Section V – Expanding Community Horizons
Section V – Expanding Community Horizons
- Group Work - no teachers - only shared learners (*11) "expand the limits of the Possible"
- Political leads to cultural, leads to spiritual search (*12) facing a draft -preparing for solitude
- Limits of the self and sharing learning (*13)
- Paying the bills with Construction work - Supporting the Free school (*15)
- Searching for others who have gone before - Creating receptivity (*16)
- Discover playing music and light combinations - Mahavishnu - Goal's Beyond photo (*17)
- USA Travel - West and East Coast - bookstores and inspired groups of seekers (*18)
(*11) Group Work - no teachers - only shared learners
There was growing understanding that it was important for groups of people to work effectively and therefore more people had to understand some basic things about groups. The energy present in most interesting and intense meetings and discussions were not about to follow "Roberts rules of order". So some basic rules of courtesy had to be understood (and sometimes stated when new people joined). So this became a subject of discussion - how to educate more people to how better decisions are made. Classes were taken or given on group dynamics, some theater scripts were acted out to show how some people could unfairly take over a meeting. And it was realized if only some people understood power relationships those few might lead a group in a different direction for their own ends. In some situations it was even stated that we have not leaders or teachers only share learners. This did become a little bit of a problem in some meetings when some older people were giving some sound advice very good advice but would not get a fair hearing. Sometimes they had alienated this newly process aware audience by not phrasing their intervention in the current inclusive discussion language. Big egos and authority figures administrators had to show that they could take some heavy doses of direct criticism some times before they would even get a chance to speak. If they were brave enough to show up, they would eventually get some recognition - but it was not very welcoming. It was a strong reaction that the student felt until that time they had not been given a platform to express their views. They were upset about a war going on that their friends were being called to fight, they felt the University was involved in military research and not being overly honest about all the connections etc. Sometimes it was a general generational thing and the first time the students had experienced the ability to express their frustration at an older figure they felt had "messed up the world". But all in all many felt things could change for the better and with increased attention we could "expand the limits of the Possible"
The Student Right committee / Commission tried to codify what it would look like for Students to be respected for what they had to offer to the community, their freedom of expression protected and they would not be faced with expulsion or academic censure for expressing contrary or strong opinions.
I was appointed by the then student body president to head the commission to investigate what other institutions had found out and to coordinate the draft of the "Student Bill of Rights".
The Picture of us in the student newspaper at the time the commission was founded was not a welcome sight to some faculty and administrators, since some of us on the commission were already know to be very outspoken with "colorful" language used to make our points. The beards and sometimes “surly looks” fit right into their worst fears from what they had read was happening on other famous Universities in the land. Some questioned if we were just part of a “national grand conspiracy?".
Organizing the research on student rights, bringing together different people to present ideas etc. and then organizing big meetings to share drafts with students turned out to be very intensive and required much time going to dorm speaking on the subject and getting students and faculty involved. We were fortunate that the The Carnegie Commission and Council on Higher Education had printed up a related booklet on the subject and the USA National Student association and other organizations by that time had developed good background material - even some little theater scripts. It was in the civil rights era and one rather effective piece was circulated in the alternative University student press. It was written by J. Farber. "Student as N..." first appeared in the LA Free Press in 1967. It was reprinted over 500 times in the 1960s and was published in book form in 1970 by Pocket Books. It draws an extended analogy between the status of students and the status of African Americans in the USA.
All these things helped us make the case for more choice, decisions and responsibility for students for their education. Probably more importantly it introduced us to searching outside our usual sources to research subjects we were passionate about. Whether doing research presenting points or consolidating pieces and drafts the time flew by. There was no concept of work - our passion for the subject gave us tremendous energy - we believed we had a way to start to change the world via education and organization. We had emotions and gut feelings that told us things were not right and now we found the intellectual fire power to back up our feelings. We excerpted and highlight the items that most seemed to sum up what the situation was like at UD and what formulas for moving forward seemed best for us. We added wherever we felt we could improve or give better example of what it was we wanted. It was all good training for what was to come. We met with the Faculty and Administrators and later went into meetings very well prepared with well thought out reasoning etc (even if we still jumped on a table in the middle of presentation or used salty language to make a point). These positions came out of our many internal debates. When the students returned to class the following fall we were becoming mini -experts on the subject and were well able to hold our own in discussions etc. on the pros and cons of specific proposals in open forums.
