you look at that first, particularly the section titled "Land Development and Intentional Community." In addition, the section on "Community Law" places this outline in a broader context.

A neo-indigenous enclave

The community I'm envisioning follows the cohousing model, where homes are clustered but not necessarily attached. There would be an extensive common area, and we would all share facilities such as kitchen and dining, and perhaps showers, at least in the beginning. I further suggest gardening, construction, land stewardship and livestock care could also be shared; that is, both their fruits and their labors. People with specialized interests would focus on the areas that best suit them in terms of skill and enjoyment. This might sound like a lot of sharing, but the idea is to keep cost as low as possible while maintaining a minimum level of comfort and privacy. On the other hand, no one should have to sleep in a communal barrack. Indeed, we should each have our own dwelling at some point, either as individuals or as couples, families, etc. The goal is to get people into permanent homes from which they cannot be evicted, to have a spot on the planet that is livable, sustainable and as self-sufficient as the realities of modern economy allow. To accomplish this, there must be significant cooperation among the residents. Ideally, we would establish a neo-indigenous enclave, a society with a strong spiritual foundation (in the most abstract sense) that would hold together into succeeding generations.

Low-cost construction, off the grid

Homes are simple and cozy, constructed with low-cost components: cob, straw bale, round wood, lime and clay plasters, recycled materials, etc. Heat in the winter would come from thermal mass stoves, pellet stoves, wood-burning fireplaces and possibly solar thermal. Earth air tubes would be desirable, depending on the expense. Passive solar construction and extensive insulation will reduce fuel consumption. Hot water is produced using solar collectors, hoping, again, it's something we can afford (or even build ourselves). Floors are initially earthen mass; roofs are sod or maybe metal, with gutter and downspout apparatus to collect rainfall. Collecting and re-using water will be a key function of each dwelling. For the community in general, a root cellar, a shed for storing equipment and one or more outdoor gazebos are desirable.

This is the baseline. People with the resources can, of course, build to a higher standard. But not perhaps so big that their home is out of character with the community. You wouldn't want a twenty-room mansion next to a 400-square-foot cottage. Not because the cottage brings down the value of the mansion, but the other way around. The mansion might give the impression of extravagance and conceit Now, if the mansion owner helps the cottage dweller fix his roof when a leak develops or otherwise puts himself at the service of his neighbors—say, with support for construction projects—he or she would merit some forgiveness in the extent of his home.

Financial and cultural issues aside, the main obstacle to the success of this plan will be in gathering a sufficient number of motivated people, folks with a strong interest in seeing it through, and who furthermore display the requisite character and work ethic. I'm envisioning the construction of things like rocket stoves that will require sustained labor by a fairly large group. Many hands make light work, but the reality is sometimes quite different, where one or two individuals carry the bulk of the load. It remains to be seen whether a group can be assembled where everyone pulls their own weight.

$10,000 to $100,000 ... $75 to $150/month

The goal is low-cost living in a serene setting close to the land with cooperative participation in routine chores and on-going maintenance. What low-cost means will vary. Wealthier folks would be asked to contribute more to fund the community's on-going expenses. After up-front expenditures for land purchase, construction, wells, septic and so on, one would like to think that no household with, say, one or two occupants should ever have to pay more than $150/month on average for utilities, fees and maintenance. I suggest a comfortable living should be possible on half that: $75/month. To accomplish this, the community must be designed to collect its own water, process its own waste and produce its own electricity; e.g., from solar panels, wind turbines, micro-hydro, etc. The hope is that property taxes could be reduced or even eliminated through the suitable selection of a site (see "Challenging the Culture of Eviction" in the action plan). Just to throw a figure out, I'm imagining a person could buy into the project for as little as $10,000, assuming he or she could contribute with skills, labor and other services either during initial construction or periodically as the community becomes established. Clearly we can't all be accommodated at the low end of the scale. There must be others who can contribute more—hopefully a lot more. I'm thinking there are folks who can come up with $100,000 or more. Realize there are many fine people, highly desirable as potential "family" whom you'd be happy to invite even if they had not a cent to their name. Obviously, we want everyone to be desirable, but I'm thinking here of the extraordinary, even saint-like individuals that, if you're fortunate, you might run into at some point in your life.

