Tag Archive | Tree Bressen

Commune as Applied University

In a recent blog post comparing the experience of life at Twin Oaks (or Acorn) with that of the mainstream i said a number of things including:

More security, less privacy.  More community, less personal access to money.  More flexibility, less resume building opportunities.

Tree responded to this by writing a comment that said:

You wrote, “less resume building opportunities.” I disagree. For all but the few members who are abandoning some high-profile career path to be there, TO has way *more* resume-building opportunities than outside. Arrive knowing nothing, manage a major program within a year. Many members use that knowledge to get or create great jobs when they leave.

And, as is almost always the case, everything Tree says is true.  It is perhaps because i once came from this high profile career path that i answered this way. career path

The FEC communities don’t require you to arrive with any particular skills or money, instead what you need is reasonable to good communication skills and a willingness to learn things and work. We will train you.  And as Tree points out, the training is vast.  You can learn how to run a business, or a dairy program, or a to program computers, or keep bees, or fix buildings, or teach kids, or how to get arrested at a protest, how to milk a cow, or run a saw mill, or a sewage treatment plant, or make cheese, or build a straw bale, or plumbing, carpentry or auto mechanics (please come and learn auto mechanics!).  And this is just the beginning of the list. A number of young members have come after college and learned many of the things which a trade school would have taught, but in a more relaxed and self paced environment.  They build elaborate tree houses, learned to cook tasty vegan food for scores of people at once, how to fish or skin a deer. work and life balance What the flexibility of community living provides in these cases opens an entire world of assisted self directed learning.  The communities have basically open “Teach” budgets in which you can get trained in anything that you are interested in and the member who trains you gets labor credits for the skills transfer (you as a student do not get labor credits, unless it is something you are learning to support one of our regularly budgeted domestic or income areas).

Nurturing a spirit of inquiry.

Nurturing a spirit of inquiry.

So Tree is right, if you are not trying to be the Chief Technology Officer at GigaCorp or the Senior VP for Operations at DowJones Inc, then a stay at the communes will not set your resume back, and could well advance it if you are motivated enough to learn inside of this myriad of possibilities.

Reframe and succeed

Rollie put all his chips in.

“If we dont do some serious preparation for Y2K I am going to leave.” Usually when people threaten to leave the community if they dont get their way, they are on their way out anyway and the community does not worry about it terribly much, nor do we think there is much we can do about it. But Rollie was different, he had lived at Twin Oaks for decades, had grown up two children with us and could repair and fix a myriad of the things which we have in our community which is in a near constant state of something falling apart. Rollie’s threat put the community on notice that we could not just ignore Y2K as a number of members were suggesting we do.

of course if the bank computers had crashed …

So in the middle of 1999 we started a process which in retrospect I am quite proud of. We could not agree on Y2K, the community was sharply split. Many people thought that with the change over of dates from 1999 to 2000 there would be significant computer malfunctions, likely including infrastructure failures. There as much talk about embedded chips and possibly event nuclear accidents triggered at this very specific time. An even larger number of people at Twin Oaks thought nothing was going to happen, either that the engineers would figure it out before hand and fix it, or that dates simply dont matter that much in computer programs.

Part of what was brilliant in Tree’s facilitation of the community was that we did not need to agree about what was going to happen at the moment of Y2K for us to agree on how it was we were going to prepare for the event. By taking it out of the context of what would happen at this precise time and shifting into a more general emergency planning practice (with a specific deadline for completion) we could come to an agreement about fairly elaborate preparations, without having to consense on the specifics of Y2K.

We bought another portable generator and tested it. We bought a 500 gallon gasoline tank and filled it. We stocked up on food and built rat proof storage containers for it. We reviewed our emergency procedure and brought members up to speed on them. Rollie was satisfied and actively involved in the extensive preparations.

And it turned out that with the exception of the arrival and departure computer monitor at the Greyhound station switching over to incomprehensible Greek characters, nothing happened at Y2K. But we are still using the extra generator when the power goes out and having our own gas tank is quite handy. The preparations were the right thing, both for emergency services and for taking care of the concerns of the membership.