Contemplating Cohousing: A Paradigm for Modern Day Tribal Living [transcript]

Written by Christopher Kelly

Jan. 24, 2020


Chris:    Well, Mrs. Kelly, thank you so much for joining me. It’s a little bit cheesy.

Julie:    Pretty cheesy. I didn't know who you're talking to for a minute. 

Chris:    Maybe I wouldn’t start with Mrs. Kelly. Well, Julie, otherwise known as Julia, the Nourish Balance Thrive food scientist, thank you so much for joining me here in my Bonny Doon recording studio. How do you like the wallpaper? That’s the new joke.

Julie:    The new joke. Yeah. It’s good except I think you should probably post a picture of it at some point—  

Chris:    I should post a picture. 

Julie:    …so people know what you’re talking about.

Chris:    Yeah, exactly. So, that was the joke from that Christopher Ryan interview where Chris said I like your wallpaper. And the reason he likes my wallpaper is because we were outside in the Santa Cruz Mountains surrounded by redwoods and Bonny Doon manzanita trees. Very pretty. Oh wait, they’re not— 

Julie:    Madrone.

Chris:    Madrone. Sorry. I always get this confused. 

Julie:    There are Bonny Doon manzanitas. 

Chris:    There are. But yeah, these are madrone. I’m sorry. All right. So, today, we’re gonna be talking cohousing. 

Julie:    I like the eyebrow on your face. 

Chris:    You like the eyebrow. You probably see the eyebrow. So, for regular listeners of the podcast, you may have detected my cognitive dissonance that has been building since the interview I recorded with Stephanie Welch at the Physicians for Ancestral Health annual retreat in Scottsdale, Arizona, that interviewer. I’ll link all this in the show notes by the way if you wanna start from the beginning and catch up from there.

Julie:    It’s probably a good idea. 

Chris:    Probably a good idea. So, in that interview, Stephanie mentions this thing called the nuclear family unit and I said, “What the hell is a nuclear family unit? I've no idea what that means.” And it's actually quite a good— What would you call that? Metaphor?

Julie:    Yeah.

Chris:    I will agree.

Julie:    It’s a little bit of a dogma. It just kind of describes a certain way of living. 

Chris:    Right. Exactly. So, I think about 2 adults at the nucleus and then however many dependents orbiting the nucleus like charged particles. And everything is separate, right? You have your own house. You have your 2 cars. You have your white picket fence and my lawn mower, my chainsaw. Sure, I can babysit your kids as long as you promise to babysit mine. All of this kind of stuff. 

Julie:    You can go on and on and on like that. 

Chris:    Or you can go on, and on, and on. Right? And so, I realized in that moment and in the moments that followed that I’ve made a decision and I didn’t actually realize there was a decision to make. And when we bought this place in the mountains in Santa Cruz, I said, “Well, it seems fine. Like that will do.” Season nice here. Sunny. I never thought about the living configuration. Right? And so, you know, this sent me off down a path and then the interview with Christopher Ryan. He goes into some more details as to why that might not be a species appropriate living configuration. Right? So, the Nourish Balance Thrive podcast, that’s really what it is. It’s been an examination of what it takes and means to live a meaningful life. And the story has been all the mistakes that I made. Right? In 2014, all we talked about was food. Do you remember that when we thought we could fix the world with Whole30? 

Julie:    I remember that.

Chris:    And now, we talk about the unreasonable effectiveness of Whole30, how you can take most people on a standard American diet and just change up their diet and they get miraculously better. And now that I’ve discovered all these other things like sleep, and exercise, and drinking alcohol especially caffeine and stress management, how unreasonably effective Whole30 is and what really in the business office designing human zoos. Right? We appreciate that you can’t go back to the wild, that we’re never going to be hunter/gatherers ever again, but we can design our enclosures. Right? We’re in the human zoo. We get to the design the enclosure. And so, these types of conversations are I think very interesting. 

Julie:    Examining the mismatches. 

Chris:    Examining the mismatches. That is a very good way of putting it. Daniel Lieberman has agreed to be on the podcast at some point in the future. Maybe I would've even recorded that one by the time this one goes out, but Daniel Lieberman is the author of The Story of the Human Body. And I'm sure that many people listening have read that book. It is a phenomenal book for understanding why most modern chronic diseases are diseases of mismatch. And so, an example is our cardiovascular disease, diabetes. Some cancers are mismatch diseases, meaning that hunter/gatherers didn’t get them. And there’s this myth that hunter/gatherers died in the mid-30s which is a statistical anomaly, completely false, and they were living to 60, 70s, 80s even. And so, it’s only after the invention of agriculture did life expectancy plummet into the mid-30s and that’s where it remained for an awfully long time. 

Julie:    Yeah. ‘Til the beginning of the 1900. 

Chris:    Yeah, exactly. That with people living 100 years ago in London, their life expectancy— Maybe a bit more now. 150 years ago in the industrial era in London with the terrible smoke, and terrible working conditions, and all that, they only lived to be 35. And so, really it’s only now recently that life expectancy started to recover. 


    And I think many people listening to this will be trivial, but they know that that's true, but it's really not. I’ve just read David Sinclair’s book on longevity and he makes the same mistake saying that life expectancy has just been getting longer, and longer, and longer, but actually no. This is recovering from a lot of what happened after— 

Julie:    A lot of people too that wanna make claims about the other theories about longevity and especially around diet, you know, the blue zones and things like that. People make all kinds of really crappy assumptions about different pockets of the world that have supposedly really long life expectancies.

Chris:    Actually, they just have really high levels of fraud. I would highly recommend listening to— I forget which episode of STEM-Talk. We’ll link it in the show notes where Ken Ford goes into this. And there’s a paper I can link as well. It showed us actually the blue zones have the highest level of fraud and the worst record keeping and that's probably a better explanation of why these people live so long. 

Julie:    Yeah. I think it bears mentioning because it's one of the first things that laypeople mention. So, I'm not talking about direct listeners of this podcast because I think they're probably not huge subscribers to those blue zone theories. But when I talked to laypeople outside of our community, I guess you would say that’s one of the first things they wanna bring up. 

Chris:    Right. And so, since then, since I interviewed Chris Ryan, I've read Mothers and Others by Sarah Hrdy who is an anthropologist at UC Davis.

Julie:    And I've read it by proxy. 

Chris:    Julie reads all these books by proxy. This is actually part of the problem. Right? So, what’s the problem with a nuclear family unit? We don't even have time to go to the bathroom without having someone else bother you. We have 2 kids. 

Julie:    I haven’t gone to the bathroom by myself in 6 years. 

Chris:    So, we have 2 kids. One is 6. The other is just about to turn 2. And you don't have time to do any of these things because the children are so dependent on you. And it's not like I don't make any contribution, but it's relatively [0:06:53][Inaudible] So, Julie gets to hear about all these books by proxy. And the central thesis of Mothers and Office introduces this concept, which I think is critically important in designing a human zoo, and that is the idea of an alloparent. And an alloparent is someone who contributes to childrearing in a cooperative breeding setup, but they don't share any DNA with the offspring. Right? So, when you look at the other great apes like orangutans for example, they have very slow breeding cycles. Orangutans only have babies every 8 years. And for the first 6 to 8 months of the infant's life, they do not let go of mom and they have fur that helps them do that. That's handy, right? They’ve having fur that the baby could just cling on by itself. 

Julie:    Literally do not let go.

Chris:    Literally do not let go. And they will not let another member of their social group— Orangutans are fairly solitary, but let’s take chimpanzees for example. A chimp mother would never let another chimp especially not male touch the baby. The humans have this neat trick that they can reproduce much more quickly than that. Even hunter/gatherers can reproduce every 4 years. And the reason they can do that is because it's not the mother that's doing all of the childrearing. Humans recruit other parents. Mothers and Others like that's the really important thing. And so, there's a dark side to this in humans at least and that's that humans that lack adequate social support abandon their infants and that happens even in modern hunter/gatherer societies. It’s quite rare. So, Hrdy thinks it’s about 1 in 100 in even modern hunter/gatherer bands, but no other primate would ever abandon a baby even if their baby is born deformed in some way. Some sort of birth defect. Their mother will never abandon the baby as humans will. 

