Monday, August 17, 2009

Communal Family

Ordinary people living extraordinary lives for no the other reason than we live together in a unique experiment.

My friend Rachel came to our dance party last Friday night ready to let her hair down and have some fun. She had spent the previous weekend with her family of origin. She commented a couple times about how good we looked and how good the house felt. She finally attributed it to us living among “chosen” family.

“Chosen” family. I have long been familiar with this term. I used to hear it a lot when I lived in Marin. As I understand it, it’s a term that refers to a group of people who have formed an intentional community with a high level of commitment and intimacy. The adjective is important because it implies that you have selected a particular person or set of people. A reality no one gets with their biological family.

As I take a conceptual survey of the people with whom I live, I ask myself would I choose each of these people to be a part of my “family”. The answer is mostly no. My criteria for friendship is pretty narrow, and it gets even narrower when you start talking about family. If my checklist determined community membership, there would be nothing but a bunch of over-educated, corporate dropout, superficially spiritual baby boomers. I suspect the people with whom I live have similarly narrow criteria. Fortunately that isn’t how it works in our house, a Morehouse.

We say anyone who shows up and can make it with us for two weeks, can continue making it with us assuming everyone agrees that would be fun. One of the results of living in a Morehouse is your criteria for what you find pleasurable in this responsibly hedonistic community keeps expanding. It’s not about lowering standards, it’s about opening your mind and expanding your capacity to notice and feel and remember that you created it so it must be perfect. Every person living here has touched me deeply at one time or another. That’s because I have allowed myself to be touched. Admittedly, there were many times that occurred only because I had run out of power to the shields.

Every person. Yet these are mostly people I would not have chosen, just like my biological family. Still, just like my family, l love these people. We have shared exquisite highs and dreadful lows. And we’re still relating, often with warmth. We are committed to the social experiment that Vic created over 40 years ago for which we signed-on when we each moved in – how much fun can we have individually and with each other by living together. More to the point, here is an excerpt the from the Lafayette Morehouse website:

Our research, started by Vic Baranco and his first wife, Suzie Baranco, has explored how people can live together pleasurably, with the group providing support for the individual's goals. We have found that people with increased knowledge and awareness enjoy fun relationships, which endure and deepen in intimacy and, moreover, that gratified people tend to treat others with more compassion and love.

Chosen family? No. Family because I choose it? Yes.


  1. I love your writing and the thought you put into them. Thank's for opening yourself up again love Shirley

  2. I'm a fan! Love, Millie