Masculinity on The Farm Commune – and much more!

The following link and quotes are from an extensive piece about both Stephen Gaskin and the gender roles on The Farm Commune. Those looking for insight into various details should read the entire chapter, which was well researched.

As a former member of The Farm, I can attest to the accuracy of many of the quotes and suppositions.

http://www.gutenberg-e.org/hodgdon/14_Ch_04-1_ed.html

On Sexual Relations

“Gaskin taught that heterosexual union could serve as an important form of yoga: that is, a body-mind discipline that developed individuals’ capacity to focus energy from the astral onto the material plane. He referred to this sexual yoga as tantric loving or tantric balling. In conventional sexual practice, he said, men (who, we will recall, were inclined toward the “hyper–John Wayne” by American culture) tended to rush headlong toward orgasm. What was lost in this egoistic haste was the possibility that the two partners could help one another quiet their minds and concentrate their attention on the flow of astral energy through the nervous system.60 To create this meditative state, it was important to proceed slowly, beginning with a generalized, deep massaging of the partners’ musculature.”

On Marriage

“Gaskin also shocked many in the counterculture with his advocacy of lifelong marriage, but, in light of the spiritual centrality of both karmic and tantric yoga in his teaching, marriage of some sort became a necessary component of his utopia. The law of karma pointed toward the importance of fair dealing with all persons. But the intimacy and vulnerability of sexual relationships—especially those of the tantric variety—presented many ethical challenges for Gaskin and his village of believers, who sought to change the world by introducing a pure, spiritual “vibe” into worldly affairs. ”

On Mental Health

“In one Sunday-morning service, Stephen told his followers that his goal for his students was that, if he were to allow a “fairly disturbed” person to pass through the front gate unannounced, each of them would interact with the newcomer with a compassion and truthfulness that would promptly cure him or her. This musing reflected his faith that an approach to mental health modeled after the “sudden school” of Zen could cure most of the disorders that modern medicine had classified—he believed, incorrectly—as illnesses. One former member testifies that, in fact, serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, proved impervious to this approach. Yet he calls Stephen’s teaching on this point a “small-t truth,” noting that the community’s consistent application of it to cases in which former mental patients had been misdiagnosed, and had come to believe their diagnosis, yielded impressive results. “It took about a week, and people were absolutely as normal as anyone else. I saw that a lot.”

On Division of Labor

“Mothers not otherwise occupied could leave the household to volunteer for work on the farming crew, at community kitchens, the soy dairy, the canning-and-freezing facility, the community’s school, and the telephone switchboard. In place of a dial tone, Beatnik Bell’s users heard a message prepared daily by the system’s operators, detailing items available at the store, as well as the labor needs of various work crews and cottage industries. Women’s labor both inside and outside the household contributed substantially to the community, because The Farm attempted to make up for its relative lack of capital by mustering many hands.”

It’s fair to say this particular online book explores many facets of The Farm in a deeper manner than many others.

Stephen Gaskin, free thinker and founder of the The Farm Commune, passes away at 79

By Craig Issod

Stephen Gaskin – well known founder of the The Farm Commune – died peacefully surrounded by family on July 1, 2014.

As a former resident of The Farm, I am in touch with hundreds of members and extended family and friends – most of whom consider Stephen to have been a force for good in their lives.

Stephen married my wife and I and we had our first child on The Farm – using The Farm midwives. I learned my first trades on The Farm and was able to parlay that knowledge into a number of successful careers.

Here are a couple links to news stories about Stephen’s passing:
Washington Post
New York Times

Here is a link to one of our articles written about The Farm:

A link to the current Farm Community.

I have many of my own thoughts about The Farm and Stephen’s influence on myself and others. I’ll share some here:

“First, I think I learned that brave people are truly few. Stephen, with all his faults, rose way above the pack in terms of bravery (putting himself out front – sticking to ideals). Not to venerate – because I feel that’s a human weakness, but we do need more people who act in the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” manner. On a more personal note, I think many of Stephens teaching were those of the ages…just modified for the way we (in the counterculture/baby boomers) communicated. He also emphasized DOING over being conceptual.”

“Dazzle them with your Fancy Footwork” is a quote I attribute to Stephen – not sure if I just heard it or if it was written.
In context the meaning was “hey, y’all have long hair and a funny way of dressing and talking, so when you go to work for other people do a MUCH better job than they expect and they will react properly”. In other words, hard work and honestly cut across all lines of society. It’s a simple but effective piece of wisdom which probably existed long ago and has been stated in other ways since. But we hippies had to hear it in a way that it appealed to us!”