Julie:     I think that fact in and of itself is important, but I think looking at the bigger why that fact is— what was the most interesting to me because what that tells me and I think that's what Sarah Hrdy’s point was, is that we very specifically evolved to have the skill to track other people that we are not that genetically related to to take care of our kids. And our kids have very specific social behaviors that they are born with that they exhibit with strangers or they should anyways exhibit with strangers in order to draw those alloparents to them and be able to create a type of network of people that’s available to care for them. 

Chris:    Babies are super cute and there’s a reason they’re super cute.

Julie:    Yeah. There’s a reason they’re super cute. There's a reason that they're endearing. There's a reason that they smile. I can already hear people say, “Oh, but my kid is super shy. They don't do that.” We can get into that again if you want to, kind of the reasons why maybe we’re devolving from having these skills.

Chris:    Right. Right. That’s a really interesting point. 

Julie:    That was what really kind of blew me away, was thinking about “Wow. We've had all these skills since humans have been around.” And these skills are disappearing. 

Chris:    Really fast.

Julie:    Really fast. 

Chris:    So, Daniel Lieberman talks about that in his book, is the human or any type of evolution that is descendant modification happens relatively slowly, but culture changes really fast. 


    Right? So, you think about the nuclear family unit in the U.S. This is late as the 1950s or `60s. It’s people that we know who are alive today. You remember the time before, you know, the default configuration was that the woman stayed at home and the man went off to work and that’s how it was.

Julie:    Yeah. I mean, my great grandmother who I lived with when I was little, her whole family grew up under one roof. So, it was her parents, and all of her siblings, and her kids. And so, it was a big family unit and it was a neighborhood full of other family units like that. So, it’s not that long ago that we can remember a different type of setup. So, that’s what blows my mind, is that we’ve gone from that. So, within 3 or 4 generations, we’ve gone to a place where we are losing the skill to be able to attract others to our lives to help us care for our children. And so, I think that's where this cohousing thing becomes really— 

Chris:    Interesting. 

Julie:    …interesting because not only does it feel like it's imperative because I need help, but it's— 

Chris:    It’s a biological imperative. 

Julie:    It’s a biological imperative.

Chris:    It’s a need, not a want.

Julie:    Yeah. But if we don’t do something about it, if we don't attend to these things, you know, my interests have always lied with like birth, and maternal instincts, and things like that. I've been watching from a distance, watching these maternal instincts disappear around me. You know, women in my circle and then just in the general world. And it never really occurred to me that these were biological imperatives that were also around and about the same things that we've been talking about with cohousing with children and with families and communities losing this ability to rely on each one. We’re not relying on one another and attract alloparents and attract the others that we also desperately need to actually have functioning family units. 

Chris:    And I’ve made some mistakes trying to understand why our kids are the way they are. So, Ivy and Bauer, great shape both physical and emotional. And people often say to me “Wow. She’s so extroverted. She’s so confident. She’s so sociable.” They think that there must be a gene for that. Right?

Julie:    Yeah.

Chris:    Maybe I can do the 23andme test and like find the gene for that. And I don’t think so and that’s certainly not how I was for the first 35 years of my life. I was a recluse and I think it was because I was chronically ill that I was kind of reclusive and that’s changed a little bit. But I think in Ivy's case, the reason that she’s hyper social is because she's securely attached. And in the beginning and this is the mistake that I think I made until I read the Sarah Hrdy book is I thought it was because she was securely attached to you. I do believe that’s still true, but I think the reason that she’s so hypersocial is because she’s securely attached to you and others. Right? That's the big mistake. And I think that's the big mistake. Sarah Hrdy talked about this in the book in attachment theory. Right? All our friends are into this stuff and I can see the importance of it. And Sarah Hrdy acknowledges that attachment theory has led to much more humane treating of children like “cry it out”. It technically works, but it’s terrible idea. It’s like not human. And the secure attachment I think is a good idea, but it's all based on the wrong animal model. It’s based on chimpanzees. Not on humans. Right? So, they  don’t— 


Julie:    …for example or a different ape. That would be more— 

Chris:    I mean, it is uniquely human like this idea that you would recruit an alloparent to rear your children in this cooperative— 

Julie:    What was the other animal though? It was like tamarins. That’s what it was.

Chris:    Oh, that’s right. Yeah.

Julie:    There were two other creatures. It was tamarins and another that actually would share— 

Chris:    Recruit.

Julie:    …their infant and recruit others and allow mostly older siblings or like grandmothers to hold their infants.

Chris:    So, that’s what’s unique to humans. So, there’s definitely other animals like insects for example. They recruit alloparents, right, but there’s usually only 1 breeding alpha female. Right? And so, that can be like real anatomical differences between the breeding female and the other females. And that’s true in dogs as well and in wolves. Right? There’s only 1 breeding alpha. Whereas humans, that’s not the case. Right? And taramins are the same that they will abandon their infants. You know, what has this got to do with the problems that we see around us today? Well, the problems that we see around us today are, well, think about the divorce rate. Right? It’s like 50% of all marriages end in divorce. 

Julie:    Right. I mean, that number I think is a bit old, but I think the better statistic is that most marriages only last 8 years. 

Chris:    Right. And so, the average length of marriage. Yes, we have to be careful about making the same statistical errors that we made with life expectancy. 

Julie:    Yeah. Yeah. I think that number, that 50% number is a lot lower than it was even 10 years ago.

Chris:    Right. And I think it’s eschewed by people who keep getting divorced over and over again. So, it’s the same people.

Julie:    But also the fact that fewer people are getting married. So, there’s a whole bunch of conflicting things. 

Chris:    Right. But there's another statistic that I wonder about and that's the rates of postpartum depression in the western world. So, ones that go on to get a clinical diagnosis is not so much, but it’s still 30%. 30%. 


    What the fuck?

Julie:    Yeah. Oh, and not everybody does because a lot of— I mean, I can tell you about half of the women that I know didn't even realize that they had postpartum depression until they had their second child. So, it was looking back that they could then say “Whoa, this is so not different than it was the first time around and I had no idea.” And they were completely on their own. They just had no idea. So, they didn’t have anything to compare to. So, they just suffered in silence because they had no idea. 

Chris:    Yeah. Their juxtaposition is very important. It’s only the relative change that we noticed. Like I can only tell my eyesight sucks and I put on some glasses. And suddenly, I can see clearly. Yeah. Absolutely. The other statistic that goes with that is the 70%. So, if you do like a qualitative assessment of women’s feelings, thoughts and feelings, then 70% are considered to have that baby blues like whatever that is. Right? Okay. So, is this the same problem that we're talking about? Is it that women lack the adequate social support that they need in order to rear their children? I mean, we talked about every 4 years as being rapid compared to the other great apes. 

Julie:    Oh, it’s so much faster than that. 

Chris:    Exactly. How much more frequently are humans pushing out? 

Julie:    Oh, yeah. I mean, I have several friends that work 15 months. I mean, that’s very short. That’s very short I mean especially considering that you're not even physiologically “healed” until 18 months, which, you know, doesn't say anything for your emotional well-being, so yeah. I mean, that's the thing. I think if you talk to every single woman at— I don't think that these statistics are extremely important. I don't think the numbers are extremely important because I just know from every— You go to talk to women individually especially if they are not under, you know, in the direct earshot of their partner and you ask them how supported they feel, they're gonna tell you straight up that they're not. Or if they are, it's because they're paying through the nose for it. They have enough money. They are financially secure. And they can hire a nanny. They can put their kid in daycare. They could maybe hire an au pair. So, they can buy that type of support, but I'm sure this generates the different type of dissonance, which is I wanted to be a mother. And so, I had a baby. And now, I'm paying someone else to do the mothering whilst I go off to do something I don’t really care about. 

