Maximus

by Raven Cotyledon

I first met Maximus because I was part of the Point A team trying to build communes in East Coast cities.  I wanted to do something in the Boston area (where I have lived most of my life), so when we were able to do a talk at MIT, and I sent out stuff to all the local co-ops, I was excited that we got a fair attendance from them.  I was hoping a co-op in the Boston area would be interested in becoming a commune. A woman in one of the local co-ops said she thought that she knew someone who might be interested in income-sharing. It was Maximus, and he was starting a co-op in Binghamton, NY. Since then, Maximus has lived at the Cambia community in Louisa, VA, and East Brook Community Farm in Walton, NY.

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Maximus

Maximus is a graduate student at Binghamton University studying evolutionary biology.  His focus is on communal living and his passion is making videos about it. He recently made a video about me and I am returning the favor here by making a blog post about him.

I stopped managing Commune Life about the middle of February last year and it drifted for a while until Maximus decided to take it over last summer. But Maximus had bigger plans for Commune Life than just the blog. He started a YouTube channel and a Facebook page and got people to help him build a social media presence as well as an Instagram site.  He also decided to create a Patreon page to help fund all this.

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I agreed to post once a month on the blog and was the only one who posted on it until I decided to return to managing the Commune Life blog in January.  Meanwhile Maximus had turned Commune Life into a small empire. Since I returned to the blog, Maximus and I have been working together on Commune Life, with me focusing solely on the blog, and Maximus working with others to keep the whole Commune Life entity going.

Recently, Maximus began putting the posts from the Commune Life blog up on our Facebook page which has driven up traffic on the blog. He has been strongly encouraging others to make videos and has gotten Rejoice and Julia to create them, giving some diversity of views of the communes.

Maximus and I were also recently down at Twin Oaks, mostly because we are on an FEC financial team together, but Maximus took the opportunity to create a video about the latest Twin Oaks hammocks product. Hopefully that will be up on the Commune Life YouTube channel soon.

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Maximus in front of the Twin Oaks dining hall

I have been saying that the communes are a force for social change. Maximus is documenting the process in great detail. Thank you, Maximus, for the amazing work that you are doing.

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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

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

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

Maximus

Small Percentages

by Raven Cotyledon

I wanted to entitle this post “Communes are Only a Very Small Percentage of Communities, and Communities are Only a Very Small Percentage of the Ways People Live,” but I figured that title was way too long to fit.

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In the nineteen-eighties, I was involved with a radical group and lived in a house with a bunch of folks including a woman also involved with this group. She said that one of the purposes of being so radical was not to expect that everyone would be radical but that we would push the dialogue left, helping moderates become liberal and liberals become progressive.

I do not expect everyone to live in a commune or even some form of community, but I want as many people as possible to know that communes and communities exist. I realize how small a percentage of the population lives in communities, let alone communes, but I think that everyone can learn important things about sharing, in fact radical sharing, from the communes.

Diana Leafe Christian, in her book Finding Community, briefly complains about how well known the communes are, given how small a percentage they make up of the communities movement. She says, “The first reason for this prominence, I think, is because income-sharing communitarians tend to be activists, if not enthusiastic proselytizers, for their radically non-competitive way of life.  For them, having a close-knit and intimate group (in the smaller communes), pooling incomes, taking care of each other financially, and being on a level playing field with fellow members financially is a form of political activism, and they’re proud of it.”
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Well, it’s true. I don’t think communards actually proselytize, but many of us (myself included) see living this way as a challenge to our competitive, capitalist society. I don’t expect everyone to do it but I want it known that it’s possible.  That’s the reason for this blog. That’s the reason that I talk with people, go to events (like the panel on sharing in communities that I was on Thursday, 2/7), and help start things like the meetup group in Manhattan on Communes and Communities that I am a co-organizer for.

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In a time when life in this society is only becoming more stressful, when inequality is increasing, and when people are feeling more and more isolated, our tiny number of communities, point to a different way.  And while I doubt we will ever include a large or even medium percentage of the population, I certainly want to grow our movement. I see us as the seed for something bigger. And I hope that this blog helps water that seed.

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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

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

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

Small Percentages

Warts and All

by Raven Cotyledon

I sometimes worry that this blog sounds too much like “Rah, rah, communes!”  I don’t want anyone to think that the communes are perfect or that we are trying to claim that the communes are perfect.

Far from it.  The communes are filled with people and since there aren’t any perfect people, there aren’t any perfect communes. It’s true that many of the communes have high aspirations but even if the people in them managed to perfect themselves, the boundaries between the communes and the rest of society are very porous, with folks leaving and new folks coming in all the time.

Almost any ill that you can find in society, you can find in the communes.  I have hung around at various communities long enough to see the problems and bad behaviors fairly close up.

