Introduction

What situation do you want to spend our life in? What people do you want to have around? What do you want to do as your long term main activity? Here is mine variant. Living with some fellows as a permanent, mobile, technology-enabled, intentional community … serving God by serving others … and searching God by seaching what he does today. I cannot imagine something better, something more comforting, something more stirring. Standing there, one day, dear friends around you, and knowing you’ve found what you was searching all life long: the sense of this all, in an obvious, non-ignorable way. Knowing, from then on, that you’re moving to an eternity on God’s side. Instead of just being convinced to do so.

Of course, I would prefer joining an existing community of that style, instead of building my own. Because building an  organisation is a hard, risky and tedious task – and without any worth of the desired organisation already exists. However, I did an intensive web research on 2007-11-17, and found nothing. What I found is this, by appropriateness:

  • Mobile Freak Gemeinde (MFG): in English, that’s “mobile freak church”; they’re a group of some  Jesus Freaks, living in camp buses and touring the world to tell people about Jesus; they are currently “on hold” (see post “Pause” from 2007-08-12). I really hope that you find a way to continue your vision, guys! You really rock! While they’re closest to the community I have in mind and I’d really like to meet them, they’re a group of personal friends and, as said, on hold. Not to mention our small differences in lifestyle … really, don’t want to mention 😉
  • White Stone Community: written about on this blog of its founder Baba, they’re a really stylish Jesus Freak community in Portugal and somewhat connected to MFG. Sadly, they seem to have quite high fluctuation and are not mobile … that is, they differ from the style of community I search, but again, you guys rock, too, and I’d like to meet you some day.
  • Rainbox Gatherings: this seems quite a fascinating thing, yet I do not know why I include them here as I search for a small, permanent intentional community.
  • Christian Peacemaker Teams: they have a nice, consequently radical style and are Christian, but I do not share (1) their occupation with peacemaking, (2) the a priori opposition to any kind of violence, (3) their centrally controlled organisation style, (4) their dependence on fundraising, (5) their strong anti-Israeli mindset.

So … if anybody can point me to an existing group to join, I would be grateful beyond measure. But if no such group exists yet, I would be willing to start one – else I cannot expect to experience any kind of teamwork and communal living in this work that I can totally enjoy. I assume now that I indeed need to start one such community … I made good experiences with using fictional content to envision stuff, drawing a lively, motivating and self-motivating image in my and other people’s minds. To have a vision is, after all, viewing something worthy to endure pain for, so some more motivation will not hurt. I should note that this vision also expresses my wish to live an interesting, well-going life … hope God will bless me with that, not sure.

The vision

Hi … I’m Tam of Cmando. My wife Celina and six other fellows are also of Cmando. Pronounce it as “come-and-do”, with the empasis on the latter. I don’t know what Cmando is. Cmando is an intentional community of eight people … a Christian church of eight … your permanent world tour with 7 friends … a bunch of journalists and metaphysicists, tracing miracles … a multi-party house with couples and singles in it … an all-wheel truck … a company of eight friends in ever-ongoing financial trouble. Some people see us as a civil analogy to military commando, which sometimes applies, sometimes not at all.

Celina reminds me jus’ now that Cmando is rather just a permanent group of long-term friends … a set of lively discussions every evening (and mostly helpful) … these windows with their ever-changing exceptional view on untouched nature … a collection of complicated computer stuff that you never want in your living room (but sadly we have just one room in total, so it looks like ISS interieur) … a group that wants to be able to help whereever we see it fit … a network of contacts to several thousand helpful and needy people worldwide … a particularly challenging time last year (socially, as friendship is not always a box of chocolates). And so on 🙂

But, don’t worry what we are. Instead, read what way we lived today … it easier to get precise on that topic. Well then, step by step. We are currently to an expedition in Tanzania, trying to track some of the concrete things God does today. When we’re done with that, this will be published as our third (and last) book on that topic, and we’re glad to find such a wealth of  incidences that even Matew seems to be happy with that.

