I have always been leery of intentional communities. I prefer the semi-anonymous character of urban neighborhoods. Where folks can know me, interact with me, but when I want to, I can go across town and dance naked in the fountain. I like urban sensibilities where you allow people to have their privacy, if only to preserve your own. I fear small town intimacy and the very interdependency it breeds.
Whenever folks begin talking about going off somewhere to build a community, I immediately think of The Lottery or all those episodes of the Twilight Zone.
It is the same thing with images of families. So many of my dear friends are longing for family like living. I on the other hand grew up in a small three-bedroom house with six children, two adults, a collection of animal familiars and enough relatives and hangers-on to choke our single toilet. Me, I want space, and privacy.
I was never interested in living on a commune. Monasteries seem cool mostly because I hope that means that people will not actually talk to me nor expect me to talk back.
I loved attending witchcamp. But the best thing about it was that it was only once a year.
I am not a people person. But I guess you figured that out by now.
So when oracles like myself begin predicting the return of the dark ages. Many people who took notice begin intelligently planning ways to build lifeboat communities. Although many began looking at rural and suburban locations, a few also considered buying city blocks or apartment buildings. And many of my friends within these movements are making plans to include me. I am very grateful for their concern and foresight, but I am afraid.
Will I have to be pleasant to people before breakfast. Would it be rude if I barked at people for walking in my line of sight – and yes I mean barking like a dog? Could I pace in the darkness at 2 in the morning? Can I sit on my porch and ignore passer-bys? Could I run away to a quiet spot without telling anyone where I was going? Will I be able to munch chocolate before dinner? Could I blast Prince from my stereo for no apparent reason? I can do this in my urban neighborhood and no one gives a rat’s ass.
Furthermore, in a sea of Christians, I can teach pagan classes. In a black and increasingly Latino neighborhood, my white friends can visit without being stared at. I can hear all kinds of black and Latino music at any hour of the night or day. I am in the midst of my culture and heritage, and surrounded by people who look like me. Men who find me sexy whistle at me; and adults who consider me an elder treat me with respect. I can wear whatever the fuck I want, and my neighbors can smile and wave at me because my culture has room for it all.
I live in the original Chocolate City, where you cannot spit without hitting another person of color. Within most of the intentional communities I a familiar with, I would be a minority.
For an intentional community to feel welcoming to me, it would either have to be a network of communities, or a community inside of an urban or semi-urban environment. It would need to include real diversity, not the Benetton ad type -- lots of different kinds of black, Latino, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islanders and ethnic white cultures in it or near by. There would need to be a range of acceptable participation levels -- I am not so turned on by communal kitchens and shared living spaces. I want access to regular public transportation and continuing education. And although I am a singer, I would love to hear different voices from time to time, so access to cultural institutions would be key. I want to be able to continue teaching and writing, if at all possible. And I need adequate access to competent medical care. And I want access to a pool of potential lovers and mates.
In short, I do not want to be stuck in the middle of the country surrounded by a sea of white people expecting me to entertain them nor worse bandied about as proof of the community’s diversity and openness. I do not want everyone to know what I had for breakfast, nor privy to the details of my love life, such as it is.
Maybe I am ill suited for an intentional community. Or maybe, just maybe, I am already living in an intentional community – one I intend to keep.
©2006 Katrina Messenger