Student Body President Election 1969-1970 There had been good support from the Student Government for both the Student Rights imitative and the Experimental College. And the elections were coming up for the next term. We had some meeting of the students who were mostly involved in these two issues as well as political activists concerned with the draft, making ROTC voluntary and the general state of political affairs. We had achieved some progress just working with the Student Government since the SR commission once appointed was pretty independent and the Experimental College was also very much self-governing. It was debated as to what would be best to do to keep the momentum we had obtained. We weren't sure if the next Student Government would be so supportive, so it was decided that we should field a candidate for President. I had been chair of SR commission, co-founder of the Experimental College, quite vocal, and had at least a year more to be at the University. Since it was pretty obvious what I cared about by how I spent my time. I became a candidate. My father had once told me about a NY candidate for state office that he felt had won because he had very early expressed a well thought out and principled platform. Then the other candidates had to respond to his agenda.(more about Jack Keefe Here: http://www.adhiratha.net/www/oral-history/MAThesis/4pub_htm/MAT2_A00.htm) We discussed this idea with those who wanted to support my candidacy and we decided to take the campaign as a learning event. If we won we would be in the position to go for all the things we promised. And if we didn't we would have at least moved the voting students further to our goals by discussing what we felt were key issues. Two new things we proposed was the establishment of a vice president for Education and one for Community Development (which would cover student rights and organizing around student needs).
There were four Candidates declared for the position and each of the others had support from various groups. It was expected that there would be a run off for the position since no one was expected to get 50% on the first ballot. The shocker when the votes were counted was that I did.
So that was when a few things changed and I had to adjust my life even more. I was now in this full time. I received a half scholarship for the post and I dropped all but enough courses to keep me technically a student, so I could kept my half scholarship and spend most of the working day on issues we cared about and had promised to try to implement.......
The spirit I took from those days was as a tremendous opening of possibility. “Increase awareness” and “Expand the limits of the Possible” were very real to us.
Sometimes I felt those that were a few years younger were in an even better position to make the possibility become a reality because they embraced it so whole heartedly.
And I worried for their safety during the coming years.
Other stories to consider
• New student Orientation
• Alternative Lifestyles Conference
• Working for City of Dayton as project assistant in the Urban core.
• Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King passing
Generalist Degree - One of the things we had worked for was the ability of students after they had finished the core curriculum during the first two years, to be able to mix courses of the upper level from various disciplines. We made the case that the integrated person would be just as valuable as specialist in the future. If someone really wanted to specialize they could do that with the advanced degree. We thought the only requirement was the student have completed the pre requisites for the upper level course to get in - or else have demonstrated they knew enough about the subject matter to not be lost in the upper level discussions. We knew at the time it was too late for us but we wanted to make it easier for future students. Eventually this came to pass. And then almost a decade later when I wanted to finish my degree (I still needed 9 hours) - it was this program that I was able to be part of thanks to the compassionate administrators in place at that time. (full circle)
===============================Detail on that ============
ON my UD attendance and Graduation - some friends from those days who were recently doing a small retrospective historical piece from their perspective and wanted confirm that I did not graduate in four years (1965-1969). I had to go and check my records for exact date: 1980 official Graduation, but it seems UD puts me in class notes for 1969. I don't think many in 1980 would recognize me.. Maybe they gave me credit for "community organizing" or "work study extension" :-) see below
- When I left Dayton in 1970's I still needed 9 hours to graduate. I started in 1965 as math major and first left UD after spring 1966. I took only one class at local college in fall 1966 when I worked full time for the US post office. - When I went back to UD in Jan 1967 I switched to History major - math had not gone well…. With the change and new start, that semester I made the University's Deans list of very good students for the first time. But then at end of summer a tremendous opportunity came up and I took the next semester off ( fall 1967). For the four and a half months I worked as a Merchant seaman, literally traveled around the world, visited many countries and made enough money to pay for another semester of school. in last year (1969-1970) I only took enough classes to be a part time student (since as the student's rights chairperson and then Student Body president I was too busy as full time organizer-activist)
Year later, when had already worked for a while at UNICEF, I received encouragement from my older colleagues to finish my degree. I contacted the University and was graciously approved by Arts and Science Dean (R.Donnateli) to take two independent study classes at UD (early distance Learning) for total of 6 hours. UD also readily accepted the 3 Graduate hours I had already received from American University in Washington for completing the programe and course work for "Managing the Modern Archives" in conjunction with the USA National Archives in Washington D.C.
It still took me some time to do all the paperwork related to graduation (which I didn’t actually go back to Dayton to attend). So I was officially student for undergrad from Sep 65 to Jan 80 = about 15 yrs.
Later my masters from City University of New York (CUNY) Queens College was a little less time (about 7 years). So that was progress :-). I started work towards a doctorate but only took about 9 more hours of post graduate work.