Chris:    Totally. Or just this inability to reconcile, you know, because I think a lot of women want to do a lot of things. You know, I would love to be able to continuously fulfill my creative outlet that I feel completely disconnected from. I would also love to be able to lean into the business more and lend my hands there, but I feel like I have to just throw my hands up and do none of it because if none of it is gonna have my full attention. My full attention goes to the kids and that's okay. That's a choice that I am personally okay with, but I know a lot of women that are not okay with that. You know, they feel so torn because they had really big careers or they have really strong passions for the things that they wanna do. And I think they were sold the story that they were going to be able to do it all. And it’s not fair because— 

Chris:    Back to work in 3 months.

Julie:    Yeah.

Chris:    You actually have to go on some sort of disability leave. I mean, that’s just pure insanity. 

Julie:    It’s pure insanity. I mean, I have a lot of friends who, you know, were quite successful and they were able— You know, they make enough money where if they go back to work, it’s not going to completely dissolve all their childcare funds, you know, just by— It doesn’t make sense for a lot of women to go back to work because they can’t make enough money to make the childcare make sense. But for the women who can, it doesn't mean that it makes it any easier emotionally or physically to go back to work after 3 months and that you're not gonna have to live with this trauma of being separated from your infant. So, bringing it back to the cohousing thing, I think we have to start to examine when we're making a list of the problems that we're facing, really truly understanding this complex position we’ve put women in. You know, we're taxing them on every level coming from every angle. You know, their health, their emotional state, their financial security, their ability to connect with their partner. They're completely isolated in terms of female support and female connection with other, you know, sisterhood if you will and then there's a relationship with their children. So, you know, how are you supposed to have securely attached, confident, loving relationship with your children if you are completely pulled in all of these directions or taxed on every single one of those positions? So, you know, I feel extremely lucky because I feel like I'm only taxed on maybe a few of those, not all of them. Yes, it could be better, but I also know that I'm extremely privileged to have the ability to have the relationship I have with my kids. My parents are 20 minutes down the road. They're extremely involved and very helpful. I have a good support group of friends, but we live in an isolated way. You know what I mean? 

Chris:    You raise an interesting point there. The fact that we have got it so good I think gives us opportunity to think about how it could be better. 


Julie:    Oh, definitely.    

Chris:    Most of the people that we talked to, they just can’t even get their head around thinking about different— 

Julie:    They don’t have the face— 

Chris:    Exactly. Yes.

Julie:    I totally understand it. It's frustrating though because it makes it feel that much more important, which is why I think we should continue to spend the time trying to figure it out or at least trying to create a situation where we can invite others to just participate instead of having to do the legwork and the brainwork because I think that's asking a lot. 

Chris:    And you reminded me of the original thing that tripped me off and sent me down the rabbit hole, was “Well, how are we gonna get Julie back involved in the business?” I could really use her coming back to do some of the original work. So, for people that don’t know, Julie was my original cofounder and then we found Jamie Kendall-Weed who is a medical doctor who is instrumental in the confounding of NBT and originally came out of my problems, right, like this? 

Julie:    Yeah. I think we worked in tandem really well for the first 4 years.

Chris:    ‘Cause you just did for other people what you've done for me, right, so that we have phoning me up saying, “Hey, Chris, I heard you talk on such and such podcast about the way that you changed your diet and lifestyle to overcome the exact same problems that I have. Here’s my credit card number. Can you spend some time on Zoom with me or Skype (as it was back then) to teach me what it was that you did?” And a big part of that was like “Well, I have to hand you over to Julie because one of the most important things I felt like I did was eat the foods that this woman cooked for me.” 

Julie:    So, that’s what I did for the first 4 years. I did a food diary with everyone and I did the coaching calls. 

Chris:    So, coaching of the athletes. I mean, my training has backed off a lot since then.

Julie:    A lot of things have changed.

Chris:    A lot of things have changed. Yes. I’m only really doing 6 to 10 hours tops on the bike each week. I mean, I did a big ride on Saturday, but that was quite rare 5 hours. But for the most part, it’s backed off a lot. That was the hurdle, was like “Well, how do you overcome these chronic health complaints, fatigue, all kinds of GI problems, insomnia, zero libido, all this stuff that we hear from athletes all the time without completely stopping your training?” And you somehow figured out how to do that with food and I feel like that was a— 

Julie:    Yeah. I mean, there were some lifestyle stuff too and then a little bit of the testing, which was important for a lot of those people. But yeah, for the most part, I mean for the people that we were talking to at that time, it was. It was just fine tuning. You know, a lot of them had figured out some of it, but not all of it. And there was a lot of it that was dependent upon, you know, they were still following a lot of the dogmas that were prevalent in the exercise community at that time. So, it was a lot of just kind of unplugging and plugging back in a lot of different thing and seeing what worked. But ultimately, yes, it was about the food and it was about fine tuning those things for those people. 

Chris:    Right. So, especially after Bauer is born. 

Julie:    Oh yeah. I mean, I worked all through that pregnancy. And then as soon as that pregnancy was done, I went on— I'm still on maternity leave technically.

Chris:    So, half the time, I’m like “Where the fuck is Julie?” You know, I see a food diary or something. I’m like this person just needs to talk to Julie. Probably a couple of hours would do it, you know.

Julie:    I mean, Meghan has been extremely— 

Chris:    Yeah, I know. It’s slightly disrespectful to Meghan. 

Julie:    Yeah. That whole time I was pregnant with Bauer, we were doing calls. I mean, I don’t think I taught her anything. I think she is fully capable and has been. And we’ve also moved away from such a strong focus on the food as well. I mean, it’s extremely important, but the number of times that somebody comes to us that really needs to talk me is probably small now. But you know, I think there’s other areas that I’m still really interested in and I would like to do more work on. But yeah, the problem is— 

Chris:    The childcare problem. Right? 

Julie:    …the childcare. Yeah. 

Chris:    And then you realize that, oh, it’s not just your problem. Everybody has this problem. 

Julie:    Everybody has a problem. Yeah. 

Chris:    You know, you spend a little bit time as I did over the summer doing Y Combinator startup school and then you realize that childcare is like one of the hardest and most valuable problems that anyone could solve. Right? And I don’t think it's been satisfactorily solved. 

Julie:    No. Because societally we don't value childcare. We don't pay our childcare workers enough money to make it a desirable job for people to sign up for, but yet it's this paradoxical thing where it is so expensive for the family that has to pay for it. So, why is that? You know, where is all this money going? And it just doesn't make any sense. And I've tried various things. I mean, one of the issues with where we live is that we are isolated. We live up in a mountain kind of far away. Even our close friends that live in Bonny Doon with us are still 15-20 minutes away. So, it's just this really annoying problem. And my mom is 30 minutes away. 

Chris:    Yeah. But you say that. I mean, I've lived in Central London where our neighbors were literally on top of us. And you know, you’d hear them walking around upstairs on the hardwood floors with high heels and that didn't make anything any easier. Right? You’d still need to get your friends in North London. If you're in South London.

Julie:    Oh, totally. 

Chris:    …it would take 45 minutes. Right? 


Julie:    So, there's 2 problems there. There is a problem of like physical— Our problem is a physical distance, is we have enough support. It just makes it difficult to make it happen because they’re too far away. It's just enough friction, but then you also have the societal cultural problem where we don't ask our neighbors for anything anymore. Where I grew up in Cleveland, it was a semi-urban neighborhood, but we still ran. The kids ran in a pack. We went to each other's houses. If you were at somebody else's house, it wasn't like you had to prearrange it or call their parents. You just showed up. And if you were at their house, their mom fed you. If they were at your house, your grandma or your mom fed them. And everybody was home with the street lights came on at night in the summertime and we walked to and from school. You know, it's just a very different cultural environment that we are living in now.

