Tuesday, October 30, 2007

a pragmatic approach

Historically, I have been among the intuitively impared. My linear, rational, analytical abilities have tended to dominate my psyche. I have often ignored my perceptive abilities out of my compulsion to take reality, esp. people, "at face value." No wonder my girlfriends are generally intuitive, non-linear thinkers, well versed in a spontaneous approach to life.

Increasingly, I am learning to place my hyperactive brain on the shelf, to look within and simply see, without needing to explain or figure out. And, interestingly enough, this has expanded my capacity for reason. My scope is broader, my ability distinguish is sharper, and the peace in my being has become predominant.

My mind is more and more a tool at my disposal rather than then the holder of the reigns. Now, I am applying it to my current predicament of searching for a new home, and my critical faculties are in full swing. In case you live in one of these places, forgive me. I am not trying to be balanced in my assesment. But know that I have had a wonderful time with wonderful people in these truely remarkable cities (the only three in the world I'm considering, in fact! ;0)

I have come up with a one word summary for each:

Chico - comfort

Eugene - apathy

Portland - hedonism

Chico is beautiful. The downtown is warm and welcoming and Bidwell park (the nations 18th largest city park in a city that doesn't even rank in the biggest 300 cities) cuts all the way to it's edge. The neighborhoods surrounding downtown are full of small streets, and cute little houses. But despite a majority of greens and progressives on the Chico city council for most of the last ten years suburban development continues rapidly. Still, there is an enforced tree ordinance (developers must leave a certain number of trees per acerage.) There is a strong anit-war/peace and justice movement, and there is a strong sense of community, in the broader sense. But there are only two place-based, residental communities, plus a number of "hippie flophouses." Energy for change is high, and there is liberally minded affluence to support it. But affluence is dangerous - I doubt many people would actually be willing to make significant changes to their lifestyle.

Eugene has a strong sense of mutual support. My guess is that the cities urban food production per capita is one of the highest in the nation. Affluence is low - you could probably call the area economically depressed. But this is by choice for many. There is a strong "make-do with less" sensability out of a desire to escape the rat race and live more sustainably. Were I to seriously predict a major collapse of western civilization in the coming years, Eugene is probably the place I would go. I think people would come together really fast. The potential to create a strong network of mutual support and social welfare is striking. Yet without external motivation people seem content to focus on their particular interests and their particular social scene. Somehow the benefits of increased integration seem recognized yet not worth it. I wonder how possible it would be to galvanize people.

If I decided I could take living in a big city, Portland would be it. It is home of City Repair, an organization focused on humanizing the public urban environment. Tryon Life Community Farm offers a rural, communal living option within the city limits. Love Tribe creates community-based, touch-positive events. Alternative building is apparently big business here for new houses and renovations. Music and art is a big deal. But it's a city, and most people seem primarily focused on living their hip, groovy, individual lifestyles. If that includes being eco and community oriented, cool, but that's more a byproduct then a fundamental driver. Diversity is strong, but so is gentrification. It's just big (and it's not even that big comparatively)! A single person or organization could only have so much influence, and the architecture of a large city means to much diffusion to allow those influences to generate collective momentum.

I've reached the obvious conclusion - no where is perfect, and if I decide to move to one of these cities the choice of which (and the choice of this region in the first place) will be largely arbitrary. It will be, at best, an informed guess as to what would be the "best place for me to be," if such a thing exists.

Well, so much for reason. At least I'm enjoying the process...

Monday, October 29, 2007

how long can I keep this up?

It's wearing on me, this constant absorption of new information and constant querying into the depths of my destiny.

How many coffee shops, and cups of coffee have swirled in and around me? How many wireless routers have carried my musings? My only consistent companion in this time is my laptop. I feed it energy, it feeds me music, it facilitates my multifarious long-distance relationships, I lovingly carry it nearly constantly. I have joined the online community. Myspace, Facebook, Tribe.net, emusic.com, blogspot.com, wetpaint.com... I cling to these computerized connections for consistency and coherence.