As mentioned in the action plan, it's recommended people do not take out loans to participate in the project. Why? Because we don't want to chance an outside agent evicting a resident and then transferring the property to someone who isn't compatible with the community. If people could secure loans that allowed us to control who can purchase and occupy a dwelling, that might be considered.

If $10,000 to $100,000 per dwelling sounds low, consider the circumstances in other countries. For the majority of world, $10,000 is a princely sum, one that they will never see. If we can't build something for this price—a modest shelter which is nevertheless insulated against winter blasts—then we're not going to solve the problem of providing every person with a home. Building $300,000 homes on $40,000 lots in Abundance Ecovillage is not going to work, regardless of how green those houses are supposed to be. A studio in a 300-unit tower block is equally unacceptable. Nor can we become entangled with banks and 30-year obligations. That's the paradigm we're trying to change.

Tolerance and comfort

As for the question of what makes a community member desirable, I offer the following list. By necessity it reflects my personal bias. I'm including the behavioral points that can keep me, personally, content and committed for the long term, as if we were all brothers and sisters. People have their own tolerances. Without doubt yours are different than mine. Still, I suggest what I'm outlining would (a) attract the more enlightened among the general population and (b) still accommodate the broadest cross-section with respect to culture, religion, political views, etc.

No doubt some of these points will sound dogmatic, and there are many more respecting hygiene, safety, civility, conservation, etc., but if the group is generally an enlightened one, such details can be worked out. Moreover, I maintain that fully enlightened people would not even need a list like this; rather, they would know intuitively how to behave as good neighbors and understand what keeps a group, or a tribe, if you will, together and happy. Still, by putting these points on paper, in advance, we can avoid hard feelings down the road.

Having said all this, we must acknowledge that harmonious relations are never 100% guaranteed, even among those on the spiritual path. There are people who exhibit sensitivity about relatively minor things. Sometimes their reactions are genuine, but in other cases they simply want to exert control over some corner of the universe, to demonstrate that they too have opinions. Here's an example: A couple of German TM teachers (Purusha) came through DC a number of years ago, giving a lecture at a local TM center. They were offered a place to stay at the center itself, but declined. It seems they were put off by the ashes in the fireplace, which had not been swept out. Could these fellows really detect a health hazard from those burned-out embers? They would have been sleeping upstairs, far from the hearth, so you have to wonder.

It does seem that certain individuals are sensitive to subtle qualities in the environment, that their physiologies are alert to the slightest chance of mishap or ill effect. And certainly the other end of the spectrum is also represented—there being plenty of folks who are not at all conscious of their surroundings. There's a delicate balance to be struck between carelessness and sensitivity. You don't want to develop an excessive bias either way. I remember being politely advised in a program hall where I was meditating that it wasn't good to rest with my head to the north. Talk about subtle qualities! I would love to meet the person whose physiology can detect compass direction. Not only that, but who can sense the auspiciousness of a cardinal point, as if such a quality could manifest physically. There is clearly a large measure of subjectivity in these perceptions. It's the same question we've raised a number of times: How does one distinguish an honest-to-goodness cognition from manufactured emotions or something even less authentic.

It is possible to live with super-sensitive types so long as we all have enough space, physically and socially. The problems come in when sensitivity takes an authoritarian cast—the haughty, slightly condescending attitude that places you in an inferior position. The guy who made the comment about my northern orientation didn't press the point, but there are others who would. It seems women more so than men express this sensitive yet commanding combination. The tacit assumption is they are calling the shots. When you talk to one such as this, your impulse is to snap to attention with a "Yes ma'am, whatever you say ma'am." The woman clearly expects you to help her, ignoring, indeed disdaining, any volunteer spirit you might display. It's something to be alert for when you reach out to potential community members. Hopefully, our group will have such a preponderance of clear-thinking individuals that those with exaggerated sensitivities lighten up on their controlling behavior.

