The “Fine Print”

Some things to expect when coming to Windward

As we say often here, happiness is founded on having realistic expectations. Through the years we have found this to be ever more true. Most often, if a new person arriving to Windward is disenchanted by the what they find, it is because we did not do a good enough job of outlining who we are and what they can expect.

If you’re giving serious thought to getting involved with Windward, whether for a few months or for a lifetime, it behooves us all to foster a down-to-earth conversation about what you can expect from us, and what we expect from you.

Lots of people have tried to make intentional community work, and the historical landscape is littered with the wreckage of their hopes and dreams. This isn’t an easy enterprise to engage in, and people have to get very real very quickly if they’re going to have a chance to make it.

The “fine print” is here to help elucidate some of the practical things you need to consider if you’re looking to pack your bags and head to Windward. These comments aren’t meant to “scare you off,” but if they do rather to insure that a measure of realism is included in with hopes and desires. And more than anything, to save you and Windward the time and resources involved in integrating into community.

This ain’t Club Med

Windward started with raw land, and while we’ve made a lot of progress towards becoming established in a way that preserves and husbands the vitality of the land, we still have a ways to go. We’ve put a lot of effort into finding compatible and sustainable ways to interweave our lives with the land, and we are proud of what we’ve accomplished. We have a ways yet to go, and that’s good. Journeys such as this are open ended and set their own pace. As Harry Chapin sang, “It’s the going, not the getting there that’s good.”

If someone is looking for the sort of ready-made accommodations they would find in a resort, or even a city apartment building, then they’re going to be disappointed. We’re putting our time and effort into building the facilities we believe to be essential to fulfilling Windward’s mission.

Since we don’t have the time and money needed to do everything at once, we have to make some hard choices as we work to get on with the program in real time. As we progress, our facilities become more complete, but we still have a long way to go. These choices are made with the thought that we’re willing to wait a bit in order to get it right. A pioneering spirit is one of the things you’ll want to pack in that suitcase.

Don’t expect us to meet you half way

It isn’t that we think you don’t have worthwhile things to teach us. In fact, we hope and expect that you do. Just about everyone who’s spent any time here has taught us something.

It isn’t that we don’t care about what’s important to you, because we do. Windward takes its direction from its members, so the hopes and fears of new people are an important part of our social equation.

And it isn’t that we have all the answers, because we don’t. We have learned some key answers along the way, but we understand that just because something works for us, that’s no assurance that it will work for everyone. The future is uncertain and full of change, and the fact that something worked in the past is no guarantee that it will be the right choice in the future. You may not like that, and we understand because we don’t like it either. Still, cope or quit are the only options that life offers in the short run. We’re slowly and steadily amassing a better set of options, but it takes time.

We’re working hard to get on with the tasks at hand, and there’s not much point in changing procedural things every time a new person walks through the door. The plain fact is that most people are just passing through, and we’re just not going to get serious about accommodating new perspectives until we’ve seen some evidence that a new person is actually going to stick around for a while. Even then, the new person is going to have to do most of the adapting.

Imagine for the sake of example, that a new person and the rest of us are two miles “apart.” While it sounds very reasonable to say, “Why don’t we meet halfway?” take a minute and consider the logistics of that. If the new person meets us halfway, both he and the group will have to travel a mile each to meet halfway.

The problem is that if the group consists of ten people, the group will have expended ten miles worth of energy in order to meet the new person who’s only gone one mile. The reality is that it’s better for the program if the group keeps on path towards its goal, while the new person travels the path we’ve already created and catch up. Positive momentum in an organization is precious, and must not be squandered without very good cause. We’d rather that the group used that momentum to break new ground.

Another thing you need to pack in that suitcase is some time to get up to speed.

I hope this metaphor is making sense. In actual practice, “meeting halfway” is a lame idea for two more reasons. First off, a lot of the choices we’ve made aren’t essential; they just embody the way we’ve chosen to do things. It isn’t more moral to drive on the right hand side of the road than to drive on the left, but it’s very important that people agree which side to drive on, and that they stay on their own side.