I write. I write about building community, the ills of society, radical intimacy, my life... I download music. I listen - I bounce my head. I stare off into space. I've come to enjoy hunting for that nice cozy couch in a hospitable coffeehouse. I've started thinking of the $2 a day I spend as rent, with free coffee thrown in. And sometimes the the only exercise I get is a walk or a bike ride from the place I'm sleeping to my new syndicated home.

Several dozen people in Chico, Eugene, and Portland have been asked recently, "what's going on here?" What's interesting? What's radical? How are people coming together? How are they making the world a better place? Some respond enthusiastically, others patiently, others not at all. I'm searching, scrutinizing, sometimes salivating...

Ah, the future... Music? Events organizing? Process consultation? Community organizing? Communes, co-ops, affinity groups, mutual aid organizations? Tribe, family, alliances? "Money, money, money... nothing but money." Can I become a money maker and not lose my soul? Jail break! Can we escape the money economy? Can I provide a potent push to activate the ambitions of progressive people?

So many ideas, so many dreams. I hold myself back. I'm so unsure! I don't want to give false impressions. "Where do you live?" Well, I don't really live anywhere. I've dropped membership - I have no rights to the place I have called home for the last 8 years. But Twin Oaks is still home. It will always be home. I will always feel a tug on my heart from that crazy commune.

Willow. What I conundrum! Abandonment, neglect - how can I even consider it! But I know why, and I know that I have to consider it. I want someone to tell me what the right thing to do is, because I don't, and I don't think I ever will, but I don't think anyone else does either.

I feel called to something bigger then Twin Oaks, because I've lost hope in Twin Oaks becoming "bigger." But I don't really believe in fate, destiny, any kind of master plan for the unfolding of creation, so how can I be "called" to do anything. I don't believe in a conscious, omnipotent entity of universal proportions. But I believe in morality. I believe in good and bad, not as fundamental qualities but as a way of describing the things people do. I want to do good. Enlightened self-interest. I want to make the world a better place, first for my self, second for willow, third for the collection of souls with whom I share this journey, fourth for everyone else. But they are inseparable, integral - in doing good, true good for one it is impossible not to do good for everyone else. Where does that lead?

Food, food is so important, an essential building block of community, civilization... life. Work on food sources, that has been a clear msg.

Energy, energy is so important. For some reason I am almost constantly aware of the energy I am burning - gasoline, jet fuel, heating water for tea or for bathing, stove tops, laptops, wireless headphones, cellphones, digital cameras. How is it that energy has become as important as food?

Love, love is so important, relationships. Satisfying relationships with self and others. The lack thereof, this is the basis of addiction, the basis of environmental destruction. And I am part of it.

I've been on the road for almost a month. Occasionally I have been lucky enough to sleep in the same bed for more then a couple nights running. But what generosity! So many friends, new friends, friends of friends, have sheltered me, given me rides, loaned me a bike, fed me, let me burn their electricity, their propane, their time.

I have been on the edge of breaking down for a week. Each morning I am amazed and appreciative not to wake up sick, depressed, paralyzed under the physical, emotional, and psychic stress, by the massiveness of the ambiguity that I've stepped into. I'm managing it. My meditation practice is solid. I've learned to skip out on opportunities rather then being compelled to them despite exhaustion. My substance use is at it's lowest point since I started down that path ten years ago. I know when I will be back "home" for a recharge. I know when my next meditation course will be. I actually have a rough sketch of my plans for the next 6 months! A framework - it helps keep me sane.

How long can I go on like this? As long as I can or as long as I have to, we'll see which comes first...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

don't try to figure it out

In my current incarnation as a professional bum I find myself in Eugene, OR, pondering the question, do I want to live here? But I can't ask myself that question in earnest. To do so would invite possibly the most intense existential crisis I have ever faced. You see, the question I'm really asking myself is this: Would a life here be compelling enough to take me away from Willow?

