ZEGG Community; possibly interesting to co-housing
Date: Tue, 22 Mar 94 08:19 CST
From:   <somebody>

  OK, time for me to jump in (and, incidentally, make up for my system's stupid
  remailing of essentially all news it received to Triples and a few other
  lists -- as I said, that won't happen again), I'll talk a bit about my view
  of ZEGG. This is all highly personal; please take this with a largish dose of
  liberally added IMHOs.

  ZEGG is Zentrum fuer experimentelle Gesellschaftsgestaltung (Center for
  experimental community structuring, or whatever). They're now located in
  Belzig, 80 km south of Berlin, in a large former Stasi area. I've been there
  in May 1993 and in Dec 1993, for a week each.

  It's not really easy to say who and what ZEGG is. Basically, they're trying
  to build a new way to structure a community. A few years ago, a few people
  got together for a few years to look into why so many communities were/are
  failing and how to prevent that, the result was called "Project Meiga" (the
  Meiga part doesn't seem to stand for anything except that it sounds good ;-)
  and the ZEGG is an outgrowth of this.

  The basic idea is that problems (with yourself, with others, whatever) which
  you carry around in your head but don't share with the group build up, people
  don't communicate, and eventually the whole structure breaks down because
  nobody dares talk about what s/he thinks lest s/he offend anybody. The old
  "will she still love me after I tell her I really hate the way she planted
  the tulips yesterday" problem, on all levels. So the point is to create ways
  and spaces for the community members to feel safe in talking about these
  problems -- again, on all levels; there are probably more sensible examples
  but at one in the morning I can't think of any -- without being offended or
  whatever. In the traditional monogamous relationship, the "accusation" about
  the tulips all too often is countered with an accusation about leaving the
  toilet seat up, and the really important problems, like why the tulips got
  planted that way, don't get talked about.

  Thus, it's very important to have a "safe" space where the person with the
  problem can say what's on their mind without fear of stepping on anybody's
  toes, and without fear of alienating anybody. This really works (with a
  minimum of structuring, more about that some other time) just because
  everybody knows that they're not there to get their toes stepped on, they're
  there to either talk about their own problem or to listen attentively and
  non-judgementally to somebody else talking about theirs.

  They had a few false starts. Most important, they were trying to fix the
  problem of community life via the problem of sexual/emotional freedom,
  because this is the area where people have most hangups and insecurities. 
  Needless to say this didn't quite work and the strong focus on sex and "free
  love" alienated many people.

  In the last half year or so however they seem to have realized that if you
  "simply" build a community where people can meet each other and talk to each
  other openly, without fear or insecurity, the sexual freedom / "free love"
  stuff just happens by itself if you're so inclined.

  At the second time I was there, they had about 150 visitors who split up in
  five groups to 30 people each. (The groups had different focus -- one for
  newcomers, one for people under 25, ... I'm 27, by the way.) The general
  theme was community work, what do we want to do in the next year, what's the
  problem WRT our personal/emotional/whatever growth that we want to overcome,
  that sort of thing.

  You might think that thirty people, thrown randomly together for a few days,
  would have a hard time getting anywhere.

  Wrong. This "building safe spaces" trick really works. At the end of the
  second day we all went to their new sauna (nominally, an about-ten-people
  box; we managed to seat 24 without anybody feeling claustrophobic); the next
  day we had a rebirthing event. This consisted of almost all thirty piling up
  into a happy mess of oily nude people who, when sufficiently slippery all
  over, build a long "birth canal", and three others got to be the babies and
  worm their way through. Neat. Don't do this with strangers. And, don't get
  the wrong impression, this had a lot to do with intimacy and sharing, and was
  not at all sexual. OK, OK, it was impossible not to notice that people come
  in two genders, but the focus wasn't on feeling each other up (and down and
  up and down and...).

  Anyway, and somewhat more relevant to Triples, the focus is on communication.
  (As if that was a surprise to anybody.)  The sex/free love aspect is still
  there, of course -- in particular, I noticed the nightly ZEGG dance/disco
  event. It's pretty obvious that many people, of both genders, go there
  because they want to get laid, and _still_ everybody has genuine fun. The
  contrast between a bar or disco in the "normal" world is so great that I'm
  not going to "normal" discos anymore. Not when I want to meet new people,

  In May I met a woman at the ZEGG. Just talked. ;-)   I saw her again in
  December. Wow. I didn't know you could ever _be_ that close to somebody, much
  less in five days...

  More next time; it's now 02:00 and I'd rather fall asleep in bed than onto my
  keyboard. ;-)

  Oh yes, one more thing: Their main way to build a safe space they call
  "forum". Everybody sits in a circle and listens, while one person steps into
  the middle and says (or acts out, or whatever) what his/her current problem
  is -- one of the problems, anyway ;-)  -- and (important) where s/he thinks
  the problem comes from and/or how it might be solved. Somebody with a bit of
  experience with the was the forum works is the moderator and tries to keep
  your thoughts focused, steer you into the right direction, whatever. (There
  are many ways to do this "correctly".) Everybody else is in a receptive state
  of mind and just listens. When you're done, you get applause, and then
  somebody else steps in, either with some thought on what you've just said or
  done or, if nobody wants to do that, with something unrelated.

  This can be rather difficult; especially getting up and stepping into that
  middle and having everybody look at you expectantly is _hard_ the first few
  times you do it.

  And, of course, there are some kinds of problem where a forum isn't the right
  way to find a solution. But on the whole, the idea works.

  --  Kissing is the most enjoyable way to get somebody to shut up.


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