(*12) Political leads to cultural, leads to spiritual search facing a draft -preparing for solitude
"Faith Crises in Culture" One summer a number of us took a six hour interdisciplinary course called "Faith Crises in Culture". Before the class began a hand full of us, were selected to participate in a week or two of "facilitator training". It was an intensive session of group work. Organizing discussions and getting others to speak etc. it was very useful. It had much feedback from the professors running the sessions and other participants. It also exposed us intellectually and culturally to Students and Professors from other colleges in area like Antioch. It was available for undergraduate or graduate credit in various disciplines. it was most interesting with out of town participants from formal religious groups, at least one priest, a religious nun and someone from Israel (former army and kibitz persons who with spouse became good friends with many of us and introduced us to many things including first Israeli meals and some reality checks on our discussions of War and Peace.). The discussions were very animated with expectation to listen. Emotions were mostly freely expressed but it was also expected that you would be able to present some context and reasoning for your strong feelings.
Limits of capacity to facilitate yet alone lead: At the end of my term in office as Student Body President I felt a bit tired. It had been pretty intense year and I was not sure that some of the effort would result in long term progress for those coming after us. I saw how difficult it can be to try to bring about some consistent change and manage your own sanity, keep a sense of humor and healthy personal perspective. I saw up close many of my own limits to truly know what the best course of action was or who was telling the truth in certain situations. Also I became alarmed that some of the younger people came to me for advice on subjects that I really knew little about or felt unqualified to give any helpful direction. Some of it was just life questions that I was only beginning to work out for myself. Eventually I learned it was OK to say just that I did not know. But sometimes I felt I really should be able to give a better answer. In short I felt inadequate to some of the trust that was show towards me and my judgment. I didn't have much faith in others who I noticed gave out all sorts of advice with such confidence (and it seemed no consideration for consequences in others lives).
Draft Board Process and Physical exam: I was also being included in beginning process to be drafted. By that time I had come to the strong conclusion that the USA was wrong to be in Vietnam and I had no intention of supporting the war effort in any way. Even though I had relatives in Canada I didn’t feel comfortable in going there to live to avoid the draft. I had nothing against those who did that. But it didn't feel right for me. I applied for a selective CO status. I was against this war but couldn’t say for sure that I would be against all wars. When NY draft board sent be a notice to go back to NY to discuss the matter I complied and found myself in small room with I think 4 men in suits and two women not looking up much but taking notes. They asked me to state my case which I did pretty much along the lines I had written to them. They gave me a little lecture. I forget the exact content but suggesting I should just go and do my duty. They asked me if I would do alternate service and I said I would do education service (something like peace core or vista the internal usa similar program) but would not not work in military as medical. That got their attention. They were a bit upset and wanted to know why. I said something to the effect that If I did medical, they would be able to put me in that job behind the lines and then make some other probably poor black kid without my education opportunity etc go in my place to fight in the war I didn't believein. It did not go over well. I was a bit shaken by the whole experience.
Culture and Music: Meanwhile in Dayton it was beginning to feel that maybe real change would be more advanced by culture and music. Politics seemed more and more complicated and I noticed so many different agendas appeared when you dug a little deeper. So when not working on construction jobs as manual labourer to pay the bills, I began to get interested in music or anything cultural. We went to the local pawn shop and brought second hand instruments. We had at least one trumpet and violin. One friend had a trombone we could share, and there were the usual variations of electronic and acoustic guitars, bongo drums, flutes, keyboards and old piano.. I think the violin and the trumpet were the most difficult for those not too familiar with musical instruments (me) and even more problematic for some of those who were somewhat musical to have to listen to us - a weirder collection of screeches and of notes was barely possible – and this was in a time of some pretty wild sounds (Zappa). I remember on someone’s trip back to NY. While on the LI Rail Road on a weekend the person decided to play the trumpet quietly in backend of the car where no one was sitting. Eventually one of the only passengers at far end came back to comment and suggested that "some pity be shown to the other passengers and to please stop that racket”. I guess she wasn't in the flow of expanding the limits of the possible music genius in the making...... :-)
Bamboo flute - leads to first mention of Mahavishnu: My favorite instrument became the bamboo flute. It didn't seem to bother anyone when I played and some even expressed appreciation for my limited ability. I got pretty good at just playing the few tunes that came to me and could get quite meditative just playing the flute calmly for periods of time. Other times I would play the same simple notes fast and furious for a bit and then go back to the slow cycle. One time when I was playing the flute at the free school after a parent teacher meeting, one of the parents who was social worker asked me if I knew who John McLaughlin (http://www.johnmclaughlin.com/) was and suggested I might enjoy Mahivishnu's music. (more on that later)
Draft Physical Exam: I had to now begin to think about a strategy since the NY draft board said they rejected my Conscientious Objector (CO) application ( not too unexpected but still un-nerving). I was then requested to go to Cincinnati to have physical. (Years earlier I had found out I was too tall when I was thinking of becoming a helicopter pilot (after high school) and I had grown since then. It turned out they had also raised the height limit since then for the regular army.) When we got to Cincinnati (on an old school bus with other potential draftees from Dayton) they put us all in big room and had us fill out some pages. They collect the first batch and then about half hour later someone comes into room and asked if Mr. Keefe was present. I said yes. He said to take all my things and come with him. Oh, Oh I said to my self - being separated from the big group may not be good sign. I was taken in to an officer’s room and he asked me if I was sincere in filling out the form and then what I meant by one answer. The question said "is there any reason you might not be fit for service?. I had put in: " I have a tendency to follow my conscience'". he asked me to explain. I said that if someone gives me an order and I feel it is against my moral beliefs I will not execute the order. I think he asked me how I felt about the war and I explained my position. He then asked a few more questions where I had traveled ( it came out I had been a merchant seaman and traveled around the world). He went out and checked with others and said that I could proceed to take the physical but would have to fill out a bigger questionnaire. It was getting late so I could come back tomorrow with the answers especially since the questions concerned all the places I had traveled and who I had met with? In all the places in 15 + countries 3 years ago (oh God!) There was also a big list of groups that I had to check off if I had ever belonged. Eventually the forms got filled out to best of my ability. Took and passed the physical (even was sent for the medical officer to check my unusual hammer head big feet).
