It was perhaps a dozen years ago at a heated polyamory discussion dinner. There was a flirtatious communard who was known to be in a long-term committed relationship and their partner was quite jealous of their attractions outside their established relationship. One side of our divided conversation were people who believed that the responsibility for caring for that relationship was on the shared flirtatious partner. It was on this person to know, respect and communicate any agreements or boundaries the pre-existing relationship placed on the new connection. The other position was that it was good poly practice to communicate directly with your intimate’s other partners, especially if they are known to be jealous, so no one is surprised, everyone is on the same page and the new affair does not have an acidic effect on the existing romance. The group that was advocating for direct inquiry of the jealous partner was the older demographic at the table. I will call this group the Old Guard.
And there was kind of a “guardian” feeling to this concern. Poly is an ambitious relationship model. You are assuming that you can do better than upbringing. That you can transcend the perhaps 30% of all pop songs which promote exclusive romantic role models, or the 50% of soap operas which play off jealousy as a central theme. Not only do you have to be better, but the people you are playing with are going to have to be above average in their response to potentially highly charged emotional circumstances.
Remember the classical trajectory of new intimacies. They start with honeymoons. During this period we tend to be in significant denial about there being any flaws to our new partners. They are wonderful, their feet don’t stink, they treat you like you really deserve to be treated. And while you are wearing these rose colored glasses the existing (in this case jealous) partner can be completely reasonably worried that you would want to spend all your time with this shiny new relationship, rather than the grumpy old one with demanding attention, needing processing and not very fun.
Everyone in the old guard claimed to be not just taking care of the other partner, they were also taking care of the notion of polyamory being a responsible and sustainable relationship model. While it might be fun to jump on a discovered attraction at a party, the clean up can be a nightmare.
The young Turks thought differently (they were mostly 20-something so the label seemed apt at the time). We are adults, we are responsible for our relationships. If someone says they are romantically available to play it is untrusting and perhaps even insulting to say, “oh i have to go make sure i have permission from your main squeeze.” The young Turks thought they were being mature and respectful, the old guard thought the Turks represented the wild, wild west of intimacy frontiers. And while i have my own opinion, i can fully see why both sides believe theirs is a fair and reasonable position.
I am happy that there is again a polyamory discussion group at Twin Oaks, which Sky started up again. It happens on Tuesdays at dinner.
Shal who was at this polyamory dinner so long ago and thinks deeply about these issues had this to say about guards and Turks.
I understand the perspective of assuming new flame can be responsible for their own situation, but we know that is not always how it turns out. After all, the shared lover is looking at the situation with rose colored glasses too.
I agree with the reasons you speak of to be checking in with established intimates of a new flame. And there are some reasons that you did not mention why I think it is wise to be considerate of other partners of a new lover or potential lover. If the topic comes up at the new poly dinner I will mention these.It is not just about whether one gets the ok to start the relationship or not. There are many situations in life when one is more likely to feel ok with a change if one is asked first rather than the change being made without asking. I think this is also true of new relationships with one’s partner. If the other intimate of a new flame is asked nicely, and especially if co is assured co’s situation will be considered and cared about in the decisions made in the future (if that is true), co is more likely to feel ok with the proposed new relationship. And then the new relationship is more likely to go well. So I see such an approach as a wise mix of altruism and self-interest.
Also when in such a situation I would want my new lover’s life to go well, not just when co is with me but also in broader ways. And if co’s current relationship blows up it would cause much unhappiness to this person I care a lot about. So checking in with partners’ partners is not just caring for and about the other intimate one is checking in with, it is also and more importantly caring for and about the person one is getting emotionally involved with.I call such an approach “cooperative poly”.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
“The most interesting list is not the very long list of diseases where cannabis is an effective treatment. The most interesting list is the impressive list where cannabis is the only effective treatment.” And with this intro you are thrown into the colorful world of Lex Pelger.
A writer, scientist and world traveler, Lex believes that the way you change the world is by finding and telling the right stories. His search for these stories has taken him to the slums of India, where he covered the struggle of Tibetans until his second arrest got him deported.
He hitched to Mexico and across the US which he calls the kingdom of fear. He is a man of many loves.
One of his major loves is the story of cannabis and its healing properties. He says:
If Western medicine tells us anything about cannabis it’s that it cures, prevents & treats cancer. There’s abundant evidence in human trials across a wide range of cancer types that THC and CBD induce apoptosis in cancer cells. The cancer cells shut down their mitochondrial engines as the tumor shrinks and perhaps dies.
