Another Question of Size

Sometimes, size doesn’t matter.

I realize that I have asked questions about commune size twice now. In the first one I asked about the optimal size for a community. I only got four comments.

I suspect that I forgot about that. This time I asked whether someone would rather live in a large or small community. I got exactly two comments.

Here’s the post:

And here are both of the comments. At least it is interesting that one voted for large and one voted for small.

Feel free to comment, if you have an opinion but, based on my Facebook feedback, I don’t expect much (or maybe anything) in the way of comments.

Another Question of Size

A Question of Cleanliness

So here is the next in my series of Facebook questions. Having lived in several types of communities (communes, co-ops, ecovillages, and at least one hybrid community) I noticed a re-occurring problem in all of them was caused by the fact that different people have different standards of cleanliness. Given that, how does a community set a standard. Here is what I wrote at the end of February:

While there weren’t a lot of responses to the question, I thought that what there was displayed the spectrum of where different people in the communes fall.

I realized that I never added my own comment–I will just say that at this point, I have decided that I am willing to clean up after people.

One of the differences between co-ops and communes that I often point out to folks is that co-ops have chores and communes have work. I believe that in a co-op living situation, everyone puts in a fee which they take from whatever they get from working outside the home. Since most people (and everyone in many co-ops) have outside work, the only way to get things like cleaning done is to make them chores.

In a commune, since all money is equal, the currency is the work you do, and all work is valued, money earning or not. So cleaning is just another type of work. I happily clean up after people because I view this as my job, just as other people are working hard doing other things to keep the commune going. If I start feeling resentful, I simply think of all the things that they are doing that benefit me, and I see all that I am doing as just another piece of that work. And I happily take on cleaning up the messes as the work that I have chosen to do.

A Question of Cleanliness

We’re baaack… for a month…

by Raven Glomus

For those of you who might have been missing this blog, we will be back and very active for the month of June.  How active?  I intend to have something every day this month.

How can that be?  Wasn’t I complaining about burning out from having to put stuff out three times a week?  Well, yes, but this is completely different.  I have been making sure (with a lot of help from Theresa) that there is content every day on Facebook.  This will continue.  What I am doing on this blog will be just (mostly) reposting stuff that is on Facebook (going back to February) that seems interesting and hasn’t been on this blog.  In a sense, this is a continuation of what I had been doing with the Friday posts (the Facebook question reprints).

So this is a labor of love almost totally for all of you who follow this blog and are not (and very probably don’t want to be) on Facebook.  I am totally sympathetic with this.  I hate Facebook.  I am only on it because it offers a platform that has a much higher viewing rate than this blog.  So it is my pleasure to feed back the work that we have been doing there to this blog so anti-Facebook folks can read it, enjoy it, and learn from it.

I am only promising this for the month of June.  We will see where this blog goes from there, but, hey, enjoy this month–as well as the warmer weather (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere).

(PS I will not be signing all these posts, but when I say, “I”, I mean me, Raven.)

We’re baaack… for a month…

A Question of Family

This is the last, for now, in a long series that I’ve been posting here on questions that have gone up on the Commune Life Facebook page. Unfortunately, I am putting this blog on an indefinite hiatus as of Monday

Here’s the first question we reposted, from way back in November, and here is the latest and ninth. This final question was posed by me (Raven) in mid-February and came about because of the reactions that I saw in some of the communards at the Communities Conference in 2018.

The first response was from someone who moved into a collective in Syracuse and was surprised by the responses she got:

This was followed by some short takes from people:

Before Rejoice chimed in with a very, very long response:

Rejoice finished off this comment and then offered an additional reflection:

This invoked two additional comments, from Theresa and Kazmira, the original commentor, both reacting to what Rejoice said:

A Question of Family

A Question of Size

This is the next in a long series that I’ve been posting here on questions that have gone up on the Commune Life Facebook page. Here’s the first question we reposted and the second and the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth and  the seventh, and, from last week, the eighth

At the very end of January, I posted this question that I have heard others talk about:

I don’t know if this really isn’t a subject that a lot of folks are concerned about or whether people are just getting burned out on so many questions, but there weren’t a lot of comments. However, I thought that the four comments that this question got, were interesting:

I realized that I (Raven) never responded to my own question. I will put my thoughts out here.