However, we’re not doin that stuff all day long, as we need to earn some money to live and travel here, and as we try to help some fellow Christians on the go. Therefore, this morning was dedicated to our community-owned little IT company … standing up at 5 o’clock, we’d have our running course, but with me and Celina staying at the truck for security reasons. Well, and to prepare a nice breakfast 🙂 After breakfast, our four programmers would settle behind their computers and finish one of their website projects, working in something they call extreme collaboration in a warroom environment; I’d say it’s related to
XPM.

Celina and Rebeca assisted them by doing accounting and office administration, while Rhett and I took the motorbike with sidecar to visit some local market and buy food for all of us, to prepare the food for storage, together with us, and to create a
nice meal. When we arrived back home at the truck, they were in the midst of deploying their website via Inmarsat satellite internet connection, while the girls were ready. After eating together and relaxing during the hottest part of the day, we mobilized the vehicle and departed … but paused a little while after to take in some water from a public well (whereof a location based GPS reminder had made us known).

After two hours of driving (and only 45km of distance …) we arrived at this little village of Adjoa. He was a fellow Christian whom we had met the week before, and we had promised to come and try to repair their village’s jammed well (which was a result of a tribal feud two years ago). Arriving there in late afternoon, we were heartily welcomed by Adjoa and the village elders. We were invited to an evening meal and discussed the problem with them for a while, then joined Adjoa and others in their evening prayer meeting. And finallly we sat outside at a small camp fire, discussing among Cmando members how to dig this well up again. We were kind of in a mess, as this was a 20m deep hole in the ground, 35cm in diameter, and we did not have any kind of well drilling equipment. Finally, Brady had the idea to mount our small-outline air hammer together with ballast and this high-volume fan (for removing stones and dirt) to a steel cable. And we decided to try that the other day.

End notes

Interesting enough, God’s vision for the whole Christian congregation is quite similar to the vision above. Just that I dare to envision this for a small, prototype group only, while God dares to envision that for all of us. Nonetheless, I am impressed how Paul expresses the way God envisions congregations to be … full of love, saring, honesty, mercy … and full of venturesome, faithful co-workers:

(1) Does Christ speak to you? Does love call to you? Do you have a part in the Holy Spirit? Do you have any love and care for others? (2) Then make me very, very happy. Live in happiness with one another. Have the same love for each other. Think the same way. Agree together about things. All have one purpose in mind. (3) Do not try to  prove you are better than others. Do not be proud of yourselves, but be humble. Think of other people as being better than yourselves. (4) Each one of you should not think only about himself, but about other people also. (5) Think the same way Jesus Christ thought. (6) He was in every way like God. Yet he did not think that being equal to God was something he must hold on to. (7) He gave this up and became a servant. […] (13) For God is at work in you. He helps you want to do it. And he helps you do what he wants you to do. (14) Do everything without grumbling or making trouble. (15) In that way you will be completely good. No one will be able to say anything wrong about you. You will be God’s good children living amongst bad people. Among them you will shine like lights in the world. […] (19) I hope the Lord Jesus will let me send Timothy to you soon. I will be glad to hear about you. (20) I have no one like Timothy. He is troubled to know about you. (21) All the other people think only of themselves and not of Jesus Christ. (22) But you know what a good man Timothy is. You know that he has worked with me in telling the good news. He has worked just as a son works with his father. […] (25) I thought I must send Epaphroditus, our Christian brother, back to you. He has worked with me and has also been a soldier of Christ with me. He was your messenger and he brought your gift for my needs. (26) I am sending him back because he has been lonely without you all. And his heart has been troubled because you heard that he was sick. (27) He was very sick! He almost died! But God was kind to him. He was not only kind to him, but also to me. God did not let me have one trouble after another. (28) I want even more to send him to you so that you will be happy when you see him again. And I will not be so troubled any more. (29) So receive him with much joy because he is a Christian brother. Give respect to men like him. (30) He almost died doing the work of Christ. You wished to help me, but you could not come. He came instead. He was willing to put his life in danger in order to help me. [Philippians 2:1-7,13-15,19-22,25-30 BWE]

Image source: they are used for illustration purposes only and are completely unrelated to the content of this completely fictional story. They are licensed under a Creative Commons license, published by user “simontaylor” on flickr.com as images 286272346, 286269549 (in this order).


Start date: 2007-11-17
Post date: 2007-11-19
Version date: 2007-11-19 (for last meaningful change)

I don’t wanna sound proud and I do.
I’m building my own world right now.

