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Book Description Entertaining, recent American cultural, first person history. An out-of-the-box, nonfiction novel. Far-out adventures in search of enlightenment. Bob Dylan was singing, “The times they are a changin’.” John Lennon—“Imagine all the people living life in peace.” Marijuana, LSD, magic mushrooms; mind-expanding, transforming climax of the sixties and the genesis of a bold, social experiment. Told by a UPI journalist who was a founder, builder and 13-year resident of The Farm—America's biggest commune—a remarkable, collective village, on land twice the size of New York’s Central Park.
Our story begins in Part One, at the dazzling San Francisco, spiritual smorgasbord of 1969—yogis, swamis, communes, self-proclaimed messiahs; people from all over—experimenting; meditating, being here and now—to change their lives—to evolve, mentally and spiritually; to transform magically into free spirits—flower children and hippies. I was one of these—a human drop in that dynamic wave of people who came to California in search of enlightenment and a happier lifestyle.
Melvyn—In 1967, I was the young reporter United Press International sent to cover the Grateful Dead and Vietnam War protests in New York. I worked a stint as a Madison Avenue publicist. Like on the TV show, Mad Men, I worked the Lucky Strike account; had a spiritual/identity crisis and found myself on a soul search and rescue mission for my own soul.
I went to Woodstock and followed the energy to San Francisco, where I found a guru—Stephen Gaskin, billed as a “Zen master who smoked marijuana,” later dubbed by High Times—“Gandhi of the American counterculture.” Stephen's wife, Ina May Gaskin, would become known as the “mother of modern midwifery.” Gaskin’s free Monday Night Class was attended by over 1,000 trippers. Gaskin established himself as a hippie guru—teaching peaceful revolution, “Telepathy & Energy 101,” “marijuana is a sacrament, no hard drugs, and “how to have a good trip.”
Dig the vibes and follow me down a psychedelic rabbit hole. Telepathic group mind becomes group think, as the trip becomes a 12,000-mile, follow-the-guru-round-the-country, road adventure. Wherever we went, through a hundred American towns, cities, and college campuses, we gave the status quo a good shake and spread a contact high. Three hundred hippies, in 100 colorful buses and vans landed in the boondocks of Tennessee—up Moonshine Alley—with the FBI, KKK, and vigilantes with shotguns watching the pot-smoking, city greenhorns attempt to farm and survive.
At its peak—1,400 people enjoyed universal healthcare, zero unemployment; food, housing and all necessities on$100/person a month!
“We farmed; lived simply; ate vegan; had a school, clinic, midwives, soy dairy, bakery, radio station and hippie Peace Corps. We learned to build houses and roads. Everyone worked hard; happy friends sharing life and a vision—pooling resources—creating a lifestyle the world can afford. We enjoyed great satisfaction and warm friendships.”
Over 4,000 people lived at The Farm over 13 collective years; learned skills and trades, and went through changes. Many fell in love, married, had babies; and worked humanitarian projects around the world, including earthquake reconstruction in Guatemala, where Melvyn, a crew from The Farm and local Mayans built schools, houses, and a clinic for Mother Teresa. A far-out, four-part, nonfiction novel. Part Two coming soon.spiritually; to transform magically into free spirits—flower children and hippies. I was one of these—a human drop in that dynamic wave of people who came to California in search of enlightenment and a happy lifestyle.
Part One Audiobook at Amazon, iTunes and Audible.com
Part One Table of Contents Chapter 1 San Francisco Spiritual Smorgasbord of 1969 Chapter 2 Down the Rabbit Hole
Chapter 3 The Great, Round-the-Country,
Save-the-World, School Bus Caravan
Chapter 4 Search for the Promised Land Glimpse of Paradise
Enlightenment, What's it Good For
Voluntary Peasants Prequel. The author's backstory, featuring first encounter with Zen in Greenwich Village, 1957, with high school buddy who grew up to be movie actor, narrator, and now Zen priest, Peter Coyote; A Gypsy Good Time, the fifties and early sixties.
We sought enlightenment. What is enlightenment. I do not claim to be fully enlightened. I am still working on it, but I have attained some understanding of how it works. For me, enlightenment has come in two stages—One: Realizing our essential oneness and interconnectedness, and Two: Realizing who I am and what I should be doing with my life.
Like most of us, my whole life had been structured for me. First, in school. Then, in work. In 1968, I was twenty-six years old and had a little money saved, so I took a breather. For the first time in my life, I consciously created each day. I quit looking for work in order to just observe life, discover the creative artist in me and be free. There was something happening in the world, something big, wonderful and a little scary. This is the story of the times; my explorations, experiences and discoveries.
