Transcribed by Dane Somogyvary
My name is Ethan Hughes, I am 38 years old and I'm living in North East Missouri at this moment in time.
Yes, going way back, it started with my first issue of "Thor" at age 4 or 5 and I think Joseph Campbell talks about the hero of 1000 faces, that every culture wants a hero. And so all I had in this 80's pop culture was this superhero that without being paid went out around and saved the world, and that was the beginning of being transfixed by the myth of the hero. It planted a seed that I wasn't aware of.
And then as time went on, I started high school and I worked at a public beach and there would be 3000 people, and at the end of the day there would be trash everywhere and I'd try to motivate local kids to pick up the beach. And they'd all laugh at me and another lifeguard Bill Crowley and I would go and pick up trash and write letters to the editor, and so I started putting on my beach towel as a cape and taking this colorful zinc and creating a superhero and the kids started dressing up and then convinced them that trash was a super-villain, and all of a sudden we had 15 kids running across the beach picking up trash and that's when the click happened on some level that "Wow, they wouldn't just do this but if I create a myth behind it, we're super heroes, we're jumping on the blowing trash, "Fear me, trash" all of a sudden you have social activism.
And that was the genesis, but when as changed in college I was introduced to Martin Luther King and Gandhi and so Capt. America hitting someone in the head with his shield, there was a disconnect, and so being raised in the Reagan era I had this idea that a hero, for me, could be violent. The Hulk or Spider-man, and so I had this disconnect how do these come together, the superhero and non-violence?
And so that was a seed that sat with me for a while until I graduated college, and then started dressing up as a superhero for planned campaigns and the first one was food waste, I dressed up as slop man and my partner was compost man and we talked to thousands of school kids about not creating food waste cause the footprint. And they loved it, schools couldn't get enough of it and by the peak of that, there was a little band that would play and we had a little slop-copter that came by the window that was fake and people loved it, kids, schools became zero food-waste. Public schools and 500 kids would get an award, hand drawn cartoon, if they had not one pound of food-waste, and schools were doing it. And the superhero enabled them to not have environmentalism feel like "you've gotta do this." It was fun, compost man can eat food-waste and poop out soil, so he goes into the wasted taco bucket and is eating all the food that the kids have half eaten and then he has a little flip and soil shoots out of his butt. So it had humor and that was the next stage of the superheroes, we used the superheroes at the WTO protest, we were the World Truth Organization and the IF man which protected the worlds ocean to invertebrates and of fish.
And we found that it was really useful but there was something missing and that's where the idea came "Well what's missing is Daredevil swings around the city looking for spontaneous service not just we'll protect the ocean, so I proposed to some friends, lets go across the country as superheroes and for 4 years each year a few friends would sign up and they'd drop out, so I tried probably from '95 to '99 to manifest a ride across the country dressed as superheroes with no plan except to serve, all volunteer and then in 1999 I got the postcard that created superhero history, a friend wrote to me and wrote "Let's walk across the country and do service and I knew he was one of those people who was really solid so I wrote back and said "How about biking across the country dressed as superheroes?" and he said "Yes".
He was Silver Streak, I was the Blazing Echidna, I sent out a xeroxed little zine to maybe about 100 people and the May 20th the year 2000 seven superheroes and a dog with a cape showed up in downtown Seattle to cross the United States serving whoever we saw. We didn't know what was going to happen we had $3000 of funds to give to whoever needed it and our body labor. There was Hug Man, Velvet Revolution, Yankee Rose, Dragon Fly, Silver Streak, Turquoise Seeker and me the Blazing Echidna and Therapy Dog. and we were noon, in costume we had a superhero summoning to come to out high-selves all created costumes on our bikes and at noon it started, and that's the genesis of how it came to be.
