Re: more perspective on rules and regs
From: Tom Hammer (
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2006 09:08:35 -0700 (PDT)
As one who aspires to live in cohousing and is in a
forming group but has twenty years of a counseling
background, perhaps I can lend a slightly different
helpful perspective.  I agree with much of what Sharon
has to say.  She and others are the "wise elders" (no
matter their age) we need to listen to, in my opinion.

When one agrees to join a group, I assume one agrees
to follow all the past agreements of the group as a
condition of joining.  In our group this is clearly
stated, written, and signed upon  joining.  The past
agreements should all be explained clearly.

Arguments of legalities and the Constitution are not
at all relevant, in my humble opinion.  There are many
examples we can find in life that prove that people
easily can give away their "rights."  People in
intentional religious communities, for example, agree
to complete silence either all the time or for certain
parts of the day or to poverty.  Some intentional
communities agree to share all their material goods. 
It is only a "right" under the Constitution to have
these freedoms unless one freely agrees to relinquish

The struggle then becomes to live within the system. 
Some religious novices struggle to fit within their
communities, and it is understood it is usually
difficult for all new novitiates, and they are given
support because it is known to be a struggle.  It is
understood that some initiates will not make it into
full community, and  some  do leave, and good-byes are
said that are full of understanding and  grace.

Humans in our culture are raised around me and I, and
we are very unused to "we."  We have to be open to
learning a culture of "we" to live in or start
cohousing successfully, as  I understand it.

Sometimes when we try to learn a culture of we,
feelings come up.  These feelings, especially if the
new people are not carefully taught, but even among
experienced cohousers, can be attached to a particular
issue such as fences, pets, and satellite dishes. 
These are not  the real question, in my opinion, but
it is simply  where the feeling gets attached.  The
group needs to stand firm in solidarity against the
attachment of feelings to any particular issue. 
Feelings will come up, and I hope there are resources
to deal with them within the group--peacemakers,
mediators, and so on.  In a long established community
like a monastery or a native American tribe, the
culture (rules) are never questioned, and there were
always people who could not fit into the group, and
they left, but the group stayed intact and healthy. 

People entering cohousing, as I understand it, do not,
no matter how much money they pay for their house (old
style, individualistic thinking) get to conravene the
culture, decisions, and norms of the group.  The group
contains, I hope, peacemakers, teachers about group
culture, and a means for changing past group
decisions.  All group members need to learn the
difficult lesson that the group's culture and harmony
is extremely important, valuable, precious, delicate
for new groups, and primary in many situations and
that all important decisions are based on the values
that the group has chosen, not on individual
preferences. That is why blocking in consensus, is so
very rare, and must be based on the group's values and
not on an individual's wishes, in order to occur.

If someone cannot learn these lessons or has so many
feelings brought up by trying to become part of "we"
that objectivity and insight about oneself and the
group and the importance of its culture are lost, then
a gentle goodbye, with grace, is in order that would
be initiated as much by the individual or family as by
the group.   I would think that would rarely happen. 
Leaving would mean that the individual or family could
not grow quickly or easily enough from his/her former
place of "I" to "we", but s/he would not  be blamed. 
The parting would occur with sadness but with
understanding among all parties, and someone else or
some other family would take her/his place.  

Best wishes to all,

Tom Hammer
Concord Village
--where we don't yet have land, but I hope we are
learning the lessons of community as we travel the

> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2006 08:31:28 -0400
> From: Sharon Villines <sharon [at]>
> Subject: Re: [C-L]_ more  perspective on rules and
> regs
> To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
> Message-ID:
<1901e9442918a4da34d71707e66d8ce2 [at]>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=WINDOWS-1252;
> delsp=yes;
>       format=flowed
> On Apr 16, 2006, at 10:50 PM,
> <truddick [at]> wrote:
> > Not specifically cohousing, but a similar kind of
> idea:  a suburban
> > Cincinnati couple was prohibited from putting up a
> privacy fence  
> > because it
> > was too ?visually imposing?.  So they found a way
> to express themselves
> > without breaking any rules!
> >
> >
> > 0417ohtoile
> > ts.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=
> In "we-they" governance, acting out like this is
> often the only way to  
> emphasize that we are all in this together folks. We
> need to find  
> mutually satisfying solutions if the boat is to stay
> afloat. But when  
> transfered into consensus communities it is odd
> behavior.
> What most intentional communities are trying to
> achieve is governance  
> by agreement, not by authority. The objective is
> "we" not "we-they."
> Since people who move into a community have not been
> part of those  
> agreements, it is often hard for them to see that
> they are violating  
> the whole concept of community, not just one
> agreement. The learning  
> curve is steep so they continue to behave as if the
> rules are there to  
> be broken.
> Instead of making their case for changing the
> rules--updating the  
> agreements--they figure out how to "get away with
> things." How far can  
> they go? How long will it take people to notice?
> Often there is some  
> element of "Aren't I cute?' or "See, I'm smarter
> than you and you can't  
> catch me!". Anyone who opposes them is viewed as
> being the big bad  
> parent.
> When a two-year-old does this, it is cute and it is
> smart because they  
> are just learning that they have free will. But when
> an adult does it,  
> it loses it's appeal.
> This makes it very difficult inter-personally for
> the person who wants  
> to function as a "we" in accordance with the
> governance structure that  
> preserves the integrity of the community.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Dynamic Governance (sociocracy)

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