Coming Soon Voluntary Peasants Part Three—Almost Paradise Voluntary Peasants Part Four—Utopia Myopia Voluntary Peasants Companion Reader
Book of Jobs
Marijuana the Play
Reviews: “Full of energy. I highly recommend this book.” “Beautifully written...transports me to the sixties.” “Amazing adventures.” “A very satisfying book." "I can't wait for Part 2." “Enlightening entertainment!”
Often when we hear or read the word commune we think of a lot of people all crowded into one big house. We were that—times 100! At our peak, The Farm had 1,400 people living in 100 houses. I lived two years in a house with 36 people—men, women, children and babies. The word commune, may evoke images of unbathed, lazy hippies, free love, all kinds of drugs, spaciness and anarchy. We believed in marriage and family and worked diligently to be quite the opposite of the lazy hippie stereotype, and we got good results—clean, well-groomed, clear-eyed, on-deck, productive people who gave up all drugs and alcohol, except “the organics,” chiefly—marijuana.
In the sixties, Pandora’s box burst open, and suddenly all things were possible. Music, art literature—Everything was saying—This is a new age, and all things are possible. I followed clues,
energy and vibes to Woodstock and San Francisco; dropped LSD; tasted enlightenment; got telepathic; went over the edge and found gurus—"Hippie Pope," Stephen Gaskin, High Times calls “the Ghandi of the American Counterculture” and a woman who would become Women’s Hall of Fame midwife, Ina May Gaskin, featured recently on CBS Sunday Morning. We also examine pros and cons of having spiritual gurus and some pitfalls of “Group Think.”
Caravan landed in Tennessee boondocks—300 wide-eyed, hippie pioneers hot
to build a model village and lifestyle and make a difference in the
world—right dab, smack in the middle of moonshine country, with the FBI,
KKK, vigilantes with shotguns all watching pot- smoking, city greenhorns
attempt to farm and survive.
Over 13 collective years, more than 4,000 people
lived at The Farm; learned skills and trades, went through changes,
fell in love, married, had babies, and worked green and humanitarian
projects around the world at a dozen satellite farms and aid projects.
Working with Guatemalan Mayans for over a year, I did volunteer,
earthquake reconstruction; built schools, houses and a clinic for Mother
Teresa. Part 1 gets us to the land.
Part Two, Year One
Pre-electric, pioneer days, learning to work
together to build a good life. At times—The Farm was like living through
the Great Depression, but we loved it. From the experience, we learned
to be resourceful, sharing, neighborly and grateful for what we have.
This friendly, sharing, spirit—coupled with desire to help the world—was
the heart, soul, and life blood of the community. At times. We ran on a
shoestring, and sometimes, farm life was tough, but every day on
America's hotest commune was far-out adventure of body, mind and spirit.
About the Author: Entertaining writer, storyteller—Melvyn collected much grist for the mill as he worked an unusual variety of jobs—reporter, radio announcer, publicist, carpenter, mason, farmer, miller, baker, vegan chef, movie extra, set and props builder, roadie and stagehand, and the co-director of a nonprofit. He enjoys writing, publishing, narrating, storytelling about his adventurous journey out of the box. One of 300 founders and original settlers of The Farm Community in Summertown, Tennessee, where Melvyn lived 13 years collectively.
Melvyn created New Beat Books in 2011 to report The Farm social experiment and his experiences. Melvyn is a colorful print and oral historian. In the sixties, Melvyn
worked as a UPI journalist and Madison Avenue publicist. He has also worked as a carpenter, mason, painter, farmer, miller, baker, vegan chef, movie extra, set and prop builder, stagehand,
taxi driver, detective (one day), and a great variety of adventurous
jobs. He now enjoys writing, publishing, and speaking about his
experiences, memoir writing, self-publishing, producing audiobooks and his remarkable journey out of the box, building community.
Stiriss writes from his experience as a news reporter, editor, announcer and communard farmer, carpenter, ditch digger, road builder, mason, mechanic, miller, baker, vegan chef, lumber jack, oil rig roustabout, detective, movie carpenter, set dresser, prop maker and extra in a dozen movies, also as a theater stage hand, rock-and-roll roadie, international humanitarian aid worker who built schools, clinics and houses in remote Mayan villages and a clinic for Mother Teresa in Guatemala.
