I’m on a college speaking tour this fall, talking in Sociology and Political Science classes about life on the commune. My alma mater, Wittenberg University, invited me back to teach classes there for a few days…

Entering Chakeres Theater through the back door, I’m greeted by a senior who I knew as a freshman:
“I feel like a ghost just walked through that door!”
and it’s true, I feel like a ghost,
a legendary hero who people have only heard tales of

and I love it.

I’ve spent the past two days talking in classes made up entirely of freshmen (Common Learning, for all you Witt Grads). The theme is “Individualism and Community in American Life”, and I get to talk about life on a commune. I get to tell all these J Crew models about “egalitarianism” and explain why we don’t have television. They’re trying so hard to be like everyone else, and I get to do a song and dance in the front of the room and say “you have a fucking choice!” I get to say that I’m using my Witt degree in Sociology and Religion to milk the cows and make tofu.

I ask them to take a trip with me into metaphor land. Mainstream culture, I say, presents us with prepackaged frozen dinners, saying “Here. This is your life.” You can choose between the ravioli or the chicken parmesean, but the ravioli comes with peas and a brownie and the chicken comes with corn and chocolate pudding. You want chicken and a brownie? Nope, it doesn’t work that way. The ravioli sounds great, but it’s made with sauce that has lima beans. I don’t like lima beans. In mainstream culture, I spent a slew of energy trying to pick around the things I didn’t like, like compulsory monogamy and pop music. It’s everywhere, all mixed in with the ravioli sauce, and if I want to eat the ravioli I have to pick around the lima beans.

There’s also basic ingredients in the frozen dinners that are essentially unhealthy. Like crack. There’s crack in that frozen dinner. There’s racism and classism and sexism and flat out oppressive ideologies that are completely ingrained in mainstream culture. It’s so ingrained that you can’t eat around it. You consume the food, you consume the crack. No choice in the matter. And I see other people around me eating this shit and getting horribly sick. But they keep on eating the frozen dinners because you have to eat, and if that’s all that’s available, that’s what you eat.

And yet there’s more to life than frozen dinners! I can go out in the garden, pick a bunch of vegetables and herbs and concoct a stew that suits my tastes. No lima beans if I don’t want lima beans, and certainly no crack.

(Yet, to take the metaphor another level deeper, we’re cooking in a pan that has mainstream residue already on it. All of us at Twin Oaks are products of mainstream culture, and we bring with us much subconscious socialization that takes a lot work to let go of).

And what’s most important to me ISN’T that people drop out of their current lives and come to live on a commune — it’s not that we’ve come up with the BEST recipie and everyone else should cook just like us. Nope. That’s not it.

I want people to learn how to cook for themselves. Fuck the frozen dinners — I want people to recognize that they have the CHOICE to make their food the way they want it, to make their life what they want it to be.

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