Around Town

Keeping Community

June 2015

 How precious our Community is. The beauty of the land fills our hearts with happiness and this land, our home, is now also a destination spot advertised in the NYTimes. Never the less, this place is in our hands, in trust for future generations. Elders will naturally leave, but some are being asked to leave before their time. This is as bad an idea as remodeling the green bridge,  annoying everyone but Cal Trans who have their work cut out for them for three discombobulating disrupting, inconveniencing years. In the spirit of MOW founder, the late great Donna Sheehan, we will nip this in the bud, stop the train in its tracks, refuse this folly. And while we’re at it, let’s not confuse standard of living for quality of life. We see who is moving in…anyone with enough moolah who cares nothing for the lives of already established residents can come in, build too close ,infringing on privacy or tear down trees or build without consideration of the neighbor, destroying the view or a contiguous stand of mutually beneficial shrubs. People leap before they look, ignorant of custom and common practice. In the face of uncaring fools rushing in, think of the mitigating force of the benevolent wise stewards. Don’t we want them to  remain? Don’t we need our circle of founders, shapers, all who built our community, who gave it life and breath with every act of beauty, truth, imagination, kindness and generosity? We built wisely, considerately because of who we are… loving caring beings and with what we hanker for…  peace and good will in our niche.

Tim Weed and Debby Daley, among others who make our lives happier and fuller, are looking for digs. So is Elizabeth Whitney. So are David and Sara Morris, unsung heroes, loved and respected pillars of the Spanish speaking community whom they have served with devotion, intelligence and skill for forty some years. How many scholarships, Sara? How many English classes, David? Sara and David spent most if not their entire adult and generative lives devoted to the well being and betterment of the Mexican community… farm laborers and their families, whose members are housekeepers, gardeners and glorious children with who knows what dreams… their heads finally allowed in the clouds, essential to imagining and planning fulfilling productive lives. The couples’ insights and efforts open doors for the dreamers, opportunities and choices which make it possible for all the kids in our community, not just those privileged by ways and means, to aspire to fulfilling lives And here’s the irony if not best part. Once these newly empowered kids retire, they can become weeding fools, beads -of -sweat gardeners like their granddads who wanted for them a life of leisure to pursue questions of the mind, to satisfy curiosity, to make a contribution to the whole.

The Morrises never acted for reward or recognition, but in the humble spirit of service, work for its own reward.
These fine productive shaping members of our community have intrinsic value too. We need their life work to model a Live and Let Live ethos.  Only that will do. It works. It is not the thread count of the linens, not the understandable yet unfortunately self serving choice to raise tenants’ rent so precipitously as to make them lose their place. Isn’t there a win win compromise?  We have a great mediation team that could help. I’d so like to see us claim and hold onto the reins, having a say in the disposition of things, establishing ground rules of fair play and consideration.  Isn’t it best to steer a course wisely and prudently so so we continue to be a hands-on, can-do bunch of people of all ages who love the land at the juncture of the civil and the wild and are learning to live more and more simply, indigenously harmoniously as the days go by?  We need a bottom line, like Bhutan perhaps… our collective happiness. Equal dignity, equal opportunity, equal justice…

What is our collective noun…we who surround the bay, living in this watershed? We are eccentric and idiosyncratic as well as  predictable and conventional, grasshoppers and ants, old and young rich and poor, up and down in and out …works in progress, all… What is progress? How we define the common good, what we want to flourish and abide? This will shape the fabric made by our choices….

A riddle: How do we remain luxuriously independent with free enterprise and also agree to boundaries, limits, regulations, guarantees…social responsibilities which I don’t think can be legislated?  We need a world with a moral center, a place of integrity, where we do our best to take care of one another, pulling our own oxygen masks down first, of course, but being considerate of our fellow passengers as well. We have this world. How do we keep it?
Of course landlords have legitimate reasons for taking a rental property off the market…family to shelter and so forth. But we can resist the temptation to pursue profit at the unfair expense of others, fiscal impact as the bottom line. We can do better as Clam is doing,  helping formerly underserved people buy their own homes, leveling the playing field. The bottom line must take into account impact on human welfare…everyone having a fair share and yes, some pigs will probably still be more equal. Never the less, incentive to improve quality of life is a great motivator … if the game isn’t rigged and values skewed…as they are in our upside down, but easily-remedied world. How so? Play fair and square, take turns, let the common good trump vested interests.