I've been planning this exploration for a year and a half. And over that time I have very, very gradually faced more and more the possibility of living away from my son. I got an email from Pax the other day including stuff about Willow's activities and Pax's thoughts on parenting-from-afar. Ouch - am I having a heart attack? Metaphorically perhaps. I believe that my bond with Willow is strong enough that I can maintain it long-distance. But it won't be the same, that's what hit me. Nothing can replace daily contact with a child. There is so much I would miss out on... (deep breath)

I have to believe he would be fine. Certainly, because of the bond we share there is something he would miss from my absence. But with Pax, Hawina, all his primaries, Jonah and Gwen, and the full, rich, engaging life a child has at Twin Oaks, he'll be fine. I have no doubts about him getting all the love and attention he needs to continue developing as the amazing being he is. It's not him I'm worried about, it's me.

If I tried to "figure out" whether or not I want to move away from Twin Oaks I would very quickly go insane. It's simply too soon to know. I've given myself till the end of next spring, with plenty of time away exploring and back at Twin Oaks. That's when I'll have to face it, probably by June. It's months away, but the time will pass so quickly.

I have yet to discuss the matter with Willow. I've been avoiding it - it's just been too painful. But I will, soon. I honestly can not imagine what he will say. I can see him being upset. I can see him being indifferent. I can see ambivilence. I can see philosophical acceptance. He never ceases to amaze me.

I see so much of myself in him. He's such a smart kid - many things come easily to him. So if something isn't immediatly fun and easy, he doesn't want to bother and can be totally lazy. When he's sick he's very calm and accepting - only in major pain does he get distressed. But he's very fearful of putting himself in situations that may result in physical pain. Generally speaking, he can be pretty fearful, a wimp so to speak. I was a total wimp (and kinda still am.) And he can be pretty insecure and anxious, not wanting to be alone, not wanting to push himself out of his comfort zone, easiy thinking he can't do something - all things I've struggled with.

I have a hard time with it sometimes. I know it's just because I have a hard time seeing those aspects of myself. I try not to give him a hard time, but it just comes out sometimes. I don't want him to have to struggle with that shit. But it doesn't help, and it feels terrible. It's just that I love him so much.

Every time something happens that's hard for him I just have to take a deep breath and say to myself, "it's just part of being human - we all have to deal with stuff - this is just what he has to deal with - if it wasn't this it would be something else." And really, it's in being with him through the hard stuff, staying centered and present myself and helping him deal with it and understand it, that's where some of the most satisfying experiences have come from. Every new experience is such a big deal - after 5.5 years we've been through so much. Can I really leave him?

I wonder if it's just my ego attachment, my desire to influence this child, mold him in my image. Or maybe it's my need to prove my worth as a human being by being a good parent. Maybe I can just move beyond all that... yeah, right.

I think about him sitting on my lap as we play Civilization together. I think about doing reading practice, struggling through it at times, but then finishing a new, challenging book and seeing the look of satisfaction on his face. I think about walking down the path with him on my back, holding each other close. I think about reading out loud to him, cuddled up together on the couch. I think about waking up with him in the morning, holding him as his eyelids flutter open. No lover, no adult partner has ever had such a firm grip on my heart.

It's as if, over the years, I have given him a piece of myself, but that piece still exists in myself as well as in him, with a cord to link them. Imagining leaving him, not living with him day-to-day, it feels like that part of me is being torn out. It never actually would be, but damn, it hurts.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

a believer in human rights

I'm a believer.

I believe we're heading for rough times. Could be environmental catastrophies, energy crisis, economic collapse, break down of basic utilities and distribution of goods, world war, global epidemics... all of the above?

I'm a believer.

I believe in community. There are lots of different kinds of communities and co-operatives - different ways people are mutually supporting each other. I think we have to get together for mutual support if we want simply to survive, let alone thrive through the times to come.

I realize Twin Oaks is too much for most people. Most of us need more autonomy, flexibility, and personability. But one of the great things about Twin Oaks is this: if you are member and contribute to a reasonable degree, you will be taken care of. No question - you will be taken care of. Food, shelter, clothing, health care - you will be taken care of. How many people who are not independently wealthy have that kind of security? Not many, and that's wrong.