Chris:    Right. Right. And you’re talking about 25 years ago. 

Julie:    That wasn’t that long ago, you know. 35. No. It was 25 because I was young. But I think when we talk about these problems, people are quick to come up with objections to each of these problems for why this wouldn't work, that wouldn't work, this won't work for me, that won't work for me. I think we have to try to get away from that. If you're really genuinely wanting to step into this conversation about cohousing and trying to figure a solution out to some of these problems to alleviate the pressure on your family unit, we have to be really careful about what is the real problem that we're trying to solve and what are just these societal cultural objections that are just ingrained in us that we need to notice with a lot of patience and understanding and let them go. 

Chris:    Well, at this point, we be better define cohousing. I'm not sure I really know. We started using this word and I can't remember. I think it might be Lucy Mailing who is a previous podcast guest.

Julie:    Yeah. She sent you— Yeah.

Chris:    Yeah. She sent me an article. So, she’d been around traveling and she bumped into some Danish people that had grown up, you know, what they call a cohousing arrangement. And I've since found so many articles on hygge and it’s like Swedish. It’s a funny Danish word. And I think they're of Swedish and Norwegian equivalents. For some reason, the Danes have like realized the importance of this word and they use it as both a noun and an adjective, right, and the importance of the cohousing living configuration. And I know that it still exists in the U.S. to some extent. In fact, if you just Google the word “cohousing” and the name of your city, you'll probably find something like the people are out there. It’s just not a commonly— 

Julie:    Unless you’re looking for it, you're not going to run into it. 

Chris:    Right. So, it's tricky because the living configuration is involved, but it's not the whole story. Right? So, as I said, you can let— You know, I lived in a flat in London, which meant one building with multiple units. And those units were in close proximity, but that didn't mean that I shared anything with my neighbors. In fact, I barely even spoke to them. And so, I think this— 

Julie:    I mean, similarly where we lived in Oakland. It was the same. 

Chris:    Yeah. The same.

Julie:    I mean, we shared the laundry and the parking and that was it.

Chris:    That’s right. That’s right. 

Julie:    The most contentious things you could share, you know.

Chris:    Right. Right. But we certainly didn’t share a value system.

Julie:    No. Definitely not. No.

Chris:    So, I think that’s important like friends, right, you’re choosing them.

Julie:    Yes. Yeah. That’s I think where it comes down to like if we wanna start— If this is part 2 of the conversation like what is cohousing, it starts with the value system. What's so different about, you know, this, then? What I experienced in college when I lived with roommates, that was cohousing, wasn't it? Well, no, you probably just moved in with them because maybe you had one friend that you moved in with, but then the other people were either acquaintances— 

Chris:    You can choose them.

Julie:    …or they could afford to live with you.

Chris:    It’s just so happened you got on— 

Julie:    It’s just happened that you ended up— 

Chris:    But do romanticize their time in university living in dormitories. 

Julie:    Oh, totally. I mean, I was just gonna bring that up. It wasn't dormitories, but it was my second and third year of university. It was an apartment complex, but the rooms were rented individually. So, if you went with a group of friends and signed up all together, you would all be in the same place.

Chris:    Right. Yeah. We do that in the second year.

Julie:    But if you didn’t, then you could be put with other people and it was where all the international kids lived. So, this was my first experience with a lot of international cultures and I actually ended up being friends with the Danish kids, and the German kids, and the Swedish kids. 

Chris:    That’s great.

Julie:    And it was amazing because that was like my first experience probably what a real cohousing situation feels like because we did share a lot of things because none of them had cars. So, the people that did have cars, we would go on day trips to take them around and take them sightseeing and do all kinds of things with them because they were only here for, you know, a quarter, or a semester, or what have you. And then if we would go out together, we would all go to one house before. It was usually mine because I did all the cooking. And so, I would cook. Everybody would come over and I would cook and then we would— 

Chris:    What does this surprise me?

Julie:    I know. And then I was too young to go out to the bars, but they would all come over first and I would feed them all and then they would go out to the bars— 

Chris:    That’s amazing.

Julie:    …and have fun and come home and then we would talk, you know, and then we would have like another after party. 

Chris:    That’s incredible. What a deal.

Julie:    It was much fun, you know. So, one of my best friends, Anders and Meredith— 

Chris:    He’s Danish, right? 

Julie:    Yeah. He’s Danish.

Chris:    You should ask him. We haven't talked about this yet. 

Julie:    They're married now. But you know, that's how they met and we've been friends ever since. But that was my first taste of it. 


    And I remember— This is really kind of off topic, but I think it's important because I remember this one particular party. It was at the end of my third year and they were all getting ready to leave. And we were having this cocktail party at a friend's house. And I just remember looking around and thinking it's never going to be better than this.

Chris:    How did you know that? How could you know that?

Julie:    I don't know, but I just had this moment. And I’ve carried it around with me for years because it was like this weird sad moment. I’ve told my brothers each the story because I think it's really important for that time of your life like to really engage in it, and really enjoy it, and really hold on to it because how sad. I don’t know how old I was at that time. Probably 22. Had this like just pause like one of those dream moments where the whole room freezes and you just like can look around to everybody as they are and it freezes time. And I just remember thinking it’s never going to be as good as this again, you know. 

Chris:    That’s incredible insight. That’s the central point in Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. It’s probably another book you read by proxy.

Julie:    Yeah. Yeah. By proxy. Yup.

Chris:    Ostensibly, it’s a book about customer service. Really it’s a book about tribalism. And in the book, I’m pretty sure Tony Hsieh tries to recreate his university dormitory.

Julie:    Yes. I remember you telling me that story. Yeah. That was a moment that I think I would recreate. So, my whole point to this was if I stopped, and I went back, and I took the value system that just so happen that we all just so happened to share in that moment, it was sharing experiences together. Being together and sharing experiences was probably top of that list. Taking care of each other was either before or after that one because I don’t know why. But for some reason, probably because we were just all in the same boat living on our own for the first time, experiencing life for the first time really truly independent of a caretaker. We weren’t in the dormitory. We are cooking for ourselves. We were finally on our own, but then there were all of these other people from outside. And so, for some reason and the American kids like took it upon themselves to be tour guides and show them around and make sure that they had a great time. We were also there for each other. So, it’s like a shared experience thing. And so, those 2 things— I’m sure there were other things, but those 2 things more than anything were what really kind of was the glue that held us together. And I think the reason why we still communicate— I mean, it’s not like we’re best friends and we see each other all the time, but I know that if we went to Sweden and I called my friend, Jensen, and I told my friend, Jensen, that I haven’t seen since college that we were coming, he would roll out the red carpet.

Chris:    Right. Right. [0:32:31][Inaudible]

Julie:    Exactly. Exactly.

Chris:    Yeah. And I think this is very human. Right? I mean, you look back at Christopher Ryan’s work and Sarah Hrdy as well. Like this is the only way that hunter/gatherers could survive. You know, they use this term “fierce egalitarianism”. Right? Everyone’s equal. There’s a lot of sharing going on. And they actively beat out of their children any desire to hold resources for themselves. Right? Like if somebody goes out and hunts meat, then you must share it. Right? The only way that you can survive is through sharing. I think people can intuitively know that it’s like— I mean, how much fun is it to have something if you can’t share it with somebody else. 

Julie:    Right. Totally. And that’s an experience that I hope, you know, my kids get to have somebody. And I wish they could experience it sooner rather than later. And I hope they don’t ever have to have that experience where they look around the room and think that when this done, my life is never going to be that great again, you know, because that’s when the real world starts. I was only like 22 or 23 when I had this stuff. So, how do we stop this?

Chris:    How do we recreate that now? I think this is actually gonna get harder for us if anything because we’ve chosen this unschooling route and I did an interview with resident neurologist Josh Turknett and he did a really good job of explaining why unschooling is a better alternative. We recently surveyed the NBT listeners and asked them if they had any problems feeding the kids and holy shit. I’ve never had the response to any question like we had— 

Julie:    Ask another question. Ask a different question.