Must the road lead to Sausalitoville? The influx of tourist income is undoubtedly desirable if, like bamboo, it doesn’t get out of hand.  Tourism and the  B and B industry seemed such a positive step in growth and development. Offer the dollar oyster. They will come.  They have come.  The question is:  When is enough enough and too much too much? and do we have the wisdom to know the difference? How shall we grapple with this challenge? We could do nothing and let things sort them selves out, always an appealing option, but the stakes are too high not to at least ask if we can benefit by intervention. How can we continue to function as a community?   After so many quantifiable changes, there will be a qualitative one, as ice melts into water at 32 degrees and evaporates into air at 100. ( fact check).  Who do we want in our world?   Not that it will ever be this caricature black and white. Is making art and music important to us?   Is helping our community in a profound and magnanimous way going to be rewarded by expulsion ?   Our friends and neighbors need homes to live in. How are we going to help, not abandon them? What about the dream of community their work and ours generated? Important enough to keep?


Contemplating Local Education


As our community evolves and its members articulate vision and blueprint for continued and improved quality of life, we build upon, expand, innovate, transform, take to a new level and better existing models and institutions for which I salute our practical dreamers.  I want us to be passionate about the products of our efforts and energies, and also to be as impartial and unattached as we possibly can to the outcome of our proposals, however greatly we are invested in the fruits of our innovations and creative imaginations. We have witnessed in the mainstream the corrosive effects of competition and polarization.

Not that we should have one unitary paradigm for everything. Hooray for our multiple restaurants and purveyors of food. But and in another sphere, look at the challenge to two local papers both of which suffer financial hardships because it is difficult for locals to cough up advertising moolah for both. When the new paper was launched, it was to provide a weekly paper that truly served the community which the older model  in that incarnation did not.

I would have to argue that in the course of time, the former changed course and direction and now we have two papers that would serve the community but whose ways and means have been diluted by the existence of the other and a lot of hard work and hard feelings have created a wall that doesn’t really seem to shelter a bridge. I could be wrong, but we see here a house divided, you should excuse, please, the mixing of metaphors. My point of course stems from the analogy. And at the risk of offending those brilliant innovators who passionately sponsor alternatives to existing schools, people I know and love, I ask them to reflect.

A mother of a school age child makes a strong appeal to consider the value of bettering what is already in place through active engagement and incremental improvement. After so many quantitative changes, there will be a qualitative one, as in the tipping point, as in ice becoming water and then vapor after the critical degree has been attained. This is not a quick fix. This is a process of systems. Grass grows in the time it takes to grow. Not everyone remembers that when my generation’s kids were at school, the Latino and Anglo communities were more apart and little by little through respect, good will and a vision of inclusion, a container for all has been created to which we are inclined to contribute, support, ameliorate and cherish…much as a marriage or a partnership is construed as the container of and greater than its constituent individuals.

I ask us not to be defensive or sustain ego wounds …Taking offense creates as much suffering in the world as giving offense …but rather to consider what is best for the community in the long run, to be open to the possibility of redirecting the course of our good intentions, to weigh and evaluate before acting. Not the least offensive by product of the smart meters is the loss of jobs to the meter readers. Similarly, I am loathe to see the loss of teachers who are treasures and gifts to the children of our community. Because we are all here, I propose we embrace both/ and as a more salubrious alternative to either/or. And I conclude with this: I will honor whatever transpires. Ultimately I know nothing. I merely point to what arises from the consciousness I now possess.( Salmon Rushdie said that first.) Everything is, we are all works in progress. Let’s work well.

May the force be with us.


Please understand that I am not interested in raining on anyone’s parade. I’m thrilled people care about the foundation of their children’s lives and the education they receive. I’m not selling. Rather, I’m encouraging inquiry and sponsoring, if anything, reflection, as disinterestedly as possible, so that what emerges, transpires will be the best possible course of action and outcome.

I grew up in” Pleasantville,”  in an authoritarian society  (Simon says do this, do that). Our lives were scripted, convention entrenched. Our mother, who obtained a Masters’ degree in the 30s,  never worked…not exactly sanctioned then…made sure her children had opportunities to develop their lives and while our cousins went to private schools, she sent us to public school. She was an egalitarian, an FDR Democrat, and wanted us to mingle with everyone, not just children of privilege. She also made sure we had extra curricular activities which developed our spirits’ inclinations and proclivities.I had ballet for several years and modern dance for many more. I played the violin, learned the concerti by Mendelssohn and Bruch and was learning the Brahms before I was 12. I made my stage debut at 6, as the Dormouse in an adult production of Alice in Wonderland. I was Annie ( who got her gun) at  summer camp when I was 14 and was part of a dance performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue the year after.  Mother gave us fairy and folk tales for presents. We walked to the library every Saturday and brought home as many books as we could carry. I went to public school  and never lost my interest in learning, a life long process. I went to Girl Scout Camp and though the food was deplorable ( I never want to see Kool Aid or Spam again… Blech), I learned wood craft, survival skills, tolerance, respect for people unlike myself, self reliance, character. I learned to relate to children of differing background, with differing abilities.I learned my life was was greater and richer than inferior food or less than perfect circumstances.