A couple weeks ago I read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948. Obviously the governements of the world have not done a good job of making sure this declaration is being upheld (look at Article 25 in particular.) In the absence of governements fullfilling this responsibility, I think organizations created for mutual support (i.e. community) ought to take it as their responsibility to fulfill this.

What would happen if people didn't have to worry about the basics? - if you didn't have to worry about getting sick, or not having enough money for all the bills and rent, or treating a broken arm or getting a cavity filled? And I don't mean not having to worry about it because you know you can always get a job (because a lot of people don't know they can always get a job!) I mean really, really not having to ever worry about it?! Imagine the amount of creative energy that would free up!! I think it's hard for most people to realize the subconscious, underlying pressure and tension they feel because they've never not felt it, and how it changes the way you see your life and what you do when that is relieved.

So, what would a Human Rights Co-op look like? What if there were groups all over a city that were organizing to provide for the basic human rights of themselves and others, and to benefit from them all you had to do was contribute some time to perpetuating and expanding them going? Yeah, money would have to be generated because the money economy is impossible to get out of unless you want to be a survivalist out in the wilderness. But we can lessen our dependence and we can make a better life for ourselves.

A music group I admire called Seize the Day says it better then I can right now...

"...it seems like nobody's in control
just money makin' money and it's got no soul
but it's got no power but the power we give
when we doubt that without it we could live
imagine, it's easy if you try
I'm an idealist, also a realist
I know it's difficult to kick that drug
but if we get clever and we do it all together
what a great endevour
when we pull that plug..."

I'm a believer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

joe and me

"Your off work on the thursday, right?"
"Yeah, why?"
"I want you to help me indulge in nostalgia."
"I want us to drive around to our old houses and reminisce."
"Oh, okay, cool."

This was about two weeks ago. I was staying with Joe, my best friend from junior high and the beginning of high school in Martinez, CA. In some ways he's stayed my best friend, even though we had almost no contact for almost 8 years. He joined the Navy about the same time I moved to Twin Oaks. He'd gotten married and after getting out they moved back to Martinez. He and his wife had just had their first child.

When I was 13 my parents divorced and I moved with my mother to Martinez, a suburb of the East Bay. A couple months into junior high I'd only made one friend and I was miserable. This was a continuation of 3 years of being mostly friendless and miserable in Chico, CA while my family was falling apart.

I don't remember meeting Joe. He started the school year a couple months late. Just all of a sudden he was in my gym class and we were joking and carrying on like we'd been friends for years. We were best friends for 3 years. Then life got complicated, as it will when you're a teenager - we half drifted and half tore ourselves apart.

"Oh, remember the wreck we had on our bikes here!" We were driving down the hill next to the Shell oil refinery (right smack in the middle of town), along the route we rode our bikes every school day for two years of junior high.
"Yeah! Man, that fucking bus! He totally crossed over the white line."
"Yeah, and your handle bar went into the open window."
"I went down, then you hit my bike and you went down."
"We were so torn up! Remember going back to my house - I got out the hydrogen peroxide. We were like, oh shit, just do it!"
A little further down the road...
"Oh, and we had another wreck here!"
"Yeah, my brakes went out! I smashed into you from behind and flew into the intersection - I'm lucky I'm alive!"

A right turn, a little further... "Oh shit, they're developing up on that hill." "Yeah, they bought out some guy who lived up there and torn his house down." Another right...

"Wow, you still take these turns like you live here," I said.
"Man, I drive past here on my way home from work if I stop at the Lucky's up there, and half the time I just turn down here automatically. I'm such a creature of habit. I'll just drive up, check out the nieghborhood."

I'd gotten back to the Bay Area a few days before our jaunt down memory lane. I'd come from doing another 10 day mediation retreat, which is where I'd gotten the idea to do this. I'd thought about how amazing my friendship with Joe is. What different paths we'd taken! And yet, despite the differences in our lifestyles, I feel more acceptance and love from and for him then with any other friend of mine. Really, we're family, in the best kind of way. And despite his very conventional, mainstream lifestyle, Joe is an amazingly radical person.