The first ride was a total experiment we didn't know how to be a traveling self-contained superhero team. Own tents, hauling our own food, hunting gathering teams that would look for local organic food wherever we were, and the first two weeks was a bit of a disaster, everyone left the ride except for me and Turquoise Seeker. We had storm coming but the first day just to give you an example, something shifted the day we went to do service when we became superheroes all of a sudden we noticed a BMW going by with a flat tire, when we did the summoning and we chased the BMW up the street, because it's serving anyone despite social economic, chased the BMW, they thought we were a gang, they tried to speed off with a flat tire, finally pulled over, they had the cell phone out, we were like we're here to change the tire. It was a family from India, a mother, father and daughter of Indian decent and they popped the trunk, we pulled out the jack and we were like "you gotta get outta the car" so we can jack up the car, and they get outta the car and they're kinda huddled then within 3 minutes we changed the tire, it turns out it was his birthday, we're hugging them all and it's like this is the best birthday present ever.
And we went from strangers to full connection instantly, we went back to get on our bikes and there was an old guy moving furniture for his daughter. So we helped him move furniture to the third floor then we came back to our bikes and there was a Japanese family that was lost in Seattle downtown Seattle, and we wondered if we'd get out of the city but just I think an important point is once we shifted our vision to service 24/7 we could see help everywhere it was like the whole world changed instantly cause if you have a mission in Seattle you have an inter-faith prayer and you walk right by the person who needs help, and we were just open to everything that was happening.
On that first ride the jobs were just so diverse, helping a homeless family find a place to stay for a month to get on their feet, all the way to a lost white water rafter. We were biking up a class 5 river and all of a sudden we saw an overturned boat, and we saw a man screaming and we were like "whose gonna help him" and we were looking at our costumes, cause it was dangerous, we were going down this cliff and searching for his wife who we found and then directed around safely from our vantage point and we told him we found her. So it can be very thrilling sometimes. We helped nuns who were growing organic food for inner city people in Ohio, we did crazy jobs like helping a youth group build a mobile composting toilet which was for a competition in a town in Wyoming, it was a race to raise money, the kids were gonna use it to give to kids who go to summer camp. So it was all over the spectrum the kinds of jobs, moving baseball bleachers, painting a sign in a town park, working for a radical collective like mud in Massoula, trying to get perma-culture out to the city. Helping at a peace protest or a folk festival, but huge gambit.
Outside of the service we had ritual to ground us, in the morning we had "READINGS OF THE GREAT" and someone reads an inspirational passage. We had the "Dice of Destiny" for fun. Everyone in the journal puts one fun activity they want to do with the group and we roll the dice every morning and if it's jump into a cold body of water everyone has to do it or climb a tree, and that keeps play in the day. We have thanking and sharing at night, which is a quiet time for people to either their emotional needs or a gratitude and that kinda closes our day. We found these rituals really brought the group together and we'd have-- in the main ride we'd have a born again Christian riding next to a tattooed skate punk BMX, loving each other, because we were superheroes we created a tribe where you're identity before didn't matter, what your religious preference was. We ride with people who are corporate computer people. "Green Geek" for example we all kind of like the monks robe but in a more comical way like Dr. Seuss stripped down our identity to become our mythic self, a superhero that each person chooses for themselves and then makes their own costume, in Gandhian fashion. Which sometimes involves just going to a salvation army and finding some strange boots and some people actually stitch their whole costume by hand. So that happens in the group during the day, some of those rituals, besides just service and biking.
Yeah, when the idea of the super heroes is stepping into the flow of the universe, we have no plan, you actually get in with the bigger plan because you just show up and see what's happening. We found time and time again that serendipity was just for a lot of people awe inspiring, just a few quick stories, out of thousands, a town of 150000, Pueblo Colorado, 11 superheroes go in to the city hall, all in different costumes "WE'RE HERE TO HELP" face paint and the guy's behind his desk in a tie and he's like "Are you serious!?" and we're all standing there like a scene from a crazy movie and he then calls the DPW and he's "there's people in superheroes" and he kept looking up, "are you serious!?" and so as we're leaving he says "oh, my co-worker up on the third floor, it's her birthday, would you go up" -- we have all kinds, instruments and little devices, juggling balls. So we went up with the guitar, and crash into her office, El Tortuga's up on her desk playing you say it's your birthday and we're all dancing and she's like "who sent you? this is amazing!" we all hug her and leave, and go and do our job in moving the historical society in Pueblo.
