Neighborhoods like the one you, or your parents, or your grandparents probably grew up in are still alive and well but are in high-rise buildings, the suburbs, urban renewal, and housing complexes.
Our old neighborhoods were, where our grandparents and great grandparents lived, were relatively stable with generations of the same families living on the block, and if not on this block the next one over. It was a place where not only did everyone know your name, they had always known your name. They were all like family. The ones we loved, the ones we hated, and the ones we only saw on holidays.
While the freedom of anonymity and the ability to choose any where in the world to study and work are liberating, it came at a cost. We now have few relationships with our neighbors deeper than a hasty hello over the top of a car as we race away from home for 10-12 hours a day or a cautious “Good Morning” at the elevator, rarely a jovial, “Hey how are you?” Unless we have children who play on the same baseball team or are in the same chess club, or we have a dog that we take the same dog run, we have few ties. When mail is mis-delivered, it’s the address we recognize, not the name.
A culture has built up, particularly in large buildings and new housing developments, in which we are expected to ignore our neighbors. We tell ourselves that we are respecting their privacy or protecting our own. But are we?
It is possible and even probable that we have idealized those old nieghborhoods. But if we have, what does it mean? I think it means that that kind of neighborhood is where we want to live. Whether it ever existed or not, is irrelevant. We have the image, the dream, and it didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It’s the image of where we want to live.
How do we build, or rebuild the dream and sustain it? How do we deal with the nitty-gritty of common interest ownership and shared facilities management? Redesigning our expanses of suburbs into villages with small town squares surrounded with shops and restaurants. Create shared spaces in huge buildings where children can play and adults can watch the Oscars or World Cup games together. Or work jigsaw puzzles and build a small take-it-or-leave-it library of paperback books. And just get to know each other.
The posts under Cohousing focus on these questions, so please explore and discuss, send suggestions, and share your stories of developing a community where there wasn’t one before.