Have you ever dreamed of going out into nature and building a small but elegant home using natural materials, growing a garden, and having time to really live your life? Have you ever dreamed of living in some sort of community where your neighbors are not strangers, but your own family and friends?
If you have had these dreams, you have plenty of company. But what makes these dreams so hard to realize? It is not just money. Look how much we pay for our present lifestyle. It is not just skills, either, for skills can be learned. Most of all, it is a lack of vision and determination.
We tend to accept things the way we find them: the sprawling suburban neighborhoods, the traffic, the constant round of work and school that consumes most of our days. And we can get so caught up in living this kind of life that our dreams get pushed to the side and we end up feeling there are really no alternatives to what we see around us.
Even if we mobilize our energy and imagination to try to find an alternative, the obstacles are daunting. We must swim against the tide of the way things are. Land, for example, is expensive, and even if we could secure a loan, that means we will be out earning the money to repay it rather than living on the land we bought with it. And the whole world conspires to tell us how to live on this land. It is constantly bombarding us with propaganda about what a proper house should look like and how it should be furnished. And if this propaganda doesn’t take hold, we still have to deal with a mass of rules and regulations that tell us where and what we can build, and dictates to us how to do it down to the very size of nails to use. On top of that, we are told that all these rules and regulations are for our own good, and so we are obliged to pay for the enforcement of them on ourselves!
No wonder, when we travel around the U.S., we see thousands and thousands of new stick-built tract homes and search high and low for a genuine alternative building, which is usually to be found pushed out to the far margins of our society. But it should not be this way. In one of the richest countries of the world where we are constantly being told of the economic good times and where material excess is visible at every turn, we lack the imagination to create genuine alternatives.
A Checklist for What is Needed
1. Vision and imagination. We need the firm belief that another way of life is possible, a way that is simpler, more ordinate and more sustainable, and serves higher values.
2. Skills. Basic skills in building, gardening, alternative sources of power, cooking, handcrafts, small businesses, ecological action, etc., etc. A lot of these can be learned by doing and studying.
3. Land. Real land with enough space so that nature is still alive and not crammed into an odd corner here or there; land with room to build and freedom from having people and noise right on top of us.
4. Freedom to do. The freedom to experiment and build and make mistakes and rebuild without constantly having to look over our shoulders and be told that we really ought to live like everyone else.
5. Money. Enough money to buy the land outright and to buy the materials to build our homes, and to put the whole thing on a sound economic basis. No mortgages, no loans, no constant fretting about bills.
6. Like-minded people. We all differ in the size and kind of community we aspire to. But no matter what that is, it would be wonderful to have like-minded people sharing our dreams and helping us realize them whether they live in the same house, or on the next ten acres.