I agree with Theresa that a large network filled with communities of all sizes is ideal, because I think that different sized communities appeal to different people. I also think that there is such a thing as too small and, perhaps, too large.

First of all, I think that less than four people is not a community. Three people is often just a couple plus a friend, or possibly a three-some. I think that you need to have at least four folks to have a real community. (And sometimes, even then, it’s just two couples.) But I also think that having four or five members is still a very brittle community. If you lose one or two members, the entire community can be gone. (This is something that I have experienced and find it useful to think about. I think that I will post more about this on Monday.)

On the too large side is Dunbar’s number. I think that there is a reason that Twin Oaks has not quite reached a hundred adult members and many communes and communities fall far short of this. I know that Dancing Rabbit has talked about wanting to be a village of five hundred to a thousand people. As far as I know, after twenty years they have never had more than seventy people. They keep getting new people but I think that they are also losing folks at a similar rate.

I think that once you get to over a hundred people, it really seems less like a community and more like a village. I think that many people want the intimacy of smaller communities, even if they also want the diversity that is possible in larger communities.

Feel free to chime in, in a comment, if you have an opinion about the ideal size of a commune.

A Question of Size

Questions about Rural Communes

This is yet again the next in a series that I’ve posting here on questions that have gone up on the Commune Life Facebook page. Here’s the first question we reposted and the second and the third and the fourth and  the fifth and the sixth and, finally, the seventh

Towards the end of January, I (Raven) posted this question asking what people thought about rural communes:

It got a lot of folks looking at it and had eleven comments. The first three were people speaking from their experience:

Then came the quick, often one word answers–although Clint Brown wrote a second comment to clarify:

Finally, Zamin K Danty wrote a longer, deeper response, and Boone Wheeler made one final point:

Questions about Rural Communes

Are Communes Cults?

by Raven East Brook 

A few weeks ago, Twin Oaks communard Keenan went on to Reddit and said that he lived in a commune in Virginia and invited folks to ask him anything. He got over nine thousand comments.

Many of the comments were very good questions.  However, a number of people asked if Twin Oaks was a cult and several commenters insisted that it was. And the more that Keenan said it wasn’t, the more that they decided that meant it was.

Of course, a good question is, what is a cult?

This was a cult.

Merriam Webster defines a cult as: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (such as a film or book)” and “a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion”.

First and foremost, there is no great leader at Twin Oaks or any of the other communes; no one is the object of “great devotion”.  There is a reason we call ourselves “egalitarian” communities. There is no one in charge. About the only thing that everyone agrees to at Twin Oaks is that sharing is a good thing and I doubt that many people there would say that they are “devoted” to sharing. 

There is also this notion that people are trapped in cults; that they are not allowed to leave. We are definitely not cults by this definition. People leave Twin Oaks and the other communes all the time.

A third way that cults are talked about is claiming that everyone is required to believe the same thing. As I said above, about the only thing that everyone believes in, in the communes, is sharing and I am not even sure that everyone believes in that. On any other subject, I am sure that if you talked with ten communards, you’d get twelve different opinions–at least. 

This is Twin Oaks. Not a cult. Really.

I suspect that what these commenters mean by cult is that we are different. We’re weird. I am not disputing that. In a capitalist, individualistic society, where people are encouraged to get what they can for themselves, and maybe a few loved ones, doing this radical amount of sharing, and working on being as equal as we can be, is very different. 

The idea that we could share everything is very threatening to some people. They want to say that it would never work, but it’s been working at Twin Oaks for more than fifty years and it is still working. So they dismiss it as a cult. 

I am not claiming that this level of sharing will work for everyone or that this is something everyone should do.  I am just saying that this is a real option and it can work. 