He works as a cable repair guy. He realizes TV is a drug that keeps people seperate from each other and helps prevent them from getting together and making their lives better. But when he fixes someone's cable, they're so appreciative. And customers often talk to him in such an open way, clearly craving human contact, and he likes being able to meet people and connect with them. He is possibly the most generous, good-natured, and well-meaning person I know.

He's aware of all the shit put in processed food. Having grown up a quarter mile from a Shell oil refinery and suffered from asthma as a child he's conscious of environmental issues. He's aware of economic injustice - he would love to raise his family in his home town, but it's too expensive. When we saw each other in March for the first time in about 6 years one of the first questions he asked me was, "how can we take all the stuff you're doing in your community and use it to help change society?"

He has a very pragmatic view of reality. It's just the way it is. Yeah, shit's fucked up, but, "I was raised to want a family, and buy a house, and I don't know how to do anything different."

Cherisa, his wife, is also amazing. She's very kind, level-headed, and intelligent. I'd crashed at there place for one night before going to the meditation course. "What did you guy's do with willow around vaccines?" she asked.
"Well, the first time he steps on a nail we'll give him a tetnus shot. Other then that, nothing. There are a couple we might end up doing later on. Why?"
"I heard some stuff about the perservatives they use in vaccines, and the increasing number of vaccines they give kids at early ages, and how it's liked it increased rates of SIDS and autism. We refused them"
By the time I got back she'd done extensive research, including pending law suites in Japan and the UK. Saying I was impressed is an understatement.
"We decided to get him the same vaccines on the same schedule that we got when we were kids." I've also been very impressed and appreciative at how immediatly accepting and welcoming she's been of this weird-ass, fuckin' hippy friend of her husband.

We drove to Joe's old house at the end of the culdasac at the top of the hill. "It's weird seeing the garage door down," he said.
"Yeah, no one ever used the front door. If the garage door was down I knew no one was home."

Back down at the bottom of the hill...

"We spent so much time skateboarding down here."
"God, you were so sprung over Mary, and she played you so hard!" I said. "You know, Cherissa is so great. You had so many crazy fuckin' relationships! I'm really glad you got over that and got into a good one."
"Yeah, she's so good for me - we really balance each other," he said. "Hey, and didn't you and Cynthia hang out here a lot too?"
"Yeah, this is where we met. You and I were down here skating and she was walking home from school. You know, it was like with you. I don't remember meeting her - just all of a sudden we were talking away like we'd known each other forever."

Cynthia's house was on the next street down. "Man, you spent so much time sitting on that front step with her!"
"Wow... I was so in love with her. On some level I'm still totally in love with her." Cynthia and I had been together for three years, not an especially long time for adults, but a veritable eternity as teenagers. We stil love each other, but... well, that's for a future post.
"Oh yeah, you always will be. Those kinds of feelings don't just go away."
"But god, it's so weird. Other people live in our houses! And we live these totally different lives. It's like none of it ever happened."

We drove the half mile across town to my old house. "We never really hung out here," I said.
"Yeah, I was scared of your step-dad!" Joe said, half-seriously, laughing. "But it was so cool when he'd pick us up from school in his silver cop car!"
"Yeah, and things were so hard with my mom and I. I didn't really want to be there." During the three years of our most involved friendship I ate more meals at Joe's house then my own.

"Hey let's drive by the high school." Two blocks before the we got there we passed San Vicente, the adult education center. Two groups of people were standing near the street, one on the sidewalk, the other in the parking lot, seperated by a short chain-link fence. Several were screaming and gesticulating wildly at each other - a conflict between a group of young San Vicente students and older Alhambra High School students. As we waited for the light to change the exchange intensified and the Alhambra students started jumping over the fence. The students who'd been watching from across the street in the Safeway parking lot ran through the halted traffic to get a closer view.

