How can I say to you, “Be in the commune but don’t belong to it”? The commune is basically individuals who have learned to be in the world and not of the world. That statement is true about the world, because the world tries to strangle you, the world tries to make you a prisoner in a thousand and one ways. The commune gives you total freedom to be yourself; there is no question of belonging to it. Each individual exists as an individual, not as a part of the commune.
In the larger world each individual is only a cog in the wheel, he does not exist as himself. He is only a number, just like in the armies. A soldier dies…on the board of the office appears the notice that “number sixteen has died.” In the army names are not recognized, but only numbers.
You will be surprised what the psychology is behind it; there is tremendous meaning. If your name is recognized, then you have a wife, you have children, you have old parents, an old father, an old mother, who must be waiting for you, who must be praying that you come back home alive. If you have a name, you are irreplaceable; but if you are just a number – number sixteen…
Numbers don’t have wives, they don’t have children, they don’t have parents – nobody is waiting for them. In fact numbers can be replaced, but names cannot be, individuals cannot be. Hence for centuries armies have been changing people into numbers. So when somebody looks at the board – how many numbers have died – he does not feel anything about their wives, their children, their father, their mother, their friends, all their hopes, all their prayers…. It is a very cunning strategy to deceive people. And these numbers can be immediately replaced by other numbers; somebody else will become number sixteen. There is no problem in replacing numbers.
Society also, in a more subtle way, makes you just a part; it never allows you total freedom to be yourself. You are a husband, you are a wife, you are a father, you are a brother…you are never yourself, you are somebody else. There are a thousand and one expectations from you to be fulfilled; those are your chains. There are responsibilities and duties; those are your prisons.
In a commune you don’t have a duty, you don’t have a responsibility. You don’t have to be somebody else to be worthy, to be respected, to be prestigious. Just as you are, in your utter nudeness, you are accepted, loved. Your very being is enough, nothing more is needed.
You don’t ask a roseflower to be somebody else, and you don’t ask a lotus to be somebody else. A marigold is as beautiful as the rose. The world would be poorer if there were no marigolds, and only roses. The world is richer because more variety is there. Each individual in a commune is unique; in the world he is just a carbon copy. In the commune, everybody is original; in the world, only a true copy.
The world expects you to follow, imitate – everything others are doing you should do. The commune does not ask anything of you; you should simply do what is spontaneous to you, what you feel like doing. You should allow yourself absolute freedom for your potential to blossom. Hence I have not talked about the other part of your question, because that will be against the very idea of the commune.
A commune is not an alternative society.