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Why I'm in the Network For a New Culture

Being part of the Network feels to me like taking the next step in my journey to discover what the hell I am doing in this body in this lifetime in this so-called "Reality." About three years ago a book came into my hands--seemingly by chance--that proved to be a pivotal point in my life. It is called Human Robots and Holy Mechanics, written by David Kyle. The book addressed questions that I had been asking myself about the lack of human values in the economic / political structures of society--not just here in the U.S., but world wide. (When I voiced these questions to others I just seemed to get blank looks.) After discussing the issues confirming and enlarging on my suspicions--Kyle addressed, in the second part, not answers, but directions to explore. Some of these, e.g. forming groups for left brain/ right brain exploration of issues and tuning in to structures and attitudes of indigenous cultures, were familiar. But he stressed a concept that was both quite new to me and that resonated strongly: Find your community; seek your tribe.

My first reaction was to whine, "How am I supposed to find my community? I haven't heard of any communities!"

Very shortly a Community ConneXions flyer came in the mail announcing weekly presentations on intentional community and related topics. I also became involved with the Empowerment Center, which focused on vocational community based on Barbara Marx Hubbard's Rings of Empowerment. At an empowerment seminar the (to me) outrageous vision became clear that I wanted to be part of a "Think Tank" studying and creating models for the New Paradigm, disseminating the information gleaned, and teaching the processes involved. (My particular fascination is with the basic assumptions , the underlying beliefs or "world view"--not only the "whats" and "hows," but the "what for's." Eventually I realized that intentional communities, whether currently functioning, forming, or merely a record in history, are basic experimental working models for the New Paradigm. I was in fact already involved in pursuing my vision, even if not in an organized fashion.

And so I continued my involvement with Community ConneXions and an Empowerment Core Group in addition to a Women's Circle and a powerful Medicine Circle. I absorbed information and connected with others seeking new forms and expressions for looking at life in new ways. My Reality was both expanding and becoming more fluid; my viewpoint more consciously subjective. Connections multiplied and interwove. But I had a sense of "scratching the surface." A sense of community seemed elusive both in groups formed and in my living situation.

Two books provided clues to my discomfort. One was Scott Peck's A Different Drum. His description of the function of approaching chaos and tapping into our vulnerability in the formation of community was enlightening. The other was in a book by Krishnamurti. I was struck by his admonition to not just rearrange one's prison walls--that real change must come from the inside and begins with deeply questioning one's self.

When the "traveling Zegg show" came to Portland in October of '94, I was not able to attend, although I was curious. The reports on it both attracted me and put me off. I was attracted by the emphasis on communication and transparency as well as self-responsibility and experimentation; but I was also suspicious of the emphasis on "free love." So, when a group formed with the intent of undertaking an experiment in transparency, I decided to participate--giving myself permission to bolt if it felt "wrong." We gave ourselves a three- month time frame, meeting once a week with the intention of additional one-on-one meetings and monthly weekends away. The experiment proved unthreatening but also not very effective in evoking true transparency (with intermittent exceptions).

Of the original group only one couple, Sophia and Apollo Class, had attended a "Zegg" workshop. By the time the original "experiment" was finished, I had read Dieter Duhm's paper, had attended a workshop given by Valerie Stewart, and spent part of an evening "grilling" Jon Russell and Rotraud. Also, two additional network members brought feedback from a spring workshop. I was beginning to see the sexual emphasis in some perspective. Timing was good and events were coming together fast. An influx of workshop attendees joined with us, adding new energy to the Portland group as Summer Camp at the Trolley Park was in full preparation. Energy was high. I felt open to (if not ready for) the next stage of my own experiment. I signed up for five days of Summer Camp.

My days at Summer Camp were the opening and closing weekends and Wednesday (devoted to community). A mixed blessing: I had in-between days to dry off , but I missed most of the major speakers. On the other hand I had the experience that seemed "right" for me. Sten Linnander's opening talk provided the "oomph" for me to complete a philosophical shift. I was already aware of the power/control issues reflected in the sexual dynamics of current social relationships. And I believe power/control is a key paradigmatic issue, hence my interest in the transparency/communication aspects of the Zegg experiment. But Sten addressed the nuclear family system and raised a systemic principle: Closed system die. And it resonated. I knew that; I had experienced that loss of energy in my own marriage and in my parents' very stable relationship as well. Somehow a shift occurred and I felt ready to participate fully in the Summer Camp experience--at least I did on the mental level.

On the emotional/behavioral level it was another story. I felt awkward, self-conscious, inept, "wrong," and more than a little absurd. My behavior, as I saw it, seemed friendly, rational and somewhat impersonal. I was coping. As I left camp and returned on Tuesday evening and again on Friday, I could feel the rising energy level as people became closer. By Friday evening I was feeling very much on the outside looking in--and I felt it was my own energy keeping me there, which I did not know how to change. Friday evening there was a forum-type gathering. Somewhere in the middle of it I was surprised to hear my voice expressing my feeling of estrangement, frustration and sense of helplessness about my own behavior. It seemed a long journey. transparency was (is) not an easy exercise (at least for me). Afterward my experience changed dramatically. I left Summer Camp on a high--with a creative supercharge that lasted throughout the summer and with after effects that are still ongoing.

What feels particularly significant in my Summer Camp experience is that I changed a belief and acted on it. This seems important for creating New Paradigm models that are not simply rearrangements of the prison walls. (It also seems important not to make a dogma of the changed belief--the conversion syndrome.) It also feels significant that I have a community that will support me in my new behavior--a family of choice to complement my biological family. This is important to me because it seems difficult to maintain a sense of reality without validation, and even more difficult to maintain an energy field in isolation. (Perhaps this is the same phenomenon stated two ways?)

And it feels significant that the fledgling experiment in transparency that formed a year ago has evolved into a dynamic community--now called the Portland Experiment--with ties through the Network.

It feels significant to be in this body in this lifetime experiencing shifts in my personal reality reflecting movement in the cultural paradigm. The network has provided inspiration, support and mirrors for this shift as well as opportunities for deepening and broadening, and for sharing the experience in what I anticipate to be expanding circles. Life feels like an experiment--and I want to be both subject and researcher/commentator, in conjunction with a host of other eager players. The Network feels like a natural playground for the game of Changing Paradigms.

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