Monday, November 17, 2014

STORIES FROM A 'thrown away' LIFE

I LIVED 17 YEARS IN THREE COMMUNES---All of which I started.  Two were in New Orleans one in Tampa, Florida.

It was a pivotal experience that awakened me on many fronts.  I love living communally---entangling my life with a dozen or so people.  After 5 years of near-bliss I fell out of agreement with the group---suffered hugely---raged internally.  Finally I went off to San Francisco and took the EST training and began to take responsibility for whatever came into my life.  I eventually got a new vision---bought a fire damaged mansion--and started another commune---this one structured with a new system based partly on an insight from Buckminster Fuller: ---the critical distinction between MORAL and TECHNICAL solutions to human problems. (e.g. the problem of speeding cars where children play.  The moral approach is a warning sign---the technical approach is speed bumps---engineering situations rather than engineering people)

The next 5 years were truly blissful.  I found the right people--and together we created what I think is the "perfect" communal system.  (beginning with Andy--who sometimes comments on this blog)
I renovated the house as we occupied it and soon it was valuable enough to "cash in" and not have to work for many years.-----And so I did--selling to a member who kept the system going.  I went traveling for several years---then got the urge to create another one.  I did so--in Tampa, Fla for 7 more years.  Then I got another vision---living on the road---sold the house hit the road and have done this ever since.

I think I can summarize in a few paragraphs what I learned about communal living those 17 years.

1.  Self fulfillment is the basic purpose.  (Teilard De Chardin:  "Isolation is a dead end.  The self is fulfilled in community") Close living makes it easy to absorb qualities you admire in others.

2. There are 6 major challenges to group functioning.
   A. Power:---who will run things?
   B. Property:  Who owns what?
   C. Privacy: Protection of personal space.
   D. Performance: How will things get done?
   E. Peacemaking:  How are conflicts resolved?
   F. Personnel: How do you select and evict members?

The great breakthrough came when I saw that each of these challenges could be met with TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS:
*Power: Everyone was required to lead the group for one month----two months if you enjoyed it,
*Property: Your stuff was your stuff.
*Privacy: Color wheel on each door--6 colors--dial a mood---violators subject to eviction.
*Performance: All house chores were up for bid.  Lowest bid got the job and the money it paid from                            the common fund. (money is condensed energy--and it is the cleanest way to                                        exchange energy.)
*Peacemaking: Done by the leader--WITHOUT JUDGMENTS--by shuttle diplomacy. (facilitating                               peace, Kissinger style, by transmitting perspectives back and forth till each party was
                          satisfied. (this was our finest social invention--It never failed to resolve matters)
Personnel:  To join us you had to be INTERESTING.  You were evicted if you became                                          UNPOPULAR. (This also worked beautifully---avoided the tedious right/wrong game).



Anonymous said...

Truly fascinating post and I hope this communal living post is just a tease into a more in depth post of how it worked, the challenges, the joys, hopefully with actual stories (names changed to protect the innocent or guilty!), etc. G

Anonymous said...

No judgements here but the first 3 thoughts that came to me as I was reading this.

A Powerful personality.
Ah! That's where the money came from!

An exceptional post!

Anonymous said...


I’m a long time reader who really appreciates your blog.

However, I was a bit ruffled by the first item on your list:

1.  Self fulfillment is the basic purpose.  (Teilard De Chardin:  "Isolation is a dead end.  The self is fulfilled in community") Close living makes it easy to absorb qualities you admire in others.

First, I am somewhat surprised to find you, of all people, quoting a Jesuit priest, but I suppose we all can gather wisdom wherever we find it.*

I’ll take your word on the quote (which I couldn’t locate), however I am not sure the good father is right about this.

Even granting that fulfillment is the “purpose” of life, lots of folks find fulfillment alone and by themselves. In fact, I am sure de Chardin himself would allow for the validity of say, the monastic experience of the desert fathers.

More apropos, I believe you have met quite a few folks on the road who travel solo, some in quite an eremitic way. Surely you have not found all of them to be lonely or lost or unfulfilled.

To ‘stir the pot’ a bit, let me recommend a countervailing point of view, Anthony Storr’s, Solitude: A Return to the Self. Although now 25 years old, Storr’s explication (and defense) of solitude is perhaps one of the most eloquent and persuasive out there. And happily, a used copy can be had on amazon for a mere penny.


Thanks for the blog, which provides clear evidence that your life has not been “thrown away”.

------a solitary traveller

*Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) is perhaps best remembered for this:
----”We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Ed Helvey - The Professional Nomad said...

As always, Randy, insightful. Your point is that life is about fulfillment. I came to the conclusion is it about "being" - being in the moment, being wherever you want to be, being with or without anyone else, being creative, being productive, being happy, but mostly being free to chose any or all of the above and anything else one wants to be - like being fulfilled.

I always enjoy your posts and gain some nuggets of wisdom.


Jim said...

I'm inclined to agree that we become the best versions of ourselves within the company of others . . . as long as those others are sufficiently intelligent and strong enough to challenge our growth properly. There is no check and balance when we live alone too long and we can get too far out on a limb -- to a point where no rational person will be able to reel us in. Ted Kaczynski comes to mind, but there have been many others.
Even more potentially dangerous is surrounding ourselves with a group of "others" who think just like we do. Then we can become empowered by our idiocy to the extent it is shared by so many others. Voltaire got it right, "Those convinced of absurdities are capable of atrocities."

Anonymous said...

Ah a true Communist, you are in good company!

Randy said...

Thanks all: Wow! today's comments convince me that I have the brightest readers.
Anonymous: The quote is from Chardin's signature work--THE PHENOMENON OF MAN.
And re: loners on the road---in my experience most of them are whacko or seriously skewed. I cannot remember a truly wise and balanced one. Jim's first paragraph says why---checks and balances.
His second paragraph is also spot on--wish I had thought to say it.
I don't think people can become wise alone. Yes, long stretches of solitude might deepen us as when Newton sealed himself in and produced his laws of motion. Or when Basho emerged from solitude with his insights. The key word is emerged. Thanks for the Storr reference---will check him out.

Anonymous said...

Communal Groupthink mentality tends to devolve to the lowest level of intelligence acceptable to the group as a whole. The most intelligent are usually terminated.