The Story

It is a curious thing to be born in the 21st century.

We are four white, middle class, European, university-degreed men, who were lucky enough to grow up with little material sorrows. We have been well prepared to continue the society our parents have built up, to join in the tandem of production and consumption that has made our countries what they are. Yet although we did what was expected of us, we found ourselves ever more confused.

We saw how man conquered the earth relentlessly. We saw him burning down rain forests, polluting oceans, slaughtering cattle, and exploiting his own comrades. We understood ever more that the life we were prepared for was connected to all this; intrinsically intertwined with human suffering and environmental destruction.

None of us felt good contributing to such dynamics.

But how does one refuse to participate to a system that has eradicated all alternatives anyway?

As individuals, we found ourselves overwhelmed by the immensity of trying something new. But together, we could give it a try. With eight hands instead of two, we felt capable of taking risks, of simply leaving our life behind and looking for a place to try something different.

Puyuelo, an until recently abandoned village in the Pyrenees, is where we ended up.

Here we found the possibility to take responsibility for our own lives more than ever before. Here we can grow our own food, work on things we consider useful, try to reduce our consumption and pollution to a minimum. And that is tangible. We have seen our efforts crystallize in the bread we make, in the ruins that become houses again, or in the joy it brings to be able to share this hill with other people.

Do not misunderstand me. We still have many more questions than answers, but isn’t that exactly what keeps one alive? To us, those who believe they possess the absolute truth are the dull ruminants, the colorless painters, and the wordless poets.

What we do know is that the way we live in Puyuelo has been normal for centuries and that now, in a time where a couple of basic technologies have made this life more comfortable than ever, a lot of people have suddenly come to think of it as impossible, as utopian or naïve. We have not found answers for the multiple crises humanity is facing, nor aspire to do so.

Yet what we do here is as simple and straightforward as it gets. It is living in this world, with this world, observing and serving, trying to coexist rather than to dominate.

Every time I see how the morning fog hangs heavy above the valley, how the sunset turns the sky into a Pollock painting, or how a deer disappears into the bushes of what is now my backyard, I am overpowered by a simple and light-hearted joy. Only the future will tell if we are like Don Quijote and Sancho Panza, yet all I can express now is how grateful I am that we have found this village just before it disappeared forever.

We will build it up stone by stone, no matter how useful or useless that is, simply because it makes us feel alive.