A new person’s way of doing things may be just as valid as the customs we’ve adopted, but unless there’s a substantial advantage to changing how we do some particular thing, it’s not effective to make the change. Often, “if it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it.”

Some of the things we’ve worked out over the years are important. We tried a lot of things, and learned a lot of lessons, some of which weren’t the nice kind. We found some things that worked for us, and a lot of things that didn’t. What we’re doing today is an embodiment of that hard-won knowledge, and in an uncertain world, deserves respect. Pack some of that, too.

During our organizational lifetime, we’ve seen a lot of intentional communities come and go. Windward’s still here. While we’re willing to ascribe a part of that success to blind luck, it’s also has to do with a lot of commitment and attention to detail. A new person needs to be able to give us the benefit of the doubt, that we know what we’re doing–and we’ll be happy to return the compliment.

That’s as close to “halfway” as we can go.

You’re not as smart here as you are out there

This is true on both a cultural and a statistical level.

Knowledge is contextual. The right answer in one situation is often the wrong answer in another. Windward came about because weren’t satisfied with the options the mainstream culture presented us with. We were determined to have another, more appropriate context even if we had to create it ourselves. That’s one reason Windward is polycultural. Every culture has something worth saying about the human condition, and we’ve tried to listen carefully. There are all sorts of ways that people living together meet their basic needs.

At Windward we’ve tried to piece together a synthetic culture which we believe will provide what we couldn’t find “out there.” Some parts are working very well, while others need substantial work. Still other parts have to be continually adapted as conditions change; i.e. what works fine for ten people may not work so well for twenty.

Since this culture is one we’ve created, a new person couldn’t possibly be expected (or expect) to walk in the door knowing the “right” answers. Fortunately, this problem can be solved quickly enough, assuming the new person isn’t hard of listening. We’ll do our best to be clear and accurate, but a new person has to make a commitment to learn about what we’re doing, and why we do it that way.

The statistical reason that you aren’t as smart here as you were out there tends to take people by surprise. This characteristic called intelligence, for better or worse, is unequally distributed in the general population. It’s usually measured and expressed as an IQ score with average being assigned a score of 100.

People with a less than average ability to take IQ tests are rated below 100, and those who are better at taking them are rated higher. Intentional communities attract people who have higher than average IQ scores. If the average score for members of a given group is 120, then joining that group involves the effective “loss” of twenty IQ points.

There’s a great hunger to be around people who are “like” you, and people born with higher than average IQs are no different from others in that regard. That’s one reason Windward exists and has been recognized as a special interest group of American Mensa.

It’s very human to chafe at the restrictions society puts on us as individuals, while taking for granted all the advantages that come our way. While a better than average ability to take IQ tests is an advantage, it’s certainly a mixed blessing. You’ll notice that in this discussion, I haven’t said that people who are good at taking IQ tests are more intelligent than those who aren’t as good at that task. This is partially because IQ is an unreliable indicator of success. Simply put, there’s a lot more to making life work than the qualities measured by the Stanford-Binet test.

Studies have shown that while IQ is an accurate indicator of scholastic failure 80% of the time, it’s only effective for predicting academic success 30% of the time. Since IQ leaves a lot to be desired as a predictor of success or failure in the academic world, I’m especially reluctant to afford it a lot of weight in the real world. To quote Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does,” and we’ve all seen some very intelligent people (myself included) do some things which in retrospect look awfully stupid.

While intelligence is no guarantor of success, it does help. The problem for most “gifted” folk is that they generally don’t have a handle on how much advantage they derive from their good fortune. When you live and compete in a world where the average person is substantially less intelligent than you are, it’s not hard to keep up with the crowd.