Chris:    Yes. A really hard problem. I mean, are you living a completely separate life from the rest of your family are your kids eating a totally different diet? And I think the answer is often yes. And when you dig into it, a major reason why that’s happening is because I send my kids to school they don’t respect my wishes even a little bit. And even if they did, it would still be hard. Right?

Julie:    Oh, that was by far the most common issue that people were having, was I can control at home and then— 

Chris:    What happens at home, but— 

Julie:    And then when your kid gets old enough though, you can’t control them at home either because they’re just too independent and they’re spending more and more of their time outside of the home.

Chris:    Right. But my point is, you know, if we’re going to take the lead here in educating our children, then it takes a village literally.

Julie:    Oh, yeah.

Chris:    Nor should we try and provide all of that education.

Julie:    Yeah. I think the education piece is one that I worry about not very much because our community is very rich with homeschooling and unschooling people. There’s just a lot of them where we live. So, there’s a lot of things to lean into, but it’s different. 


    I mean, the one program that I really want to put her in, it’s like a couple days a week. It’s an outdoor education program. It’s based in nature. It’s outside of hiking, but it’s with other kids, varying ages which is really important. Only 2 days a week. It's a 35-minute drive. So, do I wanna commit to that? I don't know. Can I find somebody to carpool with? I don't know. Is that gonna be consistent and helpful? Probably not. So, it's just like do we move? I don't know. Probably not because that goes against the whole unschooling things. I don't wanna uproot my whole life for this education piece. 

Chris:    Right. So, the point is that we could start sharing resources if we were sharing them with other families. And this is generally true. So, imagine you're the type of guy that likes to do woodwork and I'm the type of guy that spent way too much time at keyboards and I value these hard and analog skills as Cal Newport has talked about and I’m interested in learning some of your skills. You have all these expensive tools. Some of which you couldn’t possibly justify owning on your own. Well, maybe if there was 4 to 5 or 6 families living together, you could have that bad ass workshop with that saw with the computer attached to it that allows you to mill, and cut, and do all this fancy stuff that you could never really justify owning on your own. Well, we could have one of those and have it shared amongst the families so that you could teach other people some of the skills that you've a acquired and then the same is true of you think about really the hard work that goes into the food that we eat. It’s mostly the shopping and the preparation. And by the time you go to do the cooking, most of the hard work is done. Right? And so, could you hire someone that could assist with the shopping and the preparation of your food and even the cooking with the food as well? And the same with the education piece, could you— 

Julie:    And that’s another piece of where the kids could lend a hand and help and learn. I mean, I think about it too like everybody that we've considered, you know, this idea with has some unique skill or ability that I would love to expose my kids to and love for them to have access too. I mean, it is same for me like I think about my creative outlets that I would love to pursue further, you know, in terms of like sewing, and art, and those types of things. Like wouldn't it be amazing to have a studio space where I could share those skills, but then also for fulfill my need to create and do those things and be an example for kids about “Oh, this is how you make space for these things in your life and you don’t have to just abandon them because you're a grown up and you have to get a job.”

Chris:    Right. So, what we’re thinking about, I think this is part of the confusion when we talk to people, is like confusing the strategy with that the tactics. So, the strategy is this idea of a bunch of people living together who agree that it's a good idea to share things, everything, from childcare to chainsaws. 

Julie:    Cars.

Chris:    Cars and that’s a big one.

Julie:    Living expenses. 

Chris:    Exactly. All of these things. They’re probably gonna have to think that ancestral health is a really good idea because I could imagine— 

Julie:    If they wanna live with us, probably. 

Chris:    Probably. You’re probably gonna have to believe that humans have been walking around in the same light-dark cycle for a very long time and that light at night is probably a bad idea, but everyone listening to the podcast already understands that. So, I don't think that's gonna be too much of an issue. And then the tactics are things like “Well, what do you mean? You mean a cul de sac or do you mean like a university dorm room, which is what you described earlier, or do you mean one property with a bunch of tiny homes on it, or do you mean one really big house with lots of bedrooms?” Stephanie Welch talked about that in my interview with her when she talked about the gender segregated communal living. 

Julie:    Which I haven't ruled out. 

Chris:    I think Stephanie solved quite elegantly, but brutally, an important problem like your choice of sexual partner should not affect your domestication, right, like your living arrangement. But I'm not sure that’s like a problem that we have. Right? I wanna kind of take some of what Stephanie talked about in that interview. 

Julie:    Well, I think that’s the whole point of what you just brought up, is that there’s strategy and then theory. You know, some of these things are just gonna have to come to fruition based on the people that show up to solve the problem together. 

Chris:    And speaking of which, I'm sure there’s some people listening who are Danish or know people who are Danish that have done this. Right?

Julie:    Or are not Danish and are American and have grown up in a situation like this or currently living a situation like this.

Chris:    That’s a good point. You might not be Danish, but I think there are some Danes listening to this that have experienced because we don't know what we're talking about, right, because we've never actually done it apart from what happened at university maybe. And so, if you have lived in a situation like this, you know what we're talking about and you're willing to talk to me on the phone or on the forum, then please do reach out. You can email me. My address is or I’ll link to an email address in the show notes so you can find it there because I would love to hear from you particularly that went wrong like I'm very interested in what other things are likely to get— How did this go wrong?

Chris:    Yeah. I know that we have blind spots and I know that things will go wrong.


    We have no kind of assumption that this is going— I mean, obviously, there's gonna be conflict, but this is where the shared value system comes into play. Right? So, having a system and having— You know, if you create this environment with people that you share this value system with, the idea is that you can create a place where you know there's going to be conflict, but you also know that you are committed enough to solve that conflict and that there are policies and procedures in place to deal with conflict no matter how big or small. I think a lot of people who are just learning about cohousing probably want to have that list in front of them before they even start to consider it. 

Chris:    With the whole mapped out. 

Julie:    The whole thing mapped out, you know. And I just don’t think that you can do that.

Chris:    Yeah. No. And I think that’s really important like when you get into contracts. Quite often all they do is erode trust without really covering every eventuality. Right?

Julie:    Right. I mean, I'm not saying that it doesn't take work to create an agreement that people feel confident enough in that they can uproot their lives and make a big giant change. But eventually, we're gonna have to make some kind of baby step to experiment and try this.

Chris:    Exactly. I think experiment is the word that is appropriate here. That is what we're looking to do, is like “Okay. So, what can we do? Can we like Airbnb our place out for the summer and like go somewhere else for a while?”

Julie:    Or do we build an additional dwelling unit on our property and invite somebody else to live here, you know.

Chris:    That seems like a lot more work to me than— 

Julie:    It does, but it doesn't have I don't think very many consequences. So, I think that's why we wanted to have this conversation, right, was because these are the things that keep coming up that we’ll keep talking about. You know, we've created kind of a shared document that we've shared amongst friends that are interested in this or that we've talked to about it. We’ve asked for feedback and it's been fairly silent. And I think it's not— 

Chris:    Don’t say that. I think we've had a decent amount of— Like we said, the people are so busy like it’s the best system to maintain the status quo.

Julie:    Yes. I was gonna say not because that they’re not interested. It’s because like we've talked about. They don't have the capacity or the space at the time to solve the problem, but they are interested. And so, if we solve the problem, if we created the experiment and gave them a list of this is what it's gonna look like, do you want to participate? I think we would have people that were interested and wanted to participate, but I don't think that those people going to stand up and say, “I have an idea. Let's do it this way. I'll take the lead and we’ll—” I don't think that’s gonna happen.