Stephen’s influence is too wide and deep to fit in any article or book. However, as just one example, here is a small tribute to Stephen written by The Woz – Apple Computer founder – Steve Wozniak:

“In every walk of life we take care of each other and owe all that we achieve to friends and family. How we treat other humans is much more important than creating products and wealth. Our principles in life should always be much more important than that. As much as we can teach others, our actions and examples pass on the goodness in our heads to others.
Thank you for inspiration at a critical time in my life when I was deciding what sort of person I wanted to be.”

I think the Woz summed it up for many of us. Inspiration when we were deciding what kind of people we wanted to be….

And so, let me Thank A Hippie – Thank You, Stephen…

Note – picture below is not posted on this site – it’s from Robert Altman, a famous photographer.
Stephen Gaskin - by Robert Altman

Growing up Hippie – Living with the Rastafarians

Growing Up Hippie – Living with the Rastafarians
written by Craig Issod – © 2012
Republishing allowed with credit…

Introduction

I was born in Philadelphia in November of 1953 – a baby boomer, for certain, albeit on the younger end of that generation. Although many periods in history are full of upheaval and change, there is something unique about the speed and severity of the changes which started to occur as I entered primary school. The sequence of events are fairly well known, but to see them close at hand as a growing child was quite alarming.

I was 7 years old when JFK was elected and definitely remember all the hubbub. The country was ecstatic over our young and vibrant President and his beautiful family. The space race was on and I distinctly remember the feeling of pride as the first astronauts were conquering the unknown of space flight. The heroes of my youth were folks like Chuck Yeager, who flew the X-15 and John Glenn, the first man to orbit the earth. Those were heady times – but they seemed to come crashing down with the assassination of JFK. Most every member of my generation remembers exactly what they were doing at the very moment – and then, sadly, in the days that followed. I was in third grade at the time and remember our teacher sitting down and crying and telling us all. We kids also cried and were sent home early. The nation was transfixed as we watched events unfold from there.

For many Americans, this was the end of innocence – and while it may have been a faux innocence, it was never the less quite real to those of us who were children at the time.
Continue reading Growing up Hippie – Living with the Rastafarians

Editorial: What was the hippie movement really all about?

Drugs?
Sex?
Rock n’ Roll?
Woodstock?
The Grateful Dead?
Abbie Hoffman?

Actually, it was about none of these things – but our popular culture and mass media need ways of defining and categorizing movements, so many of these descriptors are used instead of the more difficult reality.

A more accurate synopsis of the counterculture might be found by pulling some words, phrases and song titles/lyrics from the time.

The beat of a different drummer (think different, open your mind)
With a little help from my friends (community)
When I’m 64 (positive living and aging)
If 6 was 9 (alternative ways of looking at the world)
Castles Made of Sand (life it temporary and often a tragedy, but make the best of it)
Let it Be (know what you can change and what you cannot)
Presence of the Lord (spirit)
Freedom (Richie Havens – quest for equality and personal freedoms)
Are you Experienced? (do you know the “great unsaid” – referring often to deep spirituality)
Our House – coming out the other end and living a happy and grateful life

The hippie period of history was one where “all the balls were in the air”. The combination of distrust in the society, the government, the police and other institutions put almost everything up for grabs. However, human beings desire structure as well as direction. We in the hippie movement knew what we DID NOT want, but the question of what we actually did want was much more difficult!

Most in the counterculture were very young – so-called “hippies” were often as young as 15 (I was!) to as old as 25 (although a very few were older). In a general sense, the counterculture consisted of young men and women who had not yet taken their place in society.

So, what to do???

Much of the answer was found in a single book of the era – in fact, most every true member of the counterculture probably read this tome as it contained the instructions about “what to do next”.

That book was Be Here Now – but Richard Alpert (Ram Dass):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_Here_Now_(book)

Richard Alpert, for those not familiar, was one of the two Harvard Doctors (he, along with Timothy Leary) who first experimented with LSD and other major hallucinogens. Much of this experimentation was done legally – and with the blessings of the school as well as other institutions. It was only after “the man” (government, law and order, etc.) discovered that these compounds were a danger to their authoritarianism and consumer culture (the status quo) that they were make illegal. By that point it was too late to put the drugs back on the shelve – the secret was out and Leary and Alpert proceeded to turn on many millions of people worldwide (illegally, by that time).