He is a most gracious host in Brooklyn, where several of us stayed after the last Point A meeting, along with half a dozen couchsurfers in his crowded 2 bedroom flat.
What has inspired this post is his most recent article in Ladybud magazine: The War on Weed is a War on the Elderly. If you have aging friends or parents or are concerned with issues of public health, i would strongly encourage you to read it. But if you don’t have time, let me share the part i found most compelling:
Cannabis helps with so many basic problems of aging: it lowers inflammation across the body, lessening aches, migraines and arthritis. By itself, it’s helpful against pain and it enhances the other painkillers so a patient needs less addictive opiates with just a few puffs of pot. It eases nausea from chemotherapy, treats sleep apnea, raises bone density for osteoporosis and protects the GI tract. It prevents heart attacks and lessens the neurotoxicity of strokes if applied immediately (the federal Health & Human Services even has a patent for this cannabinoid neuroprotection. This makes it even more ironic when the DEA claims ‘no medical benefit’). For as yet unknown reasons, cannabis works especially well for movement disorders like Parkinson’s and the self-attacking autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease. Cannabis slows the viruses of herpes and HIV, the prions of Mad Cow disease and even destroys the MRSA bacteria in a test tube (this drug resistant staph infection now kills more people than HIV every year and we have no new antibiotics left to kill it – except for the cannabinoids from that wicked weed). Our brain overflows with cannabinoid receptors that protect against MS, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Cannabis attacks and prevents cancer by several different pathways and it often eases depression.
My father died of Parkinson’s and the last part of his life was especially difficult. With persistence and luck the stories Lex is telling will change the world to ease the pain and suffering of folks like my dad.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
“I have a Shal request for you” my oldest commune friend and full moon buddy said nearly as soon as i walked back on campus.
He did not have to be more explicit, on the heals of Winter Storm Pax, there was only one thing he could want from me: Sledding. And while Shal is polite and frames his request as optional – our agreement is clear. There is no meeting so important that i can’t walk out of it to go sledding – turns out, there are always more meetings, but sledding is increasingly scarce in central Virginia.
And unlike me, Shal is careful, meticulous and prepared. ”We need to go in the early morning,” he explains. “We want the ice from the cold night air to freeze the slopes solid for the best sliding runs.” After checking the weather we decided we would go at 8 AM the morning after the validation day party.
We tried a couple of different positions on the sleds where were made by Trout out of 55 gallon plastic barrels, hammocks rope and spreader bars [photo below]. What went farthest was me on the bottom laying stomach down and Shal on top. This meant Shal could steer and keep us from hitting trees or the barb wire fence at the bottom. We did a couple hours worth of runs, screaming and hugging every time we broke our own record. Our jubilation mimicked the preteens who took to the slopes the night before, we were certainly not acting our age.
Turns out Shal was right, the meeting was missable.
Shal’s addendum: Something Paxus did not mention that made this such fast sledding is that there was a hard crust on top of the snow that the homemade toboggan slid on top of, which only happens once in a few years. So we were sliding down hills that were effectively sheer ice – that was why it was an opportunity too good to miss, whatever else would just have to happen another time.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
Occasionally, some intellectually leaning person will try to make the case against hope. They will tell you things are bad and that it is important to be realistic, and the cards are terribly stacked against us and you should not delude yourself, and you should prepare for things getting worse, and really this is the reasonable and prudent thing to do. Nonsense, i say.
For if you were reasonable, you might well just give up on Baltimore. The city has seen a 30% decrease in population since 1950, collapse of infrastructure, a high violent crime level, a spike in heroine use, food deserts and more. The folks at the Baltimore Free Farm (BFF) however are nothing like discouraged, taking every piece of abandoned property as they possibility can for a guerrilla urban garden or more.
When you arrive at the Ash Street community gardens you are met with the above sign. It is the only “security” the garden has, asking people to be respectful and only to pick things if they have been involved in planting there. Our enthusiastic tour guide Billy says it seems to work pretty well.
The Free Farm gives away food it grows and recovers every Wednesday. BFF also has a big warehouse, which it got control over when they agreed to fix the leaking roof. Inside they also run a kitchen which supports the efforts of Food Not Bombs on Sundays. So it is not just a “free farm” in name; in practice people are supplementing their diets with locally grown organic fruits and vegetables that they do not need to pay for. For the neighbors and for the economically disadvantaged, this is a significant direct improvement in their quality of life.