A world without houses, but with homes.
A world without streets.
A world without passenger cars.
A world where 4-10 people live on 13m², with a living room of 148,939,100,000,000 m².
A world where one can work from anywhere in this living room.
A world with a space station moving in this spacy living room.
A world without furniture.
A world without DVD player, desktop PC, notebook, PDA, TV, alarm clock, mobile phone, landline phone, SIP phone, dictaphone, remote controls, MP3 player, stereo music equipment.
(That’s due to convergence.)

A world with brothers and sisters around, not just acquaintances or “just” family or just nobody.

A world where you know your Father and why you are around here.

If you are interested, keep tuned.

Some day, a HowTo will appear here which explains how you can build such a world. It has 90+ pages now and needs some more 🙂

Update as of 2011-05-09: The “HowTo” finally made it online and can be found at my “Documents: Main” page as the EarthOS document. Note that it’s called “idea pools” as I simply lack the time to finish and polish all that … . If you like the idea, check out Open Source Ecology, a group pursueing a similar approach, but they got practical already.

 

Some thoughts inspired by a friend’s notes on work. I mean work: this thing that makes you weary and sleepy, not just the fun thing where you play with interesting technical stuff all day long. I am currently in the interesting situation that I need only about 5 days a month to work for my material needs … and basically I’m happy that way. Not that I’d have much money, but I have no unsatisfied basic material needs. The rest of my time has to be spent on other things (sadly I do not know how to save time so that I can spend it later for other things … but, ok, working for excess money is something like that).

So, the question that arises in this situation is: what work is rewarding? And I mean work, this thing that … see above. Actually, I have no idea what kind of work would be rewarding in this world … as this world will pass away, and death renders all to be nothing. Somewhere in Ecclesiastes Solomon said something very similiar, and he hated life ’cause of that. Vanity!!!

It’s not that I would not have a vision for my life … see my post “My vision for my life, as of today“. But, umh, this kinda feels like something “nice to have”. It would not make me happy, I guess, just as anything you can have or reach. So it does not motivate me to really work for it.

Motivation for work must be a strong one, as a weak one is not sufficient to work until you’re k.o., and this for weeks, months, and years. Basic material needs serve such a motivation, but what after these have been met? As is the case with me?

What deemed Jesus “rewarding work” while on earth”? Travelling around and preaching the gospel, healing people. And I can imagine that he was quite k.o. on evenings, so this was work, really.

It’s not that I’d miss Jesus, food, friends, work or a vision for my life. All this is in place. But I miss the cognition that all this stuff is rewarding (… at some point in life I stopped to work for these goals that one by one turn out to be Fata Morgana, among them my profession). A cognition that is at least in part based upon observations, e.g. from what other people did and the reward they got. Or, lets put is thus: a cognition that is justifiably true. Not jst something you believe for pragmatic reasons: “because it works” for motivating you. You’re welcome to tell me: something rewarding to work for, and why it is rewarding, and why the cognition of this is justifiably true.

Start date: 2007-09-05

Version date: 2007-09-05 (for last meaningful change)

The hedonic treadmill

Here is the basic assertion of our economy: the needs of human beings are infinite (… but the means to fulfill them are finite, so we have to be economical). Infinite needs are surely observable, but what’s the reason behind? From an evolutionist perspective it looks like this:

“And there are more anthropological constants: our emotional self-model makes it possible to consciously feel ourselves. It drives us forward in the steady attempt to feel good, to find emotional stability, protection and security. We are biological systems which are damned to search for happiness, which must try to feel as good as possible. But unfortunately, the reward system in our brain and our emotional self-model allow no stable kind of feeling good.

Admitted that especially the conscious self-models brought experiencing joy and happiness into the physical universe – to a place where these did not exist before. But psychological evolution did not optimize us for permanent happiness. On the contrary: it put us on the “hedonic treadmill“, which is driven by the permanent attempt to experience happiness and joy and to avoid pain and depression. But we also are kept in permanent motion: the hedonic treadmill – concretely the reward system in our brain – is the engine which mother nature built into us. We might discover its structure in ourselves, but it is unclear if we can ever get out of this treadmill. In some sense we are this structure. The Ego is the hedonic treadmill.”

