Not an Experiment.

For a long time the first description people saw on this blog or on our facebook group was that we were a project – an experiment seeking to live together in community. For as long as that description had been proclaiming itself to the world, I had been feeling slightly uncomfortable with that declaration. Was it that seemed to provide a disclaimer to the end result? If this all crashes and burns – hey, it was just an experiment.

Len, the caretaker of the building responded this way to our wording, “I don’t look on it as an experiment, I think it’s going to be an interesting change.” As we come to the close of our third week of renovations, there are many changes taking place around the building, but perhaps less taking place in us as a community. It is easy to focus on the practical tasks at hand and forget that building relationships with each other is as vital as making this a livable space.

This morning I revisited pre-reno times – a video (posted below) by Sophie Suderman and Samuel Bryce below, part 1 of a documentary on the project. Back then, we just had dreams and words – no paint, no power tools. And some of those words we spoke – I had forgotten. We spoke of sharing our humanity with those around us, that that is the beginning of change.

I am extremely intimidated by the task of loving those around me – first to love them, and then act out this purported feeling is a task I do not feel capable of. Instead of rushing ahead to all out love – perhaps my first step could be to share my humanity. To be open and honest about my struggles and fears regarding this project. In the video, Jim used the word stumbling to describe our journey as a community, a word that equally applies to me. The stumbling itself, is not the problem – it is the unwillingness to share the milestones I reach along the way. Without helping people glimpse the journey as it progresses- the conclusions I arrive at may be so far away from where they last knew me to be – I may have created a divide impossible to span.

An essential and important part of community is difference – but without communication difference can simply becomes division. I don’t want this to be true in this project. I want to begin opening up – a messy endeavor to be sure, and one I have failed at miserably in recent months. We still dream and talk (a lot) amongst our renovation work – we talk about an atangard running club, paint colors, reupholstered furniture, an atangard library – but in between those dreams, let us begin attempting more honesty. Let’s let our hesitations spill out as we pour primer and our fears as the sawdust fills the air- why we are committed, why we are not – because it is in this openness that our stumbling can draw us together. We will not end up at the same conclusions, but will be richer for glimpsing the journey of those we paint alongside. We will not all stay here – but we all have a hand is its formation.

My fear? Giving in claustrophobia and the overwhemling-ness of living out true community. Drawing inward – retreating to stumble alone, repeating to myself continually that no one understands who I am and what I am staggering through. I am afraid that I will cope by busying myself in the daily work of operating the project and simply fulfilling the commitments I have made out of obligation, until I move on to the next thing, the next place. And then, letting those who are alone or uncomfortable do the same, unsupported – numbing myself to their needs and wants so well, that at some point I will cease to feel bad about it.

My hope? That our different journeys will become the strength behind this project. That we will embrace it not as an experiment, easily dismissed if failed – but as an opportunity to live life in a richer and fuller manner. No matter what this project looks like, it will not be easily controlled and the results not easily qualified – it is a journey, an adventure. I hope that I will stop using distance as my default reaction – I hope that my default reaction will instead become sharing my humanity.

-Beth


Atangard Community Project from Sam Bryce on Vimeo.

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