Public versus private, code versus culture

Now that I've censured all the controlling people in the world, I'm going to uncork my own flood of control! Are my instincts any better than yours? Probably not. Will there be people who chafe at the restrictions I suggest? Most certainly. Is there a frightful amount of detail in what I'm proposing? Yes, but it's better to get this squared away at the outset. These are the criteria that would make me, personally, content in a community. The idea is to create an extended family, to assemble a group you would make a long-term commitment to. Imagine yourself in a household with grandparents, young children and other relations all of whom must be comfortable and happy. You want them to be happy. The more conservative you are in this regard, the less likelihood of causing a rupture. If this sounds like an old-fashioned attitude, it is. But I suggest it's the best approach for keeping the community, the family, together for the long term. No doubt some will see this as impractical, idealistic, but let me point out that there's an institution right in our little town that was built on idealism. MIU/MUM has consistently stood by "the world is my family" philosophy, and the town would not be what it is today without that influence.

Society today is bending, or rather breaking, the traditional definition of a family. I refer to those same-sex "parents," so called, and their ilk. I can't argue with logic against what they're doing. As with some of the other moral issues we've touched on, it's a cognition, an experiential thing. You know in your gut what a family is. Diverse peoples and cultures around the globe require no instruction nor any legal argument to grasp this fundamental element of social life. They've known it for millennia.

The problem is that people today are confusing legality with culture. If a same-sex couple wants to commit to each other, and they desire the same benefits as other civil unions, super, we applaud it. But to call this a marriage and celebrate it as a sacramental event is an entirely different matter. It exits the realm of code and enters that of culture, of what is natural and naturally human. Moreover, for this couple to bear and/or raise children and expect the community's blessing for such an unnatural arrangement is absurd. Raising children is a community matter, not a private one. Conducting a wedding is a cultural/religious matter, not a legal one—certainly not one that should force your participation. The non-traditionalists, standing as they are on a purely academic, purely intellectual platform, are not cognizing anything deep about social structure; rather, they've become enamored with a glamorous fad in contriving this sexual liberation, or whatever they imagine it to be. You can tell it's a fad because of its supposed progressive associations. The uninformed assume that if you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect indigenous populations, curb corporate rights and so forth, then you must also be on board with the gay-rights agenda. There is no logical connection between the issues, yet politicians, the media and social scholars insist they are linked.

Nothing is private anymore, nothing is holy. Indeed, they've fabricated a pseudo holiness. I see it as a side-effect of urbanization. The most elementary courtesies have been abandoned. You don't have to search far for evidence of this. Watch any recent movie. Watch a Scorsese or a Lynch movie. Both are ostensibly on the spiritual path—both are meditators—yet the bloodiest violence and grossest vulgarity saturate their films. Now imagine either of them in your living room, after Thanksgiving dinner, say, with your kids and parents in attendance. Can you hear yourself announcing, "And now children we're going to watch a movie from Uncle Marty. It's called 'The Departed.' And it won the Oscar! Isn't this fun?"

One shudders at the thought. I can't sit through these films with other adults, let alone kids, parents and grandparents. Scorsese, Lynch, Coppola, Tarantino ... they are all creative people and no doubt have good hearts, but what planet do they inhabit? This is what the world has come to. It's the new freedom, right? In Boston and Washington commuters go to work in their skivvies on "Ride the Metro in Your Underwear Day." In London they celebrate "World Naked Bike Ride Day." In San Francisco nudists display their bare behinds in cafés and restaurants and protest when the city says they must cover up. Pop icon Madonna appears on a magazine cover grabbing her crotch. Flaming Nelly queens march down Fifth Avenue chanting, "Say it loud, I'm gay and proud!" A married couple with children discover to their horror that they are brother and sister, with different lesbian mothers but the same sperm "donor" (!?) father. And then there are the LGBT so-called "rights." What's next, pedophile rights? Zoophile rights? I want to marry my pony—let my voice be heard!

I don't know what's worse, having a Hollywood director raise your children or some assistant college football coach. The latter types have been around for a long time—chicken hawks, Hemingway's wolves. I encountered them myself when I was boy-scout age—troop leaders who were far more interested in pubescent boys than in camping and merit badges. Why all of a sudden are we feeling sorry for people with anomalous tendencies? Why must we discard centuries, millennia of custom and tradition in order to make a certain type of individual feel loved and welcome in society? You're loved. You're welcome. You're just not a family. And you've become far too conspicuous about your private life. And that's the main point. Absolutely no one wants to know what you do in the bedroom. Calling attention to that activity inflames and provokes. Just hearing about it involves the listener, involuntarily.

