On the way up to the Farm, I dropped into Fresno to catch a jazz show with my old friend Ric. Ric was quite a character: he’d been to jail a few times, lost at sea at one point, in crutches at least twice and who celebrated kicking his drug addiction by drinking liters of coffee and smoking like a chimney. He was also a hell of a jazz player before he’d fallen down some stairs.
After the show, we grabbed a few drinks at a local restaurant / bar / music lounge where a few of the jazz musicians had moved on to. The Fresno girls that waltzed in and out were surprisingly loud and trashy. We didn’t stay too long and Ric offered me a spot to crash at his place.
Ric had always had interesting friends and his roommates, or more accurately, his hosts were no exception. He led me through a living room that was either being renovated or just falling apart, it was hard to tell in the darkness. He pulled at a bookcase and it came ajar, revealing a carpeted staircase. I crept upstairs, tip toed past some sleeping dogs, and passed out on a sofa.
As I opened my eyes, I found myself on a dusty couch and for a moment forgot where I was. I happen to find that feeling quite enjoyable – it’s like waking up in a new adventure and trying to figure it out. The dusty room was ornately decorated and furnished with a full oak bar and as my eyes drifted downward they met the stare of 3 equally dusty poodles. Big questions in my head were centered around the responsibility of successfully creating and leading community. And no random house could have been more helpful to wake up in.
I came down the stairs and out of the book case to a morning breakfast scene. Ric and his host, an 86 year old sociologist who wrote a book called “primitive drinking”; Chandler Washburne, had taught for years at UC Fresno, been a friend of Kerouacs and married to Ex belly dancer Beyla, who herself had previously been married to Spencer from Jefferson airplane. I sat on a faded floral-print couch in his study and began a conversation that lasted well into the afternoon. Some of the things we covered:
- Learning the social OS
- Dynamics of various sized communities
- Can communities run in a decentralized way or is hierarchical leadership needed?
- ‘Encounter’ groups from the 60s
- Benevolent dictatorship, positive emotional
- Distributed leadership
- Pre lingual laws Only as many as Can be remembered
- What is the mission out there and do you know if you’ve achieved it.
- How do you quantify social success?
- Establishing of rules and objectives
- Lead by action not by mandate
- Consistency is crucial to successful leadership
- Laughing is an extension of panting – it’s a mammalian thing
- Rat licking experiment – rats that got licked by the mothers were friendly and more exploratory, others were more anxious. This is epigenetic..
- Brains develop differently, ability to use language plays a huge roll in this
- Most people hear music with right side of brain, but musicians use the left because they can put names to things..
- Artists communicate in a non standardized language
- Social hackery to manifest changes, appeal to a visceral emotion
- We don’t see the actor, we see the part they’re playing
- It’s a grand experiment / life is improv
- If life is indeed a play, then all roles must be filled!
With many of my questions answered, or at least on the way to being answered, I sat down and wrote a long email to my Burning Man camp, discussing many of the things that we had covered over glazed donuts that morning.
How can serendipity be so abundant!?