A week later, we're biking in Kansas and the local police said, you can camp anywhere within 100 miles of my jurisdiction, pick a park no problem, so we're setting up tent and this old guy in his 70's, 80's maybe rolls down his window "put away your tents" we were like "sorry, if we're causing a trouble we'll leave" and he's like "no, my wife wants me to bring you home." and he doesn't seem happy about it, so he waits for us to put away our tents, he waits like 15 minutes and then he drives really slowly and we follow him to this little town of Sugar City town of 300 we come into the house, he's an ex-navy worker, so there's battle ships all over his walls and a big TV and we wonder, what's going to happen here and the wife comes out and she says "well, we were driving by and I saw you all in your capes, and I've seen bikers go by for 15 years" it was on one of the national bike routes "and I never had the feeling to invite any of them back but I saw you and something in my heart said you have to invite them home. And even though you look crazy I just trusted it, my husband tried to talk me out of it, so I want you to stay, I want to feed you."
And didn't even know what we were doing, so we explained to her and her husband that we're doing service, and all of a sudden the phone rings, she picks up the phone and says "oh, you two met superheroes?!" and all of a sudden she's laughing and hangs up the phone and says, "that was my daughter from Pueblo City. You sang happy birthday to her a week ago at the city counsel office." and so they had no idea that it had happened and yet so this connection that we would serve someone and then someone else would take care of us, it happened with a brother when we helped a brother get ready for code at his bed and breakfast in the country and then a week later, unbeknownst hosted us when we had an injured superhero, and then we'd figure out the connection. Amazing things like that would happen.
And also the authority of costumes, one other quick story, we had a project over the river in New York, and this bridge was closed, and the next bridge was 20 miles up river which for a car is nothing and we went up to the bridge and they said "look, even the mayor of New York City won't cross this bridge, it's getting worked on, so give it up." and the superheroes are sitting there and we have a service project over the bridge and we were going to call to cancel and we'd all have a circle and we said "let's call the New York Bridge Authority, let's just do it for the state of NY." we called and I said "hi, we're a superhero group, we dress as superheroes and we need to get over that bridge because we have a service project set up and it was working with a group that was working with adults with Downs Syndrome cleaning up and doing a presentation, and the bridge authority said "alright, I'll call, I'll call them back," and all of a sudden we're crossing the bridge that every police and everyone in town said there was no way on Earth you'd do it. There we are crossing by the heavy machinery and everything else to get to our gig and how much that kind of magic myth, people are like "oh yeah your superheroes, override that, let em across" and how often those things would opening for us over and over again. So that kind of superhero magic of people crossing at the right time happens a lot.
The superheroes attracted people who liked activism, service, inner-work and fun and so from that network some of the ideas were let's have a permanent headquarters, which we started one in cottage grove but the scope of it wasn't as big, and so that energy, the question is "could we do it full time on land" was the big question for the last 8 years, so now we have international superhero headquarters here. And a lot of the donations came through the superhero network. So we're going to build the superhero tree-house here on the land and it's going to have zip lines and trap doors, and little glass, like old people's outfits like in the hall of justice. So we'll have like Wander Woman's original glove, and it'll be campy and fun and have bunk beds and be kind of like the fortress of solitude, anyone in the superhero network can come and hang out in the tree house and make that kind of like a Willy Wonka land over there physically.
But I think the superheroes fuse also with this Gandhian center we stayed at, in France. Which had their own homespun costumes, they weren't superhero costumes, for us, a little too serious, even though they're doing amazing work it's just a different life path. And for us when we would go out, we went to Ireland with the superheroes and we left the arc for a month and we went to a community meeting and they're all in their homespun wool and we're dressed like this and but they kind of cross pollinated in a sense that we learned a commitment 60 year old community going and doing non-violence everyday 85 year olds like superhero galore, and for 50 years imprisonment, for fighting against war and for peace, and so I think it on a spiritual level fed us, and without it, without being at this direct connection to Gandhi we would have never been able to start this.