Indeed, all too many of the “gifted” community coast through life without ever really testing their mettle. At Windward, they can’t get away with that. Here the average IQ is about 130 points (Stanford-Binet), so in effect, a person “loses” 30 IQ points just walking in our door. Also, what we’re doing is holistic and it takes anyone some time and effort to grasp the interconnectedness of it all.

Let me take a moment to emphasize that we don’t require a minimum IQ, or even ask about such things when people say that they want to give Windward a try. We figure that by deciding to get involved, they’ve already passed the important “test.” We’ve never seen any evidence that IQ is indicative of a person’s character, courage or capacity for commitment, the qualities which are truly important to us.

In this age of political correctness, there’s a tendency to describe people who are disabled as being “differently-abled”, and while that’s dubious in the areas of physical disabilities, it’s very true in the area of the mind. Intelligence is such a multifaceted thing that it’s ludicrous to select one or two types of intelligence and say that these are the only types that really matter, or that a person’s artistic, musical or empathetic abilities are less worthy of recognition.

Windward is a community, and as such, we need to gather people with a broad range of abilities. In human affairs, we don’t have the luxury of the one, true answer. Rather, there are many questions that need workable answers, and many answers that need to be rigorously questioned. Just as it takes a whole village to raise a child, it takes a whole village to raise the right questions, and forge the right answers.

Don’t expect us to buy your cigarettes

Some people have money when they arrive, some arrive broke and some show up deeply in debt. Regardless of their initial financial situation, we’re willing to work with anyone who truly wants to learn, and is willing to help Windward grow while they learn. It’s a no-brainer to figure out that those who have funds have more options than those who don’t, but there’s much more to the story than finances.

Whether or not someone was economically successful “out there” doesn’t necessarily determine whether they’ll be successful at Windward. Our primary concern has to do with whether we’re better off with that person, or whether they’re holding us back. If they’re right for Windward, and Windward’s right for them, we’ll find some way to make the funding dimension workable.

The key question isn’t about a person’s ability to make money, but rather their ability to create value. If they’re willing and able to focus on doing good work, then most of the rest is details. Ultimately, a person’s creativity and reliability are what matter most.

One rub that we’ve consistently come up against involves nicotine addiction. Since tobacco is a legal drug, it isn’t prohibited at Windward. The problem is that it’s expensive. When people arrive with empty pockets, it usually turns out they’re smokers. Most serious smokers go through about a $100 a month in cigarettes; that’s quite a drain for someone who’s trying to become financially solvent.

We don’t require residents to quit smoking. If they can pay their dues and buy their cigarettes, then it’s their business, not ours. Two of our founding members are smokers, and I don’t expect that will change. If someone can’t afford to buy cigarettes, fortunately, there are a number of less expensive options: switch to a pipe, roll your own or even consider growing your own supply. The problem comes when unfunded new people aren’t willing to address their addiction any way other than to ask the group to buy them cigarettes.

Room, board, unconditional love, and free sex

not quite…

People come through our door with all sorts of expectations. Some are reasonable, and some aren’t. Some are just flat off the wall. When new people arrive, we rarely have much insight into why they’ve really come here and what they’re truly looking for. Time will tell, and patience works wonders in such areas.

People make radical changes in their lives for emotional reasons—sadly, reason doesn’t seem to have much to do with it. We’d like to think that they’ve made a logical choice to come to Windward, but time has shown that this is mostly wishful thinking on our part.

The fact that you’re reading this is impressive in itself. Most people are just looking for a good fantasy, and don’t want to be bothered with me rambling on about the awkward parts. That viewpoint is understandable, but it isn’t very realistic. Success comes from the accumulation of attention to detail. We want people to succeed, and that won’t happen without realistic expectations (something else to pack in the metaphorical suitcase of yours.)

A key point to reflect on is that Windward is a limited concept. It isn’t intended to be all things to all people, to meet every need and fulfill every dream. In return, it doesn’t expect you to surrender your life to some transcendental vision. We’re practical people creating simple ways to work together over time. In an uncertain world, that’s magic enough for us.