[Thomas Metzinger: Der Preis der Selbsterkenntnis; in: Gehirn und Geist; 7-8/2006; S. 46; original in German; emphasis per original; hyperlink added to original]

We’re not interested in evolution here but in happiness: this guy thinks, permanent happiness cannot be found because the steady longing for happiness is the engine that drives all the people in this world with their lifestyle and “great achievements”. (By the way, if you need to know what’s a treadmill … .) It’s not that we want to live the way we do, but we’re driven by the search for happiness. And it’s not that we want to create, build, achieve something, but we’re again driven. Surely one finds the “hedonic treadmill” idea inspired and confirmed by so many experiences of private and public life.

Now, should we feel happy about working constantly (on “improving” circumstances) just to retain our level of happiness? That’s what the hedonic treadmill means. Up to a reasonable level of life quaity, the treadmill does a good job: it allows to feel happy while working on necessary improvements, i.e. to feel happier than “allowable” with respect to the amount of work done. And it enables humans to gain dominance over the rest of nature, which is not equipped with this treadmill thing. But after our basic needs are met, the treadmill thing should stop, and allow to do further improvements as creative freetime work, just for the fun of it, and just if one wishes to do so. But it does never stop, it has gone mad. It drives people further and further, stressing them with a desperate need for more happiness, for absolute happiness. But this need is never fulfilled, as it is not the idea behind the hedonic treadmill to produce this (but instead, to give motivation and reward while working on necessary improvements; any other use of the mechanism is actually abuse of this biological system).

Just, people seem not to realize this wrong direction of their search. They naively extrapolate that the “inner reward” they receive when reaching goals will be proportional to the goal reached, so try to reach goals that high that the reward remains for the rest of their life. Instead, the reward mechanism has a built-in fade-away mechanis, so that they can never stop to work though objectively possible after the basic needs have been met. It’s like having a job where one gets money only when beating one’s own record from yesterday … and that’s surely not happiness. Let’s envy the animals, which don’t have this treadmill thing and are happy without working for something beyond their basic needs. Where’s the way out?

Jesus about the hedonic treadmill

Me thinks that Jesus talks about the treadmill thing here:

“(24) ‘No man can work for two masters. He will hate one and love the other. Or he will obey one and despise the other. You cannot work for both God and money. (25) ‘So, I tell you this. Do not be troubled about what you will eat or drink to keep alive. Do not be troubled about what you will wear on your body. Life itself is worth more than food, and the body is worth more than clothes. (26) ‘Look at the birds that fly in the air. They do not plant or cut or keep any food. Yet your Father in heaven feeds them. Are you not worth more than birds? (27) Can any one of you live any longer by troubling yourself about these things? (28) And why are you troubled about clothes? See how the flowers grow in the fields. They do not work or make cloth. (29) I tell you, King Solomon was a great man. But he was not dressed as fine as one of these flowers. (30) God dresses the grass in the fields so it looks nice. It is in the field one day and the next day it is put on the fire. If God dresses the grass like that, he cares much more that you have clothes to wear. You do not believe in God very much! (31) ‘So then, do not keep asking, “What shall we eat?” “What shall we drink?” and “What shall we wear?” (32) It is the people who do not believe in God who work for all these things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need them all. (33) ‘Work first for God’s kingdom and what he calls good. Then you will have all these things also. (34) ‘So do not be troubling yourself about tomorrow. Tomorrow will have its own trouble. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’” [Matthew 24:24-34 BWE]

As an experiment, I interpret Jesus’ words here as pragmatical verbalization, i.e. immediately do-able. Then, I suppose the theoretical background is this: Jesus does not promise riches to those who “work first for the kingdom of God”. He talks about not searching our happiness in material things like luxurious meals and fine clothing, as this results in the unnecessary activity produced by the hedonic treadmill after the basic needs are met. Working for the basic needs is oll korrect, but serving materialism like a slave on a (hedonic) treadmill is not [Matthew 24:24 BWE]. Me thinks, Jesus even teaches that fulfillment of the basic needs is possible without conscious effort, i.e. we won’t realize this as a fatigue [Matthew 24:26,28,30 BWE]. Why do you reduce life to material stuff by caring for material stuff all your life? Realize that life is more than food (or other material stuff), as Jesus said [Matthew 24:25 BWE].