Chris:    Yeah. Exactly. And so, if you support Nourish Balance Thrive on Patreon, you have access to the forum. And if you search for cohousing there, you’ll find the thread. Will Stackable in particular was extremely helpful and Will is of Danish ancestry I believe and that was part of why he knew so much. And he links a couple of really excellent articles. You’ll also find a Google Doc linked from there where I wrote down some ideas and maybe we can get into some of the objections that we've already heard. I think the first one is like, well, this is just people with young families like you. And I think the answer is no and various different podcast guests have pointed this out, in particular Malcolm Kendrick I remember saying like community is just so important and you really don't wanna be lonely if you don't wanna get cardiovascular disease. And how crazy is it that on the one hand we have these parents with young kids struggling to make ends meet and solve the childcare problem and on the other you've got these people who are not able to look after themselves anymore and so they end up in an old people home?

Chris:    Or really starting to worry about the time that they're not going to be able to look for themselves.

Julie:    Yeah. And so, you put those people together. But in some other place over there, never the Twain shall meet. I mean, this is not a new idea either. It’s like people have tried this like the idea of having a daycare in an old people’s home is like not new at all. In fact, this cohousing idea, like that’s— I talked to your dad at knee point and he said, “Well, this is not me.” And I said, “I didn’t say it was new.” And I said, “What’s happened here is the same thing that’s happened with the highly processed food.” You know, for 250,000 years, humans ate a very minimally processed diet and then there was soybean oil. And they told you it was good for you and then we realized actually it was not so good for you and you should probably go back to eating whatever fat was in the meat when you originally slaughtered it, right, without refining it and processing it within an inch of its life. And the same is true of carbohydrates, and protein, and all the rest. Right? And so, it's really just a return to what happens before rather than something completely new. Yeah. Definitely not just for people with young families. I think about your brothers. Your brothers are in the early 20s. Right? So, they’re just not gonna be able to afford to rent or buy anything in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where they were born and grew up.

Chris:    Yeah. Or San Diego where they're currently living. 

Julie:    Right. Why should they have to move away just to be able to live? That seems a bit, you know. We’re very lucky actually. The boys are very— I don’t know all boys are like that, but they’re not necessarily interested in younger kids, but they’re phenomenal. 


Julie:    Yeah. They love, love, love little kids. 

Chris:    Yeah. Phenomenal alloparents. Exactly.

Julie:    Yeah. They are. And the kids adore them and all the girlfriends that they’ve had have been wonderful to the kids as well, but they're all facing the same reality. And I think that their generation is slightly different than our generation and especially different from our parent’s generation in that they’re more open to alternate lifestyle configurations, what have you. I don't think that they're as dedicated to this idea. I finish college. I get a job. I get married. I have kids. I buy a house. You know, I don't think that they're necessarily— 

Chris:    American dream.

Julie:    Yeah. Yeah. Totally. I mean, I was on that track. It wasn’t like I was actively thinking about it, but it was just what needed to be done. And so, there was just like a part of me that like wasn’t satisfied until those things were attained. And it's just kinda fucked up, you know, that we get on this track that we just don't even— We don't even say, “Is this the track I wanna be on?” And if you choose another track, it’s like “Oh. Well, how old are you gonna be when you get married?” And so, I don’t know. I just think that it would be much better if they had an opportunity to live in an environment where, you know, kind of an open invitation. Maybe they don't live there for long or maybe they live there on and off ‘cause they’re traveling, whatever, but they have this opportunity to live without a lot of overhead and also gain the experience of seeing, you know, healthy family units with kids and have the experience of rearing kids and— 

Chris:    At least know what success looks like.

Julie:    Yeah. What it looks like. Hey, I don't have to kill myself for the next however many years to try to make X amount of money so I can afford X size house, so I can have this many kids. Like I just want it to look different for them because I wish it had looked different from the beginning. I mean, obviously, I'm happy with where we— Like how I ended up here was not a linear thing, but I'm happy with where I am. However, I wish I would have recognized at that moment in time that there were options, you know, that I didn't have to necessarily— 

Chris:    Yeah. Exactly so. I made a decision. I did realize I made a decision.

Julie:    Yeah. Exactly. Without making it.

Chris:    I didn’t know there were anything else on the menu. At the moment, there really isn't, right, when you look around. There’s a startup in San Francisco called Star City that you can look at. 

Julie:    I think there's some in other countries as well. 

Chris:    Yeah. So, I think they're in New York, San Francisco, and LA. And the idea is you're a young engineer coming to work at Facebook and it sucks. The going rent somewhere in San Francisco right now is extremely competitive. It's been competitive for decades and then you gotta buy a bunch of stuff, right, or your furniture and a washing machine and all— 

Julie:    A car. 

Chris:    Yeah. Like it just sucks. And so, what Star City is doing like somewhere between a hotel and renting an— 

Julie:    Hostel.

Chris:    …apartment. Yeah. It’s kind of this amorphous thing. You got to go look at it. But it's clearly designed for Facebook engineers that don’t wanna do the laundry, which is not really hard.

Julie:    No. It isn’t. Yeah. So, I think one other objection is that I've heard, you know, from— This is not an objection, but it’s a suggestion like “Oh, well, why don’t you just go and live in a cohousing situation that’s already been created so you can feel it out?” That I think is not happening for us because of not only the value system, but I have not yet seen one that is based around the value system that I could even try to get in line with.

Chris:    Right. And I think this is gonna be the primary way in which we avoid conflict, is if we already shared this value system of sharing and ancestral health.

Julie:    Of sharing and ancestral health and yeah.

Chris:    The friction is gonna be close to zero. Right? And we see that. When we go to the ancestral health symposium for example, we rent a big house and we have a bunch of people who are speaking or attending the conference. We all live together for a few days. 


Chris:    It’s like great. Excellent. Yeah. And so, the next generation, I mean this is really your parents. You are only 10 years older than me weirdly, but is true. And they're about to become empty nesters. Right? So, for the last  however many years— How many years is it? It’s like 35 years. My entire existence has been built around child rearing and then they just all fuck off to college. 

Julie:    Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. 

Chris:    Now, I’m just like sat here in an empty nest.

Julie:    I know.

Chris:    What am I gonna do? 

Julie:    I mean, I think 1 out of 4 is pretty good. You know, I actually came back to the area and have provided grandchildren and I'm reaping the benefits of that, you know. You know, without trying very hard, we walked into the situation of having maternal grandmother as alloparent, which is one of the best situations you can have. Right?

Chris:    Yes. Sarah Hrdy talks about this as well. The maternal grandmother is the ace in the hole and probably everybody listening to this is rolling their eyes because I think the idea of living with their parents is like the worst possible scenario and maybe that's true. But yes, certainly from an evolutionary perspective, having the maternal grandmother around to help with child rearing was evolutionary ace in the hole. And you can look this up online. It’s somewhat controversial, but the idea is that the grandmother hypothesis said the reason that women go through menopause is because to lose them to childbirth at that stage after they’ve acquired so many skills would be a very severe price to pay.


    And so, they cease ovulation. I mean, we saw a program last night with this albatross that was 67 years old. A bird. A 67-year-old breeding bird. And they were filming the rearing of the 37th chick. 67-year-old mother. That’s incredible.

Julie:    That’s incredible. 

Chris:    So, not all animals go through menopause for sure. It's not just a case of, well, the ovaries were never designed to last that long. They just crapped out and they couldn’t go on anymore. There’s something a bit more complicated than that going on.

Julie:    Yeah. I mean, they’re avian and stuff. 

Chris:    So, my point is, you know, these empty nesters and the older people, we know that social isolation is a terrible thing. 

Julie:    That’s the other thing about where we live, is that we are surrounded literally physically surrounded by people who— You know, our neighbor on one hand husband just died. And so, she literally is living on her own. Then our neighbors on the other side are just recently retired, but frantically trying to make space on their 4-acre property to put some kind of additional dwelling unit so they can get some kind of caretaker when they need one. And then we have friends down the road, same thing, who are coming to terms of their mortality and realizing “Oh, I live up on a mountain. I’m extremely isolated. How am I—” 

Chris:    Right. Getting old sucks is what they say. 

