Posted by: terrapraeta | March 11, 2010

Time Well Spent

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

The Byrds, Turn, Turn, Turn

A recurring theme in the discussions of community has been time. Whether talking about JMG‘s Fraternal Lodges or Dave‘s polyamorous relationships, or anything in between, all relationship takes time to build, time to maintain, time to just be.

In our civilized culture, time is the one thing we never, ever seem to have enough of: and I think the biggest reason for this is that we have been taught a skewed sense of priorities. Ostensibly, our first priority is our family – but in practice, that usually translates to money. After all, before anything else we need to provide for our family’s basic needs: food, shelter, clothing. In order to do that, we need to work, to generate income, to participate in the dominant cultures prioritizing of things.

This has been going on for milennia.

In the last fifty years we have complicated this further with globalization, instantaneous communication and mobility. Before these recent expansions in technology and disconnection, we still lived in small communities (even in the cities we lived in neighborhoods). As a result, while we spent far too much time providing stuff, we still had only a small circle of people with whom we interacted. Whether at work or play, participating in social clubs or political activism, seeking a mate, or visiting with family we were always interacting with the same relatively small population of individuals. The importance of this fact cannot be overstated.

Spending time with other people: people you love, people you hate, people you might like to wed or people you might like to kill is the single biggest factor in building community. When we spend time with people they cease to be stereotypes and become persons. And when we see someone as a person rather than an idea, the way we interact changes. No ifs, ands or buts.

Now many people I encounter online see the coming collapse as a return to a more agrarian lifestyle. But this ignores the fact that civilization was just as dysfunctional before the Industrial Revolution as it is now – the difference is of scale, not kind. Production took priority over people in the dark ages just like it does now. At a very fundamental level, I believe this is because throughout the history of civilization, even in tight “communities” there was another piece missing: and that piece is no less than the entire community of life around us. The land. The trees. The animal life. Gaea.

Dave asks How Many Relationships Can We Manage? but I think that is fundamentally the wrong question. Dunbar has already answered that, in strict numerical terms. The real question is how do we best serve the relationships that we have, or want to develop? And I believe the answer to that question is integration.

We cannot have truly vibrant communities, nor truly vibrant relationships until we have the ability to stop “spending” time.

This does not mean that we do not have intimate relationships that are vibrant already (at least potentially) – but rather that as we currently live, we forsake friendships for lovers, or lovers for friendships and usually forsake our participation in the greater community of life for both because in every practical sense we must choose one over the others.

But imagine a lifestyle, a community, a way of living where all of our time is spent in supporting these relationships simultaneously. Engaging the community of life in concert with engaging one another. Providing for our basic needs together in concert with the place in which we live.

I find the English language is very poor at expressing what I am trying to say.

You and your lover wake with the dawn. Snuggling in your cozy bed, speaking of the day to come. Sharing thoughts, plans, stories, as caresses remind one another of the feelings you share. Eventually, content, you rise to begin your day. You step outside, reveling in the sun in your face and greet your neighbors as they too begin their day. The robin sitting in her tree and singing, several community dogs playing in the open space before your home, another of your lovers, or perhaps “simply” a friend sweeping the stoop before their home next door. Several other friends, standing together planning the days activities – perhaps intending to collect a load of wood for the winter stores, or harvesting berries to put up a shelf of jam, planting a new garden space, or clearing rocks from a garden not yet begun. This evening there will be a bonfire. Storytelling. Music. An opportunity to speak your truth. Your lover steps out behind you, snuggles up for a moment and then goes to help cook breakfast, while you join the group chatting across the way. Perhaps several projects are discussed and you break into smaller groups, depending on your mood or your skills or your passions. But it doesn’t matter, really, what you do today, or whom you do it with, because tomorrow there will other projects, with other people. And in any case, later some will help with dinner, and there is still the storytelling and singing in the evening…



  1. Your story reminds me of the mortality of each day as a life-in-miniature.

    it reminds me somehow of the mortality of that Robert Frost poem:


    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.”

    With a sense of mortality, time is never the same, somehow it turns to… moments of eternity immortal.


  2. Oh please, please. Don’t tease me like that, with your tales of a wonderful life.

  3. Hey Guys —

    Nice, John… and my favorite Frost poem to boot 🙂

    Nicola…. just a projection. Some day, this is something like I would *want* my life to be. So far… no not really at all 😉


  4. I picked the word ‘manage’ cautiously. It comes from the old French/Italian word meaning to ‘handle a horse’. I like the term because it is about ‘hands-(on)’ and because handling a horse is not about control, but about co-adaptation, partnership.

    Modern connotation is all about control, which I did not intend. I see relationships as the critical currency of the 21st century, and their ‘manage’-ment as the century’s most critical (and scarce) competency.

  5. Hey —

    Oh… I got the word, myself. My thought was to readdress not how many but rather how? period. 🙂 Time is crucial, especially to building, but also to maintaining relationship, and so the more deep relationship you want to have, the more effectively you need to be able to use your time.


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