There's at least been 50 or 60 superheroes through helping us get the land started it's an amazing network of service people. So basically where the headquarters for the superheroes in our the Possibility Alliance the superheroes are one arm of the project that goes out to do service like when we responded to Hurricane Katrina, we sent 45 people in capes we've kind of become like Gandhi's peace army except we're in capes and we have little clown horns on our bikes. But we still want to evolve imagine 10000 superheroes where they could respond to a riot in the city or for peace keeping, that's kind of the vision.
The works of Elise Bolding. She analyzed non-violent movements Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Bacha Khan, ones coming from the Muslim tradition, the Christian tradition, the Jewish tradition, the Hindu tradition, each one had a flavor. And she identified 3 types of peace workers in the world, and Gandhi had never put them in these labels even though they were operating in the Gandhian movement, the full non-violent movement.
The first one is peace keeping and peace keepers respond to the immediate need, peace keepers go to the WTO to block the protests, peace keepers show up to block the bulldozer on the Gaza strip so it's immediate: somethings going to die or be oppressed; act now. So in peace keeping often if you have to fly or use environmentally impactful ways that's OK because you're immediate response, it's really important branch.
The second branch is peace making. Peace making is how to bring these parties to talk, non-violent communication, the deep listening project you sit down and try to have adversaries try to see the humanity in each other. Personal growth work, and that, with peace making, people believe that if you can't sit down at the table even if we do peace keeping it's not going to create peace in the world.
The third group identified by Elise Bolding is peace builders, dramatic pause, Peace Builders are the people who build peace from the ground up they grow their own food, they build their own table you produce everything so that you're not part of the global military industrial complex, you build peace so everything you touch is a ripple of non-violence. Now what's happened is that these three have been split, I see peace keepers saying look, they're just farming, they're just wasting their time and the farmers are saying why aren't the peace keepers growing their food and then the peace makers are saying why are you both running around like chickens with your head cut off why don't you come to the table and learn non-violent communication so bringing these threads together but then identifying other threads that I felt were missing.
That are part of peace-work and that makes 5 fingers, and the fifth one I call peace breathers, those are people at temples, ashrams, spiritual centers, doing the inner-work to be peace and to prey for peace, and to ripple positive energy into the world. Monks are a great example of this and as Thomas Merton says, if it hadn't been for years of people all over the world preying for peace or trying to be peace internally the world would be a lot worse, it's like the invisible ripple.
The final one is peace creators doing puppet theater, street theater making peace through art and media and that is the fifth branch which I think is a new flowering thing in society which we didn't see in the thirties in the Gandhian movement, people weren't going around with puppets, that I know of, doing puppetry. So what we try to do here is can we honor each one of those fingers right here at the Possibility Alliance? And on a superhero ride so that everyone's honored, somebody wants to do more peace keeping so how to then weave these so that they're complementing each other, the peace builders are growing food for the peace keepers, and the peace makers are doing workshops to teach the peace creators how to dialogue with the crowd when they get aggressive. Puppet show and someone conservative comes by and starts yelling, and then the peace creators help the peace keepers and the peace builders, be more playful they come to the peace builders farm and do a free theater piece and engage the farmers to contribute in creativity.
So these fingers we really try to be aware of as we're building a movement here. Which is, the superheroes are affecting an international arena and this project mainly right now is statewide on a political level but hoping to go to the next big level of having a center like this honoring those five and linking, we're working with peace keepers in Kansas City right now they're going to come up and get raspberries and bushes from us and we're training them on how to live sustainably in the city,when they do a mass we've sent people down to participate in the peace keeping so yeah supporting each other.
