The Norms of Living In Western Society
If you think like most westerners, you recognise three ways of living: 1. Living with close family members. 2. Living with spouse. 3. Living solo.
There’s a fourth option too of course: One can live with flat mates or room mates. This, is usually seen as a necessary evil and the suitable sollution for poor people or students. It’s considered as a temporary state of living. We would rather live solo, or in the best case, with a partner or family.
At the same time, we have a huge problem with loneliness and social isolation. The problem is highlighted in the Nordics, where especially young people, often singles, and elder people struggle to live thought the daily feeling of loneliness.
This could be linked to another problem: Single people are desperate to find a partner. Couples, however, struggle to keep their relationship blossoming, assuming that one person could and should fulfil all their social needs.
The society is so centred around romantic relationships that we’ve forgotten that other types of human relationships exist. Those relationships could be even more crucial for individual’s well-being.
Brain Is Not Prepaired for This Solitude
We take this state of society for granted, although the society has been this way only for an eye-blink in the human history.
For millions of years human beings lived in packs, known as tribes. A tribe consisted of dozens of often loosely relative people. There were no houses with thick walls separating us from our tribe members. The canvas of our tent or a rock in a cave offered us the little privacy we had. No one lived solo or if they did, they didn’t live for long.
In such circumistances our brain has evolved. It’s is what our brain learned to crave for. Solitude meant danger. Loneliness is still known to increase stress levels and block the “happiness hormones,” like serotonin and dopamin.
We’ve Built Our Cages
When agriculture appeared and we abandoned the hunter-gatherers’ nomadic lifestyle we slowly abandoned the tribal communities. The modern lifestyle is the extreme form of this development.
We built thick sound-proof walls to protect our privacy and to separate us from our own species. The outcome is similar to animals in a zoo. Deprivation is the logical result of separating social animals from their tribes. Sadly, we’ve forgotten that things could be different. We forgot that the privacy we so highly value, is what keeps us caged up.
We need other people to reflect our thoughts and perspective of the world. Without other’s we lose the sense of reality and meaning. Even just a sight of another human being brings us energy. This is how our brain is constructed to react.
Individuals differ with the need of closeness and with the amount social life they need. Extroverts withdraw energy from being with others while introverts withdraw energy from solitude. You and I can be located to somewhere on this line between extrovert and introvert. Extremely introverts or extroverts are rare. We need each other’s more than most of us realize.
Occupation and social life out of the house can balance out the loneliness of home of course. A doctor may need to be social on her long work days so she misses solitude when she comes home.
I’m an entrepreneur offering expert services at digital marketing. My company doesn’t employ anyone else at this stage, so I’ve gone a long way to find social groups and workspaces where I don’t go nuts from solitude. Lucky, I’ve met other people like me, and some of them would consider finding communal solutions for living and working.
While I lived three years solo, I didn’t properly understand how much it affected me. I felt miserable every now and then but I didn’t question the norms of living. The realization came to me only when I moved to a hostel in Spain.
Life in Spain was hectic and it had it’s ups and downs. After certain devastating events, I noticed how my new social circle helped me to avoid melancholy. The hostel where I lived and worked, offered me company of like-minded people. Even those people who I didn’t particularly like, helped me to have a sense of existence and meaning. I decided not to go back to solo living.
Tribal Living for Modern Housing
A tribe traditionally consists of dozens of people across ages. It can include families, couples and singles. A tribe has some common rules and traditions. A tribe in the modern world could be like a family which goes beyond relativity. A group of people living under the same roof and sharing some common spaces. A group of people who basically see each others’ on daily basis on their normal routines.
Communal living outside of close families is marginal in Finland. There are some communal options but those are often related to hippie lifestyle. Some good experiences are made with communities of elders.
The modern architecture, legislation and housing providers could support more communal living. The attitudes need to change and new options brought to housing markets. The new waves of shared economy, could be utilized: Sharing houses within a tribe could be worth of trying. A good amount of privacy and community should be offered.
I’m not saying that it was all better in the traditional societies. Tribes were often very closed and isolated. Strangers were often greeted with aggression (source: The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond). Lets pick the best parts of tribal living and implement them to the modern society. We could create a good amount of closeness within tribes without isolation from the society. It would pay off on individual and societal level and offer more human lifestyle.
Would you consider tribal lifestyle or communal living?