No story about Twin Valleys would be complete without a mention of our focus on “The Art of Living”, a class that each resident, be they student, faculty, or communitarian, took during their time ‘in the trenches’ at Twin Valleys. Actually The Art of Living wasn’t a one-time session; it was offered on a daily basis by George Bullied and several other senior communitarians. It went along with George’s motto: “We teach students how to live while they learn how to make a living”.
This is what originally attracted me to leave my sunny southern home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to join the ranks of mud-slogging, do-gooders at Twin Valleys Educational Community back in 1974. I was coming off a few years of living on the streets as a devout hippie, having quit high school at age sixteen to drop out of the ‘straight’ society. Eventually indiscriminate drug use caught up with me and I crashed and burned during an overdose. That was my wake-up call and thank God it happened!
When I was forced into the decision to get right with myself and the world I had unconsciously opened the door for positive people and experiences to come into my life. Enter George Bullied and the Twin Valleys community. After a brief visit in late 1973, I hopped at the invite from George to pull up stakes and join his merry band of societal misfits. Second thoughts occurred after arriving on a frigid winter’s day in January 1974 where I was scheduled to work outdoors framing walls at the Lodge, and I began to wonder what I had gotten into!
I thought I wouldn’t survive the day but it passed and after warming my frozen toes beside an electric heater I slept better that night than I can ever remember. The next day wasn’t as bad, and as I warmed up to my friendly comrades the daily toil became a thing of joyful co-creation. Within weeks George asked me to focalize the construction of the 60-footer geodesic dome which still stands to this day at the original site. I knew nothing about geodesic domes (or construction for that matter!) but assigning you to an unknown task was George’s way of getting people out of their comfortable ruts. Fortunately the crew working on various aspects of this project knew their jobs well and all was fine with the finished structure.
After spending four years living and working at Twin Valleys I reflect on that experience with fond memories that overrule the tough situations we faced trying to run a fledgling intentional community. There were many trying moments in dealing with emotionally upset, angry students, around-the-clock work project deadlines, powerless ice storms, and catastrophic flood waters, but through it all we not only survived; in fact, we thrived. This was the Art of Living at work.
Today my life is characterized by daily respect for the Art of Living. Call it “The Golden Rule” if you like, but it is the one educational experience that made my life complete after so much early trial and error. I have George Bullied and the Twin Valleys family to thank for this. The young people I live and work with today admire and wonder about this middle-aged guy who advocates this way of living daily life. This, in my honest opinion, is the legacy of Twin Valleys and the Art of Living!