Welcome to the possibility alliance. This is an 80 acre sanctuary and I'm going to start the tour just talking about the over-arching vision. It's one sentence, and then the five practices that bring the vision down to the earth. We wanted to keep one sentence just so it didn't get complicated, and save paper. So the sentence is, in a nutshell, each person might say it in their own way, which we like. Unity and diversity is the upliftment of all beings including ourselves period. In a sense also that the upliftment of ourselves means following our heart-path, being fully awake and alive, channeling love, and that if we become martyrs for other beings, we don't believe we're doing what we're asked to do as everything wants to thrive we want to thrive and all this land and all of the cultures in the world. So that's the mission statement, it's kind of lofty, so we came up with five practices that we have in our week.
So we have five practices and they are as follows. The first one is simplicity, and it's both inner and outer simplicity, outer we started this 80 acres, non-electric non-machine, non-petroleum on site and anything we bring in we want to help lower our ecological footprint so we bring in a horse, we then will have ability to move wood, to move ourselves, to do other work without depending on a tractor, the same time, we try to have the horses have thirty acres of free space and allow them to have as much of a natural life as possible, we often try to even get animals like our goats that were in really bad conditions, like their owner was never on the farm and they're in tiny cubicles, and so if we can bring an animal to a more expressive life, then we achieve a lot of that in one go. So radical simplicity and inner simplicity so how do we get rid of all the soundbites from the commercials and all the worries of the future and past is just... at night we have candles and we're all at the dinner table, there's no distraction.
Number 2 is -- 2 and 3 -- they all merge into each other, they're all meant to compliment each other, 2 and 3 are service and activism, and the difference between the two are service, means you help anyone with no political or social agenda. Some examples are our neighbors house burnt down so we sent at least one person a day out there to swing a hammer, they didn't have insurance. Our political beliefs are different but it's a human being needing shelter so our goal was service. When we moved the old lady and used the big truck down in La Plata. The simplicity is thrown out but we're serving. That's number 2.
Number 3 is social and political change so we actually help start a bike co-op and lent them all our tools and bought bikes for them up in Kirksville, we had an agenda to help get more bikes on the road and help rural poor get on bikes who didn't have access to cars. And send people down to lobby on the lobby day for small farmers' rights and on the 21st we're getting a big bus and caravan-ing down to a big peace rally in Colombia. So that's more direct political-social.
And then Number 4 is inner work which is—as big as the world is outside, it's big inside and that's committing that we're going to look at our own judgment, fear, anger, hatred, and also, I'd summarize it by saying everyone is a child of God, despite your faith or your beliefs. So everyone that walks in the door. We host anarchists who are in collectives in Kansas city who are anti-religion, we host Methodist youth groups, we host just a huge range, librarians from Dallas, Texas and ruralists, permaculturalists and the idea that, "let's practice treating everyone equal" and this is the complexity of the project as we try to have neutral spaces where everyone can practice, so in inner-work we have a shared silence in the morning, someone could pray or meditate or sit and be present. And inner work is also however someone interprets it. Someone could have a yoga practice or go walking quietly in the woods trying to honor each persons work.
And the fifth one is gratitude joy and celebration and if we're not coming more alive, there's something missing. And I've worked on tree sits and I was at the WTO and yes it was amazing to make change but there's so much anger and hatred that it left a bad taste in my mouth, so this idea that "what if we could change the world and have fun and enjoy it?" and that fifth one is often when I look at the Gandhian principals or all these other amazing leaders that one is never a priority it's seen as like self centered or somehow ego. But when I look at birds playing and crows flipping and otters sliding on ice it's like "whoa, all of creation seems to be doing it, singing" so that's the fifth one.
And the way they work in a summary is; we had neighbors who needed dirt, and we had all this dirt from the the pond, but they needed their backhoe to get enough dirt to make a platform for their house, and there again a lot of poor rural people, so on that day, everyone who was here, service was more important than simplicity, so a backhoe came onto the petrol free zone, dug up the dirt and brought it to the neighbors. It doesn't mean we forget about simplicity but we let that be dynamic and we allow a tension between those. When we were first moving in we wanted enough food for the winter and we were staying up late and canning squash and it was 11 at night and we thought of principal 5 and we thought when was the last time we climbed a tree together or made music it's been 3 weeks and so all of a sudden the next day, everything got scrapped and we went out and just walked and laughed and played music and so again it's a check and balance and when you're serving you can be doing inner work when you're doing inner work you can be cultivating joy so they're not separate.