We make a strong distinction between needs and wants. “Needs” are the basic things we all require to live in dignity and security, whereas “wants” arise from our individual natures. Your wants are different than my wants because we’re different people with different visions. That’s as it should be. Each of us has to pursue the private path which leads to our own individual destiny.

We don’t really care what dreams a person dreams. The idea is that by working together to meet our basic needs, we can each then (as individuals) better pursue our wants. It’s really that simple, and so long as we make sure to keep our expectations on the realistic side, it works pretty well.

Seekers of all sorts come to Windward consciously looking for such things as shelter, food and an opportunity to be part of something worthwhile. As human beings, they also want the full gamut of intimate comforts and relationships. We can handle the practical stuff well enough, but the intimate agendas are a whole different kettle of fish.

A person might find unconditional love and/or an intimate relationship at Windward, but it’s no more likely here than anywhere else. This is an area in which no warranty is expressed or implied.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Most people have grown up in a society which is almost bereft of cooperative models. Even the word cooperate has been debased into a synonym for being submissive, as in “Why can’t you be more cooperative?”

One tedious, recurring effect of this unfamiliarity with cooperative association is that people tend to completely overlook the subtle way that Windward works toward consensus. If someone doesn’t see the steady way we discuss and explore options, gradually working towards the solution which best meets the broadest slate of needs, they won’t understand the decision making process at Windward.

The question of “who decides” has many answers at Windward. Strategic questions such as “Do we invest in building the new dining hall, or do we put our time and money into more housing?” are ultimately vested in our Board of Directors, Windward utilizes a representative BoD is chosen by the membership per the Bylaws.

If it’s a tactical question, such as how are we going to arrange the shopping, or what’s the best place to put the next septic system, then those decisions are made by the person who’s in charge of that area of activity. If there’s a decision to be made about the kitchen, Heather makes it. If it has to do with animals, then Bob calls the shots, and so on.

If it’s a personal question, then the decision is personal as well. Windward tries very hard to focus on the essentials, and to keep its organizational nose out of most everything else. We all live in separate dwellings because we greatly value our privacy and our personal space. One reason we’re able to work together effectively is that we strive to mind our own business. It’s ironic, but formal courtesy is often more important among close friends than it is with complete strangers. People are often very polite with strangers, but are strangely quick to disregard the need their friends have for that same level of respect.

Finally, if it’s a technical decision, the person most qualified makes it. Often that isn’t even a member of Windward. For example, the size of the beams on the dining hall were “suggested” by the building inspector, and so we “decided” to go with those dimensions. Ultimately, consensus involves opinions, and in the area of engineering, for example, the math is what counts.

One recurrent problem we’ve seen is that new people seem to have this bedrock expectation that an organization has to have a leader, someone in control. Many of the issues we work through with new people have to do with this expectation, and how they personally feel about authority. At best, most folks have a love/hate relationship with leaders, and while they want other people to be controlled, they want to be personally free to do what ever they want. While that’s human, it isn’t very helpful when it comes to getting on with what is essentially a team sport.

For legal purposes, there has to be one person who is authorized to speak on behalf of the organization. Banks don’t want to get involved in an organization’s consensus building process, they just want to know who’s authorized to sign checks. One of the duties that I’ve taken on is to fulfill that role for the Windward Foundation, while Joyce wears that hat for The Windward Center. The two organizations have different though inter-related missions, and so they need different people to represent them legally.

While those are external roles which have to be performed by someone in the organization, there’s a world of difference between that and the way Windward operates internally. It’s the same way that a wife might defer to her husband in public, because that is the way society says a dutiful wife is supposed to act. What she might have to say in the car on the way home, is likely to be something else entirely.

As President of our Board of Directors, it’s my assigned task to serve as the Windward Foundation’s contact point for society at large. Don’t let that draw you into the mistake of thinking that I run the place. I don’t. Although a part of my job is to speak for Windward, that doesn’t mean that I decide for Windward. There’s a world of difference.