Have you noticed how the phrase "openly ..." has suddenly become vogue? Openly gay, openly bisexual, openly S&M ... why don't these people just hang their toys around their necks and announce themselves that way? To shout about fetishes, to exclaim joy in particular eroticisms is selfish to the point of insult. And it's clear that provocation is the real aim of these gay-rights advocates. They use the term "homophobic" to confront people who aren't sympathetic to the cause. It's like saying, "Come on! Are you afraid to have sex with me?" A straight male would be tempted to lend the guy a punch in the mouth. Like so many other instances of badly constructed language, the term is meaningless. Other than its utility as a prod, its definition is without substance. Homophobic deconstructs to afraid of homosexuals, but no one is afraid of anything; rather, they're offended and disgusted. The term "fag" has come to be regarded as a slur—hate speech—though it wasn't always so. I would argue that homophobe is just as derogatory—indeed, more so because it was never an element of a particular subculture, but has been artificially constructed to target those who express displeasure with rude and undisciplined displays.

It's no wonder the Christian right is up in arms and the Taliban curse the immorality of America. Ironically, the conservative Christians have more in common with the Muslim fundamentalists than they do with their American brethren. Again, we come back to the question of restraint. Not only are Americans grossly unrestrained in their use of force, they are equally boorish in their flaunting of sexuality. What, after all, is the definition of gay? Right ... how you have sex. But what is there in that? The most ignorant lout can have sex. Dogs, pigeons, the lowest forms of life have sex. What is there to brag about?

Sex is a private matter. It's imperative to be discreet about it. Whatever it is you do, keep it to yourself. Such discretion benefits everyone. Subtle looks, quiet signals, a meaningful glance ... these are what distinguish the cultured from the coarse. The classiest individuals keep you guessing about their personal lives, revealing their private desires in the most discreet way, and only to a select few whom they deem worthy of their attention. This is what true romance entails—not the crass displays you see in cabarets and strip joints. That is, what you used to see in strip joints. Now the drag queens are out in full regalia at the market, the bank, even at church.*

* Editor's Note: A passerby spotted a poster in the window of Fairfield's Health and Wholeness store (an MUM affiliated business) recruiting "dancers, acrobats and drag queens" for a casting call on the MUM campus. This is an institution that at one time prohibited jeans in the meditation halls and required TM teachers to wear semi-formal attire—jacket and tie for men, long dresses for women.

Marriage is not a private matter at all; it's a public one. It's an event in which the entire community participates. Or, at least, it should be that. We come together to celebrate the natural union between a man and a woman. We bless the event in order to impress on the couple that keeping this one-to-one relationship pure will benefit all of us, particularly if they bear children. Their kids will be our kids. We will count on them to carry our spiritual traditions forward to the next generation. Such a union derives from the most obvious and fundamental human characteristics. We're each endowed with a particular body apparatus that enables our species to progenerate. This arrangement took billions of years to develop. It's about as basic a God-given quality as you can imagine. When people violate this Godly union (I'm saying "Godly," but you can substitute any word you feel comfortable with—cosmic, holy, primal, spiritual), when women neglect their maternal obligations, when men jump from partner to partner, fathering children as they go, when society is replete with single-parent households, when there is no longer any appreciation for keeping up the appearance, at least, of a settled, two-parent home, then chaos ensues, with all the negative consequences we're familiar with. It doesn't take an Einstein to know what a man is, what a woman is, what they each do and why it's important. We all possess varying degrees of masculinity and femininity in our psychological makeup, but that's beside the point. We're talking here about something more basic. All this transgender nonsense is trivial and faddish by comparison.