Visit from Draft enforcement authorities: Eventually a notice arrived for me to report to be drafted. I ignored it and just kept on with my life (of working and beginning searching for more inner clarity). Then one day there was knock on the door. The person asked for me saying they were from government agency. I had heard that sometimes the government sent a set of agents to interview you if you did not show up for the draft. Usually one was older and other one younger. They would play the routine where the older one would threaten you and the younger one would try to convince you to move in direction of compliance (good cop - bad cop). I noticed that there was only one person and his eyes seemed very bright and had a forthright open manner. I invited him in and we sat on the sofa and began to chat. The phone rang (it was my friend Rick calling) – I explained that someone was there about the draft and I should probably go - he agreed. When I finished speaking on the phone the official said I have one thing more to tell you before we go on. "Anything you say from now on can be used against you in a court of law". Well I said that seems to end this friendly little conversation. He added do you have anything else to say. I said no and he added “well I guess you said enough already?” I sad “yes” I had written and told the draft board everything and nothing had changed. He then was very gracious and thanked me for inviting him in. But then said he had one more thing to tell me: If he “saw me again it would be with a warrant for my arrest". I nervously smiled and thanked him as he left. I figured at least that meant they weren't taking me away that day.
(*13) Limits of the self and sharing learning
By this time I was coming up quite a lot against all the things I did not know. At the University we had begun to share all we knew and learned. The Whole Earth Catalog was great for this process. I had also decided that if the government represnetatives came and took me away there were really only two options:
- Go to jail, exercise all appeals and if lost try to organize other prisoners in the jail and cause as much mischief within the jail as possible. Hopefully with some support from outside; or
- Form the time that I was arrested, go limp and leave what they did in their hands. Not cooperate in eating, walking or anything until they said I was free.
In considering the first option I began to read the accounts of some who had done this and those who made it out sounded very bitter about the experience and all the people associated with the incarceration. It didn't seem like they felt they had changed much of anything. So the second option of total non-cooperation seemed the most attractive. But with either option it seemed that I would be spending a good deal of time in solitary confinement. And I read that some people could go pretty crazy if left alone for long periods. So the idea came that I should practice intentional solitude to be more prepared for the experience.
When I first came into contact with the concept of meditation was when I in the minor seminary (grade 9) in high school. If a student was "spacing out" or not paying attention in class the teacher would say "meditation was to be done at home". I think there was also a book called something like "daily meditations" that included short prayers or themes for the day. The next time I remember coming across meditation was writing a paper on Socrates and "Know Thyself" for Philosophy class in my second year of College. I think it was the first class paper that I really enjoyed doing. I made a remark in the paper that in trying to discover what it meant to meditate I didn't get to know myself much better - since I only got a headache. The professor much appreciated the remark.
Later when the USA military service was coming up and it seemed like I might end up spending a lot of quite time by myself I began to explore in earnest some techniques and possible benefits to meditation.
I had begun doing hath yoga out of books for the simple physical exercises. At the back of book there were some simple breathing exercises and beginning meditation visualizations techniques. I began to do the yoga Sun salute postures very regularly ( I think I even did these basic postures regularly sometimes at midday and evening too). Then I started to always end the physical postures with a "grand relaxation" where I would systematically relax all parts of the body we and then a begin a meditation. I wanted to move toward being more peaceful with my considerable energy and also be able to see more clearly the "truth" of situations.