I’m only one of four or five directors, and my voice doesn’t count for any more than the others do. Focusing on winning my support for your proposal, while ignoring the other directors, isn’t an effective way to deal with our Board.

Not all couples are co-dependent

I keep telling myself that, but sometime I forget.

Windward is an intentional community of self-reliant individuals. We have nothing against couples, but when couples show up at Windward there are some associated problems that we’ve come to be concerned about over the years.

The most serious problem has to do with co-dependency. Initially it’s hard to draw the line between relying on someone and becoming dependent, but over time we’ve found an effective way to tell the difference.

At Windward, there are all kinds of things to learn and do. People react to this expansion of options in a number of interesting ways. Some respond like a kid in a toy store, while others become quite depressed. It’s one thing to long to be free to explore your personal potential; it’s quite another thing to find that suddenly most of the things you thought were holding you back have fallen away.

Each person has to come to grips with this change in perspective in their own way, and no two people seem to react the same. However, when two people are involved, we’ve observed an all-too-familiar pattern.

Sometimes, as one partner prospers, the other panics. While the less dependent of the pair will feel empowered and liberated by the opportunity to explore new options and gain new skills, the more dependent partner sees this as destabilizing their relationship, and in short order will force their partner to choose between Windward and them. Either way, we lose.

Another game that couples often play involves using Windward to renegotiate the terms of their relationship. Here’s how that works:

Many people feel trapped in their relationships. They’re unhappy, but stay where they are because they feel that while the relationship isn’t what they want, it’s better than nothing. What Windward offers these people is a chance to make a credible threat to leave the relationship, in the hope of forcing their partner to concede to their demands.

We know that Windward is a useful place; we just don’t always like some of the ways people use us.

Check your guns at the door

Firearms are part of country life. Each year, the coyotes keep getting braver, and city folk keep dumping unwanted dogs, so while we rely on the guard dogs to protect our flock and herd, we have to be prepared for those times when a bark and a growl aren’t enough.

Visitors sometimes bring weapons with them, something which makes us uncomfortable. We understand that people own and carry weapons for a variety of reasons, but if you feel that you’ll need a firearm to protect you while you’re here, please don’t come.

If you do have a gun when you arrive, we ask that you declare it when you sign in. We’ll give you a receipt, lock up the gun, and return it to you when you leave. If surrendering your weapon makes you uncomfortable, you can either leave it with a friend, rent a commercial storage unit or visit somewhere else. There are communities looking for people who have a strong interest in weaponry; this isn’t one of them.

Windward isn’t “pro-gun” or “anti-gun.” To us, they’re dangerous tools, and we’re selective about who we allow to handle dangerous tools on site, be they firearms or chainsaws.

Once someone has earned recognition as a full member, they’re welcome to have a weapon in their home. Until then, we require that guns be kept under lock and key. You’ll be welcome to access your weapon for target practice, maintenance, etc.; just check with the member of our Board of Directors who’s currently in charge of seeing that firearms are properly secured.

Deja Moo

The realization that we’ve heard this bull before.

We get all sorts of seekers who claim to be in touch with a higher truth, and are willing, even eager, to share that reality with us. We generally prefer to pass.

It isn’t that we believe that there aren’t “higher truths” to be studied. And It isn’t that we don’t see the value to be gained by accessing a broader range of perspectives. It’s just that those are personal matters, and not something which we want to address at an organizational level. The plan is that by working together to meet our basic human needs through team work and knowledge sharing, we are then more free to pursue our personal and spiritual goals as we see fit as individuals.

We feel strongly that each person should have a spiritual understanding that is relevant and true for them. We feel just as strongly that this is a matter which has to be worked out on an individual basis, and that no one can do that work for someone else. One of the key goals we have for Windward is to create the sort of garden in which such insights and understanding will flourish.