Be Here Now (Amazon link):
http://amzn.to/1i0wHnR

The book made a number of important points, specifically:

1. Mind (your head, your outlook) creates your world
2. Drugs were just a quick shortcut for a peek at true spirituality – they are not the True Path to a good life.
3. A real life entails “chopping wood and carrying water” in the Zen Buddhist sense – meaning that you wake up each day and do what needs to be done to continue with life.

These may sound like simple guidelines, but to many people – even today – they reinforce that life is about daily living – about the so-called “here and now”, as opposed to worrying about the future and the past.

The book was, as wikipedia puts it, a “seminal work” and “the counterculture bible” and it’s influence on the direction of the counterculture cannot be underestimated. It drove many of the movements toward “back to the land” and “right livelihood” which took root in the early 1970’s.

Technology and the Hippies – Overview

“Forget antiwar protests, Woodstock, even long hair.
The real legacy of the sixties generation is the computer revolution” – Stewart Brand in an article from Time Magazine
(Article is reprinted here on our site)

Many of the articles, FAQ and presentations on this site will detail further about how personal computers, the hacker and maker ethics, open source software, online communities and the internet blossomed directly from the counterculture. Art, science and technology combined into the brew that created much of our modern and connected world.

Some well known books on the subject are linked below:

What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry

Here’s a  link to a well written review

——————————

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism

——————————

Specifically, the personal computing and networking world was born out of visions – NOT just visions to sell more things, but visions of how to connect the world and give us all access to information and knowledge. As chronicled in the books above, much of this grew from worldviews which were influenced by psychedelic drugs.

Using Steve Jobs as an example:

“Steve Jobs grew up in a lower-middle class suburban neighborhood in the 1960s. When he was a young adult, in theearly 1970s, he delved into eastern mysticism, Zen Buddhism, and hippie ideals.”

* “I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience.” – Steve Jobs

* At another time, Jobs said “taking LSD was “one of the two or three most important things” he did in his life.”
Article Link: Did Taking LSD Make Steve Jobs more creative?
Apple - Founders
One hardly needs to say more – the defining persona of the entire personal computer revolution was a hippie! LSD and other drug experimentation was just one of his many counterculture habits. He was known to walk around barefoot or with small tattered sandals, eat raw or vegan foods and even eschew frequent bathing!

Steve Wozniak was also, as the pictures show, a long hair, prankster and hacker. As a drop of the University of California Berkeley, he certainly fits the definition of a counterculture member. His ethics are pure “hippiedom” – i.e. he’s not in it for the money, he enjoys nothing more than helping people, etc. – and, as a bona fide of his hippie roots, he paid for and organized the US Festivals, some of the largest post-Woodstock rock festivals ever created.
US Festival Link
US Festival Link2

Although the two Steves are famous examples, many of those working hard on the code and hardware had lofty ideals of changing the world. This site will document many of the unsung (and sung) heroes of the baby boomer generation who took part in the technology and other recent revolutions.

*by no means is this site promoting the use of illegal drugs, walking barefoot in the modern world nor avoiding showers or baths. These are just indications from the past that Steve and others were members of the “counterculture” in various ways. We would, as a matter of recommendations, suggest healthy eating and lifestyles as well as meditations and other spiritual pursuits.

 

 

We Owe it All to the Hippies – Reprint

Copyright – Stewart Brand, TIME

HISTORY

WE OWE IT ALL TO THE HIPPIES

Forget antiwar protests, Woodstock, even long hair.
The real legacy of the sixties generation is the computer revolution

BY STEWART BRAND

Newcomers to the Internet are often startled to discover themselves not so much in some soulless colony of technocrats as in a kind of cultural Brigadoon – a flowering remnant of the ’60s, when hippie communalism and libertarian politics formed the roots of the modern cyberrevolution. At the time, it all seemed dangerously anarchic (and still does to many), but the counterculture’s scorn for centralized authority provided the philosophical foundations of not only the leaderless Internet but also the entire personal-computer revolution.

We – the generation of the ’60s – were inspired by the “bards and hot-gospellers of technology,” as business historian Peter Drucker described media maven Marshall McLuhan and technophile Buckminster Fuller. And we bought enthusiastically into the exotic technologies of the day, such as Fuller’s geodesic domes and psychoactive drugs like LSD. We learned from them, but ultimately they turned out to be blind alleys. Most of our generation scorned computers as the embodiment of centralized control. But a tiny contingent – later called “hackers” – embraced computers and set about transforming them into tools of liberation. That turned out to be the true royal road to the future.

