Community

Do you think you’d like to live forever? How long would you like to live? 300 years? You’d be so incredibly bored it would be beyond belief. What are you going to do? How much golf can you play? Talk to some old person one day. I just think of my father-in-law. He was in the nursing home and would just sit there. I asked him, I said jeez we can bring you a TV. Nah that’s alright. Wouldn’t you like to watch TV? Nah. Sat there and looked at the wall. Just wasn’t interested. The news meant nothing to him. You see that a lot with old people. It just all repeats. – excerpted from Cizadlo, Biology of Aging (1:21:10) 

Contents

  1. Community
  2. House Swapping
  3. Mechanics
  4. Objection
  5. Government
  6. Concluding Comments

House Swapping

You own a nice house in a great school district. Your kids are gone. You’ve had a great career and are well-situated. Give some kids a break.

Swap living space with a young family in a disadvantage neighborhood. You keep ownership of your house. Give it to your kids as an inheritance if you like. But in the meantime loan it out to others and move your considerable skills, experience and friendship, your person, into their community. The young family starts a new life. You become a valued member in a challenged community looking for someone just like you.

We’re not talking community organizers. They come and go.[1] We’re talking neighbors. You move into a neighborhood with the intention of spending the rest of your life there. You weave your identity into the neighborhood and vice versa. You bring along all your ideas for a vibrant, caring community. And, I suspect, you’ll find the community makes you a more vibrant, caring person. You live among those who could not share in the many blessings of your life, and you’ll find they too have many more blessings which you can now share.

These are the Children of Light. They may be bigoted, cursing, narrow-minded, mean-spirited, mad-at-the-world. They may be stunted in intellectual and spiritual growth. They may suffer various flavors of mental disorder. But they are intense. They need your human touch, your compassion. They don’t need money. They don’t need support groups. They need your heat, your light.[2]

It’s human nature we care more for our neighbors; those we know. Make these Children of Light your neighbors.

Mechanics

You adopt the swap family and they adopt you. We don’t move drug lords or pimps into your ancestral home. There needs be a certain level of sympathy between families in the swap. Each cares for the other’s safety and well-being. Perhaps mom’s sick and the kid needs a lift to school. Perhaps you find it difficult to fit in with your new ‘dysfunctional’ neighbors. Each family steps in to help the other adjust to their new surroundings.

Home ownership involves more than paying a mortgage. That mansion in the ‘burbs has upkeep often beyond the means of its new tenants. You take responsibility for the upkeep of both residences, at least at the start. Negotiation on mutual care of properties is in the adoption papers.

Objection

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. … Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ – Luke 14:26

Faith is complete submission: an unquestioning leap beyond rationality and into the absurd. It is not an occupation, a hobby, or an accoutrement to your life. I am this, I am this, I am this, and oh yeah, I am also a Christian, Jew, Humanitarian, etc. I’m faithful and my life is governed at the margin by its costs and benefits. I set aside quality time to practice my faith.

No. Your very being must be wholly committed to faith, predicated on living rightly in relation to the infinite. Everything about you must depend on and reflect that faith. Every moment a feeling of wonder and gratitude. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.

You fool and your faith! Step away from the values of the market economy and we’ll crush you.[3] The market economy brings you material wealth, bread from stones. Save for your retirement. Pay off your mortgage. Purchase premium health coverage. A trust fund for your kids. If you don’t have money you’re a nobody in America.

Forget those in the tenements. The poor you will always have with you. Ignore the market economy and everyone will ridicule you, saying ‘This person began to build a nice retirement and wasn’t able to finish.’

Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy. … we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever, that we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions. – The Grand Inquisitor, Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky.

No. House swapping is too risky. Play it safe. Your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own self tells you to step away from this foolish notion. Leave the poor and destitute to the saints. Only a Mother Teresa can stoop to pick up the disease-laden poor from the filthy streets of Calcutta. You haven’t the fortitude to complete ‘that’ tower. Buy a large screen TV with a premium cable and internet package. Huddle close to us. Place yourself in complete submission to our so powerful and clever market machine. Only we can give you the happiness that is the sweetest of all.[4]

Government

Leap_of_FaithHouse-swapping is a leap of faith. Fear and trembling. Yet government can help. The Community Resettlement Act of 2014.

Brand adopted communities as crime-free zones and really mean it. Overprotect the neighborhood, including arming citizens for self-defense. And don’t eliminate the red zone by turning surrounding communities pink.[5] Our Detroit community hired a private police force to drive out the drug trade. The neighboring Palmer Park became the new hangout for dealers. Their customers would drop by our community for a quick mugging or robbery to pay for a daily fix. Zero tolerance for violent crime. We ease the leap for our swap participants.

Maintain a swap registry for participants. Weed out felons, drug addicts and other psycho-sociopaths. Schedule and sign up participants. Orient participants on the intentions and responsibilities of the swaps. Share best practices. What could possibly go wrong? What to expect. How to behave. Standard terms for the swap contract. Support groups at both ends of the swap. There are a host of practical concerns to be sorted out.

Concluding Comments

This proposal is not for everyone. Many seniors keep accumulating stuff even when they are in walkers. Even in their 80’s they thrill at a 40% off sale at Macy’s. Here we offer a more fulfilled life; one with clear purpose and meaning that keeps to the last breath. A purposefulness that answers Marlon Brando’s oft-quoted query about the end of his life:

What in the hell was that all about?


1. For an amusing story of a hit & run community organizer, listen to Cory Booker, former Mayor of Newark, N.J., describe his activist experience at the 10th Annual Arthur Liman Public Interest Law Colloquium, Yale Law School (2007). An Urban Mayor’s Perspective on Public Interest Advocacy .

2. We seek a Henry Rivera in spirit if not in tactics (here ).

3. If your faith is merely rational you risk the fate of geneticist / chemist George R. Price, who took the swap, then ended up committing suicide using a pair of nail scissors to cut his own carotid artery. Listen to his story at The Good Show (14:30) .

4. Watch and be awe-stricken at the power and cleverness of capitalism in the BBC documentary The Century of the Self . Capitalism lifts billions out of poverty by finding out what people want (or convincing them they want it) and organizing production to give it to them. In the process it defines who you are, the way you think, your hopes and your aspirations.

5. Referring to the anecdote of a Dutch city that outlawed its red light district only to turn the whole city pink.

 

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