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The Big Answer


To link to this article from your blog or webpage, copy and paste the url below into your blog or homepage.

In The Company Of Others

a book by Claude Whitmyer, ed.

(our site's book review)

This book contains a collection of essays about making community work. One by M. Scott Peck looks at the fact that most of us never totally complete the individuation process—maturing fully and becoming fully human, learning to take responsibility for ourselves, being in autonomous control of ourselves and our lives, being whole. We’re tied to parental and societal apron strings—it’s so much easier to let someone else be responsible for us and make our decisions for us (via the superego—as the inner-directed do, or via peer conformity—as the other-directed do).

But, at the same time, we are also interdependent, social people in need of connectedness, relationships that work and make us secure and happy, and community relatedness that undergirds democracy, freedom, and social and community needs. Therefore the failure of the ethic of rugged individualism is that it takes account of only half of the needs of human reality. It is an unbalanced concept—a part in need of a whole. And those that operate from it cannot be community assets—this ethic (if used alone) makes community impossible and loneliness a foregone conclusion.

There's been a failure of the ethic of rugged individualism
There's been a failure of the ethic of rugged individualism

The book also champions active listening and I-statements, as found in P.E.T.

“On the deepest level, community offers a safe and loving environment to allow individuals to develop their full potential and to discover greater meaning to life,” is one of its better passages. And since normal communities fall far short of offering such an environment, we, on this website, show readers how this isn't cast in stone—we know precisely how to create these desired environments. See for yourself.

Whitmyer's book tells us that “We can replace a nonexistent or dysfunctional family with an extended family of people we choose,” is another burst of insight and wisdom. “Paradoxically, it is by being who we are while surrounded by those who love us that we truly develop our individuality. Thus, we serve as catalyst for one another in our personal growth, which, in the end, serves the community as well.” (This is pure MC-think, also. See Why Register for an MC? and the entire MC section.)

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

“Too often in the company of others, we fall into a waking sleep in which we deny our real feelings in the interest of getting along. But a community that emphasizes awareness can overcome this tendency by granting us permission to recognize, communicate, and change the way we feel.” (This is pure MC-think, too, and MCs greatly empower this process via PSBs and P.E.T. rules.)

Are they real friends or merely superficial acquaintances with whom to drink, B.S., or kill time?
Are they real friends or merely superficial acquaintances with whom to drink, B.S., or kill time?

Many people, the book tells us perceptively, have no real friends but merely superficial acquaintances with whom they drink, B.S., or kill time. Many people become dependent upon a “daily fix of superficial contacts,” and have no idea that there are many people on this planet that often experience intimate friendships in which the participants genuinely care about one another and which have deep meaning for them. Superficiality may seem “macho” and heroically individualistic to American males, but it is also escapist, diminishing, time-wasting, phony, addictive, disrespectful, and exploitative because it is simply a way for people to use each other for tension release. Finally, it’s dishonest. It’s not real friendship, it’s not nurturing, it’s not real, and it’s not what we really want. Worst of all, like Facebook, it doesn’t actually cure loneliness—it aggravates it. There’s nothing more lonely that a group of lonely people pretending they’re not, whether irl and f2f or in cyberspace.

Cyberspace won't germinate intimate friendships
Cyberspace won't germinate intimate friendships

The book looks at the advantages of co-housing, salons (regular gathering of friends to talk and perhaps eat as well), cults and group dependency. Authoritarian hierarchies are seen as something that manifest due to the omnipresent authoritarian impulse, and also something to beware of. Like cults, they are all about dependency on groups and leaders. Many people that are not in entities called cults are nevertheless in invisible cults because of the cult-like behavior engaged in many of our cultural institutions. Even some enmeshed families are mini-cults. We need to study cult behavior so we can detect—and thereby avoid—cult behavior in our lives. The book definitely sees authoritarianism as part of society’s problem, not part of its solution.

The book looks at the advantages of co-housing (some shared facilities) and salons (a regular gathering of friends to talk)
The book looks at the advantages of co-housing (some shared facilities) and salons (a regular gathering of friends to talk)

Of course, there are some authors in the book (which is a collection of essays from various authors) that put their feet in their mouths. “If government does not make the radical changes necessary to correct our many ills, what then?” asks one naïve writer. Since when is government capable of “correcting our many ills”?! Other authors in the book consider communities to be intentional communities like communes. Of course, this runs entirely counter to the current community trend, which is about establishing community as a meaningful social connectedness in existing neighborhoods and communities without anyone having to: move to any place where multiple families are under one roof, crowd people too close together, or sacrifice any privacy or autonomy for the “good of the group.” The latter idea—as applied to intentional communities—died a merciful, overdue death. This book needs fewer authors stuck in the 60s and more authors “hip” to 21st-century realities and trends.

If communities or groups involve sacrificing privacy, they're cults in disguise, since good communities don't do this. But on the other hand, recently our government watches your every move. Privacy is dead!
If communities or groups involve sacrificing privacy, they're cults in disguise, since good communities don't do this. But on the other hand, recently our government watches your every move. Privacy is dead!


Once they create the technology, can the thought police be far behind NSA's outrage of spying on us decent citizens?
Once they create the technology, can the thought police be far behind NSA's outrage of spying on us decent citizens?