"Oh my god, that guy has a baseball bat!" But within seconds we heard a police siren and saw the squad car turn down the sidestreet. The bat disappeared under a car - the Alhambra students disappeared back across the street.

"You know, things just seem so important when you're a teenager," I said. " And, I mean, sometimes they are. I spent a lot of time helping Cynthia deal with her emotionally abusive family."
"Yeah, do you remember when you and Andy quit the band and we didn't talk for like 6 months?"
"Yeah... I don't even remember why things were so hard."
"I was being a total asshole. My dad was drinking every night and yelling at me. I would run away like every other night. He'd figure out where I was and call, crying, begging me to come home..."
"I didn't know that," I said.
"Yeah, then there was that day that your mom gave me a ride home, and I just broke down and cried and told her everything, and she talked to you and got you to talk to me. But your right, you know - now it's like, we've got kids and families! It's just a whole different level of concerns."

We drove through downtown, remembering various other friends, events. I'm not really very prone to nostalgia. In fact I can be pretty callous when it comes to the past. But this journey served a purpose for both Joe and I, completing something left undone. We'd shared so many experienced but never really talked about them. Now we shared a common understanding, aligning our lives more closely. Barriers I hadn't even really realized were there were dropping away...


Okay, I'm going to stop there before I totally disolve into a gooey puddle of sentimental cliche ;0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

the science of hitch hiking

(note: you may want to look at google maps or mapquest while reading this ;0)

Today I hitch-hiked from Chico, CA to Eugene, OR. It's about a 7 hr drive. Generally I like to assume that the amount of time standing on the side of the rode will be close to the amount of actual driving time (and be pleasantly surprised when it's less, or not disappointed when it's not.)

Dale, my father, drove me to the northern edge of Chico on Hwy 99. I waited about 15 minutes before I got a ride to a rest area just north of Red Bluff on I 5. It was a very small rest area with little traffic and I was a bit worried, but the onramp wasn't very long so I was able to effectively hitch the freeway. After about 30 minutes a very nice, classic west coast-type guy named Scott picked me up and drove me all the way to the cmty I'm staying at here in Eugene. The whole trip took about 8 hrs, three rides, door-to-door - yes!!

I wouldn't say I'm a terribly experienced hitch-hiker, but I've had plenty of opportunities waiting by the side of the road with my thumb out to think about it. So, here's my advice...

A couple things are basic and perhaps obvious. Look nice. Not too clean cut - that's what the serial killers do - but not ratty. Today I had on a reasonably nice pair of corduroy pants and a white tee-shirt with simple lettering on the front. Sometimes I think it's better not to wear sunglasses, so drivers can see your eyes - other times I don't think it matters.

Have a sign saying where you're going. The actual information isn't important, it's giving the impression that you are reasonably thoughtful and prepared.

When picking a spot to hitch from consider the road ahead and the road behind. If the road behind (where traffic is coming from) is a curve it will give drivers less time to get a look at you before they pass you. The road ahead should have nice long and wide shoulder to give drivers plenty of time to stop - a quick stop will scare some potential rides away.

Know what kinds of cities, freeway interchanges, and rest or service areas are on your route. Always ask a person how far they're going before you accept the ride to make sure they'll be able to take you to a next good place to hitch from. Today, for example, the first ride I got was going to the south side of the city of Redding. Had he been going to the north side, I might have gone for it, because all the people heading north at that point would more likely be going long-distance.

Getting dropped off on the near side, or in the middle, of a city, especially a large city, can mean lots of waiting for lots of short rides. Rest areas are good because people who stop at them are usually traveling long-distance. But, as mentioned, be look out for small rest areas that that don't have on ramps that allow you to get close to the freeway. A couple times, before I wised up, I had to get dropped off in the middle of a freeway interchanges. That was pretty scary.

Hitching in pairs is of course safer, but sizable minority of the people who give rides are guys in pickups with only room for one rider. Just because shit can happen, I think it's safe for men and women, but especially women, to carry pepperspray.

