Reflections on this work

…from Kassia

From a young age, I yearned to share my life with other people.  Before coming to Virginia, I was part of a (temporary) Jewish spiritual community.  This experience of deep sharing, seeing and being seen, and the sense of loss that followed fueled my hunger for community.  When I landed at Twin Oaks for the first time in 2002, I knew that something special and important was happening: 90 people sharing resources and creating a new culture!  Twin Oaks served as the second portion of my college education.  I learned to bake bread, garden and milk cows, cook for 90, communicate difficult things, hold complex relationships, and deeply value cooperative living and sharing resources.  I served on the board of planners and played in a klezmer band.  My values solidified, and I left firmly grounded in egalitarianism and cooperative living, committed to reducing my environmental impact and creating an alternative culture.

I left Twin Oaks in 2006 and embarked on a 2.5 year journey to travel and explore, and craft a life for myself post-Twin Oaks.   During this transition time, I came face to face with the rapidly changing world outside of Twin Oaks’ safe bubble of alternative culture.  Traveling on the West Coast and in Europe reiterated my sense of the immediate and pressing need for large-scale culture change, particularly in this country.  On the WC and in Europe, the need to create alternatives to the capitalist/consumerist/corporate driven paradigm we have been living under is unavoidable, and filters into most conversations.  We are killing our planet at an alarming pace.  Equally alarming is the alienation and disconnection from which so many people suffer. I believe that these two problems, and their potential solutions are inextricably linked.  It is imperative that we create joyful alternatives to the current cultural and environmental paradigm that is failing our planet and ourselves.

At the same time, my own personal imperatives in the world include two more strains of engagement.  In addition to feeling compelled to work towards large scale transformation and healing, I also feel called to do this in a small scale, intimately personal way.  For the time being, this manifests through massage work and training to be a doula.  Creative expression is an equally important aspect of my being, which at the moment largely manifests through playing music and singing. Creative expression is vital for reconnecting and re-grounding, and for creating a sustainable and joyful life.  As Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution.”

As we embark on our adventure in Charlottesville, I am striving to balance
these three: macro transformation, micro transformation, and creative expression, in myself and my life, and to make them manifest in everything that I do.

… from Sky

I first started exploring intentional community when I was 18.  It didn’t take long for me to become very invested in the idea.  At first, my theoretical understanding was limited.  Primarily, I knew that relationships were important to me and that the spectrum and depth of relationships possible in community were much higher.  Also, I was brought up with a strong streak of environmentalism, and a sense of imperative to help “save the planet.” Living in community seemed like clearly one of the best ways for people to reduce their impact on the earth.  And while my theoretical understanding has become much more nuanced over the last 10 years, these two basic principles have remained fundamental. I left Twin Oaks a year and a half ago and am moving into what is for me the second phase of my adult life.

I’ve found myself studying economics over the last year. I’ve learned how our corporate-run, global-capitalist economy fosters scarcity and competition, social alienation and paralysis, as well as environmental destruction and poverty. Last year in Portland, when gas prices were soaring, Kassia and I heard and over-heard several stories and conversations from people who needed a car to get to their job but could no longer afford the gas.  The common phrase each time was, “I don’t know what to do.”  I find this a very powerful and provocative statement, and one we’re likely to start hearing more and more often.

Sharing is important.  Learning to share may be the most important lesson facing the world right now. Sharing is something Twin Oaks does a lot of.  If you live at Twin Oaks you never have to worry about paying rent, health care, food, or any of your other basic needs, for the rest of your life.  This is amazing, but it is limited.  It is great for the 100 or so people who happen to live there.  And after 42 years it is clearly not a model that is going to be emulated by significant numbers of people.

Over the last year, a question has been rolling around in my head:  What would this centralized network of systems that provide for the needs of 100 people on 450 acres in the country look like if it were extrapolated to a decentralized network providing for the needs of, say, 10,000 people in a city?  I think it’s crucial that we create opportunities to support ourselves and each other without the need to earn money to pay for what we need.

Grand schemes aside, I see the need to start small and immediately.  Recently a friend shared with me her need to shift more of her time towards making money.  I know she likes gardening and wondered if this would mean that her garden would suffer.  I invited her to call me for future gardening assistance;  I want to work with her to make sure she has this in her life, both for the economic and spiritual benefit she derives.  Since, I’ve heard from a couple other people that they need to focus more on bringing money in.  It’s a problem so many are facing, and yet it’s like this dirty secret that no one wants to talk about openly.  I want to follow the example of Enterbeing, an organization in Portland, OR, that held space for people to come together to share stories of economic hardships.  The meetings I went to were powerful and uplifting, even if the stories were heart-wrenching.  But the relief in sharing, and the motivation it created was palpable.

Creating more of this feels like something I have to do.  What would the world look like if significant numbers of people no longer had to worry about paying rent, or putting food on the table, or health-care?  The energy and creativity unleashed is unimaginable.

Another key motivation in choosing to live in a city is that I think we need more examples of sustainable living in urban environments.  50% of the worlds population lives in cities.  This number is expected to rise to 75% by 2050.  Given the fragility of world economic and ecological systems, we are setting the stage for a catastrophe of human health and well-being on an unprecedented scale.  We need more groups of people in urban areas with the skills needed to transform those environments into livable habitats in the context of bio-regional self-sufficiency.

I also think it’s crucial that we become more conscious and aware that we live in the seat of the current dominant empire in the world.  There are several key indicators of this.  One, media is far more repressed in the US than in any other “developed” nation.  Two, the US holds 25% of incarcerated people world-wide (1 in 100 adults in the US are behind bars.)  Three, resource consumption, particularly energy, vastly outstrips all other nations in the world.  Four, US military spending is well over 50% of the federal budget and almost equals the combined military spending of every other nation on earth.  History shows us that empires fall, and we are probably seeing the beginnings of this with the US empire.  We need to help it fall. And we need to help it fall both as quickly and as peacefully as possible so that it is replaced by something as peaceful and sustainable as possible.

Kassia and I are planting a garden for the first time in either of our lives.  I have this fear that I won’t be able to grow anything; nothing will sprout, or everything will die.  A new C’ville ally and experienced home-gardener told me the other day that every spring she has that same fear. The quicker we change our lifestyles, our relationships, and socio-economic systems, the smoother the transition will be as the natural environment is no longer able to sustain current systems.  But panic and stress won’t help.  It won’t help get things done, nor will it encourage people to change their behavior.  A certain urgency is needed in this global emergency.  You must move quickly if you’re house is on fire.  But helping a better world emerge from the wreckage must be done with joyous urgency.  It must be done with love, with excitement, and whole lot of fun!


~ by skybluestar on January 25, 2009.

2 Responses to “Reflections on this work”

  1. Proposal recto moved:

  2. I’m Kate, miss, bisexual. I need to find out a accessory without complexes. If I’m interested in you – Add me

    p.s. my diminutive – katekitten

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