I remember my visit last November to The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. This is the Stephen Gaskin commune. Until three years ago, Stephen, a former college teacher, was mostly known for the weekly sermons he gave in San Francisco, known as “Monday Night Class.” He spoke the language of many young people who have turned away from the soft, delightful comforts of their fathers, in their search for a different lifestyle, and attracted a large following. Some of them moved east with him, to The Farm, located about 50 miles south of Nashville. More than 700 men, women, and children live there now.
Stephen: “It feels to me that if we’re going to do it we’re going to have to have all hands on board. You can’t say the boat will float better if you throw somebody over the side. And if we’re going to have all hands on board then we better start getting introduced to each other, so we can get the ship afloat. One of the religions we believe in is Mahayana Buddhism. That’s the variety of Buddhism that says there’s no final perfect enlightenment until everybody is enlightened, and the closest you can get to it is to figure that out. And when you figure that out, there ain’t nothing to do but hustle until we get everybody off.
“One of my teachings is that when someone points a subtle implication at you you’re supposed to rip the top off it and say, ‘What’s that?’
“I really think that’s an important thing to do to keep yourself out of trouble. We don’t let one speck of implication go by. As soon as someone starts implying stuff, we’ll try and state what the implication is as clear as we can. And we tell each other where it’s at. The result is that most of the time we get to groove, most of the time we get to live a really good life. But it gets that way because we don’t shrink from a certain amount of hassle. It’s as exciting as taking a psychedelic once a week to live with about six hundred people who will tell you where you’re at every time they get a chance. You never know when you’re going to have your living ego death.”
Each seed, each baby born, each word, each deed, all together now, creating the music of the world.
Somehow, we’re all connected, joined by geography and a commonness of mind, body, and spirit. We’re part of a net of consciousness which connects us with everyone else on the earth and eventually with every-thing. The net ripples as waves of action flow back and forth — prayers and bomb blasts. Each seed, each baby born, each word, each deed, all together now, creating the music of the world.
“Do you get back what you put in?”
“Yes, I think so. Yes.”
“Is the net more responsive when people are open, when they tell the truth?”
“What about the time lag?”
“You know, the length of time in between the action and the reaction.”
“Well, it seems to me that I learn best about the quality of my actions when I get feedback right away, within a few seconds, or minutes. The shorter the better. Follow?”
“Well, if that’s true it’s also true that I learn more about how I am perceived by others when they give me specific feedback after the specific event. If you boo and hiss me for farting at the dinner table right when I do it you make a better scene than if you wait around and get uptight and resentful. Also, I don’t find generalized feedback very helpful. I like people to comment on the specifics. That way I don’t get so defensive when it’s negative. Generalized positive feedback is a nice ego boost. And a kid needs a pat on the back every once in a while.”
“So I should always stay straight with the people I’m dealing with?”
“Do what you want with others but I’d appreciate it if you were that way with me. If you see me doing something you don’t like or understand say so soon as you can. Make sure I get the message. I’ll try to do the same for you.”
Remember the telephone freak who called himself up on the other telephone on the table beside him? He connected himself via transcontinental telephone service all around the world and came back about three minutes later. He could barely recognize his voice.
Hermes once said, “If one attempts to separate all things from the One, taking the term ‘all things’ to signify a mere plurality of things, and not a whole made up of things, he will sever the All from the One, and will thereby bring to naught the All, but that is impossible.”
Black Elk looks up from the campfire.
“Aha!” he says. “Then all are really One.”