A “Space Age Baby,” Melvyn was born the same day the first V2 Rocket was launched, inaugurating the Space Age, October 3, 1942. Melvyn grew up in a blue-collar family in Edgewater, New Jersey, in view of New York City and the Hudson River, his playgrounds.
The author attended the University of Richmond in a segregated South, then worked as a newspaper and UPI wire service reporter in NY and Chicago; worked a stint as a Mad Ave. Mad Man, ran into the 60s, smoked marijuana, tried LSD and Zen, went to Woodstock and followed the energy and
telepathic clues to the great San Francisco spiritual smorgasbord of 1969. Here, Melvyn found a “psychedelic Zen guru,” Stephen Gaskin, and went down the rabbit hole in search of enlightenment. Melvyn writes about profound, personal transformation living collectively. After The Farm, in 1984, Melvyn and most other members of the community went through culture shock as they returned to the mainstream. Melvyn now lives in rural upstate New York, enjoying a new career as author, publisher, speaker, and budding movie maker.
Literary Influences: John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Feodor Dostoyevsky, James Joyce, Shakespeare, Jack Kerouac, and Maxine Hong Kingston
Melvyn writes—“I went to high school with a cat, who would grow up to be Peter Coyote, the actor, narrator, writer, activist and now Zen priest. When I was sixteen, Peter introduced me to Greenwich Village, where I found mystical words scribbled on a men’s room wall—
What is Truth?
A bird sings.
Half a century later, I read in I Celebrate Myself that Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac and D.T. Suzuki used to frequent that bar, the San Remo. Any one of those literary beatniks, or all three, could have written that drunken koan, and I am very happy to preserve and publish their message. Peter Coyote today is a Zen priest, turning more people on to Zen.”
"After living years in a
quasi-cloistered society, returning to civilization feels like being
that character in the James Hilton novel and movie, Lost Horizon, as he
attempts to describe life in Shangri-La—a fictional, telepathic paradise
hidden in the Himalayas. Our Shangri-La was real—in the backwoods of
Tennessee. Was it paradise? At times. Thousands concur. We ran on a
shoestring, and sometimes, farm life was tough, but every day on
America's biggest commune was far-out adventure of body, mind and
Voluntary Peasants, Part One ebook PDF
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Beforewords and Chapter One,
San Francisco Spiritual Smorgasbord of 1969
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Like Rastas of Jamaica, Marijuana was used as a "sacrament" on The Farm. We all agreed to never use hard drugs, pill drugs, not even alcohol, only organics. The way things have been going lately, Marijuana will soon be legal in the United States, and it would be wise to educate newcomers. Among many other things, The Farm was a 24/7, living demonstration that people can, not only keep it together and function, but excel in their work, while “high” on marijuana. (Though, we did observe grass does tend to slow people down at work.)
As much as we valued cannabis, we did not allow our children to use the herb.
Voluntary Peasants attempts to present a fair and balanced report and fresh insight into this important subject—both the community’s very positive attitude towards marijuana as an aid in—slowing down to smell the roses, watch sunset, people relations, stress management, aches and pains, meditation, creativity, telepathy, music making, love making and just plain, old-fashioned fun and feeling good to be alive. We also present practical cautions and offer alternatives to smoking—to derive medicinal and other benefits of marijuana, without taxing respiratory systems.
Prologue A Glimpse of Paradise
Deep in the heart of the rural South, up a long dirt road, long-trafficked by Tennessee moonshiners—first
shafts of sunlight glow golden in morning mist. In the distance, a
vibration floats through the trees—one long, sustained tone, the blast
of a lone conch—like déjà vu—haunting, familiar— Wooooooooooh. From all
directions, more horns join in—Ahhhhhhhhhhhh—Woooooooooh—and a deep
Conch, nautilus and triton blasts combine to fill the air with strange, beautiful music. Ancient, universal tones swell, exist brief moments—and melt away into bird song and silence. Everywhere—nature—beauty, lush woods, fields, meadows and streams—life. Country air smells sweet and clean. Another glorious, hallelujah, come-and-get-it day in paradise!
Welcome to The Farm—a grand labor of love and twenty-four-seven, peace demonstration, where voluntary peasants learn as they build a model community and globally affordable lifestyle. The Farm was a commune, a school of change and personal growth and a golden opportunity to make a difference.
We aspired to be spiritual, but we were not into any particular ism or organized religion, in accord with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who said—“I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion, I take to be concerned with belief in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another—an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of meta-physical or philosophical reality, including perhaps an idea of Heaven or hell. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayers and so on. Spirituality, I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others.”