Hocking State park and Fasting:
A few people from our house and other friends started regularly going to Hocking state park for the weekend to be in nature more and to explore those feelings. it was few houe drive from wher we lived in Ohio. Sometimes I would stay on there for the week and get picked up the next week end or make my way home during the week.
By this time I was also practicing fasting that I had read some about. This too seemed wise. For if I was not going to cooperate if the government representatives arrested me for the a draft violation, I had heard it can be pretty bad during early days of fasting. At first the experience was quite good. My meditation became easier. By then I was also vegetarian. However I noticed that I would sometimes start to get very irritable on the second day of fasting. I was amazed at how much energy I still had. By the time I came back to NY I weighed about 140 lbs at 6 foot 6 inches (almost 2 meters). With shoulder length hair and beard, I was quite a sight, my mother told me later. She was afraid for my health since she felt I looked like starving people she had seem pictures of in Africa or Asia. She said she remembered when as a small boy I got really sick at at one point. They were really concerned then and here it looked like I might be doing myself in. She knew I wouldn’t listen to any direct sound advice from my parents at the time. But they made some hints that got me to look in the mirror when I got back to my friend’s apartment in Manhattan where I was staying. When I looked I saw what my mother saw I could see all my ribs. I first felt sad for my mother but then it became funny to me to see what they must see. I showed my roommates and I remember us laughing hysterically at the sight. I think I did start to eat a little more after that - Respect for a mother’s love or something. But I hadn’t really noticed I was losing the weight. I was still working construction jobs before I left Dayton. I would eat real good when I was working and did the two day to 5 day fasting when I wasn't working. I was an enthusiastic learner, a bit impatient for results and applied it to this too. (Later after I had met Sri Chinmoy, I heard a comment he made discouraging extreme fasting which I took very seriously)
Baking Bread: I began experimenting baking bread and sold some at the local health food store in Dayton (that is another story - humorous as I became famous for "rock Bread" when I had decided (God alone knows why) to try to make bread without using yeast or baking powder. The Tassajara Bread (http://www.shambhala.com/html/catalog/items/isbn/978-1-59030-704-5.cfm) book had many bread and pancake recipes that became our favorites.
Testing Meditation Techniques: I began trying any meditation techniques I came across in articles, books or someone told me about. From one book, I had made contact with a group in California that taught the techniques through a correspondence course that was well regarded. Unfortunately they told me they only provided their meditation lessons to those who promised not to share them with others. This I could not do since I was so committed to community sharing and learning. Later one of my friends found out that I was interested in techniques and had copies of a set of the meditation techniques he subscribed to from that group. My friend saw how sincere I was and offered me the lessons he had. I didn't take them because I felt the authors had the right to request others not to share them since they wanted them to only be used with correct guidance. And I knew from experience that if I learned anything useful, I would want to share it with my friends. It was an underlying tenet of our lives in that collection of people, we were always sharing what we found that seemed good or in any way a positive step forward. So I told my friend what techniques I already knew about and which ones I practiced. He said he hadn’t been through all the lessens he received by mail but it seemed the techniques in the correspondence courses he had subscribed to covered much of the same ground I was discovering form other less formal sources.
So we just continued to share our experiences. He shared what were the best techniques for him that he practiced and that seemed fair. In those days most in our community were also very open to hearing others stories of experiences. This seemed sensible since you never knew from where or who the best idea or experience would come. It seemed we were extensions of each other’s learning "apparatus" in the best of times. The learning seemed to have the potential of being exponentially greater for all of us with this approach. The approach over time got a bit more refined as we began to assess how much credibility to give to the experience depending on how long you had known the person, how sincere they appeared to be, and the quality of previous experiences or knowledge shared.
For example see also "The Master Game" under books http://adhiratha.srichinmoycentre.org/inspirebooks- and section on books below.
(*15) Paying the bills with Construction work - Supporting the Free school
I had stopped taking classes at the University and began to work construction jobs as a carpenter’s assistant or general laborer. The pay was much better than most clerical jobs and it gave quite a bit of time to "let your mind run free" if performing simple tasks or repetitive work. By then I had become a bit cynical of the business, government world and even educational institutions. Somehow it seemed more acceptable at that point to just sell my physical labor. My mind would be mine. It also allowed me to pick up jobs fairly quickly at the union hall for seasonal work. I made enough money to begin to pay off some of my student loans, to give a good portion to our house rent and contribute some in time or money to the free school.
