How I want to live

Principal author:
John L. Clark


If I am going to live in close cooperation with other people, then the resulting community should be based on a shared commitment to certain core principles. Herein I develop the principles that I value, providing a cursory motivation, where appropriate.

One of the (many) principles that I reject from my traditional society—and a good place to start when reflecting on how to live as a community—is the assumption that we can and should live largely independently from one another. In fact, an enormous, destructive edifice is required to provide us with the illusion of independent freedom.[1] Maintaining this false freedom is both physically as well as emotionally and spiritually destructive. This is the initial of many axioms that I will assert here. Instead of this isolating separation from people and the world, I seek to embrace a close, interdependent, and complete community life that embraces this and a number of other principles. (Communities like this are commonly known as intentional communities.) Living in society with other people involves making decisions based on shared values.[2] This document describes the core values that I hope to share with others when building a community.

I worship Jesus Christ, and I turn to the Christian Gospel as the general basis for the other community values I espouse here. By worship, I mean to recognize as the source of salvation. In particular, I do not worship science, technology, economic growth, jobs, capitalism, democracy, a particular politician or political party or country, violence, nonviolence, life, nature, or a host of other things that our society variously claims will save us. I will happily work with people who do not worship Jesus in this way, but it is important to note that this will leave a gap between us. The principles I propose here grow out of (my understanding of) the Gospel, and I want you to be willing to join me in critically examining that relationship. The community must always invite others (in addition to its own members) to explore Christianity and learn about the Gospel. In this way the community actually becomes an adopted family (cf. Matthew 12:48–50).

Our family should make decisions through consensus; it is the ongoing loving conversation that consensus requires that will define this family. We need to continually evaluate these decisions and our actions with respect to our core principles, and have an ongoing and active discussion about the core principles themselves. This is actually a component of recent approaches to consensus[3], but it is worth highlighting on its own.

Our family will need to acknowledge that not all goals can be met immediately. When we recognize an existing state of sin, which is to say ongoing acceptance of unjust circumstances used to achieve any goal, repenting of the sin restores the family to God, to one another, and to reality; our new awareness, then, will compel us to work for an alternative. This will require developing a strategy for transitioning away from the artifacts of the unjust situation, and working diligently to execute that strategy, but the transition is a process rather than a cataclysm.

Our family should share freely with one another, holding things in common in a continuation of the example set by the early Christian Church community (cf. Acts 2:42–47). The goal should be to meet the needs of each other. Another side of this principle is that we should explicitly eschew taking more than we need from the world, and from each other. These principles imply discarding all considerations for property ownership and debt, and instead emphasizing acceptance of the gifts provided by God in the world for meeting the needs of ourselves and others. One way of viewing this is as an active and engaged acceptance of the call of Jesus to be poor, rather than interpreting this call to be one of deprivation. Another way of viewing this is that it involves awareness of the ways (emphatically including fundamental physical ways) that we are interdependent within the world, and this ties back to the initial motivating principle of the community.

Several consequences of examining the focus on needs and relationships deserve explicit attention. Our family should recognize that its needs can be met locally, and that consistently looking beyond the local environment indicates desires beyond these needs. As a result, our family should work to obtain things locally. This includes food, which will involve gardening and farming, as well as natural materials for building and other uses. Acknowledging our intimate relationship with our environment applies both to understanding the sources of what we consume, described above, as well as what we produce. “In a closed system, true waste should not exist”, and so we must be educated about the flows out of and into our surrounding systems and adopt a strategy for managing those flows that is consistent with the above principles.

When, instead of focusing on receiving gifts to support needs, people turn to trying to satisfy their desires, those desires grow without any bounds. Satisfying these desires, then, involves injustice that is supported by oppressive violence. Our family must speak out and work against the forms of this injustice, including, but not limited to, war and discrimination, and invite those imprisoned in these systems to choose the alternative good. If necessary, delivering this message may involve putting ourselves in the path of such violence in order to expose it for what it is and disrupt its destructive goals.

The hope, rooted in our God who loves us enough to seek the ultimate intimacy with us, is that a recognition of the need for intimacy with one another and with the world will lead us back to see the glory of God shine through the beauty in one another and in that world, beauty that has long been marred and obscured through injustice and isolation.


For example see “WWF marks 50 years of conservation but Archbishop Tutu warns greed threatens environmental progress”, “I Stand With You Against the Disorder” by Jeanette Armstrong, “Civilization” from Endgame (or preferably the whole book) by Derrick Jensen, Zen and the art of protecting the planet by Jo Confino, and many other sources.


For example see the Sustainability Guidelines and the Ecological Covenants that provide the basis for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.


Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage has a good introduction to their consensus process, and Tree Bressen also provides an overview of consensus.

This page was first published on 2011-11-14 16:06:00-05:00.

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