After a devastating
earthquake hit Guatemala in 1976, the author worked a year with Farm
carpenters and Mayans in remote mountain villages. The team built
houses, schools, clinics, indigenous meeting hall and radio station, soy and water projects. Melvyn was project manager for the
construction of four rural schools, a regional clinic and a clinic for Mother
Teresa in Guatemala City. In 1980, The Farm's outreach arm, Plenty International, was awarded the
Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, the Swedish Right Livelihood Award
“...for caring, sharing and acting with and on behalf of those in need at home and abroad.”
What a blessing it is to actuallylove thy neighbor. Living at The Farm felt like being in love, all the time, with everyone—in love with neighbors, fellow workers, life, the land, even the work. There were many magical moments when The Farm seemed like “somewhere over the rainbow,” or the Garden of Eden.
The vast majority of the nearly five thousand people who lived at The Farm through the twelve collective years, were sweet, kind, honest, and decent—happy to give you the shirt off their back. Through the years, we shared history, blood, sweat, tears, love, marriage, birth and death. But, let’s be real. As in any community, we find every kind.
Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” We made mistakes. Some were doozies. Some, hilarious. Truth be told, we screwed up royally on more than one occasion, but we learned and grew. The Farm was a modern, American attempt to create a utopia. The origin of the word utopia comes from Greek and literally means “not a place.” Utopia, the ideal life, is “not a place,” but exists in the hearts and minds of people.
One lovely, Sunday morning in spring, five hundred people gathered in a beautiful meadow for energy communion, meditation and just to see each other. After silent meditation, followed by a grand chorus of OM, Stephen Gaskin stood up to speak. In the beginning, Stephen was the community guru, spiritual teacher, life coach. Through the years, The Farm went through dramatic changes and evolved into “community as teacher.”
Now, as hippie village minister, Stephen addressed the crowd— “You look around The Farm, and you see all this neat stuff—roads, houses, barns, water towers, radio station, meeting hall, school, motor pool, laundry, bakery, soy dairy, clinic and our own ambulance. We see fields under cultivation, orchards, vineyards, tractors, semis and satellite TV dishes. We see all this neat stuff, but, the stuff’s not the thing. All that stuff—that’s just a reflection of the thing. The reflection is very cool and pretty, but the thing, itself, is a gas!” Voluntary Peasants delves deep into the thing, itself.
DedicationI dedicate this book to all the brave, hard-working, good-natured men and women of the Farm Community, who selflessly devoted years of their lives to build a model village and globally-affordable, sustainable lifestyle for the sake of all life—and to all kindred spirits, good souls; unsung heroes everywhere—who work daily to make the world a better place.
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The whole story will be in print and all formats this fall
Part Two, Year One—A Brave New World, ebook Coming August
“We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.” —R. Buckminster Fuller
Excerpt—Chapter One 1969 San Francisco Spiritual Smorgasbord
ool ocean breezes—
gentle rhythm of rolling waves; breaking surf. Plaintive seagulls squawk. A California state of mind—where it all began.
Far out across San Francisco Bay, at a distant horizon, where the great curve of Planet Earth meets the sky—sunset transforms the blue—shades of purple, gold and tangerine. The sun melts and spreads as it squats lower and morphs into a fiery Buddha—dripping myriad gold Buddhas into a sea of liquid jade. A million micro suns sparkle and dance on rolling waves.
Behind us—The Great Highway, a wide, sand-blown boulevard—across The Great Highway, aglow in the sunset—landmark rock hall, The Family Dog—wildly-popular, hip venue for the Grateful Dead, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, the Doors, Steppenwolf, Mothers of Invention, Commander Cody, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Iron Butterfly.
Hundreds of cool, hip-looking people are entering “the Dog.” What in the world is going on? Today is Monday. No rock and roll tonight. What’s the buzz? Curious, feeling drawn, we follow the crowd in through old, movie theater, glass doors—everyone in sharply-slanting shafts of amber sunlight.
Inside the large, high-ceilinged hall—a thousand flower children—hippies, magical-looking, colorful people—aspiring wizards and shamans, a few older Bohemians, and beatniks; sweet, young, sparkle-eyed, rosy-cheeked love children, Hobbit wannabes, and all manner of free spirits. The Family Dog filled up. Folks mingled, chatted, hugged and sat down on the big, wooden dance floor—forming a wall-to-wall, crazy quilt of friendly people, bedrolls, paisley cushions and zafus. The air was scented with an intoxicating blend of patchouli, sandalwood, sage, and a hint of frankincense and myrrh.
