Remember when you finished school and the possibilities of a new and exciting life stretched out endlessly before you. One of the most exciting things you might have thought about was moving into a place of your own, away from family. Living in a commune was a thrilling and idea.
Intentional living communities have been around for centuries and as humans, our first experience of communal living coincides with the pre-stone era. We have innate information about community living passed down through the centuries. Yet this ancient knowledge seems to have faded from consciousness.
With the emergence of the Industrial Revolution and subsequent changes in socio-political systems, living in small /nuclear family groups slowly emerged. The nuclear family evolved due to economic forces. According to Marxist theory, smaller families were more favourable, as they were easily moved, depending on the distance required to travel to the mode of production. Also, with fewer mouths to feed, a healthier workforce could be generated and more work meant greater profits.
Marxists theory aside, we are not designed to live in isolation. Individuation is a celebrated state in our century. If we deconstruct the notion of independent living: grouping ourselves into tight nuclear units simply makes no sense. So why do we do it? Socialization? Politicization? Economic affordability?
Slowly, universally, it would appear that a gentle cautioned swing is in motion, taking us back to known forms of communal living. So maybe the question about living communally is a dynamic concept, which might take time to sit firmly in our minds.
There are a number of thoughts floating about when, at a certain age, the issue of community living pops up. In South Africa, the predominant theme for justifying living in gated and guarded communities is one of safety and security and so many young/ middle-aged families and retirees, chose this option.
It is important to make the distinction between communal living and gated/ secure estate living, as often in the latter, for example, neighbours still remain unknown to each other and there is minimal encouragement towards symbiotic living.
Retirement poses numerous changes, decisions, and challenges. A major decision revolves around the following question: Is it time to move into a retirement village or stay put in your family home? In Europe and other first world countries, the norm is to stay put and sign up for care when and if it is needed. In South Africa our story is different. Moving into a retirement home offers company and inspiration for mind, body, and spirit. In such an environment you can be open to unique diversity. Well-structured communal living stimulates fresh conversations, encourages newness, wakes up moldy parts of thinking and feeling and generally has the potential to embrace different energy.
Perhaps the most important philosophical question to ask before moving from independent living is: “Am I able to give and receive care, companionship and a sense of community?” Connectivity with others stimulates change, triggers new ways of thinking and takes the mist away from stoic eyes. Living alone versus living with others is an important on-going conversation, which like a good wine or a deep relationship, needs time to unfold.