Dayton community – Parent Teachers Co-op school
I was helping out from time to time at the alternative school that had begun in Dayton for small children. Then in September (1971 or 72) there was some problems with continuing. They wouldn’t have funds for the teachers for at least a month. I volunteered to not go to work for at least two weeks and help out every day until the crisis got resolved. Some others did the same. It was an interesting experience. I was a little concerned that two of the volunteers didn’t know what they were getting into and may be what we called “flakey”. But the second day I observed one teaching some of the children math “Set Theory” with a lesson plan. I inquired where she had learned this approach. It turned out she had finished all her course work for teacher certification from the State University. She had not graduated because she had just not completed her student teaching. The other volunteer turned out to be great teaching the children music and other things she was interested in and had such a empathetic, sweet and patient way with everyone. I was won over by these two people's non showy dedication and again learned not to judge people by first impressions.
Hatha Yoga: After I had been involved with the elementary school alternative for a while, one of the parents spoke to me on behalf of a friend that worked in the alternative High School in Dayton. They wanted me to consider teaching a course or a few sessions in Hatha Yoga positions and techniques at the alternative high school. I at first declined saying what I had learned was just out of books and had only been practicing for a little while. They prevailed by making the point, that the students there were excited about learning something on the subject and if the current staff taught they would just be reading from the book, with no practical experience actually trying the techniques. They convinced me that my enthusiasm, combined with my honesty of what I had practiced and knowledge of my own limits would be well received by the students. I did a few classes and it was good experience. I think it even inspired me to go to a few regular teacher taught classes elsewhere in Dayton on Hatha Yoga. There I confirmed I had learned most of the postures correctly and received more confidence.
Alternative Ecology Camp: One summer at this time, some local people wanted to create an alternative camp for local children that had a focus of ecology and nature. I was requested to be part of the staff. I had been in boy scouts and had been spending some time camping out. Our informal network was also known to be very much involved with the early attempts to live a more sustainable life style. The camp had the backing of spouses of some fairly well to do Dayton people. One of them made their home available one day a week so the campers could use their fairly good sized pool and surrounding area for the program. Another good friend from Dayton (AW) had just returned from traveling around and also became one of the staff. We cooked our own food and taught basic skills with nature walks etc.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull One day at the camp an afternoon trip was planned. One of the young campers could not join in the activity and needed to rest. I volunteered to stay back with the camper. This boy became a little anxious in the afternoon but told me it often happened. I think he had asthma attacks and was taking some medication. I requested to know what his parents would usually do to help if he was feeling anxious. He said that his mother sometimes read to him and that made him relax. I request that he pick a book from the small library available in the main room and I would read it. He chose Jonathan Livingston Seagull - by Richard Bach (A transcendence Story ). I think I may have already heard the title. Possibly some friends had told me I would like this book. I started to read and within a few pages I couldn’t believe what I was reading. That evening at bedtime I started to read it out loud to some of the campers who were a bit wound up by the day’s events. We did it for a few nights till they would fall asleep. At some point they were asleep but I had to finish because I was so inspired by the “transcendence” part of the story and that it would be a children’s book. It resonated with me amd seemed to have some deep spiritual truth. A great and inspiring tale. - see summary at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Livingston_Seagull
(*16) Searching for others who have gone before - Creating receptivity
Up until this time, after I left the University I was very much against the concept of teachers. I felt in many cases after a teacher had provided some necessary background and introduction to the subject with given a general orientation, the teacher should just try to facilitate learning. However it seemed teachers could actually impeded natural learning rather than encouraging it. And I had made some pretty bold statement about self proclaimed teachers and leaders. I felt what we needed was effective groups of people working together. (see section on M.Rossman and learning and social change internal link para 10)
Some friends challenged me on the extremes of my philosophy that teachers didn’t have something valuable to offer on the deepest questions. For example they did point out that by now on the beginning spiritual topics: hatha yoga, meditation, and soulfully trying to play the flute I was learning things. It became obvious in conversations that I could share with someone totally new to subject, but who had an honest approach to learning, ways to expedite their first steps. So It was extended to the fact that if someone had been sincerely practicing a solid spiritual discipline for many years, then they might have something to share with us to expedite our journey.
Then I started to read more seriously spiritual books
Auto biography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda - was first published in 1946. Since then it has been one of the first books that many western seekers of eastern light would often come across for subsequent decades. I first came to have a copy after my university training was interrupted (when i still needed 9 hours to Graduate) I read it as part fantasy and part inspiration. I didn't really take it as too historically accurate. But I didn't take it in a negative judgmental way. It was just interesting and “maybe there is something to this”. But at that point I didn't feel comfortable discussing it with too many people. It all still was a bit strange to me at the time. http://www.writespirit.net/spirituality/yogananda_writings
Theosophists: The theosophist, Alice Baily and others were of interest with all the different levels of things to consider. But for me I found continued reading in that vein,at that time in my life gave me a headache. It just seemed too mental for me. I didn’t seem to get much clarity that I could retain in my mind. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosophy
Rama Krishna and his disciples by C. Isherwood - gave a sense of what it would be like to be the disciple of someone who seemed very far advanced in spiritual ecstasy. Also it gave some idea of the lengths someone might go to in order to get as close as possible to knowing or experiencing an ultimate reality in a way that was sustainable without using artificial means.
