Community Twin Oaks
Community Twin Oaks
Yoo Jeong-gil | Chair of Sharing Wisdom Collaboration Association
A Bio-community that Dreams a Psychologically Complete Society Twin Oaks Community is located between Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia. At first it was not easy to find the place because the sign at the entrance is so small. After arriving at sunset, I walked around the shabby wood structure of the building. A lady holding a baby came to show me around. With her guidance I went to the hammock office ‘Chatai’ on the second floor and unpacked. The second floor also used a wooden floor which made creak sounds, smelled like trees, and had a pile of books in the corner of the wide floor. Around dinner another woman came to guide me to the dining room. The restaurant (ZK, Zhankoye) was a joint community center for the village. The place was a diner, kids’ play room, and a place with books and notices. The next day finally the introduction and guidance of the community started. The first day we learned how to make the net bed ‘Hammocks’ at the shop. This community’s main production lies in domestic industry through making and selling hammocks. Other than this, organic products are cultivated and tofu is also made for the majority of the income. Another interesting fact was that all buildings and places were available to music.
Special Labor Credit System
Working here requires devotion but foremost requires 42 quarters (1quarter/hr) of labor credit a week. First, one must record what they would like to do and the desired hours on their labor sheet. These sheets are collected to make a labor plan that incorporates the work of all members, which is only about 30 pages. Therefore, one must independently work more in order to achieve over 42 quotas. Though one hour is supposed to be equal to one quota, if one considers the task to be particularly difficult and requiring focus, they can enter it as 2 quotas and for those who are too sick to work, they will get six quotas a day. The important part of this system is that people do not only work all day. This system’s strength is that people can voluntarily do work. Therefore, all duties are prepared so that anyone can follow through the detailed instructions, tools, and wrap up instructions.
How to become Member and the Visiting Program
The Visitor program participants must participate in the program for 3 weeks to become a part of the community. They must be interviewed and write an essay about why they want to join. They will receive a response in 10 days. There will be a vote within the community that will determine whether they will be a pre-member or not. Afterwards for six months the participant and community will together will make an ultimate decision. During this time the community can also reject the participant. After acceptance participants become regular members and thus become able to take part in all decisions of the community. The guest house where for 3 weeks the participants of the visitor program stay is called Aurora. The visitors alongside myself were mostly college students, professors, and other adults with careers and the college students were the most shy and naive.
A Community that tries to fulfill ‘Walden II’
Twin Oaks’ background is David Thoreau’s Walden and is a community started by people who were touched by behaviorist B.F Skinner’s psychological ideal society novel, Walden II. Twin Oaks started as a nonreligious community by people who started Kat Kinkade and now has a core role in the Fellowship for Intentional Community, where labor is done together and distributed together as a large family community. Twin Oaks carries less than 100 people. Currently, there are 90 adults and 15 children living here. There are around 20 facilities including ten buildings for housing, a factory, and a storage facility. There is also a farm and forest of almost 185,123m2. In the forest there are the tips of Native Americans that help meditation and training in darkness. The people here value the quiet and silence of the night and sound of nature and even insects. There are tipis and hammocks all around the forest and they help meditation for day and night. Such coexisting with nature within such a forest shows the spirit and thoughts of the people of Twin Oaks.
Time of Conversing translated to Labor Quotas
Among the visitors were 15 Americans other than me and one French person. I asked the CMT for help by giving me extra separate time because it was difficult for me to understand the fast English. As a result they rotated five people to interview me taking turns for an hour each day of the wee while receiving labor quotas. I was taught by anarchist ian-ok, Ted who had come back after leaving after 10 years at Twin Oaks, workaholic Heather, motherly grandma Marione, and Rollie, who had been separated from his wife. The time we spend together was valuable and fun for me. I especially was helped greatly by workaholic Heather. Property brought here is either kept personally or becomes part of the community but returned to the individual when they leave. Also, one can eat whatever they want to eat. For this reason there is really not much need for individuals to have money or own property other than maybe collecting the 60 dollars given monthly to purchase something through the staff by posting it on the board at ZK. This is a successful nonreligious community that values “diversity and respect.” Therefore, women and men, gays and lesbians, transgenders, etc also give together and are respected as long as they do not hurt others.
This Place is not Utopia
Here, there is a person who helps raising children and a building for homeschooling. Interference is minimal because respect of diversity is an important value held here. What I have learned after living in this community is to “watch yet not judge” because simply not being able to understand something does not mean that it is wrong, rather means that I have a prejudice from a different standpoint. The difficulties in this thinking developed by people who have worked hard for many years to maintain the community cannot be easily estimated by passing people like myself due to the amount of time and effort dedicated. If one were to say Twin Oaks is a Utopia, they would be still quite naive. Despite being much more relaxed than mainstream society, difficulties and conflict still exist, and this fuels change and development. On the finger book handed out to the visitors of Twin Oaks it is written, “This place is not a Utopia. We do not promote this place as a paradise. If you desire such a life it would be wiser to search elsewhere and inform us when you have found it so that we can move there as well.”
Twin Oaks Homepage: www.twinoakscommunity.org