Julie:    Getting old sucks. Yeah. And then here we are.

Chris:    But they have so much to offer. 

Julie:    They have so much to offer. All of them. 

Chris:    You know, they all have crazy skills that I can’t even— You know, I’ve got so much learn from them that I’m not gonna learn it by osmosis if our property is like half a mile away.

Julie:    As the crow flies they’re half a mile away, but I mean it’s enough where we don’t see them everyday. You think we would see them everyday, but we don’t because we have no shared resource to come to everyday to see each other. And so, that's a really frustrating thing. But you know, we've been kind of just laughing and saying why don't we just move them all into one house because a lot of them are rarely picked up. Put them all in one big house together and then I'll run the forest school on their property and the kids can— 

Chris:    Amazing. 

Julie:    You know what I mean? And so, it's just there's so many ways that this could work, which is why I think it's important that we point out that I don't think we're ever gonna get to a place we can write it down and make a plan and then execute the plan and it's going to them and then you can just show up and move in. I think we can talk about this to an extent where people really understand it and are willing to show up to the conversation and develop the value system and then we can move forward all together creating what it is that's going to work for us. But no, I don't think I can go knock on our neighbor's door and say, “Hey, we’ve got this great idea.” You know? They're just really stuck in their ways. But I think that if we build it with likeminded people who are just as happy to try to solve this problem with us and I think that they exist and they're out there that that will be enough of a magnet that we can add those other segments of society as we go by. So, I think the young people like my brothers— I mean, I think they would show up if just, you know, had a conversation with them. I don't think they would have a problem with it. But the older generation I think is going to be the harder sell to a point once they get to that place where they’re like “you know, this really sucks, and I’m really lonely, and I’m really on my own, and I don’t have anybody to take care of me”, then they might show up, but I think that’s where we have to get to. We have to get to this place where we’re ready to create the value system and then move forward together. So, this conversation about objections, and theory, and kind of the research behind and all that is really important. And I invite people to join on the forum and I think we should continue this conversation and look for the blind spots and think about where we could fail. But ultimately, what we're trying to get to is a place where were ready to take some kind of small leap to take some kind of small leap to experiment and see if we found the right group of people to move forward with.

Chris:    There’s another objection here and I think we’ve covered this a little bit already. Aren’t you setting yourself up for endless conflict? And there’s an important point here that we didn’t mention. And so, we said that, you know, this is why humans have such big brains and this is the cooperative breeding hypothesis, is this is the reason for it. It’s so that children can learn theory of mind. That is what's going on in somebody else's head. I empathize and learn to resolve conflicts. And the way that they learn that is from alloparents, right, old people who were emotionally more sophisticated than them because they’ve just been around longer. Right? That's part of what makes humans somewhat unique in that regard. But in the story of the human body, Daniel Lieberman coins this term “dysevolution”, which is terrifying. And I’ll just quote him on this. The deleterious feedback loop that occurs over multiple generations when we don't treat the causes of a mismatch disease, but instead pass on whatever environmental factors cause the disease, keeping the disease prevalent and perhaps making it worse. So, Daniel Lieberman's example, think about mushy food. Right? So, we feed our children mushy food that comes from squeezy pouches and that provides insufficient challenge to the developing jaw. 


    As a result, the jaw does not reach its full genetic potential and is too small for the teeth that come later. And so, we all have wisdom teeth that are impacted and it's okay because you can just go to a dentist and have them cut out the wisdom teeth. Problem solved. Right? But in doing so, you facilitate us continuing to feed our kids mushy food. And another example might be glasses in my myopia. Not presbyopia which is long sightedness, but myopia which is short sightedness. And I've made this mistake myself. So, you spend too much time doing close up work and your eyes adapt to the close up work that you've been doing. And then what do you do? You go get a pair of glasses and you support yourself. You solve the immediate problem in the short time, but its environmental factor you then pass on to the next generation perhaps making the problem worse. And so, my question is is the same thing happening with the nuclear family unit that we are designed by evolution, designed with modification to live in survival of the friendliness, right, like in small bands of 25 maybe or maybe more? And so, we had all these features like big brains and theory of mind and all this stuff that allowed us to live in social groups like that. But because we've been in the nuclear family unit for 70+ years now, that part of our brains is starting to atrophy. And so, in the beginning, we might be like the barefoot runner who takes their shoes off the first time. Right? Have you heard of that story? 

Julie:    Yeah. 

Chris:    You know, like I’ve been running in these sweet air cushioned Nikes for the last 15 years and then I read one article about barefoot running. And so, I threw my shoes in the trash and then went for my regular running sessions and then guess what happened?

Julie:    Broke the bones on your feet.

Chris:    Yeah. You got injured. And so, it’s the same thing likely to happen here. Maybe we should probably think about that. 

Julie:    Yeah. I mean, I think it will to varying degrees because I think everyone is devolved to different degrees, you know. Like I can remember a time growing up with a lot of alloparents, but I have a lot of friends and people that we've talked to that don't remember that at all. One of the other things that we’ve talked about, maybe this is one of the objections on your list, but I know that one of the people that we've been talking to, one of their main concerns was that no one was allowed to join unless they were currently actively working on their own shit. So, you are conscious of the fact that you are a flawed human being.

Chris:    Yeah. Always a work in progress. 

Julie:    And you're always going to be a work in progress and that you're showing up for that and you are willing and able to work on that stuff both socially, emotionally, emotional intelligence. All that stuff is something that you’ve recognized and that you are going to continue to work on for, you know, in perpetuity.

Chris:    And there are some frameworks which I think are very helpful. Simon Marshall introduced me to Mindset by Carol Dweck, which I think is an incredibly important piece of work,— 

Julie:    Yeah. Definitely. 

Chris:    …and then also Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Again, very, very important. Things I think everybody should read. Another objection from your dad actually— It’s a good one though. And I’ve actually heard this from someone who I forget. Who told me about this? But anyway, the objection is when certain people end up doing all the work, others take advantage. And so, I could see that with even the kitchen. Right? Julie’s super good at shopping and cooking. You should see Julie in the supermarket. It’s like ruthlessly efficient. No one can understand how you do it and the reason you do it is because it's all on autopilot like you have some sort of shopping subterranean neuro network to get stuff done.

Julie:    That’s our million dollar idea. 

Chris:    Yeah. Exactly.

Julie:    I need to get that out of my head. 

Chris:    Yeah. Exactly. We need transferring learning this. Subterranean shopping neuro networks that can just download the waves and then upload it into somebody else's brain, you know, just be able to execute that subroutine and it will all just work, but yeah. I mean, that's a really good point. Like will you end up in the kitchen doing all the cooking? It seems like a distinct possibility. I can tell by the look on your face that you find this possibility— 

Julie:    Calculating. Calculating. 

Chris:    I think there is a distinct possibility of that.

Julie:    Like it does at AHS when we all stay in the house— 

Chris:    Yeah. Pretty much. I mean, part of it is you’re so fucking good at it and you are very good at taking the lead. Right? And I think most people, you know, when it comes to cooking, they’re quite happy to take a backseat because they’re not very confident in their ability. 

Julie:    So, this will be my point. And as the person that also has this objection, what I think because I've thought about it long enough and I notice the fear and took a step back and said “oh, I’m afraid of that”— 

Chris:    People can sense your confidence and then they’re worried about fuckng up.

Julie:    Yes. Exactly. But I think what I'm getting at here is that I can see like my own fear of this happening and I took a step back to why am I afraid of that. Well, I'm afraid of it because I don't wanna be the one that's doing this all the time, and I don't wanna have to ask for help constantly, and I don't wanna have to delegate. 


    What I want to happen, which is what I’ve been trying to figure out how to transfer this knowledge, is because I think what we've seen happen is people come and stay with us and they see me do it and they’re like “Oh,— 

Chris:    Is that all it is?