 

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Diagram of a wart

I occasionally think about writing this and even giving some of the gory details so this blog doesn’t sound too idealistic and to balance things out, but I generally don’t because, first, it would make me very unpopular at what ever commune I talked about, second, because folks who are threatened by the very existence of our communes would publicize these incidents as a way to destroy our communities,  and third, none of these are anything that you can’t find in some corner of any city, or for that matter, almost any rural town.

So, if the communes share all the problems the rest of the society has, why put all the work into creating them?

My answer is that they are also doing some things that you can’t find anywhere else. For example, Twin Oaks does have their fair share of problems and even pass out a booklet saying that they are not utopia, but they also have nearly a hundred people who live communally and share way more than you will find almost anywhere else, and they have been doing it for over fifty years, and contrary to many people’s expectations, there is no dictator or group of people that run everything.

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Charlie Chaplin as the Great Dictator

I say this because I saw something where someone commented on an article about Twin Oaks that any arrangement like that ‘invariably’ ended up with a small group running everything–and, honestly, Twin Oaks is a communist society, and the mainstream wants you to believe that a communist culture has to end up in a dictatorship. I can tell you that no one there would allow it.

I single out Twin Oaks because they are the oldest and biggest of the communes, but every one of the communes is an experiment, trying to live a different and better way. Some work (at least in the sense they last) and some fail, but each is a valiant effort and we can learn from each failure and each success about what is possible. And given the very fallible people they are filled with and the society that they are surrounded by, they struggle with all the problems you can name.

But I prize each of them, warts and all, because they point the way to another future. Another world is possible, and we are carving the way.

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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

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

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

Warts and All

The Blog is Back

by Raven Cotyledon

If you have looked at this blog over the last six to nine months, you will have noticed that there have not been a lot of posts.  I stopped managing Commune Life about the middle of last February due to a combination of internal politics and some burnout. Since then, the quantity of posts has gone way down, with a flurry of posts around this summer’s Communities Conference. Over the last few months there has been one post a month, written by me.

Prior to February, we had been publishing three posts a week, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. One of the things contributing to my burnout was trying not to have most of the posts be written by me.  I was constantly contacting communards and requesting posts from them. Unsurprisingly, most communards are busy people. The most common response that I got was that they thought it was a great idea and would love to write something–when they had time. Sometimes they would write something, eventually.  Often the result was repeated email chains promising “soon…” or, worse, no longer even responding to my emails.

In spite of that, I managed to keep to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule for twenty-one months, nearly two years.  Some folks might regard this as a symptom of insanity. Further proof of insanity would be that I intend to return to that schedule again, starting with this post.  But there are some differences.
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The biggest is that this blog is now part of a whole Commune Life family.  Maximus took over the management of Commune Life this summer and has expanded it to include a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, and an Instagram feed.  Commune Life is no longer a lonely little outpost, but part of its own little community. One of my difficulties had been having no understanding of or skill with social media. Now there are other folks working on the social media aspects.

Where I had devoted Mondays to new articles and Wednesdays to photoessays, this time around, I will include both on Mondays and use Wednesdays to repost the YouTube videos that Maximus and others have been making.  Fridays will once again feature re-posts of pieces about communes from around the internet. And, unfortunately, many of the Monday pieces will probably be from me.

I will apologize in advance. I want to show the diversity of income-sharing communities and feature a variety of writers but, given how busy communards generally are, I will give them and me a break, and just write a bunch of the upcoming posts.  That said, I still hope to get as much new stuff from other folks as I can. This is not *my* blog and there is a good chance I may get other folks involved in the future which may result in more writers on this blog.

And while most of the communities featured will be part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, occasionally we will do posts on communes out of the FEC, either because the communities aren’t in North America or because they don’t fit in the current FEC criteria, which I hope will change soon and I will talk about next week.

Finally, and best of all, the blog and the YouTube videos and Instagram pix and Facebook features are all part of one endeavor. Or goal is to show that communal life is a vibrant reality.   Another world is not only possible, it’s here. And at Commune Life, we want to make it visible.

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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

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

Communards

  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Bryan Utesch
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft

Thanks!

The Blog is Back

What it’s Like to Organize All Three Twin Oaks Conferences

By Julia Onedia

“Ask me again in September.” This phrase is my shield against requests of all kinds—everything from friendly hangouts to an offer to join the tofu management team. I say it so often now that I’m just waiting for the moment when someone asks me “what’s your name?” and all that I can say is a dreamy “September…”.

I was the Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering intern in 2016, which is why I decided to join Twin Oaks [you can read more about my protracted membership process in a future post]. Therefore, it was only logical that I would become a Women’s Gathering organizer this year. I’ve been attending the planning meetings since I was a visitor in January; I traveled to the farm from Baltimore for every meeting but one between then and when I became a member on May 26th.