The only other, I think, unique things about this experiment it is an experiment so being here you're part of the experiment we've had 600 visitors and the vision has changed because a visitor comes and shares their own heart vision, so now you're part of it and in this experiment it's a gift economy so no one's charged for being here, we do classes, we're going to be doing one of the first perma-culture certification classes for free but by donation if someone wants to give to that and the whole idea that we have this information to live simple and it should be given our service should be given and trust will be provided for and in two years 80 acres is entirely paid for all of the food we're producing and the 800 trees we've planted, we don't have much in our accounts at all but we have enough so, so far so good.
And the last one is—heart-path is we want someone to come here, and they're going to be a full member, not tell them "you're going to work horses" but say someone came here and they wanted to do city murals, we'd say OK we know this great milk paint or we know how you can get recycled paint from the city and help them make their murals in the most mindful way that's aligned with their heart and also participating here, it adds to our project so could anyone live their heart-path in this container. for example, the outward service each full-time member has to- we ask to spend a month out in the world- it can be anything you want, Sarah loves to be local so she goes to the local public school and teaches cheese making and dress and quilting. I like to go everywhere so I dress up as a superhero and I go all over the planet for my month, but someone could work with elderly, it's how do you have intention with infinite choices in between so it's year two and that's a possibility in a nutshell. Possibility alliance it's time for questions. Any questions about that?
We are here at the Amish built barn, which is oak from a quarter mile away and a lot of the metal's recycled and for us is a model for how want to create community here. Fifty Amish came on the weekend and collectively put the barn up and they call it Amish insurance, cause they don't have insurance. If your house burns down Amish from 100 miles in every direction are going to show up to build your house, so instead of being dependent on large corporate parties for security you then fall upon your neighbors as your security and it also gives you more meaning because you're helping your neighbors and so the Amish that are living around are definitely inspiring us in our vision, because without industrial society, cars, all these things allow us to live alone, because we have food coming and everything else -- when you don't have machines you need people, so part of our vision is that we'll have more people. When we go out to sow clover by hand we need 5 people singing and throwing it instead of one person on a tractor, so it's more that just ecological it's actually rebuilding culture so that we're lovingly dependent on each other.
I was honored to spend time with the seona tribe in the rainforest and they depended on each other for life. We're in the Agua D'rico in Ecuador and someone needed to do the canoes and and someone needed to get the food and if someone didn't do it this network fell apart and you didn't survive, but it created this bond that you see between a kingfisher and a fish or a woodpecker and a tree, you just become part of this web again and industrialization has broken that web so we're all in our little house, so we're hoping that we will be creating culture here where instead of the insurance companies we all show up to our neighbors to help out.
Whoever has more abundance, when our crops failed, Amish pulled up with "oh you lost all your corn, we got more corn and squash then we grew" and in Oregon and all these progressive places, when our crops failed no one showed up with huge boxes, so there's something amazing around simplifying and being dependent on each other again and that's what we want to be humble and be dependent on these animals and this sanctuary, the mulberry tree that feeds us and for them to be dependent on us that we're not going to cut down the tree or use herbicides and so this just represents a dynamic much more than ecological it's building a social framework it's building accountability to each other instead of what we've dismissed to corporate banks and to media and everything else and so that's in a nutshell what we're trying to build is an ecological social framework of interdependency which is exciting to participate in I think, being helped and helping others. That's the bond.
So we were just talking bout the goats and how we allow the young to feed on the mom and keep them as natural as possible as they would be in the wild and they're just coming out from hiking on 30 acres and I was sharing that my wife and I were vegetarian before because obviously a good question is upliftment of all beings and yet we're eating a rooster, so that rooster may think "wait a second, yeah it's a nice ideal but I'm the one getting eaten."
So there's a lot of tension in vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, we host all eating choices here and it becomes a great question. Ideally, I would rather be vegan I would like to let the horses go free, I would like to have no chickens and be eating fruit, but in the winter time being 100% local we don't know how to do that yet, I know it's possible, we haven't figured it out, so hopefully we're in a transition zone where the horses help us get away from the impacts of oil and cars and transition us to re-learn wild edibles and re-learn culture and that hopefully, we ask them every night, I say "come-if we have it wrong-come to me in dream and let me know" and every time I take a rooster, I weep in the morning and also give thanks.
It's an interesting relationship because when I eat another being, we say around the table like "I'm going to be so mindful about how I use this energy trying to use it for change or peace and realize that if something doesn't shift all life is threatened in this moment so we're imperfectly trying to figure out what does the upliftment of all beings mean? And how would we live, we have someone who wants to be a raw vegan here and could they do it with greenhouses? And a mountain gorilla eats just green and it's 500 pounds. So it's meant to be a tension where we can all be at the table and our first goal is I think is let's all work together bi- regionally.
In Oregon what happened is local vegans picketed and boycotted the local organic meat farm and they're all local but they're battling each other. And so let's first get to local and bi-regional let's work together and then afterwords let's really be open with our hearts and see OK what one really makes sense for our health and for the earth.
And I would also say that about activism, we work with christian non-violence we work with anarchist change non-violence so would be destruction of property which we don't condone but they go down there and they're building community gardens and bike shops in the ghettos, we don't see anyone from the Eco-villages in the ghettos. You are down there -- my friend who came in the taxi wouldn't take em there. And there's gunshots and they're there after school programs and they're teaching minorities how to read and I'm like that's the real work and so if every once in a while if they may choose to pick pocket from a corporate store, which isn't aligned with my belief let's first figure out "where can we work together and not have all this judgment where do we -- yes, I'll help them start their bike shop, I'll help them get seed for their community garden, where as not in line I'll step away but 25 of them came here and we taught them the skills that we thought were peaceful, and to me it's more dynamic and more frightening to get into those gray areas, and should I just tell them "oh no, you might hurt property, so don't come to our place, or if they come here, one; they'll inspire me to be like I should be in the ghetto more and also they might be more inspired saying "wow, these people don't have to destroy property or have anger and they're making amazing ripples, like trusting that the universe will cross pollinate instead of being so rigid on our belief and if Christian non-violence folks can't get along with anarchists, how can Palestinians get along with Israelis?
The jump of consciousness has to be so huge that we can sit at the table and really listen like why are you vegan why are you vegetarian why are you omnivore and really listen and also honor each others experiments in a way it's an excitement and a challenge of this projects that at the same table we have anti-religious and Christians at the same table we have just all over the board cause we don't fit into one little box, so we have the French activists here, the same week with the Methodist youth group and they're around the table and at the end of the week they're both like like wow, anti-religion folks are really nice and kind and practicing loving each other, and the French guy can say wow, they're really amazing kids and you all of a sudden you get rid of these blocks that are not allowing us to do the simple task of loving one another but it's a huge risk to jump in the trenches with everyone.
We have a music room, we don't have stereos here so we have whatever is given to us. The piano was donated, a saxophone, a trumpet, 2 drums, 5 guitars, a violin, a harmonica, some rattles, and we make music. Sometimes the music is-- Sarah's a trained opera singer, so some nights-- we had a guy from New York City, he was a piano player. Sarah was singing opera, she sang for the Eugene symphony. And this amazing pianist, and we're in rural Missouri, by candle light with 8 people, listening to this concert. Then some nights it's a few people on a drum singing Bob Dylan with the guitar. We had a saxophonist from the lyric opera, and do porgy and Bess on the sax. Everything needs someone to create it. There's just not turn on the CD and so when we have a dance party, someone's playing the music and dancing.
Also story time, we don't have TV or computers, so we have story time on Sunday nights. We had a guy visiting from Ireland, who was a story teller and visited all these communities and never told a teller because there was always movie night and everything else, and he was like "There's a story night here!?" so for 3 Sundays he did story telling, or would read a children's book, so we're creating entertainment with our own selves, we're participating, and in that participating we believe that in the project you become alive again, and yes, you might miss the huge dance [beats], and the rave and the lights are going, there's a certain incredible energy that you maybe can't reproduce.
But my question would be if someone came to me with anything and I'll give you a couple examples, where people said I could live here, but. The rave, let's get a cargo net, or a used fishing net, hang it up at 8 feet and put 12 percussionists above it and have everyone dance under it so you're right under the drum, a friend said, well I love those photo booths in the mall, I really would miss them, you know you sit in the mall and [it takes your picture] and you get photos out of them. We said OK we'll build one out of wood from the land and for a few hours a day we'll have one of us who's an artist sit behind there and you sit in it and get thumbnail sketches shot out at you.
And our one friend who's actually moving here, sent about 300 things that she'd miss from industrial society, we came up with a solution for all but 2. and most of it she said "wow, I'd love to try that." like she didn't want to do we have a washing machine you plunge and then do the wringer. Well we know we can hook a bike up to the washing machine and she was like, "I could go with that." So instead of saying "no" to industrial society, because yes, there's inherent beauty in it, but what if we can create the same amount of beauty with less cost? What if we can all get our needs met with less cost to society and the earth?
When I got out of cars or turned away from flying and all these things, it was a reaction, I saw the earth dying, I studied environmental science, it was a reaction. There was anger and pain in it and I wanted to throw it all out. There's nothing good about cars, but then being car free for 10 years being like "wow, people can visit their grandmother who's sick 500 miles away" you can go on a road trip and I remember, I love road trips, I wanted to suppress the beauty because it was to painful to acknowledge that it had beauty in it, but then all of a sudden when you allow there to be beauty in a sweat shop made, from china stereo, there's still Bach coming out of it, and you're being moved to tears. So the next question once I allowed there to be beauty to be back in, I could say OK the only way were going to have a revolution is to acknowledge the beauty in the industrial society, and re-create it, and that's this experiment.
So instead of this Led Zeppelin road trip, dress up as superheroes, be on our bikes, it is more fulfilling than a Led Zeppelin road trip so I was successful there. Most people who go on a superhero ride are like, "this is better than any road trip I've ever been on." And so we've done it by bike, serving, so with every component can we have more connection without all these other things? Going to Europe we had to take a boat, sailboat, then freight boat, the trip was more extravagant than any time I flew, when I'm just there. I had to see the ocean I had to go to Canada I had to walk out on the platform, I had to watch the water go by I saw 5 types of whales, I got to Europe and part of my best part was getting to Europe, and that we've forgotten the process. Not that—let's celebrate in half a day you can get to Europe in a plane, but if life's about being fully alive and being excited then maybe by losing the process, the convenience kinda takes away some of our life force, so here trying to re-create music, trying to re-create story telling, re-create everything we do here.
How we interact, how we play, we have a director of fun, which comes up once a week with a spontaneous activity for everyone, it might be taking turns dragging each other in the bike cart or doing a firefly full moon pond jump, and so how do we get the same spontaneity that you might have in a city? With "whoa, I'm going to go to the contact dance, and then afterward there's a speaker about non-violence and then afterward we're going to go--" there's a lot of excitement but can we replace it in a way again that we're participants first of all and second there's not the ripples of ecological and social cost.
If we are successful, if you come back in a couple years, we'll have a new culture rising up here where we are creating everything we participate in, and again that's why it's an experiment because we don't know what's going to happen. Acknowledging that there is beauty everywhere is kind of a jump of maturity that Sarah and I have made from reaction to then saying OK we're only going to up industrial society if we really see what people love about it and offer that same thing.