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Look for the Girl with the Sun in Her Eyes

My former land in Vermont.
*

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

Mad Brook Farm commune had its 30th anniversary in 1999. I and the young men who were my crew, who were working on the land I owned up the mountain, were living on the Farm at the time. We all attended the three-day party.

The first night, Friday, my 12 year old daughter and her mother (we had already been divorced for a decade) were trying to sleep on the second floor of Simone's house. But, although the party had dispersed and all was pitchdark outside, music was still blaring from stereo speakers set up in the windows of the Main House, where 26 hippies, most of who were associated with the Hartford School of Art, spent that first winter, '69-'70.


The Main House, Mad Brook Farm
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After asking the very few people inside if I could turn down the record player and having that request denied, I surreptitiously, from outside, turned the speakers so that they faced inside, but that made little difference. I still remembering the cruelty of that refusal; Black Pete thinking a moment about my daughter not being able to sleep and then saying no. I could say that the communeers had aged poorly, but I believe that they never were very nice. Utopias lose their shine up close.

So, I put my daughter up on my back, her mom wrapped herself in a blanket and we made our way slowly away through the moonless night, down the hill towards the dance studio.


Steve Paxton
*

Steve Paxton, the father of Contact Improvisation dance, was and probably still is a resident of Mad Brook Farm. Steve was in the habit of sleeping in various places in the sprawling complex that included the 30' x 50' lofty dance studio, a two-storey kitchen-office space and a private living quarters.

My plan was to settle my daughter and her mom for the night on some mats in the dance studio. When we entered the capacious space I realized that Steve had had the same plan for himself and was asleep on the other side of the room.


Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson, another member of the Farm, dancing in Brazil
*

Kneeling beside him, having whispered his name several times with no effect, I brushed his cheek ever so slightly with the back of my hand. He shuddered slightly and I announced my presence, apologizing for disturbing him. "No. No. That's fine," he demurred, "It's only that your touch was so much like that of a mouse."

When I explained my purpose, gentleman that he was, he insisted on getting my guests sheets and pillows. Mission accomplished.

The next morning, up the hill between Simone's and the Main House, aside of the barn, in the fire pit, a 6' x 12' hole dug 3' deep into the ground, the fire which had blazed all during last night's party had been allowed to die down into a formidable bed of glowing coals. Mid-morning a good number of freshly cut tree branches, full of green leaves, were placed in upon the coals. A freshly butchered pig was then placed on that bed of leaves and covered by another thick layer of foilage. All of that was then sealed beneath at least a foot of earth. The pig roast was on.

There was a lot of activity that Saturday, a lot of people showing up, a lot of drugs. Think festive. I myself was on some very clean LSD. There were no impurities, none of that unpleasant "acid test" edginess about it. This stuff was laboratory grade, crystalized four times. I mean if you can't do acid on a sunny July day on a mountainside in Vermont at the 30th anniversary celebration of a hippie commune, where can you do it? Think festive.

My daughter and her mom spent the first part of that day hovering around the studio. During one of my visits there, early in the afternoon, I found them seated on the small back porch a few feet above Steve Paxton, who was scything the tall grass of the short slope there. Everything that man did was gracious, but to watch him scythe, rhythmically swaying back and forth, was a real treat.

I had just made and carried down carrot juice for the three of them. There in the shade, while Steve took a break and sipped his juice, my daughter asked me, "Dad, what does 'degeneration' mean?" I answered (plasticine porters with looking glass ties waiting to take me away), "It's when the young people think that they know everything that the old people know, but they don't."

Fast forwarding 22 years finds me listening last week to an audio recording of Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. It is the story a young man who brings his friend, both of them recent university graduates, for a summer visit to his father's farm, where his uncle also resides, his father´s very aristocratic brother. This uncle confronts his nephew's companion over the companion's nihilistic philosophy with the following words:

"For once upon a time [our youth] had to go to school, since they did not like to be taken for dunces, and therefore worked at their studies; but now they have but to say: 'Everything in the world is rubbish,' and, behold! the trick is done... In other words, the blockheads of former days are become the Nihilists of the present."

I was struck by how well this sentiment, published in a novel 160 years ago, sums up so much of the protest movement happening on America's streets today, degeneration writ large.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think there is a lot worth protesting. I am, however, suspicious of those who dismiss everything that happened before 2015 as the oppression of one identity group or another. Protestors, who, without having read much of anything, declare, "Everything about America is racist," seem to echo Turgenev's Nihilists, who attest, "Everything in the world is rubbish."

Speaking of Nihilism, my girlfriend Veronica's son, A., left a month or so ago to return to his native Chile. After five days of quarantine in a hotel room there, he took up residence in the apartment of his paternal grandmother. This woman, who raised five sons of her own, is worried about A. because he has no interests except video games and volunteers nothing, not even good morning or good night.


Santiago, Chile and the Andes
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He was the same way here: never initiating conversation, mostly unresponsive when addressed. When he wasn't being forced by his mother to engage, his output was limited to mundanities:, "Did you buy more pasta?"; "Where is the dog's leash?"

At his goodbye party he was goaded into responsiveness by two effervescent former schoolmates. Together they played a game with the questions on one side of cards of the deck and the answers on the other.

Online, in his room, with the door closed, he does frequently socialize animatedly, often boisterously, with members of his video game team.

"Advice to the young: You don't have to listen to anybody. You can learn everything from your own personal experience. Of course, you will be at least 50 years old by the time you know what you need to know at 25." - Thomas Sowell

I used to think that A. simply had no use for the wisdom of his elders, that, like so many others of his generation (or degeneration), he thinks he knows it all. Now I think that there is also something else behind his refusal to engage.

Six years ago, when A. and his mother briefly lived with me, I played a few games of chess with him. I played gently, letting him take back moves. It was a learning experience for him. But when he realized that he could not win, even before I had a chance to dial back my game and let him win, he stopped playing.

I now think that he stopped playing because he didn't want to let reality interfere with his self-conception, to test the idea of his superiority. I see the same among America's youthful protestors. When your inexperience allows you to believe in utopia, reality seems second rate.

"The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly. Only when you do something is it almost impossible to do it without mistakes. Therefore people who are contributing nothing to society, except their constant criticisms, can feel both intellectually and morally superior." - Thomas Sowell

My guess is that in ten years a lot of these protestors will be sorry that they wasted the last decade of their lives.

I offered some advice to A. before he flew away. I told him that we are not one self, but many. We are our self at 20 years old and our self at 25, at 30 and at 40... and that we ought to prepare now to make life more comfortable for our future selves. I told him that real life companionship was much richer and reliable than its online substitute.


George Hall
*

George Hall had a farm up in Simsbury, Connecticut, where I would go to pick up my (CSA) produce. Old Farmer Hall painted a mural on the side of his barn for the benefit of the many young interns who helped him each summer. Over the display of a bountiful harvest the following words blazed forth: "Hire a teenager now while they still know everything."

**************

Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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