One way we try to do that is by going back to the basics and shedding some of the artificialities of modern life. Many ethical traditions acknowledge that the path of voluntary simplicity leads to harmony, and this has proven true for us as well.

Precisely where that path will lead any particular individual is a question which lies beyond Windward’s organizational mandate. We strive to help travelers on their personal journey, not to tell them where they need to go. We appreciate it when folk provide us with the same respect and courtesy.

Is Windward some kind of 12 step program?

The formal answer to that question is “No,” but it isn’t that simple. Anytime a group of individuals gets together and starts to interact on a fundamental level over an extended period of time, things start to happen. You can’t become an engaged part of an interactive group and not become affected by the dynamics. Given that reality, we try to insure that such effects are positive and empowering.

The clinical practice of group therapy works because of the inherent nature of such groups, not because of the presence of a therapist. To quote from Yelom’s The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, one of the prime texts on the subject, “A freely interactive group, with few structural restrictions, will, in time, develop into a social microcosm of the participant members.” Since Windward certainly fits the first part of that statement, we continually find ourselves having to deal with the latter part.

Yelom goes on to say, “that, given enough time, every patient will begin to be himself, to interact with the group members as he interacts with others in his social sphere, to create in the group the same interpersonal universe which he has always inhabited. In other words, patients will begin to display their maladaptive interpersonal behavior in the group; there is no need for them to describe their pathology – they will sooner or later act it out before the group’s eyes.”

For purposes of discussion, you might divide “problems” up into two categories: 1) the problems that society creates for us, and 2) the problems we create for ourselves. Windward focuses on dealing with the former set of problems, and expects its members to address the latter. Everyone has problems and personal work they need to do, and one of our goals for Windward is that it be the sort of place where people can make positive growth in personal areas. While Windward isn’t a center for the treatment of personality disorders, new people often try to make it into one.

It’s important to understand that psychological characteristics aren’t black and white, that each person is a unique mix. At one end of the scale is simple personality. Humans are capable of displaying a wide range of characteristics, and we all share them to some degree. Some of these characteristics can be accentuated to the point where they become distinguishing, and then one might use that characteristic to describe an individual’s personality.

If those distinguishing characteristics become controlling to the point of interfering with a person’s ability to relate to other people, then we’re starting to move into the area of personality disorder, and if that characteristic renders an individual incapable of interacting effectively with other people, then we’ve moved into the realm of mental illness.

Over the years, we’ve see folks from one end of the spectrum to the other, and while we’re willing to work with folk who are trying to center themselves, to work towards an inner balance and peace, there are real limits to what we’re willing and able to work with. Windward isn’t a treatment center for mental health or substance abuse issues, but on the other hand, we don’t turn people away solely on the basis that they’ve had problems in the past.

Past issues such as these can make the process of integrating a new person into the community more difficult, and it’s important that new people be frank with us about such matters. If they’ll work with us, we’ll work with them. If they try to deceive us, we won’t.

Parataxic distortions

Taxonomy is the study of the art and science of naming things. It’s one of the essential elements of communication, since we have to agree on the names for things in order to know what each other is talking about. It doesn’t do much good for me to tell you that I’m going to be working with the backhoe today, if you don’t know what a backhoe is.

The greater a person’s taxonomic skill, the more precise their capacity to communicate. For example, a cow, a heifer, a steer, an ox, a calf, a free-marten and a bull are all types of cattle, and each word describes some clearly defined and relevant difference. For example, if a cow has twin calves, one male and one female, the female is called a free-martin, the relevance being that they’re generally always infertile.

Lincoln once asked a reporter a question. He asked, “If you called a tail a leg, how many legs would a dog have?” The reporter answered, “Five.” to which Lincoln replied, “No, the dog would still have four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

The art and science of calling things by their true names is important. It’s also important to remember that this is a one way street. The map is not the same thing as the territory it represents, and any real thing is more than the sum of its names.