For me what makes the BFF crew so inspiring is their willingness to take risks. The tool library is a classic example. There are racks of shovels and leaf blowers and all manner of hand tools. They are in a shed which is unlocked. No librarian, but there are slips for people to sign out when they take things. And they mostly do. Billy tells me that they have lost very few items from the tool library. And he tells me he has never paid for a tool in the library. People give him shovels and other hand tools, and he often sharpens or fixes them and then they return to the public wealth.
One day someone will walk off with most of these tools and leave no note. On that day i am confident the BFF folks will pull together some other tool donations, take some more risks and restart the library, perhaps after some cursing.
The above photo is a salvaged pizza oven which has been retrofitted with high temperature rocket stoves. I am told by a mostly reliable source that they can get this oven hot enough to cook a pizza in 2 minutes – and it has that nice almost burned crispy bottom that so many people like.
What Billy points out is that if you know you are going to have a lot of people, due to this speed and the ability to cook multiple pizzas at once, you can feed a tremendous number of activists, musicians, volunteers, revolutionaries, traveling circus performers, homeless people or whoever else might be over that day for food.
BFF is not vegetarian. They have chickens and meat rabbits (whom they also use the pelts from). The structure of the rabbit hut is a mushroom shaped concrete hat which is on the ground and has fencing all around it, including underground so the rabbits don’t flee (or get attacked). This concrete mushroom has holes in it so the rabbits can get under and burrow, but can’t go through the fencing under it. The rabbits seem quite happy and they are quite large.
A huge fraction of the material infrastructure at BFF is salvaged materials. The entire greenhouse GPaul is depicted in above is made from recovered materials. Including all of this huge gauge plastic tubing that would not break short of a full on ice age. It would cost a pretty penny to build this from materials purchased at a hardware store. But the resourceful folks at BFF use their salvaging talents and patience in place of cold cash and the results are impressive.
The fancy dinner is another success story. For the last 3 years they have had one large fundraising dinner per year called “the Fancy Dinner.” They go out of their way to make nice food and purchasing organic, and from local sources as much as possible. In past years they have used their own inputs as well as buying from health food stores. The event now has something of a reputation and it has grown in both attendance and in the size of the meal. This year Whole Foods approved their donation request and gave them $850 worth of food.
More comically, Billy and some of his comrades went bow hunting three times for deer so that they could have venison for the fancy dinner. They failed three times.
On the drive back after the last failed attempt, Billy pulled up next to a hunter with a pickup truck filled with deer he had recently killed. Billy rolled down his window and said “Can we have a deer?” The hunter paused for a moment and said “sure,” then took the deer off his truck, called in the tag to the police so Billy could transport the deer body legally.
When Billy explained what they needed it for and tried to offer money to the hunter, he declined saying, “When you asked me if you could have a deer, I figured that you must have really needed one.” And thus there was venison at the Fancy Dinner as well. This year they had 120 people buying sliding scale tickets between $25 and $50. That is a chunk of change for an event with very low costs and all volunteer labor.
The Free Farmers are scrappy fundraisers. They have done two successful crowd sourcing projects. One to buy vacant land and one to repair the roof of the warehouse. They were both successful, and $12K went to purchase two small plots of land which are now urban gardens.
But these kids don’t always wait for money to move. They will find abandoned vacant lots and start planting on them, even if they don’t own it. Sometimes the land owner will come and tell them to leave and they may even lose some stuff. But what happens almost all of the time, is that the land owner is happy to have someone maintaining the land in any capacity, because it reduces their costs. Or they don’t care what happens to their land.
So you can sit with your intelligent hopeless friends and pontificate about the giant potholes and endless junkies of Baltimore. Or you can pitch in at the Free Farm and actually build a better world.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
We had the second Point A meeting at the Keep, which was a bit smaller yet felt stronger. We spent a fair amount of time describing some of the more important income sharing models which are being used in the intentional communities movement. It felt desirable to describe them here.
Twin Oaks intentionally has the simplest of income sharing models with regard to membership. You are either a member, and thus part of the income sharing group or you are not part of it. There are some minor (but important) differences between provisional members (who have not yet been in the community for 6 months) and full members (who have been thru their full member poll, have been in the community for over 6 months and basically have tenure), the most significant of these is health insurance and dental care.