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Do it yourself,” we said, happily perverting J.F.K.’s Inaugural exhortation. Our ethic of self-reliance came partly from science fiction. We all read Robert Heinlein’s epic Stranger in a Strange Land as well as his libertarian screed-novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Hippies and nerds alike reveled in Heinlein’s contempt for centralized authority. To this day, computer scientists and technicians are almost universally science-fiction fans. And ever since the 1950s, for reasons that are unclear to me, science fiction has been almost universally libertarian in outlook.

As Steven Levy chronicled in his 1984 book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, there were three generations of youthful computer programmers who deliberately led the rest of civilization away from centralized mainframe computers and their predominant sponsor, IBM. “The Hacker Ethic,” articulated by Levy, offered a distinctly countercultural set of tenets. Among them:

“Access to computers should be unlimited and total.”

“All information should be free.”

“Mistrust authority – promote decentralization.”

“You can create art and beauty on a computer.”

“Computers can change your life for the better.”

Nobody had written these down in manifestoes before; it was just the way hackers behaved and talked while shaping the leading edge of computer technology.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, the first generation of hackers emerged in university computer-science departments. They transformed mainframes into virtual personal computers, using a technique called time sharing that provided widespread access to computers. Then in the late ’70s, the second generation invented and manufactured the personal computer. These nonacademic hackers were hard-core counterculture types – like Steve Jobs, a Beatle-haired hippie who had dropped out of Reed College, and Steve Wozniak, a Hewlett-Packard engineer. Before their success with Apple, both Steves developed and sold “blue boxes,” outlaw devices for making free telephone calls. Their contemporary and early collaborator, Lee Felsenstein, who designed the first portable computer, known as the Osborne 1, was a New Left radical who wrote for the renowned underground paper the Berkeley Barb.

As they followed the mantra “Turn on, tune in and drop out,” college students of the ’60s also dropped academia’s traditional disdain for business. “Do your own thing” easily translated into “Start your own business.” Reviled by the broader social establishment, hippies found ready acceptance in the world of small business. They brought an honesty and a dedication to service that was attractive to vendors and customers alike. Success in business made them disinclined to “grow out of” their countercultural values, and it made a number of them wealthy and powerful at a young age.

The third generation of revolutionaries, the software hackers of the early ’80s, created the application, education and entertainment programs for personal computers. Typical was Mitch Kapor, a former transcendental-meditation teacher, who gave us the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3, which ensured the success of IBM’s Apple-imitating PC. Like most computer pioneers, Kapor is still active. His Electronic Frontier Foundation, which he co-founded with a lyricist for the Grateful Dead, lobbies successfully in Washington for civil rights in cyberspace.

In the years since Levy’s book, a fourth generation of revolutionaries has come to power. Still abiding by the Hacker Ethic, these tens of thousands of netheads have created myriad computer bulletin boards and a nonhierarchical linking system called Usenet. At the same time, they have transformed the Defense Department-sponsored ARPAnet into what has become the global digital epidemic known as the Internet. The average age of today’s Internet users, who number in the tens of millions, is about 30 years. Just as personal computers transformed the ’80s, this latest generation knows that the Net is going to transform the ’90s. With the same ethic that has guided previous generations, today’s users are leading the way with tools created initially as “freeware” or “shareware,” available to anyone who wants them.

Of course, not everyone on the electronic frontier identifies with the countercultural roots of the ’60s. One would hardly call Nicholas Negroponte, the patrician head of M.I.T.’s Media Lab, or Microsoft magnate Bill Gates “hippies.” Yet creative forces continue to emanate from that period. Virtual reality – computerized sensory immersion – was named, largely inspired and partly equipped by Jaron Lanier, who grew up under a geodesic dome in New Mexico, once played clarinet in the New York City subway and still sports dreadlocks halfway down his back. The latest generation of supercomputers, utilizing massive parallel processing, was invented, developed and manufactured by Danny Hillis, a genial longhair who set out to build “a machine that could be proud of us.” Public-key encryption, which can ensure unbreakable privacy for anyone, is the brainchild of Whitfield Diffie, a lifelong peacenik and privacy advocate who declared in a recent interview, “I have always believed the thesis that one’s politics and the character of one’s intellectual work are inseparable.”

