Roughly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Much of the time it is a complicated and ugly process. Crime diverts a lot of societal energy in the form of tax dollars put toward the police and military, among other things, and the idea that "we are not safe" takes a psychological toll as well. The disparity between the rich and poor today, as well as disagreement over how government spends our tax dollars has been increasingly (though unsteadily) coming to a head since the birth of capitalism.
Does it have to be this way? If quality of life is what we're after as a society, perhaps we ought to rethink how we approach issues such as these. Eco-villages, like Damanhur, may have some wisdom to share.
Marriage, Crime & Government - Damanhur pt. 3
Marriage is a one-year contract in Damanhur. When the year is up, it expires. You can renew or not. Maybe you want to continue your exploration of love and partnership with somebody else, or fly solo for a while. The point is, we as committed lovers are mirrors for one another on our path to self-understanding. Our ability to learn from one another may last a lifetime or it may be but one of many phases on on that path to wholeness.
In fact, most commitments in Damanhur are periodically renewed, including professions and living arrangements. The people of Damanhur recognize that to be a person means to be a fluidly evolving series of passions and desires. In everything, it is important to ask oneself, "how can I be the most effective, most vibrant person that I can be, and how can I best serve my community?"
I sat down with Damanhurian Macaco Tamariche, the former president of Global Ecovillage Network Europe, and asked her how a community deals with thieves. She laughed and told me that there aren't any thieves in eco-villages - criminals find that they can't function in such a small community where everyone knows everyone and communicates deeply. So criminals tend to leave on their own, unable to thrive in that environment. She said that it is the sense of separation found in individualistic society that breeds thieves.
She told me about a kleptomaniac that once lived in Damanhur. He was caught, of course, and was asked if he wanted to leave the eco-village or to work on curing his pathology. He chose to stay and work with the on-site psychiatrists and the rest of the community, and was eventually cured. He still lives happily in Damanhur today.
Macaco and I talked about the political and financial structure of Damanhur as well. "We have created a combination of solidarity and being an entrepreneur," she explained, "marrying the best parts of socialism and liberalism." Everybody in Damanhur has their own work and their own private salary. "And then we all contribute to the common projects that we have. And to other things, like the upbringing of our children." How much one contributes to the community economically, socially and otherwise is a matter of discussion and agreement. It all stems from trust and communication.
Of course, this economic and social model couldn't work in a society that is too large - and that's the benefit of a community model of living. That is also why Damanhur is itself a federation of smaller communities who work together. The smaller the community, the easier it is to hold each other accountable, united by a common goal and a sense of solidarity.
It has become apparent that a society based on materialism and excessive individualism doesn't yield happiness for the majority. Can you imagine a whole nation comprised of federations of diverse communities, where there is a place for everyone, and the common thread that holds the people together is a belief in the human right to personal wellness? How about a whole world comprised of such nations?
Even outside of a fully community-model of living, I think that these approaches to marriage, crime and economics teach a valuable lesson: communication, care and honesty are things that are lacking in modern society, and unnecessarily so. I have a hunch that as we shift our focus from the individual to the collective that we are a piece of, more solutions to the causes of societal suffering will emerge.
Svalla talks about being seen for who you are:
"When I came here a year and a half ago I felt that it was the first time that other people really saw me for who I was, which at first was scary – I felt so naked. I was very shy and caught up in my ideas of myself and what other people thought of me in that moment. I had a hard time making decisions for myself. My self-confidence was really low.
And then, it was the best thing that ever happened because when I saw myself through other people’s eyes I started loving myself. They appreciated me in a way that I had never appreciated myself. I found my strength. Now I feel that I can do anything.
If someone has a hard time with themselves then that person will not be able to realize the mission that we are here to do together. So you help that person realize how amazing they really are. Through doing that we can help the next person and the next and create this big group of people who can create something unlimited together. It’s amazing, really, this feeling of unity."
Meditation in the Hall of Mirrors
Let's teach each other to better play this game of life.