I’ve spent the past 2 years exploring community living. First in an OM house, then a 38-person mansion, and now, in a 12-person Haight-Ashbury co-op.
And it’s made one thing abundantly clear to me: community is one of our deepest, most foundational needs – and the one thing most of us are missing.
Words can’t describe how incredibly fulfilling it’s been to wake up everyday to a house of people who love each other, appreciate one another, cook together, share together, solve problems together, laugh and cry together.
And all of this on a DAILY basis. To connect and live and grow together, in real-time. Not just catching up over dinners and happy hours.
Now, I had a feeling community living would be special but even I was surprised at how deeply impactful it actually was. It’s filled a hole within me that I didn’t even realize was there.
A lingering sense of emptiness, loneliness, and stagnation that I had spent the past decade thinking was just what it felt like to be an adult.
So imagine my surprise when over the past 2 years of community living, that feeling melted away. No, it didn’t magically fix all my problems. But it sated a deep, missing need that I believe many of us feel.
In our culture, I think we supplant that need with the need for a soulmate. A life partner. “The One.”
But that yearning we feel? That hole, that nagging feeling that something’s missing?
I believe that’s the yearning for community.
The need to be really seen and appreciated. To be valued for your multiple, unique gifts. To feel that you’re not going through life alone – to have support, love, and companionship on this crazy journey called life.
For 99% of human history, those needs were fulfilled by entire tribes, villages, and close-knit communities.
But these days, in the time of silo’d off nuclear families and living with Craigslist strangers, we expect ONE person to fulfill all those needs. And more.
Not only is this completely unrealistic, but it places undue burden and stress onto our romantic relationships.
No one person can play the role of an entire village. Nor should they.
Only a village can do that.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Many of my community friends have reported feeling a similar sense of deep fulfillment (and decrease in romantic pressure).
Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe, noticed that many former soldiers longed to return to war. Not for war itself, but for the intimate, communal living they shared with their platoons:1
“That's our human evolution, that's what we evolved for. That's the kind of life that humans are adapted to. So, when you put people in that environment, they respond incredibly well because in a kind of genetic sense, it's familiar.”
Even Greek philosopher, Epicurus, came to the same conclusion. He determined that the key to happiness was not in romance or money, but in living together with your friends.
But don’t take their words for it, look back at the happiest, most fulfilling times of your own life.
Most likely, you’re thinking of college. Summer camp. Studying abroad.
What made those times so great? No, it wasn’t underage drinking. It was COMMUNITY.
The times in your life when you were living with your best friends. Running into people all the time. You were seen, recognized, and appreciated by many different individuals. There was a cohesive, shared community that you were all plugged into.
We often look fondly back at those times, thinking that they’re a special time that can’t be re-created. Especially not in the “real” world. Being an adult is SUPPOSED to be lonelier, less fun, more difficult.
But my experiences over the past 2 years have shown me that that doesn’t have to be the case. At all.
And not only is another way possible, it’s already happening.
Community living is a rapidly growing movement that’s continuing to pop up in more places.
It’s not just for “hippies” and “young’uns”. It can be a fit for any age, any lifestyle.
Best friends are buying tiny homes next to each other and raising children together. Acres of land are being turned into fully sustainable eco-villages. Elderly folks are banding together and taking care of one another, rather than going to senior citizen homes.
I believe this is a trend that’s only going to pick up momentum over the next 5-10 years.
As remote working increases. As rent prices climb. As cities oversaturate.
As people continue to attain everything they wanted – the job, the money, the lifelong partner – and realize that something’s still missing.
And as more of us realize that we don’t HAVE to go through life silo’d off from everyone else. That neighbors don’t have to be strangers. That our home life can be brimming with love, support, and a deep sense of belonging.
This is what we’ve actually been hungering for.
What we’ve mistakenly hoped ONE person could fulfill for us.
What our ancestors knew as the only way to live.
We’ve been longing for our village. Our tribe. Our community.
This entire time, we haven’t been yearning for “the one”.
We’ve been yearning for “the many.”
Photo by Miguel Templon (community member of the 38-person mansion)