Our generation proved in cyberspace that where self-reliance leads, resilience follows, and where generosity leads, prosperity follows. If that dynamic continues, and everything so far suggests that it will, then the information age will bear the distinctive mark of the countercultural ’60s well into the new millennium.

Copyright 1995 Time Inc. All rights reserved.

The First Earth Day – A mind Blowing Experience

The First Earth Day – A mind Blowing Experience

April of 1970. I was only 16 years old at the time. The world was in turmoil due to the social and societal changes brought about by the 60′s. The Vietnam war, race riots, killings of Dr. King and Malcolm X, LSD and Woodstock were all relatively recent news. It was a time which is difficult to explain to those who did not live through it. The closest I can come is to say that it seemed like virtually everything was up in the air. Any day could have brought the “revolution” that would have split the country even further apart.

The “generation gap” was in full swing. The world that our parents were born into was formed by the relief they felt at the end of a World War and the pleasure they received as the emerging middle and upper class in a post-war American full of prosperity. We “baby boomers” felt that there must be more to life than having a nice spouse, home and car. Perhaps it was the closer communication with others brought about by television, satellites and other high technology. Whatever force was behind it, there is little doubt that our generation sensed that something was VERY WRONG and was attempting to learn and perhaps take action to help solve some of these modern problems.

Continue reading The First Earth Day – A mind Blowing Experience

When did the Hippie Era End?

It could be said that the mass counterculture movement ended in the time period 1970-1973 due to various factors.

1. Vietnam War winding down – protesting of the war was some of the glue that held the movement together.

2. Drug burnout – those hippies whose path involved substance use often descended into harder drugs and alcohol, both of which can limit the ability to think and function in the creative manner common to the earlier beats and hippies.

3. Growing up – moving on – By 1972, hippies had achieved many of their initial goals of “Turn on, tune in, drop out” – now it was time for them to move on and prove, in real life, that their ideals may work. The 1970’s, therefore, became a time where the Baby Boomers took various paths to start their families and careers.

The most successful commune in US History, The Farm, started in the early 1970’s as a way to bring ideals of the counterculture into work and practice. The 1970’s also saw the birth and rebirth of various religious and spiritual movements including Eastern Religions such as Buddhism. Many cults and other such groups (EST, etc.) also formed during this period.

4. Mainstreaming – Many baby boomers decided they were not, after all, hippies…and decided to join the mainstream culture or further pursue of a career. Many carried some of the ideals of the 1960’s forward by choosing vocations in social services, medicine or other “right livelihood occupations.

 

The Wrecking Crew

The link below will download the PDF story of The Farm Wrecking Crew. A short part of the introduction is copied below that link.

Note – in terms of the timeline of Farm history, most of this story ties in with or follows Cliff Figalo’s blog entries below:

http://farmola.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/technologies-for-living-year-2/
and
http://farmola.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/tent-life/

Photos in here are taken by various Farm photogs and non-photogs including D. Frohman, D. Stevenson and other – used with permission when possible.

Link to PDF of The Wrecking Crew: wreckingcrew

Martha and I started out as members of the West Virginia Farm, a small satellite operation with approx. 40 brave souls hacking basic survival out of the hollows of the Mountain State. A good friend from Philadelphia, Andrew Stein, had also come out to WV and joined with our efforts.

In early 1972, it was decided that the main Farm (TN. Farm) would purchase an additional 750 acres next to the existing 1,000 and that the WV Farm residents would move south in an attempt to consolidate a larger workforce and better connected community. In April of 1972, we packed up a few buses, cars, pickups and a U-Haul and headed down to the Motherland.

Upon settling in, various job offerings were made available via a bulletin board. I chose to start working at the Soy Dairy, which fit well with my introverted character, as our crew consisted of only 3 full time milkmen. This turned out to be an enjoyable gig and, of course, I was able to stay well nourished on soy milk and eventually other products which we created such as soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy shakes and soysage (upset stomachs aside!). The job had other benefits such as being able to listen to the Farm Band practices, which took place in a tent adjacent to the Soy Dairy.

After a few months at the Dairy, Andrew approached me and asked if I wanted to join a new crew he had just become the “crew chief” of. Although there had formerly been a Salvage Crew, Andrew had the energy to take the effort to a much higher level, so I was excited to become a part of the newly christened Wrecking Crew. The idea was simple – we needed vast amounts of materials for tent floors, community buildings and houses and the best way for us to get them was by recycling old houses, barn and commercial buildings. We did this by taking them apart from the top down – piece by piece.