Thursday, December 25, 2003

Creativity in the way we live

Years ago I would fantasize about creating and living in an intentional community. My friends and I would talk about the many ways it is possible to be creative, not just with pens or brushes. We could be creative in the ways we live, in our relationships, in our internal world. We could spend long moments on this particular creative thought. Some of this fantasy was selfish: I wanted to share those chores that I like to avoid such as cooking and cleaning, home maintenance. I wished to share communal space and social time, but keep private quarters and private time.

I would consider the options in an urban setting, and my own poverty-stricken circumstances. A small apartment building would do the trick. A group of people could pool our buying power, setting aside one or two apartments for communal space. We could share meals, taking turns cooking dinner for everyone. We could have maintenance days, even housecleaning days, where we work together and consequently find more time for the good things in life.

One of my friends eventually did buy the largest house she could for the mortgage she could afford. She fully intended to surround herself with housemates. Since such a scheme would not have suited my insular first husband, I have to wonder now just how much of my fantasizing had another unconscious wish attached.

Now I talk with my current husband about such communities and he brings me down to earth. Unless there is some deeply shared guiding principle, it’s hard to maintain such a democratic community. If people aren’t turned in the same direction in some way, such as a religion, something external to each individual that reinforces the bond, there is no way, really, to keep that bond strong. One of the inspirations during those conversations was our zen center. Such intentional communities have existed for centuries, and what makes them work is the shared structure of the Buddhist religion (and even then they don’t always work).

Now I am living that creativity in relationships. The fantasy may have been one of a shared three-way love, something that does happen, but perhaps is rarer than separate loves. In reality, my husband is sharing his holidays with his wife and his girlfriend. I have yet to meet his girlfriend, and the time we share with him will be separate. Someday soon I hope to meet her, but we all have sense enough not to try that over the holidays.

I still have that fantasy of an extended intentional community. Now it has more shape, as I envision an ideal polyamorous situation would be in a big rambling house together, or a duplex or something-plex. Years ago, my communal fantasy was an escape. Now, it arises as a possibility in answer to the question, “How can we make this work?” Since we live in a duplex, to me the natural response is this. We can have separate but close lives. We could more easily share a husband, and expenses. Why not? If more significant others enter the equation, move to a larger plex?

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