We are not creating cults at the communes, we are creating culture. 

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Are Communes Cults?

Children, Families, and Single Parents

by Raven East Brook 

A couple of weeks ago, I put a post here about how communities deal with abusive members and entitled it, “Misbehaving”.  The title was intended to be provocative and to illustrate it, I searched for images of folks misbehaving. I found a couple of pictures of kids acting out and used them to illustrate the piece. I thought that they might add some humor to my post. 

Someone in my community pointed out that these weren’t appropriate and I also got feedback in the form of comments when it went up on Facebook.   I want to apologize and say clearly here that children are seldom, if ever, the cause of real problems in community. The issues I was pointing out all involved abusive adults. 

A family at Twin Oaks

Unfortunately, children, who bring so much to communities, are often not accepted into income-sharing communities, particularly if the communities are stressed out. Families and single parents have a harder time getting into communes and often staying in communes than people without children. 

This is truly unfortunate and something that we need to change. While I can understand the issues on both sides, we can’t simply reject folks with kids. 

A family at East Wind

I want to say here that I was part of a commune in the 1990s that helped raise two children, who are now lovely adults. I also know how much energy it took. There were usually five or six adults in the community and, although this wasn’t supposed to be the focus of our commune, parenting issues took up a lot of our time. (We actually did communal parenting, which I suspect few communities do.)  I often wonder how my parents did it with two adults and five children, when we could barely deal with two kids when there were five adults. 

I think that this is incredibly important work. If we are going to claim to be a real alternative to this dysfunctional society, we are going to need to figure out how we can support parents and families. We are going to need to take on the responsibilities involved in raising children. Communes and communities need to open their doors to families and single parents.

It does take a village to raise a child. We need to be those villages. 

Another child at Twin Oaks

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Children, Families, and Single Parents

Misbehaving

by Raven East Brook

There is a dilemma that seems to happen often in communities, particularly the older communities, but it could happen in a newer commune after it’s been around a while.

Let’s take a guy, who I will call Aaron (only because it’s first in the alphabet).  Aaron has been with the community for a while and has done a lot and is well regarded, but Aaron has a problem.  Maybe it’s alcohol or drugs, maybe it’s just testosterone or anger management. Every so often Aaron says something that’s really inappropriate, perhaps it’s a statement that’s racist, or misogynist, or transphobic, or maybe just plain cruel.  The community knows this happens but many folks are fond of Aaron for one reason or another. Newer members are outraged and want to have Aaron kicked out but other members feel like they want to give Aaron another chance.

Or maybe it’s Barbara, who suffers from PTSD.  Again, she has been around a while and has folks that really care for her.  But occasionally she becomes triggered and screams at someone, or is abusive, or even throws something at someone.  Again the community is divided.

The dilemma is how much misbehavior to tolerate.  How much do we believe that people can change or that we don’t just “throw away” people?  How much do we believe in forgiveness and compassion and rehabilitation? And what are the rights of the victims?

Often the older members that misbehave are tolerated and newer members become disgusted and leave.  On the other hand, tossing out anyone who doesn’t behave the way we would like can be a formula for a very turbulent community where no one knows if they might say the wrong thing and be asked to leave next.

And who sets up the standards for behavior?  Who gets to decide what’s tolerated or not? A lot of things can seem obvious to outsiders but it becomes a lot more painful when someone that you care about is the person that misbehaves.  And how much do you take into account that they are dealing with an addiction or something like PTSD?

What do we do about Aaron and Barbara?  Do we treat them differently because they have different problems (and different genders)?  Do we follow some rigid rule? Do we only give x number of chances? Or do we decide everything on a “case by case” basis?

I am sure that some folks will have clear, simple answers for what the communities should do with Aaron and Barbara, but it’s not easy when you actually live in one of these situations.  These are questions that tear apart communities and result in accusations being thrown around. I don’t think that there are easy answers but I applaud the communes for struggling with these issues and caring about all the people involved.  Who knew that caring about people could be so difficult?

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Misbehaving