Julie:    …that’s all it is. It just takes practice. If I go and practice, I can do that. I can do what you just did.” And so, that's what I think will happen. So, even if it does start out initially where I’m the one doing most of the cooking, which is fine with me because if everybody learned my system, then we would be better off, right, because then we would have a bunch of efficient cooks in the house and that I don't want anybody spending 6 hours a day prepping for 1 dinner like give me a break. Like we need to get away from that. So, if anything, I think this is an opportunity and I can think of a lot of other opportunities where people— as long as learning from each other is part of the value system and making a concerted effort to try new things and expand your skillset so that you have more to offer— 

Chris:    And understanding that you weren’t born gifted in the kitchen. Right? 

Julie:    Yeah. No. 

Chris:    Like this is a skill that you've acquired over many years. Josh Turknett again recommended Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf, which is a bit cheesy. 

Julie:    It's super cheesy.

Chris:    It’s super cheesy.

Julie:    But it was good. 

Chris:    But it's a really good— 

Julie:    It’s a good point. 

Chris:    Yeah. Chop vegetables.

Julie:    It probably could have been like half of the length that it was to get the point. 

Chris:    Oh, you listened to that one in the car. Yeah. 

Julie:    I did. We listened to it in the car together. I really liked it.

Chris:    Yeah. A good one for the kids. It’s this idea that mastery is something that comes in small increments. Right? 

Julie:    Yeah. And sometimes you have to smack yourself in the head over, and over, and over again to get down to the thing that you're trying to master.

Chris:    Right. And I noticed Brianna Stubbs talked about this in the podcast recently that it’s all about the process. Right? Like forget about your stupid goal.

Julie:    Yes. Yes.

Chris:    Commit to the process.

Julie:    Yeah. And I think I’ve realized that recently because I've had a lot of friends like, you know, want to know how I do X, Y, or Z in the kitchen or they ask for a recipe and I'm like “well, I don't know” because I don't follow recipes. So, it takes me a long time to like “Okay. This is how you do it.” So, I've started thinking about how can I teach these people because that's what it is. That's what's frustrating to me. I'm like no. It's not that you need a freezer full of food. It's that you need to figure out that your spending time in the kitchen doesn't have to be this agonizing process. Like you need to reshape. Your process is what screwed up. You can cook. You can follow these directions, but you are so focused on the directions that you haven't taken a step back to realize that you're perfectly capable of cutting out half of these stupid steps to get to the goal. So, it’s about I think, yeah, chop wood, carry water. If you don't think you have the capacity to learn something and change the process that you have been following for a long time and get better at something, then I can't help you, you know. So, if we all show up to this situation open, and willing, and ready to learn other things, then you don't have the excuse. Oh, I can’t do it like you can do it. So, I'm just not gonna try. I think that’s a lot of crap.

Chris:    Another thing I bring up is that historically humans when living in proximity are very good at managing bad actors in the Evolution of Everything, which I like. It’s a good book by Matt Ridley. He talks about common lands in the U.K. So, in the U.K., they have this area called common land. And traditionally, anybody could graze their sheep, or cows, or any animals you wanted on this common land and nobody owned it. Everybody had access. Initially, they thought that, well, when some bad actors move in and they’ll overgraze it, what ends up happening is that the community, they police it. Right? They manage the bad actors and humans have strong negative emotional responses like shame and embarrassment, right, that stop them from doing bad things. And so, one would hope that the same thing might apply here, you know, and feel bad about Julie doing all the cooking and at least make some attempt at offering to do the dishes.

Julie:    And who should do that? You could try. We’re all about learning and trying here, remember? 

Chris:    So, maybe this is a good place to wrap up this episode. But really, this is a call to action. I want you to get involved. I want you to tell us where we’re wrong. And I want you to get involved in the conversation and maybe even up for experiment. We should like go somewhere and live together for a few weeks and figure this thing out. And what's the best way for people to do this? Well, come and join us on the forum is a good place to start. And if you’re Danish and you're willing to do that— Can I do that? Is that like I’m gonna get busted for some sort of racial discrimination— 

Julie:    I don’t know. No.

Chris:    …asking for Danish people specifically? But yeah, if you were Danish and you've already known all about this and you're willing to tell us about your experience, then I'm more than happy to give you access to the forum so you can write about that or if you can call me on the phone, whatever is easiest to you. But the NBT forum is the best place to start. And you can get access to the NBT forum when you support Nourish Balance Thrive on Patreon.


    I should also get Elaine to link to some important episodes that came before this. The first is the need for tribal living in a modern world, which was my interview with Stephanie Welch. And then I did another interview with Josh, which was how to support childhood cognitive development. Josh is our resident neurologist. And civilized death obviously we’re really making progress, which was my interview with Christopher Ryan. And then coming up will be some interviews I hope with Daniel Lieberman and Sarah B. Hrdy.

Julie:    And of course the whole NBT— that catalog about environmental mismatching. 

Chris:    There’s that, but one would assume at this point that everybody is familiar with all of that. But when I look at this cohousing thing and community, you know, it seems like the elephant in the room to me and everything else is just kind of fiddling in the margins. Right? And we see the after age. Social connectedness is the strongest predictor of mortality. If you listen to the podcast on building compassionate communities that Tommy recorded with Julian Abel and the amazing results they got there just by connecting people, bringing them together, and sharing interest, the health outcome that happened there— You know, I see that stuff is so important. And you know, who cares whether how many grams of carbohydrates you eat, right, if you can get that sorted? But it’s also the hardest problem to solve, which is why no one has done it yet.

Julie:    Oh, totally. I mean, the way I’m looking at it and this is what I say to most people when they have their kind of nitpicky objection especially surrounding kind of the way that we live in ancestral health— “Oh, you’re saying I can never eat gluten again and…” I’m like “Okay. Well, some of this stuff is just gonna fall by the wayside because you’re just gonna feel better and you’re gonna see— So, as soon as you start to do better, you’re gonna feel better, all this stuff is just gonna figure itself out. I don’t think that the community will be made or broken over gluten. So, I’m trying not to focus on those things so much, but I think that when you say “oh, it’s based in ancestral health”, I think people are like “Oh, does that mean that we also have to eat dinner at 4 and go to be bed 8?” You know, not initially, but I think you probably will end up that way.

Chris:    You know, as Cal Newport pointed it out in the podcast, it’s important to do the full cost-benefit analysis. Right? Like I’m not claiming there’s not gonna be a cost to this. I’m just saying that if you net it all out, I think you’ll find it’d be worth it. I don’t know yet, but we have— 

Julie:    I don’t know yet. Yes.

Chris:    …to do the experiment.

Julie:    I think so too and I think we— I can’t say that we have it all figured out anyway. It’s like we live this way and it works for us right now. But maybe if we were living in an environment with other people and in a community, we would— I mean, ‘cause this happens when we travel. Right? I mean, when we travel, we’re usually staying with people we know and love, which is one of the reasons why that’s like my backup plan for this cohousing thing not working out, is we’re just gonna go travel the world and stay with the people we know and love because that works out for us. But yeah, we become more flexible in our habits and our lifestyle when we’re doing that. And I think that’s part of the reason, is because you’re influenced by other people. And when you have support and when you have a lot of the other things that you need, you don’t have to be as regimented, or as strict, or as whatever about certain other things. So, I don’t wanna be super specific or harp on any one particular ritual or thing that we do in our life as being a deal breaker for this whole thing, but I do think we have this tremendous amount of knowledge to share with others, but I still think we have a lot to learn especially in terms of community from other people who have probably lived in more communal situations or have just more life experience with building communities, and sharing resources, and all of that.

Chris:    Yeah. Absolutely. I think I’ve got a lot to learn from other people. I spent the first 35 years of my life in a room programming a computer.

Julie:    Yeah.

Chris:    Absolutely. Yeah. So, come join the discussion that’s happening on the NBT forum and thank you so much for listening. And yeah, I’ll see you over there. Thank you.

[1:08:55]    End of Audio

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