And at this point, unless you really want an adventure, I consider trips that will take me more then a day, requiring me to camp out, to not be worth it. When I was younger and more innocent looking I actually had some quite lucrative hitches and was put up by very nice people. It was great, but, frankly, I'm over it.

But I can still manage to beat the time it would have taken Greyhound (9 hrs), and instead of paying $72 for a ticket I chipped in $10 for gas. Does everyone get more pragmatic as they get older?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

moving through overwhelm

I've spent the last 8 years calling Twin Oaks my home, and over time I've become dissatisfied with how small that world is - not just the actually property of Twin Oaks, but the larger network of people and communities it's directly connected to. Now I'm exploring living a lifestyle that's more integrated with the mainstream, and I realize that in 8 years I've forgotten just how BIG the mainstream world is!!

I've been in Chico the last 10 days. Having spent a total of about 7 years of my childhood here it's the closest thing I have to a hometown. It's a smallish city, with a "metro" population of about 100,000. It's a pretty liberal town - green, progressive city council members are often the majority. There is a "tree ordinance" requiring developers to leave a certain number of trees/area when developing a piece of property.

There are two intentional communities in the area (Valley Oaks Village, a cohousing community and Ripparia, a small landtrust), plus a number of "hippie flophouses" as Shandin calls them. The coolest thing I've come across so far is a new group called GRUB (Growing Resourcefully Uniting Bellies). Their mission is to grow as much food within the city limits for as many people as possible on donated land. They already have more land donated then they have gardeners to manage. They're also creating a "tree registery", a database of all fruit and nut trees in the city from which the owner are happy to have other people harvest. They had a fundraiser the other night at the Peace and Justice Center, and I was impressed by the number of people who came and their positivity.

Could I live here? Could I do what I want here? Here's what I want to do, in a nutshell: Pick a population center and help found and/or link a network of communal/cooperative entities that are providing housing, growing and distributing food, producing ecologically sound goods for money or barter, providing space for social events, arts and performance, and organizing, and engaging in community organizing and local politics.

Lofty, eh? Can I do this anywhere? I don't know. Certainly not if I let my insecurity and self-doubt get in the way. But you know, I think I've had this idea that I could get so many groups started so fast that it would quickly take over a city the size of Chico and Eugene. What was I thinking?!

Walking around downtown over the last few days, riding my borrowed bike through the suburbs, seeing all the affluent Bay Area escapees and the manicured college students, the banks, the designer clothing stores, and, of course, the endless stream of cars...

One of my big complaint about Twin Oaks and the Communities Movement is the prevelance of white, middle-class folx primarily interested in creating their happy little utopias, failing to recognize or engage in the essentially integrated reality of our communities with the rest of society, and failing to collaborate with the myriad social movements with similar aims.

Now I'm asking myself the question, am I capable of anything more? Insecurity! Self-doubt!!

I'm trying to pull myself back to what I consider to be an appropriate purpose for whatever I do: making life better for all beings. Is what I'm doing serving people and the planet? Make sure that I can say yes and then do as much of that as possible.

Egoism, success and failure, even hope, these are such tempting indulgences of the mind - but they get in way! Pema Chodron said in a discussion with Alice Walker, don't do what you do because you hope it will change things - do what you do because you believe that's the right thing to do.

Okay - take a deep breath, notice the fear, and keep moving fwd...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

keeping a brother, losing a friend

My brother and I don't talk about just anything. We talk about everything, except what we went through together. We talk to fill the silence, because the memories would fill it up, and we don't talk about it.

I remember hearing something, half asleep, cracking my eyes, seeing a flash of movement.
Impact. A bright orange flash in darkness. Darkness.
I can hear myself screaming for help.
A thought - maybe if I stop screaming I won't get hit anymore - okay.
I stop screaming.
I can see again.

We'd been camping on a trail off an abandoned road at the northern end of Humbolt Redwood State Park. It was almost 8 am. We were sleeping in after the first day of our bike tour down to San Fransisco. 3 guys jumped us. The first must have run up and kicked me in the head. When I came to I was crawling backwards away from him, standing over me.

