Things develop, consolidate in a given direction, grow rigid, then decline; a change sets in, coherence is established once more, and the world is one again. The secret of Tao in this world of the mutable, the world of light—the realm of yang—is to keep the changes in motion in such a manner that no stasis occurs and an unbroken coherence is maintained. He who succeeds in endowing his work with this regenerative power creates something organic, and the thing so created is enduring."
—Ta Chuan, a 5th-century Taoist text
Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:
I was the child of a revolution. It was the 1970s, and the adults around me were engaged in a rebellion against all the old modes. We lived on a commune and then an off-grid homestead. The children joined our parents for political protests on the weekends, followed by hippie bacchanals with food and music and homemade everything. When not protesting or partying, we worked alongside our parents, caring for gardens and livestock and working on the never-ending construction projects at various homesteads in the community.
In many respects, this was an ideal childhood. We learned to do honest work together with an extended community of adults and witnessed the example of our parents fulfilling a powerful vision of a new kind of society.
Of course, as the venerable Mullah Nasruddin, says, every stick has two ends. Inasmuch as the `70s revolution was bright, the other end of this stick was a set of sometimes haphazard oppositional tactics. The principle was: when in doubt, do the opposite of what mainstream society does, which meant some babies went out with the bathwater.
I experienced these untraditional approaches with some of the objectivity possessed only by children. For example, at three, my parents suggested that, on the commune and in the tribe, all the adults were my mothers and fathers, and I should refer to them as such.
I recall agreeing in principle with the argument for collective parenting but in practice, addressing the other adults as mom and dad felt awkward. There was no way to un-know that two of those people were actually my parents. As a compromise, I opted to call my parents by their given names, which felt less dishonest.
The early `70s marked the explosion of the feminist movement, whose ideas and practices had a strong presence in the hippie community and in our household. On one side of the stick was the energy and independence the women on the farms brought to new kinds of work.
My mom and her tribe of "North Country Womyn" learned to use chain saws to harvest firewood and replace transmissions in the old beater cars of which each family had one drivable and several derelicts for parts. I watched my mom teach herself electrical skills and wire the converted horse barn that became our house. She was laid flat by shocking high-voltage accidents more than once and survived to live another day as an amateur electrician.
These women were nobody's victim. I remember my mom cursing out men twice her size for their sexist comments. In a campaign against institutional sexism, general masculine pronouns were abolished from our vocabulary under duress.
Also bright was the connection with a hippie, goddess-based spirituality involving solstice and equinox, moon cycles, and May Day celebrations. Some births became public pagan rituals. I attended one public birth when I was six, together with scores of women and children gathered to support and participate in the delivery of a baby. There were no men in the room and the goddess energy, as it was called, was strong.
The other end of the feminism stick was a litany of political rhetoric characterizing men and their crimes against women as an evil almost akin to the Nazis (about which I was also learning at the time). I tried dressing as a girl to demonstrate solidarity, but this was awkward and sometimes a little humiliating as I was not trans in any sense. Though I understood and agreed with all that was said about the crimes of men, I was left feeling culpable and guilty for the crimes of men of all epochs.
Now a man, I have inherited a love of revolution, though intense inquiry has led to a different understanding. Revolution has to do with the way a planet turns on its axis and revolves around the sun, which in turn revolves around its own galactic center. Revolution is turning about a center of gravity like a whirling dervish; revolving around a knowing so deep as to require no belief or defense or convincing. The revolution is constantly in motion, never stagnant, never requiring an enemy or a target to realize its ideal.