But staying away from the hedonic treadmill does not provide what you searched on it. So where to find permanent happiness? Let’s look closer at the following verse: “Work first for God’s kingdom and what he calls good. Then you will have all these things also.” [Matthew 24:33 BWE]. I think that this means primarily: “[…] then you will have happiness in the material world also, the very thing you searched when serving money, the very thing you searched on the hedonic treadmill”. In my view, it cannot mean that God will add all the clothes and riches of Solomon as immediate gifts, as e.g. Paul did not experience this (we will look at this below). But the need for happiness is fulfilled, and that is the thing searched for. And how or when is this need fulfilled? When one is “first […] concerned about God’s kingdom and his righteousness” [Matthew 24:33 ISV]. This is exactly what (who …) we need for our materially unfulfilled need: God. A relationship to God, where one experiences God’s love for humans and expresses love for God by a straight life according to his will. And how exactly does a relationship with God make us permanently happy? Lets o further …

The autarky escape

I stumbled over Paul’s approach to happy practical living, which is quite interesting. He seems to have internalized what Jesus said about sorrows (see above). Let’s read what he writes:

“(10) The Lord made me very happy to know that you were thinking about me again. Yes, I know you were thinking of me before, but you had no way to help me. (11) I do not mean that I needed it. I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. I am happy with whatever happens to me. (12) I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I am rich. No matter how things are, I have learned how to live: when I have plenty of food, or when I am hungry; when I have more things than I need, and when I do not have enough. (13) I can do all things because Christ gives me strength.” [Philippians 4:10-13 BWE]

You might want to read the wider context: Philippians 4:10-19 BWE. (And if you clicked the references and arrived at verse 9: these references are correct but the verse scheme at crosswire.org is shifted by mistake.) In Greek, Paul states that he learned to be satisfied whith what he has like this:

“ουχ οτι καθ υστερησιν λεγω εγω γαρ εμαθον εν οις ειμι αυταρκης ειναι” [Philippians 4:11 TR]

A word-by-word translation would be like “Not that with respect to want I say this; because I learned, in whatsoever I am, to be content.”. The word translated “content” is “αυταρκης” (transliterates “autarkes”). It comes from “αυτος” (autos), meaning “self”, and “αρκεω” (arkeo), meaning “to be sufficient”, “to be enough”, or literally “to ward off”. So together it means “self-sufficient”, and indeed this is where the word “autarky” comes from.

Perhaps Paul would accept the following variations to describe his condition:

  • I am self-sufficient, which means that my happiness depends on what is in myself rather than on what comes to myself from the outer circumstances. And in myself is Christ with his strength, resp. my relationship to him which does not depend on material circumstances.
  • I have learned that the material world with all its lack and abundance will vanish, but I know and experienced what is eternal: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and my company with them. See also what I wrote in I Corinthians 7:29-31 BWE.
  • I have learned how to deal with every situation. Which means, there was a time when I was not able to be happy instead of poverty and instead of richness, but I was trained to be.
  • I am content within every situation. This does not mean that I would be content if there’d be nothing at all and I’d be starving to death. Instead, God knows what I need, and supplies this for me. Some people will be surprised that God does not prevent me from bing poor at times, but I’m no longer surprised. Because what we call poverty also is a situation that has enough good things in it to be content with. I had to learn to see and use these goods and I did learn it.
  • God’s supply means I’ll never enter a situation where there objectively is less than I need (not: wish) to be content with.
  • The key is to basically think the present situation to be worth living (at least potentially or latently). With this premise, one will care about adapting, furnishing and customizing the situation, according to one’s abilities, and indeed arrive at something worth living. This is a situation of “conformance with one’s goals and wishes”, which is the very definition of happiness. If one instead wishes to escape the whole situation, one tries something beyond one’s abilities, which means that one’s practical life is no longer in conformance with one’s goals and wishes, which means unhappiness.

Paul that that he had to learn to be happy in all situations. Which means one has to know some things and get some training to do so. What, for example, does one have to learn to be content in poverty?

