Tag Archives: sustainable monastery

Secular, Intellectual Monastery Designs

I’ve come to believe that if businesses treated their workers more like modern day monks in a for-profit secular monastery instead of disposable slaves then the economy would be more stable and (more importantly) the quality of life for human beings would be higher, which would, in turn, reduce all the social ailments that come along with an impoverished, discontented population.

Below are two architectural models I’ve designed that illustrate potential floor plans for secular monasteries as well as IKEA instructions for building walls and roofs. These models are not drawn to scale and are not final drafts. They also represent best-case (i.e. best funded) scenarios. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Brochure showing a 3-D design of a circular, sustainable monastery

Brochure showing the layout of a circular, sustainable monastery with a focus towards office work

Illustration of how to build sandbag walls. You stack sandbags.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
Build a Better World
Buy a Better World
Talk About Saving the World
Be Better People

My 1-Point Plan On How To Save The World

There are rogue politicians and institutions who want to change the world for the better, but their voices are drowned out by countless other greedy and powerful politicians and institutions. Since there are so many problems of such great magnitude that need to be fixed, and there are so many people working so hard to keep them from being fixed from within the system, it’s extremely unlikely those problems can or will be fixed from within the system. Even if the system could be fixed, it would take years, possibly lifetimes for that to happen, and in the meantime, countless people will needlessly suffer and die.

The fastest, most effective way to make the fundamental changes the system needs is to build a new one from scratch. That solution might sound more difficult than fixing the old system, but I believe it’s not only realistic, but also relatively easy. You don’t even need to overthrow any existing government or ask permission to implement this solution. You just need to build a sustainable, organized village and expand it to support more and more people. This process can be started with less than one hundred thousand dollars.

One of the reasons why fixing the current system is borderline futile is because unsustainable cities are economically dependent on outside assistance to survive. Any Pacific islander can attest that dependence on outside assistance makes you the servant of those you’re dependent on. True freedom requires true independence, and that requires internal ecological and economic sustainability.

It doesn’t take much to build an economically sustainable village. All you need to get started is farmland, water and housing. If you construct your buildings with sand bags, you can make durable, well-insulated structures relatively inexpensively. Once you have a fully functioning farm that produces enough food to meet all your inhabitants’ dietary needs, then your farm will be able to support non-agricultural workers who can do anything from metallurgy to computer programming.

The farm should provide work space and living quarters to people who create vital products like clothing, household goods, medicine, and transportation. This will make the farm more sustainable and thus less dependent on outside assistance, which will make the hybrid office/farm village more independent. However, there’s no need to completely cut one’s self off from the rest of society. You still can and should trade with the outside world. The key is that a self-sufficient village doesn’t trade in order to survive. It trades in order to profit, and the more profitable it becomes, the more it can expand and build more farms and more work spaces. The more diverse types of businesses the farm supports, the more sustainable it will be.

A legally operating business that grows its own food, houses its workers on-site and produces a wide variety of goods and services will be able to provide a high quality of life for its members, and that quality of life won’t be threatened by boom and bust cycles of predatory capitalism… unless the farm exploits its work force by selling them goods and services at the highest price possible while paying them as little as possible.

This doesn’t mean the farm has to be Communist, Marxist, Leninist or Maoist though. Profits should be shared among workers. Common sense and common decency says that’s fair. Common sense and common decency also say the executives shouldn’t get to keep the majority of the company’s profits. One fair way to divide profits in this kind of environment is for the company to keep half the profits it produces. It reinvests that money into expanding the business and upgrading its living facilities. The workers don’t need to own their land they live on or the rooms they sleep in. As long as the company allows its members to live in its facilities for free and eat its food for free, then the workers can save their money for a rainy day or a retirement home somewhere else.

The rest of the company’s profits could be divided evenly between all the workers. That will upset some people who will find excuses why they should get paid more, but if everybody’s basic needs are already fulfilled, people will just be bickering about who gets paid more to buy more toys with. Personally, I believe every part in an engine is equally important to make a vehicle drive-able, and a business is like an engine. Everyone is equally important and deserves equal compensation. If you disagree with that philosophy, you can still compromise and pay your workers similar to the military, where everyone is basically paid the same, but workers are compensated for time in service, hazardous duty and other factors. You could also allocate percentages of profits to high earning departments and let the departments split their profits themselves. As long as profit sharing isn’t too unequal, everyone should be able to reasonably accommodated.

Once your city is sustainable, your workers basic needs are met, and your company is making a profit, you can expand the city indefinitely. If your city is built in the shape of a ring, you can connect every office by a single road, rail or walking path. If you build concentric rings as you expand, you can leave a certain percentage of the wilderness between the rings untouched as a nature preserve.