"We've got money; take whatever, just leave us alone." I direct them to the money.
"Tie them up," he says.

The guy who tied me up was vicious, hogtying me so tightly my left hand was numb for 4 days. The guy who tied Shandin up, well, it's ambiguous...

"If you tie us up and leave us here, no one comes down here, we could starve to death," said Shandin.
"Who gives a fuck. We should just kill you," said the guy who'd been beating me up.

But they guy who was tying Shandin up said, "well, we'll come back later and untie you."
What? Doesn't make much sense. But what we know is that he did a poor job of tying Shandin. He was out of the ropes ten minutes after they left, untied me, and we ran to the highway to flag down help.

I was 19 when this happened. Shandin is 6 years older then me. He'd always been a great older brother, taking me out to interesting places, exposing me to consciousness-raising culture. But friction had started. I was becoming an adult and wanting more of a peer relationship. But I felt dependent on him, and he felt like he needed to take care of me, but also wanted to empower me.

If the assault was anyone's fault I'd say it was mine. We accidently hung our food bag in a place that made it like a beacon. Shan noticed this, but when I said, oh, it's fun, he went with it out of a desire to empower me. You could say it was his fault for not trusting the discerning judgement of his experience and moving the food bag despite my protest, but that feels like a stretch.

It seems like Shandin couldn't help feeling like it was his fault, blaming himself. But then it was also my fault, and he would blame me. He never said any of this to me directly.

I never blamed him. But it was an eye opening experience. I realized how dependent I'd been on others to create my experience, and how I'd put myself in mortal danger by not taking responsibility for myself. After the experience I returned home to Twin Oaks Community, a safe community full of support for healing. Shandin was re-entering the mainstream, having just left East Wind Community, and didn't get the space and time and support. He was about to begin work forming a new Ecovillage on the west coast.

Once I tried to talk about the experience with him. I wanted to share about my healing process. I think this was a poor approach on my part, given the opportunities I had that he didn't. He didn't show much interest, and I quickly dropped the subject. It was still to painful for either of us to face with eachother. We have yet to revisit it.

In the years since, Shandin's ecovillage project struggled, faltered, and finally fell apart. I was strongly engaged at Twin Oaks, and had become part of a successful poly-family (three parents with one child), which is something Shandin had always wanted. During one visit I remember him saying to me, "I can't do this without you." Whoa! Recoil - when did I become the big brother here? I'd worked hard to become a strong, independent adult, which included distancing myself from my family for a couple years, living the width of the continent apart. I needed to not need anyone, and I'd gotten there. Now I discovered that they needed me - a totally foreign concept. And, with Shandin, there was still this horrid experience we'd shared and never talked about.

I couldn't deal. I simply didn't respond to the efforts Shandin made to reach out to me. He felt rejected, legitimately so. Things have been strained the last few years.

Now, all of a sudden they feel relaxed. Shandin's goals in life have changed considerably, in a direction I can't help him with. He doesn't expect anything from me, nor I from him. It makes it easier. The day before yesterday, sitting together with our father, Dale, peeling the garlic harvest for almost 9 hrs, it went by so quickly. We talked psychological theory, gossiped about Twin Oaks, shared about our confusion about relationships and what we want. It was the best part of family - the familiarity and comfort, the ease of relating. And now, with our lives on such different tracks, our past issues and experiences, the muck and darkness, it doesn't matter anymore. Our involvment and investment in each other doesn't warrant talking about it.

But if we keep relating to each other on the surface level, even a few layers in, how long will it be until the cores of who we are are elsewhere, and the engagement will become dissatisfying, more obligatory then desired? Should I go ahead and be the big brother and say, Shandin, let's talk about this? As I type these words I can feel the weight of it on my heart - the feelings are so overwhelming - do I have the courage to face them? If not, I will miss the final piece of healing I have to do from the most violent experience of my life. And, if not, I will still have a brother, but I will lose a friend.