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Twin Oaks Conference Site Pavilion Roof

At some point this spring, I joined the Queer Gathering team thanks to some friendly pestering from the original organizers. From there it became a slippery slope: I was just dipping my toes into Communities Conference work when someone who had agreed to bottom-line the whole conference suddenly left the community to take care of a family member. At that point, I decided to stop fighting it, and I allowed the conference beast to consume my being in its entirety.

As July inches in, everything is eerily calm. The conference site is slowly becoming habitable after its long winter hiatus. I usually have no more than twenty unread emails in my inbox at any given time. I still have time for tofu shifts, cooking, and childcare. But I know that’s all about to change.

Come find me at the Queer Gathering on August 3rd—only slightly deranged—as I lead a workshop on using glitter to battle gender dysphoria and body hate. Then, join me again at the Women’s Gathering on August 17th, slipping into full lunacy as I fittingly lead a group of women to howl and scream at the moon and the sky (it’s healing, I swear). Finally, you might recognize me as hot pink hair on a human-potato hybrid at the Communities Conference from August 31st to September 2nd  as I coordinate childcare and put out (hopefully metaphorical) fires all over the conference site.

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Portrait of the communard as a conference-induced human/potato hybrid

On September 3rd, I sleep. Then you can ask me your questions.

If you want to follow developments of the events on Facebook, here are the pages for these events:

What it’s Like to Organize All Three Twin Oaks Conferences

Gresham’s Law for Communes

by Paxus

There is a little known and not particularly important “law” in economics called Gresham’s Law.  It states that “bad money forces out good money”.  What it is referring to is important for coin collectors and sometimes for treasuries.  For example, in 1965, when they started issuing quarters which had copper cores in them, fairly quickly the all silver quarters disappeared.   Coin collectors and people predicting the increasing value of silver pulled them from the market.

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There is a much more important principle in communes, which is parallel.  Bad communards force out good communards.   Unlike the economic law above, this can be an extremely important and tragic situation.  People who live in income sharing communities, with some regularity ask themselves, “Should I return to the mainstream?” While there are lots of good things about living in communes, the mainstream for different reasons always has some appeal to most communards.  It might be the night life, or the higher disposable income, or the greater privacy, or the social acceptance or a larger dating pool.  (Some of these problems can be solved by living in an urban commune.)

This means when there is a serious conflict between people in a community, many people, at least fleetingly, consider the option of leaving.  For some problematic members, the community is by far the best option.  The mainstream life was perhaps not treating them well, they had limited options, and the commune is satisfying all their needs.  For some talented members, Babylon is offering all kinds of treats and rewards for leaving the commune.  For some small number of especially problematic members, this can means that they can get what they want (the other person leaving) by just digging in and being assholes.

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Communes hate to talk about this.  We are egalitarian, right?  We are all equal, right?  There are no good members and no bad members?

Bullshit.  We are egalitarian, certainly.  People have access to the same resources and people’s work is evaluated the same hour for hour.  But there are definitely “good members” who contribute to the community in lots of different ways: it might be their musical ability, or their ability to facilitate a meeting, or their marketing or plumbing skills.  They might simply make everyone happy when they are around.  There is certainly no “objectively good” member; it is a judgment call.  But talk to anyone who has spent time in a community and ask them if there are members who they were very sad to see leave, and they will confirm this for you because of the loss to the community when they departed.

Similarly, there are “bad” members.  And they can be bad for lots of different reasons.  They can be corrosive to the social fabric of the commune, they can be sexist or intolerant,  they can have under managed mental health problems which bleed out onto the community, or they can be pernicious gossips (something i am accused of occasionally). And they can just be assholes.

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This does not mean they should not live in the community.  It does not mean they should have any less access to our collective resources.   If we have selected them for membership, knowing these things about them then we have added them to our family and we need to be responsible for our choice.

But this dynamic is something to be aware of.  It is often the case that people come to Twin Oaks, for example, knowing that living at Twin Oaks would be very good for them.  Transformative, healing, giving them the chance that they always deserved.  And the right thing might be to reject them anyway.  Despite many people’s desires, we are not principally therapeutic communities.  And you need not have a mental health problem to benefit from being in one of these communes.  Often times living collectively, if done with an open heart and self-reflection can help cure you of being an asshole.  Because they are pointing it out to you, people are encouraging you to self-correct and play better with others.  [Commune life has not cured me of being a gossip. In fact, i am worse because there are so many strange and amazing people to talk about.]  It does not always work out this way but it can.

Communes need to ask themselves, “Is this person we are considering for membership good for us, collectively?”  If the answer is “no”, then it does not matter how good commune life might be for them, they should live somewhere else.    This does not mean everyone rejected from a community is a “bad person” hardly.  There are all kinds of reasons why it might not work for someone to be in a particular commune.

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But understanding the dynamics of Gresham’s Law of Communes is important to make sure that you don’t lose members who you really want to hold onto because they have other options when the person they are in conflict with might not.

 

 

 

 

 

Gresham’s Law for Communes