As long as you don’t go out of your way to control your workers with unreasonable, inhumane rules and regulations, the population will be free and happy. The rest of the world can be as brutal as an American prison, but the inhabitants of the sustainable eco-city won’t have to worry about unjust policies of world governments. The more sustainable eco-cities there are in the world, the less governments will be able to bully and exploit their citizens. Eventually those governments may simply become obsolete and crumble on their own, leaving behind fully functioning, sustainable, humane cities that can operate without excessive bureaucracies and laws.

If the entire city is effectively living in the same building with the same computer network, your entire population will be organized and accessible through the city’s intranet. This will allow the company to keep as detailed records on its employees as the military keeps on its members. This can be used for evil, but if the leaders of the city are meticulously screened, trained and controlled, then this system could be used for good. Your people could live like the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise. They would have a cradle-to-grave tracking method that maintains their medical, mental health, education and career details. With that tool, students could be steered towards their ideal career path. Employees could easily vote on policies or leaders. You could even use this information to create the world’s most efficient dating site. The potential use for good this system possesses is limitless.

Building a city is ambitious and expensive, but this whole process can be started with a small farm employing as few as twenty people. It can be expanded over time without subverting or challenging any existing power structure. It represents as social evolution, not a revolution. It doesn’t require any creepy ideologies or charismatic leaders. It’s just a smart way to do things.

These circular cities can be built from sand bags within the legal boundaries of existing nations, or they can be built on/in giant floating disks that can be launched and connected on the open ocean to create floating islands. We’ve had the technology to do this for ages, and it’s more feasible now than ever. If enough floating sustainable free island states are built, they can disgrace the old nations by offering a higher quality of life with less rules, less inequality, less stress and less violence. If everyone had a realistic chance at abandoning the country of their birth then politicians will have to do a better job at governing in order to keep tax payers in. If a country is too corrupt, inefficient and inhumane to retain enough tax payers, then their government will simply crumble without the need for a violent revolution or a charismatic revolutionary leader to rally behind.

That’s how I’d save the world if I had the money. I’d build a better system from the ground up logically and sustainably.

3-D architectural drawnings showing the stages of building and expanding circular, sustainable monasteries

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

Talk About Saving the World
Be Better People
 Build a Better World
Buy a Better World
Fixing the Economy
Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty

My Vision for A Secular, Intellectual Monastery

On my “About” page I state that my long-term goal is to build an intellectual monastery. I’ve written a few blogs and comics explaining why I believe we can cure a lot of major world problems by using the monastic community model on a large scale.  You may be wondering why someone would spend so much time thinking about monasteries. This is the story of how and why I did.

I was born an introvert, which predisposes me to want to be left alone in a quiet place, and I’ve come to believe that the events of the first few months of my life predisposed me to the solitary life even more. I spent that time in an incubator in a hospital preparing for, receiving and recovering from heart surgery resulting from the premature birth of me and my identical twin brother. During that time, pretty much the only human contact I received was from a sweet, elderly nurse hovering above me. So my brain adapted to isolation and minimal sensory stimulation.

I showed up to life late and didn’t want to come out of my shell. So I let my identical twin brother speak for me until our parents caught on and made me go to speech therapy. I knew how to speak. The twin studies my brother and I went through showed we had above-average language comprehension. I just didn’t want to get involved with the drama of life. On the first day of kindergarten, I froze in the doorway to my classroom while all the other students stared at me.

As an adult, I’m a completely well-adjusted, functioning member of society. I spend as much time in crowds as anybody else. I can be the life of the party if I need to. I’ve competed in public speaking competitions and managed a computer help desk in a war zone. I’m good at being social. I just need to get away from the crowds and be alone to recharge my batteries more than the average introvert, and I still can’t watch Imax movies or go to theme parks, because all the commotion and sensory overload gives me a splitting headache and wears me out.

People are born all over the introversion/extroversion scale, and there’s no wrong place to be. That diversity is one of humanity’s greatest strengths. We need to understand our personal nature so we can adapt to it. I enjoy being introverted, and I take advantage of the perks it gives me, like the patience to write books and draw intricate pictures.

Back in elementary school, before I was old enough to articulate all of that, I’d daydream about escaping the daily commotion and living in a tree house in the woods. I wanted an orchard of different trees, and I’d build walkways between them and just never leave the canopy.

When I learned about monasteries in middle school history class, I was hooked immediately. I filled notebooks with floor sketches of monasteries and castles, plotted on grid paper.

But living in a castle wasn’t an option in South Texas. I was stuck in suburbia, which is a never-ending cycle of duties, rules, and drama. In high school, I romanticized about living in an insane asylum. As long as I wasn’t forced to take pills that turned me into a zombie, I could walk around in my pajamas, work on my hobbies and have three hot meals a day. It would be the perfect life.

