Persistent Myths

Upstairs Ta Chai living room is one of my favorite chill spaces on the farm.  It is where Bochie and i form the Pizza Club agenda of gossip on the commune.   It is where Scuba Steve (the lizard in the picture below) lives.  And it is where many of the cool kids hang out.


Christina and Scuba Steve relax on a Saturday Morning

One of these cool kids is Christina.  In the picture above, besides the lizard, she is holding a bottle of sparkling wine and wearing her killer (tho i am told ugly) warm booties.  Less visible in this picture is the fabric which is in her hand that will be part of the craft work/sewing she will be doing the morning this picture was taken.  The upstairs Ta Chai living room (not to be confused with the more public TCLR – Ta Chai Living Room – off the hammock shop) hosts this event along with scrabble night and the Pizza Club after party.

Christina lived in Turkey for several years before she came to Twin Oaks and was part of a different life style common in the mainstream USA culture and even at Twin Oaks.  While we were talking and she was cradling this large lizard, she challenged the community orthodoxy that there was some magic to the 42 hours per week we did as quota each week.  Her experience in Turkey was that one could support themselves doing far less work than this.  Christina is certainly not lazy, but like me is suspect that our work focused life style is necessarily serving us well.

The story i tell is that the persistent myth of the need for this amount of work comes from evolutionary origin story.  Back when the community was founded in 1967, there were lots of other communes getting started.  Almost all of them failed.   When folks looked around and saw that we had survived the logical theory was that we had worked hard and thus prospered.    This is one part of the story, but there are others which i think are at least equally important.  One which is have often written about the is the deep sharing we do here, which dramatically reduces our costs.  Another is our highly flexible labor situation, in which members work all in areas they volunteer for.  And another important piece is the hammocks business which is minimally supervised (no annoying bosses), either social or solitary work, and can be done anytime of day and is not physically exhausting.

Could we work less and survive?  Certainly.  We could cut quota (East Wind works 35 hours a week instead of our 42) and likely only minimally effect our economic situation.  We have a very broad definition of work which includes everything from going to the doctor, to voting, to child care, to political work, putting on plays for ourselves.  And while some of these represent “leisure” or under valued life choices in the mainstream, it may not serve us to include all of them them as part of our labor system, thus institutionalizing and time tracking these activities.  We could also do more work that was higher income, both tofu and hammocks are low $/hour and we institutionally dont support our much higher compensated computer work, for example.

And what Christina and i agreed in our brief conversation about this is the key to success as a member at Twin Oaks is finding what you love and figuring out how to make it labor creditable.  And for all it’s failings, it is certainly true that this is much easier to do here than it is to figure out how to get paid to do what you love in the mainstream.