What Twin Oaks is trying (and largely succeeding) in doing is creating a classless (internally) society, where no one has greater access to the collective resources once they become a member. All the income from the businesses is pooled and the group collectively decides how to distribute it. Almost everything the community provides is distributed freely to the members and there is not a seniority or merit based preference for resources. [Open rooms are filled on a seniority basis, based on when you first moved into that residence, not when you first moved into the community.]
Acorn is less worried about creating a single classless group and more interested in the flexibility of longer term “guest workers” which we call interns. Interns are not members, they are not co-owners of all the property and resources of the community and they have a specific period of time which they have been approved to live and work in the community, typically 6 months of less.
To the untrained eye, there is little difference in the day to day life of interns at Acorn when contrasted with members. They have to have their own health insurance and they dont get to go to the member portion of the community meetings. But they do get the monthly stipend of $75 like regular members and they have the same labor obligations, housing situation, and general access to resources that members have.
Acorn complicates the situation further by having Associate Members who need to spend at least 2 but no more than 6 months of the year at Acorn. Associates do not have health insurance or a voice in the member-only portion of the community meetings. Regular members must do clearnesses with associate members if they are around during their time when they are doing clearnesses, but need not with interns.
Again, with the exception of seniority based room selection, everything is distributed without preference to seniority or work performance. [While described separately, i consider the Twin Oaks and Acorn Income sharing systems to be basically the same and thus only counted as one distinct model.]
Our sister community on Staten Island uses yet another model. The core members of Ganas own the community and all it’s assets. This is occasionally described as a group marriage, because unlike Twin Oaks and Acorn, this part of the community is both income sharing and asset sharing (TO/Acorn are only income sharing).
The next ring of membership at Ganas is workers, there are members who are actively part of the several businesses the community own, including the book store/cafe, the recycled clothing store and the used furniture store. They get room and board and several hundred dollars per month.
Renters at Ganas do not work in the collective businesses but are still part of the meal plan for the community. They pay a few hundred dollars a month for their rooms and can attend community meetings if they like (these are actually open to everyone including non-members) though they usually do not.
The Gizmo and The 3 Tiers of Income: EGFS uses a piece of software they wrote called The Gizmo to balance the community labor+money desires (expressed by the annual budget) with the labor desires of each member. The community inputs the community budget in money and house labor (meal prep, cleaning, maintenance, etc). Then each member tells the Gizmo if they have income generating labor and if so what their hourly wage is and then what mix of house and income labor they’d like to do. The Gizmo takes the budget, the wages, and the preferences of everyone, chews on it, and then spits out schedules for everyone in both income producing and house labor. Everyone then owes those hours and that money to the house. A person can work over quote for their job or for the house (overquote house work pays an agreed upon wage) and keep that money for themselves. There is a cap to these private earnings, though.
Part of my job is to convince people that life on the commune is better than their life (if it really is, of course). Some days this is easy. Today was one of those days.
Rejoice and i chased down an uncooperative goat this morning, usually they can all be rounded up by a single person. Today, however, this goat was being temperamental and required special handling.
It is the busy season, and everyone knows it. There is a busy atmosphere around the place, but it is not stressed. We are getting it done, picking, packing and shipping hundreds of orders each day. Part of what has been making it work is that we have been blessed by a rain of wonderful East Winders. Thirteen of them came on this trip and they have been huge in getting all manner of things done. After the last East Wind LEX trip i think it is fair to say Acorn has a major motion picture intercommunity crush going on.
We are coming to the end of the construction at the new seed office, which we might be calling “The Ark” because it looks something like and arc (Acorn does not use regular naming party technology and thus names can be in indeterminate states). The crane has served us well and this afternoon we decided to take rides on it so we could see the surrounding area. The above short movie is Loch from East Wind riding for a bit.
For me it is wonderful to have GPaul around so regularly. Besides scheming and dreaming together – it just turns out he is incredibly handy to have around. From fixing laptop screens to getting the frozen water pump pipe operating again (both of these he did today). His sage wisdom for the day came from the experience of getting the water back on. “Don’t believe the cause of the problem when someone reports it to you, focus instead on the symptoms.” [Turns out the water was not frozen in the pipes in the building as several people had suggested, but rather a minor switch problem at the pump.]
There was not enough light in the Ark hallway to take pictures of the dance, but the good bye party is hopping. But i know when the party dies down – already some time after midnight, a bunch of inspired communards will pick the last hundred orders for the day, after almost everyone else in the county is asleep. They will do it joyfully, voluntarily, without a boss telling them what to do or tracking their hours and will feel like they are part of a right livelihood business that is helping start more resource sharing communities in the region.
What did you do today?