Hello. My name is Ben Dench. I came to Windward the first of March, as a one month apprentice, and I came as part of research I'm doing into intentional communities.
It seems every group focuses on developing those attributes that are most interesting to them. I think of this as different people piecing together different parts of a puzzle, which if integrated together would unlock some basic format for the happiness and full-flourishing of human beings. With Windward, their guiding principle would seem to be sustainability.
Sustainability means a lot of different things. Part of it is working with interconnected systems of different plants and animals. It's been really wonderful working with the animals. Having milk and eggs constantly coming in from animals you know and take care of has a special feel of abundance and interconnectedness to it. The animals produce fertilizer for the plants—another wonderful connection. And I love the idea of planting food bearing trees to create a permaculture—the ultimate sustainable agriculture. I've found working in the mud with my hands highly meditative—good ideas come to me.
Another part of sustainabilty is working with other human beings in an integrated way. It's nice being able to live and work with people; to be able to have long, in depth conversations junxtaposed with shared physical labor; and to be able to learn from people as well as teach people. It's been fun learning to cook—with Andrew and everybody. This is a valuable life skill that I'm very happy to be gaining more confidence with. I've enjoyed making bread and grinding meat.
In terms of discussions, I've enjoyed talking with people about hormones and neuroscience and how to use these to the benefit of the individual and the group. I've loved reading about the Oneida Community, Oak trees, and especially system dynamics. In terms of teaching, being able to practice energy work with interested parties and talk to them about energy work and the Out-of-Body-Experience has been really rewarding.
Morning walks and evening movies are wonderful group activities that I'm really grateful for being able to participate in. The act of doing things together as a group encourages a bonding and group cohesiveness that's really wonderful.
In general, I'm interested in how to create the optimal environment for the full-flourishing of individuals throughout their whole lives, from conception to death. I'm also interested in how close-knit groups can be used to empower the individual in an increasingly anonymous and fragmented society. So creating effective groups that can work well together seems paramount.
I think close-knit groups may be an important component for optimally raising children—as well as for the support of the individual throughout life. Something I like about the principle of a line marriage is that it allows the group to be continously taking in new generations, thus preserving its memetic line. It seems like so many groups die out beause they lack a mechanism for this. It also allows the group to raise children without the expectation that those children will have to continue to be part of the group—they can be as seeds scattered into the world.
So I think working on developing good group dynamics to serve the indivual is important. But I also realize now all the more the importance of understanding how to help people clear their own issues so that they can be more fully actualized, get along more harmoniously, and contribute more to the group—and so that the individual and the group can contribute more to the world.
It's nice being part of a place where people are dedicated to being “different enough to make a difference.” Having formed relationships with the people here, I look forward to being part of an ongoing conversation with them as we all develop in the pursuit of our visions.