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May 28, 2000

Intentional Community
by Royce Carlson

In the Western city, suburb, or semi-rural area community is mostly accidental. You donít meet your neighbors until you or they move in and there is no guarantee they will share any of your interests other than that particular geographic location. This can be alienating to people who march to the beat of a different drummer. Thatís where intentional community comes in.

An intentional community is organized by shared interests and/or beliefs. It can be either temporary or relatively permanent and now, via the Internet, intentional community can be virtual.

Many of the physical intentional communities are spiritually-based. Ananda community is based on the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, for example. The Amish and Mennonites live in intentional communities as a way of preserving a lifestyle as well as for spiritual reasons. In the late 60ís several communities sprang up based on political concepts and Utopian experiments. The physical communities are mostly situated on a large piece of land purchased communally, often in a rural area.

Some experiments in community are designed to be temporary. The Burning Man Project is one of the better known of these. It is an experimental community dedicated to radical self-expression. It exists as a physical reality for only a week each year in the stark desert landscape of northern Nevada. Another one is the Rainbow Family. They live all over the world individually or in small groups for most of the year but, at least once a year, they gather for a week or two of living and communing together in nature. This year marks, I believe, the 30th anniversary of the Rainbow Family Tribal Gathering.

Both of the temporary communities above continue to exist without a physical location for the rest of the year. The participants try to continue the sense of community without being in close physical proximity to each other. One more step from that is the virtual community created on the World Wide Web. People now can meet with others who share similar interests and discuss topics and communicate with each other. They may never meet in person or even know each othersí names, but they are still participating in intentional community.

The revolution in communication technology these days is allowing more people to find community without the restrictions of geography. This may lead to actual physical mobilization where like-minded people who meet on the Internet get together in a physical location to create the community they dream of. The next several years are going to be an exciting time for intentional community building.

For more information visit the Zenzibar Alternative Culture Intentional Community category.

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