  • Create no plans how to escape from your present situation. You’d just see them fail (and get frustrated) because poverty means you have not the resources to escape.
  • Take good care to discover all the available resources and beneficient peculiarities of your situation, and use these with a creative mind to their fullest.
  • Wish just what you can achieve with the present resources, and think carefully about what can be achieved with the present resources. This is plenty of stuff, as “best things in life are free”.
  • Await a change of the situation from the outside, i.e. look out for open doors to walk through. That is, use very moderate force to search for open doors, but do not try with full force to break doors open. You wouldn’t succeed or would choose the wrong door, and you would get stressed and exhausted, anything far from being happy.

To-do’s

  • Important: Paul talks only about the missing correlation between his money and his happiness; in this context “I am happy with whatever happens to me.” (Phil 4:11 BWE) does not mean “really all” as this would consequently say that Paul would be happy in hell as well. So one should not blindly extrapolatethese words to friends and social needs as well.
  • Did Paul expect a change of his poor situation? Perhaps it was really really equal to him (Phil 4:10-11)?
  • Verbalize the insights here as the difference between top-down life (the idealistic approach that comes from (thinking about) the ideal) and bottom-up life (the pragmatic approach to the ideal).
  • Add examples how the “hedonic treadmill” idea is confirmed by life’s experiences (par. 5): “While private life is private, we might look at some publicly visible persons: […]”, then insert here 5-10 stories of tragic persons of public life who searched for money, love and might.

Date: 2007-08-14
Last meaningful change: 2007-08-19

Me thinks the following to be an interesting insight. Friendship is something that does not exist in a statical way, but consists solely of the dynamic components. Friendship is done, it consists of interaction between persons. (Which is a difference to partnership, which exists also statically as it is binding.)

So what does this mean: that there’s no value in thinking about friendship but only in doing friendship instead. In the time used for thinking one cannot do friendship. The same applies to the quality of friendships: there is no static quality one could think about but only the dynamic, moment-by-moment quality one practises.

Date: 2007-08-10
Last major change: 2007-08-10

Den Unterschied zwischen Massentierhaltung und Leben in freier Natur gibt es auch bei Menschen. Es ist der Unterschied zwischen einem Leben dessen Tätigkeiten vordefiniert und wertlos sind, und einem Leben das aufregend schön und nützlich ist und Alleinstellungsmerkmale hat (Leben als Kunstform). Begegnet man Menschen in Massenhaltung so frage man sich wie man sie befreien kann. Wie öde ist es doch zum Beispiel, vor einer katholischen Kirche in Manila Kerzen zu verkaufen. And perhaps God would say: Is this what I made you for? Es geht gar nicht einmal zuerst darum, die Zeit bis zum Tod »sinnvoll« zu nutzen und »Gutes« zu tun. Denn ohne Tod gäbe es keinen Mangel an Zeit und ohne das Böse keinen Mangel an Gutem. Es geht darum: Gottes Ebenbild zu sein statt durch das eigene Beispiel ein falsches Bild von Gott zu erwecken.

In der Natur tut jedes Wesen, was in der jeweiligen Situation für es selbst angemessen ist. Weil das Invariante der Situationen harmonisch ist (z.B. welche Tierarten es wo gibt) ist das Gesamtsystem in einem dynamischen Gleichgewicht, d.h. es gibt keinen Machtmissbrauch, keine Systemstörung durch Ausnutzung usw., das System »funktioniert«.

Zu tun was für einen selbst in der eigenen lokalen Situation gerade angemessen wird beschrieben inder Behavior Setting Theorie. Beispiele aus der Natur: Tiere essen Früchte von Pflanzen weil es für sie angemessen ist; und tragen damit zur Verbreitung der Samen dieser Pflanzen bei.

Wenn Natur aufgrund dieser regulierenden Mechanismen funktioniert (und nicht aufgrund eines Verbots den eigenen Vorteil zu suchen, sondern gerade dieses Suchen mit integriert) so ist es auch zulässig und vielversprechend Community als »Behavior Setting im dynamischen Gleichgewicht« zu entwerfen. Selbstlos gebende Liebe ist nicht das Funktionsprinzip in der Natur, muss es also auch nicht in der Community sein. Sondern: ein im Normalfall aufeinander abgestimmter Kreislauf von Geben und Empfangen.