"The Music of Life" by Hasrat Inayat Khan seemed very important and moving. Preface to his book (he was the father of Pir Valayat Inayat Khan - who I later met on a number of occasions when I was with Sri Chinmoy)
- I came to know of The Music of Life" book because we had offered a music student from Yellow Springs to stay at our house for part of one summer. She had some things to do a few days a week in Dayton. This young woman would play the cello very soulfully and I noticed that she also gave great respect to a book she read. When she left for a short trip elsewhere I saw that in her absence, she had left the valued book on a table. I noticed the title “The Music of Life”. I wanted to open it as I was attracted to what seemed like a sacred object. However, I waited. Reading the title only further increased my interest.
- When our temporary house mate returned, I shared my experience and that I had awaited her return to see if possible to examine the book since it seemed to be a valued and ”sacred text”. She was more than happy for me to look through the book and she shared some of her experience in reading it. Some of it moved me immediately and other parts seemed way over my comprehension or ability. But I had a quiet feeling of inner assurance that these were things that took time to assimilate.
- This type of learning demanded a receptivity that couldn’t be rushed. It was a sense that it would be worth the effort when the time was right to understand more. There was no need or use in being frustrated by the things that I could only now glimpse briefly before my mind flew away.Around the same time that I deicovered the work of Herman Hess.
Magister Ludi The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hess. I read this book around the time I had been exposed to "The Music of Life" mentioned above. I was fascinated in part because it also dealt with music and life questions*
- It was published in Switzerland in 1943, after being rejected for publication in Germany, (it was published in English in 1969). "Glass Bead Game" is a literal translation of the German title, but the book has also been published under the title Magister Ludi, Latin for "master of the game," Playing the game well requires years of hard study of music, mathematics, and cultural history. Essentially the game is an abstract synthesis of all arts and scholarship. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Bead_Game
- I had previously appreciated Hesse’s: “Siddhartha” see : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddhartha_(novel
- And also his novella, “Journey to the East”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_East
AS a "coincidence" later after coming back to NY, the only time I physically saw the 3rd Secretary-General , U Thant, was at play by Sri Chinmoy called "Sidhartah becomes the Buddha":
U Thant’s message about spiritual values at premier of play “Siddhartha becomes the Buddha” in Harrison NY, 25 May 1973″ Excerpt:
- “I feel very strongly, as some of my friends know, that only by the practical application of the teachings of great religious leaders, particularly the development of the moral and the spiritual aspects of life as Sri Chinmoy has stressed in the play—love, compassion, tolerance, and the philosophy of live-and-let-live, modesty and even humility–that only with this approach, only with this method, will we all be able to fashion the kind of society we want, a truly moral society, a decent society, a livable society, which is the goal of all great religions.”
(*17) Discover playing music and light combinations
- as mentioned earlier many of my friends looked seriously at what music might have to offer in understanding the world we were in. The poetry in the music seemed to be closer to the truth than we would often find in official announcements or news stories. '1, 2, 3, 4 what are we fighting four", “trouble ahead , trouble behind". There was more "community" in listening and playing music or dancing together than many talks seeking to bring people to common ground. We rediscovered a joy in simple shared acts of expression that sustained us.
- We had lost so many heroes that had tried to change the political system from within: The Kennedys, ML King and other younger ones from local communities. Only music and poetry seemed to adequately convey the deep sense of loss.
- There was a sense raw honesty in the music that was not often found elsewhere. There was an admitting to confusion. "Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see” (Greatful Dead). and
- Somehow there was still hope in the music. In the midst of our confusion and daily fear for our friends or country, the music provided a way to continue to believe that some way would be found to "come together" and that people would understand that we should "Give Peace a chance.". It was reinforced that there was value in being a "Dreamer" of peace and we believed we were not the "only ones". (Possibly move elsewhere) Some speeches in times of sorrow inspired us to continue: " Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not." http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/S...)
- We were attracted to bringing people together in different venues to share music, food and thought. It in some ways was also supported going back to the basics of old time community "barn raising" or public dancing. Some participated in efforts to buy land and support a community using less non-renewable resources.
- Part of the new sensation was in trying to use new technology to also help us come together. Put together with sound and light combinations and slides of people working or dancing together seemed to be helping a new consciousness be communicated and spread. Our actions suggested we believed that if people could have the experience of community together for a little bit of time they would try to bring this to the wider world.