Public versus private—people must get their heads straight on this for there to be any cultural hope. Unfortunately, the big 'G' Government—that is, the current administration—doesn't grasp it at all. Walk into the VA clinic in Ottumwa, for example, and you find pamphlets from the "LGBT Committee" outlining the history of gays in the federal workforce, and urging veterans to come out of the closet. Formerly, this idiom was only heard in gay circles. Now, thanks to the clouded thinking of behaviorists, it has entered the mainstream. Of course, the VA is probably not the best place to look for clear thinking about mental phenomena, not when they're treating PTSD by assigning veterans a service dog to drag around. President Obama recently signed an order mandating that federal contractors not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Doesn't anyone see the absurdity of this? Forget about the propriety of wearing your fetish on your sleeve. Here we have a lawyer ensconced in a colossal bureaucracy dictating a nation's culture. Authentic culture runs deep. It's old. It's cosmic, if you will, tying individuals back to the source of their being in timeless transcendence. It is not something that can be determined by executive order, and lawyers are the last people you would want to determine it. How can someone who assassinates people with predator drones, who displays such a feeble moral compass, be trusted to have the last word—or any word—on a cultural matter?

These politicians and bureaucrats are completely disengaged from life at the grass roots. Questions like gay marriage, women in combat, school prayer, or even abortion and gun control cannot be decided by polling the electorate. Just as you can't legislate courtesy, neither can you force culture on a community. What's worse, big G tries to foist its policies on other countries,[1] as if these phony intellectuals had any clue at all about life in foreign lands—the same lands where they target missiles and to which they dispatch their CIA spies. The parallels between America today and the European invaders of the past are apparent: conquer, colonize, educate to our values and wipe out native customs. It's top-down government run amok, modern colonialism with an urban, industrial, pseudo psychological cast.

What's fascinating is the same people who complain about prayer in schools, who don't want "In God we trust" on our currency or "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are the ones most vocal about gay rights. They demand church-state separation, but fail to see that marriage is a spiritual matter, and spirituality is what church is all about. Thus, when big G gets involved in a question like this, it performs a function that should by all rights be handled by rabbis, ministers and priests. Again, if you want to recognize a civil union of some sort, for tax purposes or whatever, that's one thing, but for the courts to force participation on us—to, say, compel a baker to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, like they did to a Denver cakeshop,[2] it's an entirely different matter. Judges have become the mutaween, government has become a house of worship and its holy canon is found in a law library.

Culture comes from the bottom up. The idea of government forcing culture on us from above is absurd. Even more absurd is having lawyers define spirituality. The problem is that we no longer know what spiritual means. We've forgotten the way of the Tao. What we're hoping is that the few who do grasp spirituality to some degree can come together in community clusters and inspire others to do the same.


Getting back to our intentional community, I suggest we each need to compile a list like this and compare notes. If your list doesn't differ too much from mine, maybe we can accomplish something together.

If this all sounds like interference in people's personal affairs, you are hearing it correctly! We want to get personal. We want to be as brothers and sisters, parents and children. We want to break out of our isolated, anonymous mode of living, which is so completely unnatural. The points I've outlined form the perimeter of my own comfort zone. There won't be a lot of flexibility on them from my side. If that means no one in the world will want live with me, then so be it. But I believe a thoughtful person would agree this list is reasonable.

There are clearly other issues we could discuss, other areas of potential disharmony, particularly with regard to a person's lifestyle, ideology and profession. If you are a gansta' rapper, K Street lobbyist, NRA member, sex-change surgeon, drone pilot, drug smuggler, a Steven Seagal fan, a South Park fan, a person who affects to call a fisherman a "fisherperson," a member of the NASA planning committee for Mars colonization, or fall into any number of questionable, shall we say, categories, we need to chat before you and I consider joining the same group. And if you work in intelligence, security, the military or law enforcement in any capacity, including prosecutors and judges, and most especially if you are a debt collector, a weapons peddler or are involved with the prison industry, there needs to be a serious review of your career path before this community planner would commit to partnering with you.

[1] Josh Hicks, "Kerry to appoint gay diplomat for overseas LGBT advocacy" The Washington Post, February 9, 2015

[2] Zahira Torres, "Civil rights commission says Lakewood baker discriminated against gay couple" The Denver Post, May 30, 2014

© 2015 Alexander Gabis