March 12th, 2011

Critics wanted

So here's my text for the kibbutz website home page. Questions follow:

Title: Benton Kibbutz

Subtitle: The unexamined life is not worth living, but the unlived life is not worth examining.

What's a Kibbutz? What's a Jewnitarian? Why?

'Kibbutz' is a Hebrew word that more or less translates to English as 'group' or 'grouping.' It was originally the name given to a type of more-or-less Marxist intentional community set up in Israel, mostly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to develop agricultural settlements in what was at the time unpopulated swamp and wilderness.

'Jewnitarian' is a portmanteau word; a merging of Jew and Unitarian, and was relevant when we started as the 'Benton Jewnitarian Kibbutz'. We dropped the qualifier when a new member successfully argued that while we take inspiration from both Jews and Unitarians, we-as-an-entity are neither, and atheists, humanists, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and so on have equally valid contributions to make.

The context of the Kibbutz is the idea of the Social Contract: The kibbutz is a community which exists to further the purposes of the individuals that comprise it, and the members return loyalty to it based on its success in so doing.

The purpose of the kibbutz is to encompass and expand all it can mean to be human – within the context stated above. In the cliché co-opted by Army advertising, we want to help us all be all we can be, and to include the widest variety of human experience we can figure out how to encompass.

Our central values are Kindness, Reason, and Action. We enjoy being nice to people (including but very much not limited to ourselves), and like going out of our way to create happiness. We think through our desires, and do our homework so as to be aware of what desires we should (by our own values) be having. And then, we act as effectively and efficiently (in that order) as we can to bring our reality more in line with those desires.


I'm surrounded by capable, competent, interesting people who understand what I want to do and are eager to help, to the extent their own fascinating projects leave them time to do so and I'm not deciding to leave my own aside in order to help *them*. This is the ideal of community towards which I strive, and why it's so hard to describe this kibbutz in terms of the projects in which we engage – right now we're working on setting up a plywood-molding company and staging a musical, but maybe you're joining us next week and you need help raising an unruly genius daughter. Or want to emigrate to Mars and have a pretty good lead on building closed environmental systems. Our 'idea file' system is flexible enough that we can shift projects fluidly, and redirect efforts and resources to maximize our affect within the limits of our needs to concentrate enough effort to complete given projects on a timely basis.

Doing things is both fun and fulfilling, but not all there is to life. Helping our members access all there is to being human requires both helping them obtain the experiences they need, and also helping them train themselves to make use of and access the experiences they already have. There are any number of techniques for so doing; we want to keep our eye on the objective and use the tools as is convenient and effective. We want to be very clear about which is the tool and which is the user.


So, questions:

What in the above needs links to further explanations?

What's *missing*?

If you were checking out an intentional community with the idea of getting involved -- either living there, working there, helping support it, or using help *from* it as a way to start your own -- what else would you want to know?

Anything else?