I might describe someone as being a woman, and that word would call up a number of images in your mind. Some would be relevant, and other might not apply to this particular person. If I added that this person was a senior, you’d further define your image visualizing either someone over the age of 65 or who was in their last year of either high school or college. Sometimes names can be informative, and sometimes misleading, and effective communication is often a matter of attention to semantic detail.

A parataxic distortion comes about when we try to use terms, not to describe reality, but rather in an attempt to delineate it. When people name a thing, they call forth an array of assumptions, only a portion of which may be accurate. The act of naming enhances the perception of one set of characteristics, and lessens the perception of others. This editing of reality is a parataxic distortion, and it can greatly impair the process of getting to know others and yourself.

Each of us has a gender, a racial background, an age, etc., and while these are authentic components of who we are, each of us is much more than the sum of these labels. Each of us plays various roles in society, but our essential essence is more than the sum of the roles we play.

It’s all too easy to use labels as substitutes for getting to truly know each other. It’s all too easy to allow the parataxic distortions to mask over the authentic human being that exists underneath all those labels and roles.

It takes time and effort to work your way past the labels and masks, and to really get to know people – who they really are and why they do what they do – but it’s worth it. There’s a deep hunger in the human soul to be known and valued for who and what you are, and the only way we can meet that need is by doing it together.

One advantage of the cooperative lifestyle is that there’s time to do this. One disadvantage is that much of the process is automatic, and even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t be able to avoid getting to know people, including yourself, as complex individuals instead of prescribed roles. The result isn’t all neat and tidy, but it is authentic and rich.

So tell me all the rules…

Sorry, but Windward doesn’t work that way. Most of us are refugees from bureaucracy in one form or another, and there’s no way that we’re going to allow Windward to go down the path of an infinitely expanding set of rules calculated to cover every possible contingency.

If you’ve read our bylaws (hint), you know that our board of directors can send any member, including another director, down the road on the grounds that doing so is in the best interests of the organization. In 26 years, this has happened three times, so while it’s not just a theoretical possibility, it definitely is a “last resort” option.

Two of those cases involved theft, and were deemed to be acts inimical to Windward. One instance involved a member stealing $300 from an employer, the only connection to Windward being that another member had gotten her the job.

The other instance involved the theft of a can of soda. The key point here was not the value of the item stolen, but rather the fact that someone had entered another person’s dwelling and knowingly took something of their’s without permission. A sense of security in one’s person and effects is an essential component of the type of community we’re working to create. We don’t lock our doors, and we don’t have any use for someone who is unable to respect and honor personal boundaries.

Living in community is a very adult thing to do. We aren’t interested in folks who need to substitute an endless series of detailed rules for the exercise of common sense. Still, as Mason is reputed to have said to Dixon, you have to draw a line somewhere. To that end, we have our by-laws, and we’re gradually working on drafting a corporate Policies and Procedures Manual to cover things having to do with the corporation.

We also have three hard and fast rules:

  1. No illicit drugs
    This one is pretty obvious. Bring illegal drugs onto our property, and we’ll be happy to arrange free transportation to the county seat.
  2. No abusive conduct
    This one is a bit more gray. We’d send someone who was physically abusive down the road in a heartbeat, but we’re also not going to put up with someone who’s verbally abuse or destructive of property.
  3. Program compliance
    Windward is very committed to its role as a safe haven for folks in crisis and transition. We’re open to working with all sorts of challenging situations so long as the problem is on the table and the person is serious about regaining a grasp on their life.
    If someone comes to Windward as part of a formal program of treatment or transition, we expect them to comply with the terms of that program. An example would be someone who is under the care of a psychiatrist and taking psychoactive prescription drugs. While Windward has no prohibition against the use of alcohol, if the use of that medicine requires that they not consume alcohol, we expect them to comply.

Beyond that, it’s pretty much a matter of the three guidelines:

  1. We have to be better off with you than without you.
  2. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
  3. Take it seriously, or take it somewhere else.

