Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pigs Will Fly

In doing a Google search for cohousing, I stumbled on pigs will fly : the can do community blog. That gave me a chuckle. Pigs Will Fly struck me as a lovely metaphor for what we were doing at Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community in Nanaimo.

Actually, we aren't that revolutionary. We'll be living in apartment condos in a "normal" neighbourhood, a couple of kilometres from Nanaimo's downtown core. If you went past our building project, you wouldn't necessarily know that it was "different."

But the consensus decision-making process we have chosen for our strata complex does take us beyond an average level of collaboration.

When I stop to think about it, there is a lot of cooperation in the world. Everyone, by and large, crosses a street when the light is green and stops when the light is red. Through thousands of agreements that most of us honour most of the time, we make it feasible for ourselves to live in society.

But living in society wasn't enough for me. I wanted more out of life. I wanted to live in community.

I remember a moment when I caught a glimpse of what was possible. It was at the turn of the millennium. At the time I was living in Melbourne. Because of Australia's longitude, we were one of the first countries to reach midnight. It was a thrill for me to watch, albeit on TV, the spectacular display of fireworks over Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I was so excited that I stayed up for the better part of 24 hours, and watched cities around the world reaching midnight. How can I forget the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower? Or the fountains dancing exquisitely to Handel's "Messiah" in Las Vegas? Interestingly enough, some of the low tech displays were gorgeous too. I remember how much I enjoyed the traditional dancing in Jordan.

What was so magical for me was the synergistic way in which all the people of the world pulled that off. I don't remember any UN negotiations or treaties or anything. People self-organized. It just happened. For that 24-hour block of time, the news focused on celebration, beauty and fun.

But, soon enough, we returned to business as usual.

Now, three months into my cohousing adventure, I've suddenly realized that I have attained what I longed for -- but wouldn't have been able to articulate -- back then. For me, joining a cohousing community has turned every day into the turn of the millennium.

It's not all beauty and bright lights. I guess our planning meetings might be compared with the preparations and rehearsals people had to go through before they put on those spectacles at the stroke of midnight.

Besides that, our project isn't obviously impressive, in the way a fireworks display is. Maybe the traditional dances are more representative of our efforts.

But, ever since I joined this project, I have felt alive.

Another way in which the turn of the millennium serves as a metaphor for cohousing is the paradox between the highly independent spirits that people in the cohousing movement have and how much cooperation the consensus decision-making process requires. Each of those millennium displays was unique, and yet they all fitted themselves to the larger timing framework.

Similarly, the people who are attracted to cohousing are very individual (sometimes even eccentric?). Yet we are the people who create communities that operate on degrees of cooperation that, at least for North American society, are extraordinary.

So I reckon it has to be true that pigs can fly.

No comments: