Utopian Dream

Henry David Thoreau 1854.  Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance -- which his growth requires -- who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly…
"I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
            

B.F. Skinner 1987 "Faced with the prediction of what life will be like when critical resources are nearly exhausted and the environment irreversibly polluted, it seems irresponsible simply to teach young people to enjoy themselves in less threatening ways. But building a new culture from the very beginning may be our only hope." Skinner wanted a society where citizens could collectively manage their own affairs rather than depending on elites. Walden Two is a society that promotes citizen participation in the face-to-face decision-making processes.  

John Canivan 2005    Although experimental self sufficient communities are more successful now than they have been in the past a Utopian Dream is still a fictional story. Competition has been a major force used to shape our social evolution, but capitalism by itself can no longer provide the framework for viable society and a sustainable economy. A healthy respect for our planet and a cooperative environment are needed to for human growth.
            If you would like to contribute to the Utopian Dream story and become part of the virtual community read first and than pick a character or invent a character and find a way to integrate that character into the story. Develop dialog. Make your character real and perhaps he/she will be the inspiration we geed to guide us through a difficult transition from a world without oil into a Solar Age.  I will of course reserve the right to accept, reject or publish any articles submitted.

Outline of Utopian Dream Part 1

1.  Social Connection
2.  Aunt Farm
3.  The Accountant
4.  Advice From a Friend
5.  A $500,000 Purchase
6.  A Communal Adventure
7.  Moose Mountain

 

Description of Characters

WILLIAM CREMFIELD:  Founder of Aunt Farm and a dedicated biochemist who believes in the possibilities of having a positive influence on our social evolution.

JOHN HAMILTON:  Childhood friend of William Cremfield who sold out to the establishment and became certified accountant who works as a mortgage broker for EAB.

JULIAN                       : an Architectural Engineer who teaches at Oregon State University .

NANCY                       : student from OSC who’s father Bob is a real estate agent.

ZINSKY                      : a psychology professor at OSU

MIKE BARNS            : a childhood friend of William Cremfield with construction experience.

NED VICKERS           : a childhood friend of William Cremfield

MEL                            : a impoverished local farmer with a broken down backhoe

 

Anyhow the list of characters and the story are a crude beginning subject to change and where the story goes will largely depend on you and your ideas. Send email if you have some ideas.
and now for the story... 

Utopian Dream

 

 

 

1. A Social Connection  

 

Every Saturday evening around 7:00 PM the phone would ring at the Hamilton household. My father would usually pick up, but somehow I knew who was calling. Dad would signal me to the phone, and say:

"Johnny your Aunt wants to talk with you."  

Deep down I always knew it was Aunt Helen, but that never stopped me from imagining this tiny little black creature with six skinny legs and a pair of movable antennae standing next to the mouth piece of a phone on the other side of town. The fires of my fantasy were fanned when I imagined Aunt Helen in her beehive hairdo. Mrs. Bloomtree, my second grade instructor. said:  

"Bees and ants are very much alike; they are social insects just like you and I"  

I also thought of Mrs. Bloomtree when I talked with Aunt Helen especially when my father would say:  

"Come here and talk with your Aunt Helen, Johnny. Let's be sociable."  

Being sociable was difficult for me.  While the other kids were playing tag in the school yard I would sit on a curb and watch ants carry large crumbs into a pavement crack, and then I'd watch the crack for as long as it would take. Most students at Ketchum Elementary school felt I was a bit odd and gave me space, but Billy Cremfield, a curious boy with red hair, freckles and braces approached me one day on a dare.  

"What ya lookin' at Johnny." He said, with his funny little smile.
"See that crack over there?"
"Yeah."
"Well that's what I'm looking at."
"How come?"
"Because I' m waiting for my ant."
"Your Aunt?" He said.
"No, Billy, my ant."
"Huh?"
"My ant disappeared into that crack with a lunch crumb, and I'm waiting for him to come back out."
"Oh your ant."
"Yes Billy, My ant. If you like you could have an ant of your very own."
"I could?"
"Sure just pick one out and follow him wherever he goes."  

Just then a large black one with great wavy antennae squeezed out of the crack.  

"Is that your ant Johnny?" He said.
"No Billy he's much too big."
"How will ya know your ant."
"I just will."  

Some adults say children have a rather limited attention span, but after being exposed to six months of ant watching with Billy Cremfield  I would have to disagree. On one sunny afternoon in May our patience finally paid off. We both witnessed something that was to have a profound effect on our adult lives. Two ants crossed paths and rubbed antennae.  

"What are they doing?" asked Billy.
"I don't know, kissing I guess."  

When we got back to class Billy was still curious so he asked Mrs. Bloomtree about the rubbing.

"It's a social thing," she said, and then she told us to both take a seat...  

All through elementary and high school Bill Cremfield and I kept in touch. We attended many of the same classes, but we never understood the significance of antenna rubbing until we talked with Mr. Hinton, our tenth grade biology instructor.  

"It's sort of a ritual among ants you might say,” said Mr. Hinton. Bits of food and grains of sugar are distributed throughout the colony by this ritual method of antenna rubbing. You see an ant by herself can't exist very long. They are part of a whole community in the same way your hands and feet are part of your body. We must always think of ants as belonging to a community in order to understand their behavior. A colony of ants comprises what I like to call a "social organism."  As individuals they don’t stand a chance in the cold cruel world, but there interdependence has assured their survival."  

After class Bill and I made an appointment to talk with Mr. Hinton in private.  

"Are we part of a social organism?." I asked.
"How do you mean?" asked Mr. Hinton.
"Well ants exchange drops of sugar the way we exchange green pieces of paper."
"That's true, but ants are very much different from you and I. Their behavior is governed by cooperative instincts rather than competitive intellectualism."
"Does that make us better?"
"Lets just say people are motivated toward behaviors that benefits their personal needs without regard for the community in which they live while ants are locked into primitive instincts which insure the survival of the colony."
"Is that how ants survived for hundreds of millions of years?" asked Bill.
"That's right."
"If people were more cooperative and less competitive would people be more like ants?" asked Bill.
"Yes I believe they would be."
"And would people survive for hundreds of millions of years like the ants?"
"Yes! I believe they would” said professor Hinton.  

After all those long years in grade school I had finally learned the difference between aunt and ant and now our biology teacher was telling me they were really very much the same except for that thing about cooperation. I was thinking of sociable Aunt Helen and her skinny legs exchanging green pieces of paper. I know it's not fair, but I can't help myself. I mean ants have brains the size of a pinhead and Aunt Helen has a cantaloupe size brain, and ants work together cooperatively and people are always competing with each other. There really shouldn't be any similarity, but I every time I talked with sociable Aunt Helen I was reminded of the ants that Billy and I patiently observed in the school yard many years ago. Perhaps this connection is what motivated my interest in sociology, but my friend Bill went down a different path.  

Bill had a real knack when it came to the frog dissection. His frog intestine measured thirty seven inches, the longest ever recorded at Ketchum Sr. High. The most coherent segment I could manage was three inches.  Mr. Hinton was very impressed and thought for sure Bill would be doing organ transplants some day.  This, however, would never happen, and Mr. Hinton would have known that if he had glanced at Bill’s books like the “Anaconda Ant" and "The Wonderful World of Insects". After Ketchum High Bill and I went our separate ways. He enrolled into SUNY at Stony Brook , NY to become a Biochemist, and I took up Sociology at Oneonta State University . We exchanged letters and got together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 1995 Bill received his BS from Stony Brook and was offered a scholarship at Oregon State University .  

Before heading west Bill gave me a call and we decided to get together and pay a visit to Ketchum Elementary School where we first met. Mrs. Bloomtree had retired several years before so we just walked through the school yard and talked about our plans for the future. Bill felt content with his decision to focus on Biochemistry although his background in Biology was also extensive. I felt my interest in Sociology was going nowhere. Teaching was not my thing and politics was out of the question. Bill encouraged me to stick with it, but on that day I decided to switch majors and study business. It took an additional 3 years to become certified with an MBA and another year to become a mortgage broker for the EAB bank of Uniondale , NY . Distance had put a strain on our relationship, but we did continued to write. The years rolled by.  Nine years, three months and fourteen days from the time we had last seen each other I got this letter in the mail:  

                                   

 

 

 

2. Aunt Farm

 

Dear Johnny,

I've finally decided to pack it in and I hope I can convince you to do the same. I miss the talks we once had and I do hope we can have them again. There are some teachers and students that I work with here at OSU who are supportive, and the money here is good, but it’s no longer enough. My research on ant behavior governed by chemical signals has led me to believe that a more advanced social order is possible for people. The instinctual behavior of ants is unique and I would never expect human beings to be content to conform to simplistic ant norms based on chemical secretions, but I do believe the Human condition could be greatly improved with some conscious guidelines in a structured environment. I’m sure you have a better understanding of what I’m talking about. The field of “Social Evolution” is fairly new science but I believe your experience would helpful in outlining a comprehensive framework for a sustainable social order.  I’m calling this self sufficient community “Aunt Farm” in honor of your Aunt Helen.  

Remember how Mr. Hinton described an ant colony as a "social organism". Well it's true. The lives of all colony ants are interconnected and interdependent. Our lives are also interconnected and interdependent though our basic motivations may seem different. Actually aunts and ants have a lot in common. Ants work for sugar and aunts work for green pieces of paper to buy sugar. Aunt brains are a trillion times larger than ant brains, yet they are both prodded on by the same basic instincts for survival. Oh our technology is more advanced and we can do more harm to the earth if we choose to, but our basic "social organism" structure is very much the same.  

Well if this is true you might say "What's the problem?  Ant "social organisms" have been around for hundreds of millions of years. Why are humans expected to become extinct before the end of the next millennium? I believe the answer to this question can be found in the irresponsible nature of our competitive technology. We use our complex mega brains to find gratification and dominate the world but have isolated ourselves from our environment in the process. Basically I am searching for a practical way to reconnect. To find life meaningful and also understand what holds a society together I feel I must become part of the process and I am hopeful that you will join me in this quest.  

Professor William Cremfield
Biotech
Building
107
Oregon State University
Portland , OR 29904

 

After reading his letter I responded with a: nice-to-here-from-you, and I’m-flattered-by your-request, but no-thanks, I’m-happy where-I-am letter. I told Bill how lucky he was to be in a prestigious, well-paid profession, and how foolish he'd be to blow it on a pie in the sky utopian dream. I explained that communes had never been successful in the past and would probably never be successful in the future. I also reasoned that one successful independent community would have a negligible effect on the economy and people would still be faced with the same burdens of taxes and crime that they had always been plagued with before. A week later I received this response:

 

Hi Johnny

I’m sorry you feel that way. It sounds like you’re content with your position as an EAB mortgage broker, and it looks like the business credits paid off for you. Guess you finally got your MBA and your financial security. Congratulations, I knew you’d be financially successful some day, but I thought you’d still have that passion for the social science you once had. Why did you switch majors anyhow? Please don’t tell me it has something to do with $ $ $.

I would still like thoughts on the social organism concept? Can you see the parts of the organism that I’m talking about? Can you see the organs and tissues and cells? The point is we have the opportunity to take part in the re-construction of our own "Social Organism". Wouldn’t you like to have a conscious control over your own destiny and the destiny of our planet? As single cells floating around in the sea of life we wouldn’t have much of a chance. Even if you run the EAB finance department one day you’ll still be a single unattached cell?  

We’re like an ants separated from the colony, but if somehow we could become part of a community of cells that share values and beliefs we should be able to work in harmony and have a positive effect on the entire organism. Johnny I know you know what I mean. Please don’t give me that frowney face. Anyhow it was my hope that a mutually beneficial utopian community could be pieced together that would depend more on cooperation than competition. Here's your chance to make us proud. This could be your ticket off Long Island and a rat race of facilitating mortgage commitments. You could even bring your Aunt Helen with you if you like.  

Your friend as always  

Professor William Cremfield
Biotech Building 107
Oregon State University
Portland , OR 29904  

                                     

 

 

 

3.The Accountant

 

What was Bill thinking? How can a man reason with a child? We all have dreams but as we grow older most of us learn to see the difference between our dreams and the cold hard word of reality. I told Bill that Aunt Helen couldn’t come because she was busy bench pressing daises and I had no intention of leaving my sinecure job for a pioneering excursion that might end in frost bite and dysentery. I responded to Bills letter in the following manor:

What’s so noble about suffering, Bill? Your social organism will be better off without me  I’d be grumbling about inadequate bathroom facilities and not enough hot water, and you should also be considering these things before it’s too late. You’ll be giving up a prominent position in a prominent university to say nothing about the health risks of living in an untamed environment. Please consider saving yourself from your own delusions of grandeur. From the prospective of a financial advisor I am advising you to abandon these foolish utopian dreams and settle for a more predictable future.  

As the months rolled by I patiently waited for a response from my childhood buddy, but some time passed before he contacted me. My life bumbled along as expected. I had never expected much, and had no reason to feel resentful. Most people would envy my position and my salary. 

It was a typical steamy day in July at the EAB. Young, unqualified couples seeking mortgage approval waited patiently on the hard sticky oak chairs outside my office. My secretary was able to dissuade most home owner hopeful’s, but a few always slipped by and insisted on paying the $300 for the PAAR (Pre Approved Application Review). I hate to see young folks throw their money out like that, but then they do help pay my salary so I guess I shouldn't complain. At 3:00 PM Joseph O’Brien, our white haired security guard, locked the front door to close out another lucrative day at the bank. I logged on to the internet to check out the latest stock market quotes and noticed 17 unread emails in my inbox. Fourteen were pure junk and then there were the three prospective clients with their dumb questions. I wanted to go home, but just as I sent off the last dumb answer to the last dumb question Joseph dumped a pile of letters on my dumb desk. This menial job was normally entrusted to Mayble, my bimbo secretary, but she had an appointment with a beautician so Joseph decided to take up the slack. Anyhow to make a long story a little longer I did find one letter at the very bottom of the pile that caught my attention. The corners of the envelope were bent and brown watermarks were scattered about in a haphazard fashion, but the return address was still legible. It was from Ant Man.   The other letters could wait I thought, so I slid them into my top draw and opened Ant Man’s letter.

                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. A Communal Adventure  

Hello Johnny,

Thank you for your concerns, but I feel that you are the one who needs saving.  When are you going to cash in your chips and join our interdependent community? Does the EAB own your soul?  Don’t tell me you enjoy your lifestyle.

For the last three days I've been going through this box of snail mail a friend picked up from the Oregon State University . Your letter was the first one I opened. Hope you can join us soon. Your negativity is understandable, but you should know the outhouse has been installed. We’re all waiting for you.  Including myself we are now 11 strong, and living a wonderful progressive interactive life on the side of Moose Mountain in Clarkston , Washington . Actually there are only five of us here right now, but the 986 acres are jointly owned by eleven people.  The terrain is challenging to say the least, and the towns people in Clarkston call it a rock farm, but we like it just fine and have grand plans for this beautiful slice of earth. Every day is an adventure in group dynamics. Our collective welfare is at stake and we could use your background in sociology to resolve conflicts and establish some comprehensive community guidelines. We are optimistic about building a viable long lasting utopian community. We even named it in honor of your Aunt Helen. We call it "Aunt Farm" I’m sure your Aunt with the social skills would approve.

Anyhow I wanted to tell you about our progress thus far.

Last week Ned Vickers and Michael Barns and I put up the pipe frame for a greenhouse. Remember Ned and Mike? These were the guys who made Miss Bloomtree laugh. Anyhow tomorrow Ned and Mike and I will be tying down a double layered plastic tarp. It’s the most economical way of holding onto greenhouse heat.  We’ll plan to get some seedlings started as soon as possible though it is a bit late in the season to expect much.  

An excavating project on the south slope of will begin next week. Mike has a great plan for a solar heated community house on the south slope. I’m sure you would be impressed. Ned installed a PV panel to power my Dell, but we’ll still need a satellite hook up to connect with the internet. I’ve been uploading files at a friend’s house once a week. I understand that communal living may not be your thing, but we could still use your financial advice. My email address is antman@earthlink.com  

                                   

 

 

 

 

5. Advice From a Friend  

Bill’s letter made me angry and I couldn’t understand why. We had gone our separate ways after High School so why would I care what Bill did with his life? Bill was never going to grow up. He was a renowned biologist and he had an extensive understanding of ant behavior, but Bill was still naive when it came to understanding the business world. All I could do was gather some information and offer some advice.

My list of questions for bill went something like this: 

1. Who owns what?
2. How are decisions made within your group?
3. Do you have water?
4. Do you have electricity other than that one PV panel?
5. How do you expect to make it through the winter?
6. Where are the other six investors?
7. How did you come upon this worthless piece of real estate?
8. How do expect to support yourselves out there in this isolated area?
9. What happens if you get sick?
10. What are the other six investors doing while you people are slaving away?
11. What do you expect to grow on a pile of rocks?  

After uploading these questions to Bill I received a reply the very next day.  

Oh cluck cluck cluck, Johnny. You sound just like your Aunt Helen. You worry too much about creature comforts and traditionalism. All I can say is that I now have a a sense of harmony and direction. I understand your entanglement with and your complacency towards bureaucratic mediocrity, and I don’t expect you to understand what I’m trying to accomplish at this time. Perhaps this list of questions you sent would best be answered by reading a daily log of our progress since the time we bought Moose Mountain five months ago. You can find this log in at www.antman.com  

The stock market quotes could wait. I decided to download Billy's file. By  5:00 PM   ant.txt had been completely loaded into a  3.5" floppy and packed away in a special slot of  my naugahide attaché.  I smiled at Mr. O' Brian on the way out, and he tipped his hat. My faithful red DZX Sports Coup waited patiently on a specially designated slot of the EAB parking lot. I was thinking about  those college debates in  philosophy and sociology, and I was thinking about Plato and Cicero and Socrates and truth and courage and the concept of harmony and beauty, and then I was thinking of my secure  job and Billy out there  in some remote wilderness rolling stones down the side of a mountain. Be thankful Reader that I have decided not to dump the entire file upon your head, but have instead chosen to sprinkle you with selected tidbits to "titillate your imagination" as Aunt Helen used to say.  

                                     

 

 

 

 

6. A $500,000 Purchase

 

March 25, 1997 .................. The decision to purchase a 986 acre parcel surrounding and including Moose Mountain   for $500,000 was finalized today. Finding and purchasing the parcel was easy compared to the soul searching, talks, and dynamic interpersonal discussions that made it all possible.. In the spring of 1992 I met with Professor Julian Holmes of the engineering department to discuss the feasibility of cooperative living in a competitive world. She convinced me that cooperation is the bases for projects that shape our social development.  She said a diversity of talents is necessary to make an idea practical I told her the "Social Organism" theory and she said:

"Very interesting, but I really must be going."  

                                   

 

 

 

7. Moose Mountain

 

On Friday evening  April 2, 1997  on or about 9:00 PM we set out from campus on a 650mi stormy trek to Clarkston , WA .  Zinsky, a psychology professor, had to be back on campus a week from Monday and suggested an early start.  Julian volunteered the use of her '95 emerald green Econoline Van, and Ned followed with his rebuilt '76 Jeep. Every two or three hours we'd stop and rotate drivers. Julian and Mike and I shared the van from the start, but after four rotations Ned and Julian and Zinsky were laughing it up in the van while Mike and I bumped along in the old Jeep. By 9:00 AM we arrived at the foot of Moose Mountain . There was a heavy downpour and deep pools were forming in the south valley.

By noon the rains were still heavy and the chauvinist pig jokes were wearing thin. When the last of the turkey sandwiches were gone Ned turned to me and said:

"What now Professor Cremfield?"  

At noon a dismal cloud still hung directly overhead. My grade school friends and my new faculty acquaintances were looking to me for guidance the way a child looks to his father. I was as confused as my cohorts, but being the instigator of the "Aunt Colony" idea I felt a certain obligation to say something.

"We have grown so accustomed to the amenities of a well-lit, warm-dry building that adjusting to the raw elements has apparently placed some of us in a state of shock."
"That's right," said Ned, "and we know who we are."

Julian and Zinsky let out a painful grunt and Mike spilt half a cup of hot coffee on his lap. My credibility as a social guru was on the wane, but luck was with me on this day for the distant sound of water splashing on a fender grew louder, and Nancy Greenfield pulled up alongside our van and blasted her horn.

"Hay what are you crazy people doing out here? Don't ya know it's raining?" She said.
Ned rolled down the window and Zinsky yelled out. "We couldn't wait another day, Nancy ."
"You pioneers gona sit on your butts and wait out the storm?" said Nancy .
"What choice do we have?" said Mike.
"We always have options." said Nancy "Let me in and we'll talk."
Julian opened the side door and Nancy made a run for it with a garbage bag in her hand.
"What's in the bag?" I said.
"More garbage bags, what did you think I had? I don't believe you guys came all the way out here without ponchos. I hope you brought boots?"
"Well," said Mike, "We never really thought it would be necessary."
"This ain't no beach party on Long Island , Mike. The nearest town if you wana call it a town is 10 miles due south. Hope you're ready for the night."
"What do ya mean?" asked Mike?
"I mean it sometimes drops below zero in Clarkston."
Mike looked at me with those how-could-you eyes.
"We got plenty of blankets, Mike. Don't worry?" I said.
"That's good you'll need um. So who's up for an adventure?"

Three hands went straight up. Mike and I were a little slow to respond.

"What do you have in mind?" I asked Nancy .
"How would you gringos like to go on a little expedition up the side of Moose Mountain ?" 
"But it's raining." said Julian.
"But it's raining... But it's raining... poor baby. I thought you guys came here for an adventure."
"Well we want to build an independent community." I said.
"Same thing", said Nancy .
"But we don't have boots." I said.
With that Nancy emptied out the remainder of the bag. There was a pair of boots for each of us. How she knew our sizes is still a mystery.
"Put on your booties boys and girls, and we can play follow the leader."
“But it’s still raining”, said Ned.
“Why do you think these plastic bags are for. Just make one hole for your head and two more for your arms. Professor Cremfield will you please tell Mike to nock it off.” 
Julian and Zinsky and Mike looked in my direction.
"Not him." said Nancy . "You've followed Professor Cremfield long enough, now it's time to follow me."  

We struggled into our boots and garbage bag ponchos and filed out one by one. A bolt of lightning illuminated the sky followed in two seconds by a clap of thunder.

"That lightning was 2,200 feet away." said Julian.
"How would you know that?" asked Ned.
"Sound travels at 1100 feet per second."
"Oh!" said Ned.
"Keep it moving, gringos." yelled Nancy .  

The field was lush with scrub pine, sycamore, poplar and juniper. Choke vines encircled the sycamores, cutting into their bark. We followed Nancy down a muddy path with those knee high boots slopping' and sloshing in the viscous earth. Zinsky tripped on an elderberry root, and Mike  helped  her up. We stopped for a moment while she laughed.  At the base of our mountain was a fast running stream thirty feet across.

"Keep your eyes on the stepping stones if you want to stay dry." said Nancy .  

Dam if that tiny bopper wasn't getting herself all puffed up, I thought.  Moose Mountain was dead ahead. It loomed majestic and was shrouded in a dark cloud of mist and rain. My thoughts and eyes were on the mountain when I tumbled into the stream bed. The water wasn't deep, but when a man lands on his butt in a stream bed knee high boots and ponchos are worthless.

"Naughty, naughty, Professor Cremfield," said Nancy . "You're not watching where you step."

I sat there for awhile cold and foolish. Ned was smiling, but nobody laughed.  My curiosity was peaked by the time we reached the shoreline.

" Nancy , hold on." I said. "Where are you taking us?"
"It’s very special place Professor. Trust me on this one." she said
"How far?"
"Bout a mile . Wass-a-maddaa Grandpa, time for your nap."  

Nancy could become a bit irritating at times, but there was a certain excitement in her voice that we all admired and she kept us smiling though it was painful at times.
 
"Lead on, oh Great Navigator." I said.  

We had each fallen a half dozen or more times before reaching "her special place" but our tired, disheveled, bodies were hopeful. That’s when Nancy who looked like a fresh-out-of-the-shower girl, pushed us too far. At the ridge Nancy turned and made an announcement.

"This is my 'special place'." She said.

That was all we could handle. Spontaneously Mike and Ned and Julian and Zinsky and I approached our skilled navigator with mud in hand. Backwards she walked into a nearby puddle, then we finished her off with generous handfuls of the finest mud. Nancy was a good sport, but we gave her plenty of room just in case.

"We don’t want you to feel left out." I said
"Gee thanks guys. 
You're all so thoughtful, perhaps if I had two left feet this mud bath would be unnecessary."
"Perhaps" I said. "Hope your not angry?"

"ANGRY... ANGRY... Why would I be angry?" She yelled.

We could here her voice echo off the canyon walls below. No one was laughing. Ned stepped back and stumbled on Julian's foot causing her to loose balance. Zinsky grabbed Julian's poncho, but the weight was too much and they all plummeted into an awaiting ditch. Mike and I stood there waiting. The rain was falling especially heavy now. Zinsky dark hair was straight and dripping and covered half her chin. Nancy laughed followed by Mike and Julian. For sometime we all stood or sat there in the rain and mud slobbering and snorting and laughing.  

"Any of you crazy people waana see my secret special place?" She said.
"No thanks.” said Mike. "I waana go home."
"Ya waana get dry don't you?"
"Do we have to?"
"Yes you do gentlemen and ladies.  Step this way for the nineteenth wonder of the world, but this time keep close eye on your feet. The ledge is narrow and it’s a long way down."  

Nancy led us around a bush and out on a ledge about 2,000 feet above the mountain's base. There was a clear view of the valley below, across a jagged slope of a virgin forest filled with massive exposed boulders, though they were difficult to see with nothing more than the light from an overcast sky. After inching our way along a narrow ledge for twenty or thirty feet a platform opened up where we walked more comfortably. A cave welcomed us with an extended roof that reminded me of my grandmother's porch. Nancy led us inside where we beheld a substantial cavern complete with a vaulted ceiling and three dark tunnels in the distance. A pile of wood was in one corner and a pole tipped in burnt cloth was wedged in a crack by the entrance.

"Anybody got a match?" asked Nancy .

Ned and Mike reached into their pockets, but found nothing useful. Mike had butane lighter, out of fuel and Ned had a book of wet matches. Nancy rolled her eyes and spoke in a voice of disbelief rather than criticism. 

"Never mind." she said.

We looked to Nancy for guidance but she just continued to roll her eyes. At last she reached under a hidden ledge near the cave’s entrance and pulled out a rusty old can and poured something on onto a stick with a rag on one end. She than pulled out a zip lock bag from one of her many pockets. It was here that she kept a stash of dry wooden matches. Nancy than made a suggestion:

"If you boys feel the urge to make yourselves useful there is box of kindling just inside that first tunnel on the right."  

Mike brought in a generous supply of kindling and Ned found a few dry logs stacked near the entrance Julian helped stretch a nylon cord high and tight in the vicinity of the camp fire. When the room warmed Nancy took off her boots and poncho and tossed them in one corner. Next she slid off her genes and sweater,  and found a nice spot to spread them on the cord.

"That's all ya get boys." She said." Better make use of the facilities we'll probably be here awhile."  

    I suppose we should have been more somber and fearful about each other and the elements of nature, but those days of being somber and fearful were over. We were on the brink of great sociological change and somehow we knew it, sitting there in our underwear, watching our close drip onto a cave floor 2,000 feet above the base of a mountain in some obscure corner of a low priority state.  
    Ten thousand years ago family communities gathered in caves not unlike this one. Perhaps, too soon, we have abandoned the stone shelter. When the last ice age ended and controlled agriculture became the fad, stockpiles of food provided leisure time. In time towns developed with a cast system of workers and priests. A hierarchy developed The secretes of agriculture and food preservation and were guarded by the high priests who controlled their subjects with fear. Caves were abandoned for this so called "civilization" and now we are reunited with the ancestral cave where we might rediscover treasure buried deep within the conscience of humanity.
    My eyes were on the ledge and the brown valley and a small lake in the dim distance  Aspen and dogwood of every shape and description were striped of leave and flower. There time will come, I thought, and then I heard this voice. 

"Oh! Professor Cremfield. Anybody home?" Said Julian.
"Yes Julian. " I said. "We're all home."
"Ya mean this is it." Said Ned.
"That's right, Ned, what more could you want?"
"How about a warm shower and a warm bed to start?"
"You mean creature comforts."
"Ned's right, Professor, as nice as this cave is we're spoiled. We'll never get this community started in a cave." said Zinsky.
"But we already have."
"Zinsky right, Professor," said Nancy . "We can all stay at Uncle Bob's till a proper shelter is set up. I'm sure he won't mind as a matter of fact Uncle Bob told me he's looking forward to meeting all you crazy people."

"That's great," said Mike ". “Let's go.”

"Not so fast, Mike, our clothes aren’t dry yet, and Uncle Bob won't be home till 5:00 PM , Besides Professor Cremfield has some things to talk about, right Professor."

"You're a very perceptive woman, Nancy, but I'm sitting here in my underwear like everyone else and you still call me Professor Cremfield."

"Would you like me to call you Bill?"

“Bill would be fine.”

"I'm honored that you call me Professor and you may continue to do so but please realize I'm no more special than anyone else here. Where would we be without Nancy , for example?"

"We'd all be dryer." said Ned.

"Well that's true, but without Nancy we'd still be sitting in the van listening to Julian's chauvinist pig jokes."

"So what are you saying, Bill." said Zinsky.

"What I'm saying is we all need to be leaders and we all need to be followers if this community is going to work."

"But that's impossible how can we all be leaders and all be followers. What do we do if we can't agree?" asked Mike.

 

I placed head in hand and rubbed my eyes and then looked out at the valley below feeling the weight and importance of the question wishing that my old friend John were here to find the right words.  

"Excellent question, Mike. Our success as a community will  definitely hinge on our ability to resolve conflict. Shall we explicitly appoint or elect a leaders by a democratic agenda or should we arm wrestle for the position or flip for it every two weeks. I have an old Sociology friend from Long Island who could probably better answer your question but he's not here  now so I for one would like to wing it for now.  Personally I believe that everyone's opinion is important. A democratic vote in which four vote for A and five vote for B and two obstain has little value. Think of the dissatisfaction of the four and the apathy of the two. Every conflict we resolve will strengthen our cohesiveness as a group and enable us to better survive as a community.  Our conscious evolution of self discovery and harmonious group interaction is our most valued goal. "
"But what recourse will an individual have if colony life is no longer suitable." said Julian.  

"Another good question Julian, but you should know the answer to that one. Ten of us agreed to buy 986 acres jointly from Nancy 's Uncle for $500,000 acres to be developed as a community. We each paid $50,000 for equal say in community policy and development and agreed to grant Nancy an equal partnership at a discounted price for her help in procuring the real estate. If we decide to cash in our chips we only get a 2 acre parcel assigned by a majority of the members and a $25,000 refund within one year of quitting. This contract was designed to insure our commitment to the communal project and provide some compensation in the event of contract termination.  

"Yes but what happens if more members join?"
"Julian I'm surprised at you. Didn't you read your contract?" 
"No, I trusted you?"
"Well I'm flattered and I hope you agree with the contract because I want you with us. Is there anyone else here who didn't read their contract?"
Three hands went up.
"OK people I'll go over the basic contract with you now, and I'm sure you'll all find it very fair and equitable, but in the future please read your contracts.  

1. Any equal partner must contribute $50,000 in return for membership privileges and a five acre parcel to be agreed upon by a 3/4 vote of active members. Funds collected in excess of the purchase price would be used for community development. No more than fifty equal partner members would be allowed in this colony.

2. Each member of the community is expected to contribute a minimum of 500 hours of service or $5,000 per year to retain equal partner membership. Approved hours contributed in excess of the mandatory 500 hours will go toward colony stock options which may be cashed or held like any conventional stocks. 

3. A supportive, nurturing environment of cooperation will be maintained within the colony for the purposes of individual growth and social evolution. Uncooperative members may be terminated at any time by a 3/4 vote of the active membership. Individual are free to resign form the colony at any time. Half the original investment of $50,000 will be returned to the individual upon membership termination. Stock options may be retained or cashed in at this time or at any time.  The assigned five acre parcel may be retained by a member or terminated member, but it may not be sold or willed to heirs without the express permission of a 3/4 majority.

          4. The health........  

          "Hold it! Hold it! We get the idea." 
         
"Well thanks, Mike" I said. "I really don't wish to be so long winded about this, but ....."
         
"Oh sure you do Bill."
         
"Yeah, guess I do. It's just that this contract is sort of like our constitution. I get all misty inside when ever the contract comes up."
         
"We know," said Ned. "We're just puttin' ya on. Mike and I love it when you go into your Thomas Jefferson routine."  

Then Ned stood up and announced: "Three cheers for Thomas Jefferson."
And there was a ridiculous clamor "Hip Hip Har aaaaaaaaaaaaa Hip Hip Har .............."
"It's just that we've got so much to talk about.. like health care and child care and job opportunity and old age retirement and internal and external social reform and social evolution and...."
         
"Stop him please, anybody, his mouth won't stop moving.", said Ned.
Nancy picked up Zinsky's pants, still wet and dripping, and wrapped it around Bill's mouth.
         
"Mumm mumm mumm....," Was the best I could do.
         
"Professor," said Zinsky ",I know you have a wonderful long range plan mapped out for all of us, but what are we going to do tomorrow."
         
"Forget about tomorrow Zinsky; what are we going to do tonight?" said Mike.
         
"Don't worry about tonight we can stay at Uncle Bob's. He's got a grand old house and lots of  room. As a matter of fact My uncle is looking forward to meeting everyone. We could talk about tomorrow over a spaghetti dinner tonight." said Nancy .  

The clothes took a few more hours to become reasonably dry, but after enduring a plethora of Julian's male chauvinist jokes, Ned suggested it was time to leave.

                                   

  

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