Unfortunately, I’m too mentally healthy to qualify for a free meal. So in my early twenties, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and spent four years stationed in Europe… to my surprise. While I was there I did as much traveling as I could afford and got to see a lot of ancient communal living quarters, which inspired me to study up on the places I couldn’t go.

The history of Europe’s monasteries is set to the backdrop of the history of Europe itself, which is an almost never-ending saga of wars, famines, diseases and economic oppression. Monasteries weren’t immune to these forces, but they were insulated from the worst of it because they were self-sufficient. The monks had everything they needed and barely had to work part-time. Meanwhile, the peasants outside the walls were being used as slave labor and not earning enough to survive. Everyone should be as lucky as the monks, and if everybody had lived like the monks to begin with, most of Europe’s bloodshed and misery never would have happened.

I left Europe and the Air Force in my mid-twenties convinced that a monastery would be the best place in the world for me. So I scoured the internet to see what was available and was unsurprised to find they were almost all religious. This is a deal breaker for me because I believe religions are mythologies, and I don’t want to spend my life dancing around a mythology.

Even if I could play nice, most religious monasteries don’t accept heretics. The ones that do still tend to have schedules and rituals that are an unacceptable waste of time to me. The ones that give you the most freedom cost the most money. There are still a few that will let you stay for free, but you can’t stay long term.

As the internet grew I found more monasteries, but never one that was feasible for me. So I got on with my normal life, commuting back and forth between a house I didn’t own and a job I didn’t like. The longer I lived and worked in suburbia, the more fed up I got with the rat race, and the more time I spent escaping to my ideal monastery in my imagination.

After years of fretting, one day I got fed up and decided that if I could create a monastery in my head, then I could create it in the world. After all, I have opposable thumbs, bipedal legs, and a brain. There’s nothing I can’t do if I work on it long enough. So I threw down the gauntlet and said to myself, “That’s where I want to be. If nobody else has built it yet, then I’ll just build it myself.”So I researched how much it would cost to build a monastery, and I found that it would be at least $500,000 if I hired contractors to do it using standard construction methods. Since I didn’t have any money at all, I researched alternative building materials and floor plans to lower costs. I filled notebooks with sketches and notes until I settled on a circular design using sandbag walls.

Design for modular, pyramid shaped monastery rooms that minimize building materials needed Design for an underground monastery consisting of camper trailers with connected rooms Design for a crescent shaped monastery with a ring of underground camper trailersDrawing of a glass greenhouse shaped like a cathedral Drawing of an Airstream trailer in a hollow, man-made hobbit hill

Circular monastery design

Using the circular floor plan, I only need to build half for it to be functional. I could build that for $250,000 and finish the rest later.

That’s the plan. Now I just need the money. There are a lot of ways I could earn $250,000, and I’ve considered them all. In the end, I chose to meet my goal by writing. Some people would say that’s risky, but it’s what I enjoy doing, and it’s what I’d be doing if I lived in a monastery. This way, if I never get my dream home, at least I’ll have done the other thing I wanted to do.

While I’m writing towards my goal, I’m always thinking about new designs and business plans. Monasteries can be easily modified to suit different purposes, and with enough money, I would build multiple versions, but my ideal monastery, the one I’m going to build first, would operate like a long-stay working hostel for the gifted.

Tenants stay for three months to a year. They work part-time for the monastery, and that covers 100% of their room and board. There are no other schedules or rules, but each tenant has to be actively working on a creative project that has significant value to humanity. The monastery will also host retreats and workshops, and there will be a pay-by-donation campground at the edge of the property to generate passive income.

That’s what I’m working towards and why you can always expect new content on The Wise Sloth. If you want to see some random guy on the internet build an intellectual monastery, here’s how you can help.

  • If you’re an eccentric millionaire who can afford to give an eccentric pauper $250,000 just to see what happens, click the Donate button below.
  • If you know an eccentric millionaire who would give a guy like me $250,000 just to see what happens, then send them the link to this blog.
  • If you want to donate a few thousand dollars, I would invest that money in editing my E-books and putting them into print so I can earn $250,000.

Click to donate via PayPal

I’m not going to nickel and dime my way to building this. I’m very grateful to anyone who wants to throw me tip money to show your support, but I would encourage you to give that to The Khan Academy instead. I may never get my monastery, but they’re providing free online education to the world. The world won’t change until it’s educated.  Every nickel and dime they get makes the world less stupid, and that can’t come quick enough.

Khan Academy logo (Click to donate to the Khan Academy)

In lieu of a donation, you can tell your friends about the Wise Sloth and share your favorite Wise Sloth blog on social media. If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending your time with me. You can look forward to seeing more thought-provoking posts on The Wise Sloth, and eventually, you’ll get to watch me build my monastery.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Art

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