Re: Common spaces and decision making
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2012 09:25:43 -0700 (PDT)
On 6 Jul 2012, at 1:50 PM, Greg Nelson wrote:

> A number of questions were raised including: How would the pond
> ecosystem/swimmability be affected?  What were the contingency plans if
> the pond quality deteriorated?  If there was a surplus (duck eggs, duck
> meat) would it be sold to other community members (making a profit off
> of common land?) or offered for free?  Should we write a lease for the
> land being used, as we would for an "outside project"?

I think these are reasonable questions. I wrote my supportive rant to OZ's 
response before I read your post, so it was not in response to your very real 
issues that needed to be resolved before the ducks were unleashed.

Operating in shared space makes life difficult because it increases the 
complexity. Having two children compared to having one is not twice as much 
work — it's at least 3-4 times as much work. You double all the relationships 
you now have with the first child, then you have all the interactions between 
the two children and your interactions with those interactions. If there are 
two parents, it only increases the complexity further. I know more than one 
single parent who is grateful that they don't have to deal with another parent 
in the house. As much as they would like the physical and economic help, they 
also can see the emotional complexities too.

That is cohousing times 60. You have to learn to cope. 

> In response to these questions, the household proposing the ducks
> first withdrew the proposal (without an opportunity to discuss) and
> eventually chose to withdraw from the community and move elsewhere.
> They cited, as a main reason for their decision, that it was "too hard
> to do the things that they wished to do" with a fairly explicit
> implication that they felt our decision making process itself was
> broken.  

I find that people often blame the system when they can't cope with it. I do 
the same thing. But that doesn't mean the system is broken or wrong. It may be 
badly developed but whatever it is, it is necessary at the moment. People dig 
in their feet when they can't cope. Conservatives, in my opinion, are largely 
people who can't cope otherwise. Change and uncertainty are more than some 
people can bear. Not having your proposal accepted for months and even years, 
is hard. It's uncertainty.

This sounds like a situation where the people couldn't cope with the 
complexities of sharing. I have found that those who were least able to cope 
were those who expected no rules. For some reason the dream of everyone running 
the community together meant to them that we would all be free to do as we 
pleased. A return to Eden. But there were only two people in Eden and they were 
very closely related. No  diversity there. 

> How seriously should we take this?  Obviously feedback can be good,
> but how should we address feedback from people who have self-selected
> out of the community?

You can listen and see if any of it is helpful or if things could have been 
different. But you can't be all things to all people. For the one who is angry, 
there are many more who are not. This is not to imply that if the many are not 
angry then the one is wrong. If we want to build inclusive communities, then we 
have to appreciate everyone equally. But it doesn't mean we can meet the needs 
of everyone.

If ducks in the pond ruin it for everyone else or even for one other person, 
that is important too. I suspect that the departing family couldn't cope with 
that. Or didn't want to.

I've recently been working on a team with someone I have avoided working with 
for years because their defense mechanism is to cry. I had a sister who used to 
pull that on me ALL THE TIME. If she cried it was automatically my fault. I was 
in trouble. So i steered very clear of this person. What I've learned, however, 
is that they have a limited ability to take in new information. Complexity 
completely overwhelms them. And I'm a person who sees the complexity in every 
situation. I go right to the larger issues, the long time-line, the impact, the 
alternatives, etc. I've learned that I have to keep it to myself and only focus 
on what they are ready to focus on. Otherwise the team will never move forward. 
And some issues will never move because they can't cope. That's the reality. I 
have just had to accept that they are equally important and until I can figure 
out how to make it okay, it won't happen. 

If I want the community, that's what it is. I've recently gone through an 
evaluation and consideration of all my life alternatives. Age 70 seems to do 
that. It required realizing that to stay here I had to recommit. I had two work 
harder on a number of issues. Distance myself from others. Work harder and less 
hard at the same time.

> Finally, if any communities out there have a similar kind of land use
> in mind, I'd like to hear how you actually handle the allocation
> process in a way that is fair to all the residents.

The NVC process can be very helpful in sorting out issues so they can be 
discussed more objectively. The book, Getting to Yes, is also very helpful. 
Focusing on what everyone needs, emotionally, physically, legally, etc., will 
help make it manageable. 

Working through these processes will take time, obviously, because most people 
really don't know exactly what they want. The Power of Habit is a wonderful 
book for showing how most of what we do that we think is "us" and our needs is 
really habit and how we can change by analyzing these.

Now that I've avoided moving my book forward a chapter at a time, I have to get 
back to it,

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"The truth is more important than the facts." Frank Lloyd Wright

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.