- I remember using "parachute play" to enhance group discussions. We were looking for creative waya to defuse the sense of separateness. We wanted to try to demonstrate that we had to cooperate and work together and illustrate that we had more that united us than divided us. This theme was restated in myriad of ways. The picture of Earth from outer space seemed to convey more than thousands of books.
- Mahavishnu - Goal's Beyond photo
- Flute playing similarities: I was not very musically inclined but I loved the feeling when people would be singing or dancing together and the music conveyed deep feelings. Playing simple notes on an instrument seemed somehow to touch a deeper part of the being that I could not express with words. "You not only play the guitar the guitar (or flute) plays you". There was positive reciprocity in action. "
- Picture gets my attention: I had a look at a Mahavishnu album and listened a few times and wondered why others felt some of the simple rifts we played were similar. Then I saw the picture of what I assumed was John McLaughlin’s "Guru" on the cover and I was moved in some way. In principle I didn't like the concept of Gurus'. it seemed like following someone foreign to you. But there was something very intense about the picture and a relaxed feeling come from this guitarist who had intense music. But I didn't want to think about all that, at least not at the time, in that way.
- Something is beyond me: A friend was dancing together in a group with some of the children in the Dayton free school one day as a break for the lesson at the time. I joined them and this person questioned me if I know who was playing the music they were dancing to. I said I think it is Mahavishnu. She then left the room, brought back the album and pointed out Sri Chinmoy's picture there and said: "What do you think of that?” https://www.amazon.com/Goals-Beyond-Mahavishnu-John-Mclaughlin/dp/B0000009MZ
I said "that is too much for me". The person was surprised and responded: “What do you mean, I thought you were interested in this kind of thing" I said a bit defensively: “I’m not sure, but it seems he is further into something that I can or want to be. It is beyond me. I don't know what it means.”
(*18) USA Travel - West and East Coast - bookstores and inspired groups of seekers
At this time I would pay for the house rent and part for the Free School and then go traveling to east or west coast. Seeing what was new in the different communities. Pittsburg and Philadelphia or Pittsburgh (and maybe briefly in NY) on east coast as well as San Francisco and surrounding area on West coast (with stop in Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons and Salt Lake city).
- Conversation and book stores: I was trying to figure out where this was all headed. I remember at the time walking around an east coast bookstore and feeling pensive. A certain quiet and yet active feeling came over me. Then I was drawn to one part of bookstore and began reading titles. The ones that attracted me most were related to Sufi thought. I was so impressed that these books were there. I felt I needed to know what was in those books. "Tales of Dervishes", "Wisdom of Idiots". Possibly I had read a review of them but at that moment it was an inner feeling that was very encouraging -even thrilling.
- Tales of Dervishes and Wisdom of Idiots , both books by Idries Shah, provided me with many insights and stories that made me laugh and ponder deeply at the same time. I learned much about humility and being around a true teacher in order to learn what wisdom they could share. An idea began to register in my consciousness, that one might not understand something essential about a situation till many years or experiences later. Tales of the Dervishes : Teaching-Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years, Wisdom of Idiots' by Idris Shah (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idries_Shah)
- inspired groups of seekers: I was drawn to any talk I would overhear about spiritual seeking or peoples inner quests and travels. I was thirsty to know what they had learned. A few years before a writer had come to Dayton with his partner-wife (MR) and met with groups we had arranged to be together for a weekend. I connected with him while I was on west coast and seemed like the continuation of a long conversation that was being shared in many places around the country on ways to live and grow together while trying to make the situations we found ourselves in better. It was interesting to see what was happening in different but very vibrant local communities. On that trip I also went by the main office (in Pala Alto?) California for the Whole Earth Catalog and their related projects. I just stayed around for a bit taking in the atmosphere, meeting with people and seeing what they were doing and planning for the future. There was a positive energy there and sense that a difference could be made with sincerity, dedication, a healthy dose of cheerfulness and understanding of basic principles of how things worked in the world (practical science).
- Recognizing similar inspirations in earlier american life: A simple and direct approach was sought in human relations and our relation to the Planet. There was also a wish to examine our cultural asumptions and community roots with a shared sense of purpose. An improved general awareness seemed to require conscious community building and sustaining commitment. Later, when I began to read more by and about Thomas Jefferson, I recognized similarities to what 200 years previously he had been examining and modeling in his own life, family and community. I was taken by his continual belief in the basic goodness of people and their common pursuit of happiness. It seemed, in some ways, to make the search of the ninteen sixty’s deeply rooted in the aspirations of the early Americans and others who had aspired for a better world in many different world cultures and communities.