That pretty much covers the basics. As you can see, we’re not big on drafting an endless set of rules calculated to cover every contingency, and the bottom line is that if someone needs that sort of detailed guidance, then Windward isn’t the place for them. No list of rules can replace the need for common sense, compassion and civility.

Windward does have some other guidelines and policies which have evolved over the years to deal with issues relevant to long term residents. Most of the folks who come here do so to deal with personal issues and concerns; once they’re on their feet, and have recharged their spirit, they head off to pursue their personal destiny “out there.”

Working to build an intentional community is considerably more complicated than just working on one’s own personal growth and development, and naturally, there are more expectations and obligations involved. After a few months here, some folks come to the decision that they want to undertake the process of becoming a member of the organization, a step which requires that they select a full member to act as their sponsor.

One reason for that sponsorship requirement is that nothing is as simple as it looks. The creation of an intentional community is an uncertain undertaking at best, and the historical landscape is littered with the wreckage of communities that weren’t able to function and survive.

So far, Windward has survived the inevitable challenges and problems that come with the territory, although at a number of points along the way, that outcome was uncertain at best. Two reasons for our survival as a community is that (1) we tend to spot problems early on, and (2) we learn from them. It’s bad enough to have to deal with some disruptive event once; a reasonable guage of one’s wisdom is how often once is enough.

A good deal of what the apprentice program is about involves learning from those past lessons so that the growth of the organization isn’t jeopardized by repeating what we already know doesn’t work for us. A problem can be thought of as an opportunity to learn, at least the first time around. The second time, it’s more of an indictment of one’s ability to learn, and folks who are slow learners need to find another hobby.

In order for a group to function cohesively, there has to be some degree of agreement as to what the group is trying to do, and how it’s going to go about making that happen. Without a stable structure, steady progress isn’t going to happen.

On the the other hand, too much structure can stifle innovation and preclude the opportunity to discover unanticipated options and possibilities. There’s a lot that can be learned along the way when one is ready to experience the unexpected, and use the insights gained in novel ways.

The past is the only “operator’s manual” we have to go by, but it’s also true that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll just keep getting more of what you’ve already got. Since the intent of an intentional community is to do something different, something better, the trick lies in finding ways to tweak the system in positive ways without crashing it.


Thoughts on Body Piercings

Every generation needs to find some way to gross out their parents. We understand that, and feel something of a bemused sympathy for the current fad of piercing various body parts. As time goes on, each generation has to push the envelop ever harder in order to reach that next level of shock value, and one hesitates to even try to imagine the extremes that the next generation is going to have to aspire to in order to keep in the game.

For the most part, we don’t care if folks who want to come to Windward have tattoos or body piercing; it’s their body, it’s their business. However, we recently had a fellow come to Windward who taught us that we need to draw the line at tongue piercing.

The problem is that Windward is a cooperative association, and the degree to which folks can co-operate is limited by their ability to communicate, and any choice which substantially diminishes a person’s ability to communicate thereby limits their ability to effectively participate in what we’re doing.

It’s one thing if a person’s ability to communicate is limited because they’re “hard of hearing,” but it’s something else entirely when the problem is that they’re “hard of listening.”

We all have short-comings, things that we need to work through or get over. Arguably most of those problems have a self-induced component, and we strive to be as tolerant and understanding as we can be. However, it’s exasperating to have to try extra hard to understand someone who’s mumbling because they’ve got a spike through their tongue.

The upshot is that we don’t care, on an organizational level, what body parts someone wants to pierce, just as we don’t care, on an organizational level, if someone wants to use nicotine. We’d rather they didn’t, but so long as they can afford the habit, and don’t smoke in the kitchen or spit on the floor, it’s their call.

It’s all about choices; but if someone truly is determined to mumble through life with a spike through their tongue, then Windward probably isn’t the right choice for them.