There was a restaurant in Berkeley back when that had writ on the wall the injunction to walk with everyone, princes and paupers, from every walk of life.There is something immense to be gained riding the bus, with everyone, however righteous, convenient and satisfying the private Prius.

Yes Bush’s program ” No child Left Behind” is deplorable and must be resisted. The teachers I know at our local school know this. I envy the kids in the third grade classroom,replete with terrariums,aquariums, and other ongoing lessons in natural science,  wish I had had such a teacher. I also wanted to go to Neill’s Summerhill. Experiments are wonderful. Only consider every aspect, not only what is gained, but what is lost in what you forego.You will do what you will do, and I send, in any event, my best wishes, blessings and good will.


Oh dear. Having made the point that flourishing is possible in public school and mentioned the benefit of mingling with our neighbors to which argument Ms D adds matters of footprint and buying local, I thought the water trough was full.  However, there is still something to say about school, religion, and the separation of church and state.  My daughter went to a Waldorf kindergarten which was tremendously rewarding. And while Steiner may have been a this or a that, it was not religion we observed, unless the pagan celebrations of solstice and equinox be so construed.  What I saw was an invitation for each child to be engaged heart and soul in imaginative play, the fertile soil of learning. Everyone take note. We can be eclectic and draw from many wells which is what every good teacher  ( read life long learner ) does.

I begin each semester, as a teacher in a community college, parsing the meaning of Alma Mater, the mother of one’s spirit or ( the s word to the cynical ) soul. We learn, come to know directly through all our faculties of perception as Jung and the Lakota Sioux tell us: intellect ( thought reasoning ) feeling  ( heart connection, vibes ) senses ( hearing sight smell taste touch ) and intuition,  which our culture routinely denies or ignores.  As the SATs demonstrate, we value intellectual  accomplishment above all else. Kids are tested for their mastery of verbal, mathematical skills and analytical reasoning.

Recently, a theory of multiple intelligences has been posited. I found Howard Gardner’s landmark elucidation of  seven types of intelligence illuminating:

1. Linguistic 2. Logical-Mathematical  3. Bodily-Kinesthetic  4. Spatial  5. Musical 6. Interpersonal  7. Intrapersonal .

Where am I going with this ?  Few of us subscribe to the melting pot paradigm, the obliterating homogenization of individual being, inclination and enterprise, the mass production of digitalized interchangeable components, little empty cups moving down the assembly line awaiting the dollop of learning. Rather, I think we might all agree to the mosaic or the salad bowl,  all ingredients adding to the flavor of the whole. What I hope for, of course,  is that the brilliant visionaries will add their inspirations and insights,  their knowledge and wisdom to the commons, for the benefit of all our children.

I want people of wisdom and vision to run for the school board, to hire teachers who have wisdom and vision, to volunteer in the classroom, to support and sustain the well being of all the children of the whole community, to raise money for the tools and conveyances of education, equipment, field trips.

Alan Watts, when invited to attend a conference on genetic engineering, was asked, as were all the conferees, what attributes, characteristics and qualities we should “breed into” our children, he responded:  we had better resist the temptation to meddle, control, or formulate spin because we don’t know what circumstances will arise, what will be required, what skills or endowments pertinent. The problem with specialization is that what might be needed may not be available. Knowing how much the tall white athletic 20/20 socially savvy, economically competent male is in the First World, the great variety and richness, the unpredictable beauty and bounty of the whole which is comprised by the rest of us, would be eliminated if we only selected for the former. Darwin’s main point was, after all, adaptation. Survival of the fittest doesn’t mean, as the Social Darwinists would have it,  the correlation of wealth with superiority and throw in G–‘s favored, if you’re fundamentally disposed. It’s adaptation. Those who best adapt to the prevailing conditions flourish and thrive. Essential to this is multiplicity, variety, diversity. If there are only two kinds of tomato plants and there is a blight that knocks them both out, so much for Marinara.

All of us here, rich and poor, male and female, old and young, this and that, make up a community which I  see as the primary social unit, from which each derives succor and sustenance,  to which we all contribute and belong. The wise Stoics held that ” man is rational and his reason should shape his impulses and his choices.This means not only that he can take a long term view of his own interests and on occasion reject what appears immediately advantageous, but also that knowing himself to be but a part of the universe, he should realize that the apparent interests of the part must be subordinate to the interests of the whole.” Je reste ici.

Leave a Reply