Utopian Dreams – Simplicity

Been moved nearly to tears the past two mornings as I reach the climax of Tobias Jones‘s book, Utopian Dreams. He is describing the Pilsdon community in Dorset in a chapter headed ‘Simplicity’.

I need to get down the most inspiring chunks.

Life at Pilsdon is simple, so that everyone can share it equally without the divisions and anxieties that acquisitive materialism may bring. But it is a precious thing to meet real needs – for food, shelter, comfort, health and peace – and to meet them well; the daily routine of necessary work to that end offers dignity for everyone. Pilsdon is necessarily secluded – set in a garden overlooking the Marshwood Vale, the hills and the distant sea – yet it is not isolated; it is there for the world, not set apart from or against it. Nothing is imposed on guests by way of religious activity; but Pilsdon’s soul is Christian: with its small mediaeval church in the garden and its household chapel, it is for many people a holy place; a place where prayer has been valid, with a continuity stretching back not just over 40 years but to the Little Gidding community of 350 years ago and the monastic communities of the early centuries. Pilsdon cannot be pinned down, institutionalised, summed up, professionalised, rationalised, reduced, or ossified. It is full of tensions and paradoxes. It is alive, vulnerable and miraculous.

p158, quoting Chair of Trustees John MacAuslan in The Pilsdon Community: the first 40 years 1958–1998 (private circulation)

On arrival, they wander into the sitting room with huge fireplace and sofas.

One of the guys, with a straggly beard and more tattoos than skin on show, gets up to make us tea. Someone goes off to find Teresa who’s the person I had spoken to on the phone. By now I know that how a community welcomes outsiders is the true touchstone of what those outsiders are being welcomed into and at Pilsdon, it felt as if our feet were being metaphorically washed.

p159

It’s a community made up of both regulars (the community members and long-term guests) and of ‘wayfarers’ – tramps, men of the road, drifters. They’re used to people arriving at all seasons, at all hours. The entire community can fit into the large dining room and be told of who’s coming and going in the next twenty-four hours. … Our first meal there was memorable: not just because the entirety of the food – pork, potatoes, bread, butter – was their own produce; nor because we were assiduously waited on. It was more the fact that the place felt intimate and calm. Unusually, there was a complete lack of conceit, a tangible humility to the place.

p160

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