FamiliaFeliz is a decentralized community with a common economy. We share the idea of creating a social place for individual freedom and individual happiness. Analogous to Epicurus, we run a garden as the campus of a free university for informal education. It is our concern to give the visitors a peaceful space in which they can first find peace and then the strength to pursue their own ideas and projects. Social togetherness as the result of an individual decision, without a specific goal, without foresight, without benchmarks, it sounds like an invitation to paradise that is too good and many people doubt that it is possible to realize the coexistence of people in this world in this way.
Even if it is rather unrealistic for most, people from all over the world have found their way to a small village in Castellon, a mountainous province in eastern Spain, for the last seven years.
They come for very different reasons. Some want to get to know the country and people in an alternative way, others are looking for community and want to experience themselves as part of a community. Most of them just want to test what it would be like to live in a community, some have a firm resolution.
Some come to the garden of colors, the artists’ laboratory, to find peace and quiet, to leave stress and work and perhaps worries behind. They are looking for closeness to nature, they want to slow down.
Still others come to be inspired by the special conditions in our community. We are very different from most existing communities, especially in the way we make decisions in the group and how we organize ourselves as members of the community. Our relationship with those who do not belong to the narrow core of our community also differs from that of most of the designs role out.
Most visitors have no experience of community life. They project all desires and hopes onto the places they visit. Often they are disappointed or unsure and move on in the hope of finding better places, better people, better surroundings and better help and support for themselves. Some have been on the road for 20 years and still haven’t found the place to build roots, to make peace with what is realistic.
Most visitors have high expectations and at the same time assume that one will also have high expectations of them. This is how they want to prove themselves at the beginning, clearly show their value for the community, they just want to be good.
They are very surprised that we define very, very few conditions for how they should behave in our community. They don’t understand that we have no expectations about their way of working, their leadership or support, their contribution to the social life of our community. They ask about fixed working and leisure times, about rules (washing, cleaning, cooking) and they ask for clear instructions on what to do, when, where, and how. When we tell them to calm down first, they don’t have to do anything, they could just be there for now, that would be enough, then they become insecure and doubt about us, about our success, and about themselves . We know how society has shaped us all, how it conditions us. We have to show performance, be useful, be successful. We strive for recognition, attention and respect. Nothing can be got for free. Only the hard-working fellow man gets happiness. The performance must be above average, and it must be permanent. But that’s not how nature works, and that’s not how FamiliaFeliz works either. Weaning out of the rat race of the neoliberal performance society is a process. It takes time to really slow down. For most visitors, it is a bottomless fall into the unknown, the creation of (apparent) values. Those who survive this time will be rewarded. The visitor finds his individual ground under his feet, lives on and is happy. He sees himself. And then he sees FamiliaFeliz with completely different eyes, and falls again, without support, without hope, much lower than before.
Many visitors ask us, why we don’t sell anything. You can see how unfinished the projects are, how amateurish we often start, how slowly things develop. Then they want to improve, optimize, accelerate. And again, they look into our mild faces and suspect that it will go much further downhill. They remember our words: everything important in life cannot be bought, so why money? Yes but… It is and remains a long way, like that of a pilgrim. And we cannot accompany our visitors, but we welcome them with joy at their destination.
It is easier for children, who find their way to us with their parents. They are living in the moment, they are still connected, with nature, the world, and themselfs. In this way, they show us the way into the we, into the community, that accepts them as they are. Many adults also find their way back there, to such a view and perception of their environment. Then the real journey begins, a journey with themselves in this new world.
Only then is the view free for the community that does not stage itself, that surrenders to making and pursuing one’s own wishes. Then community becomes the stage for your own play, your own staging. Then the other’s piece becomes a pleasant backdrop for your own piece. Then the togetherness arises without compulsion from the dynamic, and not as an intention, pressure or necessity.
Many visitors are dreaming of having the chance to produce their own food in communities. They also often believe that we are naturally – in a very natural way – self-sufficient in our community. These are myths, and they are also part of the learning curve of recognizing that this is only possible to a limited extent in today’s society. On the one hand it is a question of resources (seeds, know-how, land, climate), on the other hand it is also a project of individual people. It is not automatically the case that everyone who is interested in community life also wants to work in agriculture.
In recent years there have always been individual roommates or visitors who wanted to implement exactly this project. Mariella, Clara and Franscesca were outstanding. These three will always be remembered as the true heroes of the garden of colors, with their irrepressible will to obtain food, for their brood, for all of us. In seven years we have seen three attempts to cultivate the garden more intensively. All three have moved on, now the garden is at rest. Nature remains. And the infrastructure invites the next visitor to carry on. But it remains his individual decision. FamiliaFeliz can have the place ready to create and use a garden, but it is not looking for employees for a self-catering farm.
There is no recipe how to do it right, neither for the individual in search of community nor for the community in search of the individual new fellow human being. We do not offer any integration courses or workshops, nor do we stage rituals. We see the step into a community more than the step of the individual and it has its very own direction and speed. And the closer he gets to our community, the sooner he will recognize that with his appearance, this community changes, helps to shape and thus also redefines the center. We distinguish ourselves with reference to a non-intentional community. What confuses some, for us it is the key to sustainability. We do not consider community as a demarcation and united in the goal to be sustainable.
So FamiliaFeliz is not about integration, not about adaptation. We see every person as an opportunity to change, to reinvent ourselves, to enjoy new impulses in our diversity and to share this pleasure with those who find their way to us. Some ask us what FamiliaFeliz stands for, what it embodies. They ask us whether we want to change the world, whether we want to participate in the new and better shaping of society. They ask about goals. But what is the goal of nature? What is the goal of a tree?
Viane rightly said that people live in belief systems and they invent them in order to navigate their lifes. The agreement with the environment creates security, the common ritual calms and socializes. The human being is a social animal, it searches for the opposite in order to perceive himself. The child seeks in the stranger’s face the indication of willingness to play together, that is enough for him. It does not ask about values and beliefs and political attitudes. As people socialized in society, we are asked to look for roles, to defend these roles because of their privileges, and to derive rights from ownership and to remind others of their responsibilities in their other roles.
If you don’t have to reach a daily goal, you have time. So there are also in society those who have the time, i.e. who give the time and those who want or have to work their way out of time.
Now it is not that one of us does not set tasks and challenges for ourselves, but we do not transfer these to the others around us. Above all, we do not ask for their help in achieving our own goals. So we usually meet in peace, at mealtimes together. Then we have time. We can listen.
Veith, father of three children, asked us questions at the beginning of 2021. We recorded the conversation and published it on rumble.com. Maybe that answers some of your questions too.