A tall, lanky hippie stepped up silently
onto a simple, low stage and sat down cross-legged—facing the crowd. A
thrill of anticipation ran through the hall. Conversations tapered off,
and the hall grew silent. Everyone sat up and began to meditate.
Palpable peace and a fun sense of being in on something cool washed over
After several minutes of silent, informal, group meditation, the man on stage took hold of a cow horn—which hung, bandolier-style, from a cord across his chest. Slowly, with solemnity like a rabbi blowing shofar, the man raised the horn to his lips and blew one, loud, sustained note. A powerful vibration filled the hall and cued the crowd into an instant choir of a thousand voices. Each person sang out one syllable, the ancient Eastern chant, OM (AUM)
The whole Family Dog erupted, floor to high ceiling vibrated OM. Walls echoed OM. Exquisite, complex melodies-inside-melodies sprang briefly into existence, spontaneously forming constantly-changing, serendipitous combinations. Strange, beautiful, harmonies emerged from chaos—sounding like ancient, sacred song. From bass through soprano—young, old; male, female; soft, strong—all voices merged into a choir of angels—all from OM—a simple, one-word powerful expression of human spirit and universal prayer for peace—
(((((((((((((AAAAUUUMMmmmmmm))))))))) Suddenly, as if by telepathic cue from an invisible conductor—everyone stopped. For several moments, a golden, acoustic, afterglow OM hung suspended in mid-air. The man on stage looked silently around the room, slowly—pausing to look into the eyes of each person, exchanging energy, mind to mind. Finally, he spoke.
“We drank some peyote tea this week and got to a very, high place—a pure, holy-feeling place and I realized—Attention is energy, and God is real, and where we put our attention, we get more of. If you are tripping and start to think everything is weird, you’ll get more weird, but if you shift your attention from weird to beauty and love, you get more beauty and love. How many here have seen that on acid? Raise your hand. How many have thought something and then saw it manifest right in front of you? (laughs and shouts of “Right on!”) You know the words I am have so much magical power, we have to be very careful what we say right after we say I am.” He let that sink in while he looked around the room and then added—“Buddha taught—
‘We are what we think, having become what we thought.’I love Zen. It’s so clean.”
We sat there mesmerized, as the man paused a long while and then continued—“Each one of us is like a valve from which universal energy is metered into the world, and each one of us can point ourselves at whatever we want to. We have free will. When you put your attention on me really solidly and understand what I'm doing and pay attention, then that gives me juice. That makes me able to be sure when I'm talking.”
“I wanted to talk a little about the way we're going to be. We can all be really stoned in here together. There is over a thousand of us. There is gonna’ be a lot of things happening here this evening, because we brought this many heads together. (pause) How many people here have experienced a contact high? Raise your hand.” A thousand hands shoot enthusiastically into the air, and everyone shares a good laugh.
“You see that?” he said, smiling broadly. “The fact that we all have witnessed the contact high shows us there is more to us than just the meat part. When we get high, we see energy fields that extend out past the meat. That’s your soul, your aura.”
“See, here's the thing. When we split fields with someone who is high, say on grass, we pick up some of their energy and we get high too—thus, the contact high! (laughter) When we all come together like this, our energy fields all merge together into a group mind, and we have our own unified field, and the whole, the gestalt, is greater than the sum of its parts. You dig that? We are all sharing energy, right here and now. This is energy communion, and all this energy feels so good. It gets us all higher and is healing for all who partake. (pause) The vision in here just got better. How many folks saw that? Put up your hand.”
There are many beautiful myths about The Farm, some a shade or two rosier than reality. Reality was mostly very nice, often beautiful, but, of course, The Farm was populated with real people, and real people are neither angels nor superheroes. Bad stuff happened. Power corrupted. People changed. To be fair and balanced, Voluntary Peasants presents “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
To this day, forty years later, The Farm still carries wonderful cachet. Just hearing about The Farm gives people hope; makes people feel good, and I never want to diminish that. Wherever I go, when I mention The Farm, people light up, smile and say—“WOW! The Farm! I heard about that place.” Or, they saw it on TV, or knew someone who lived there, or picked up a hitchhiker who told amazing tales.
What exactly are voluntary peasants? Voluntary peasants are everyday people from all walks of life, who choose to live simply—close to the earth, growing food and community—for the sake of the planet, their families and their own souls.
In the sixties, John Lennon said, “Psychedelic vision was reality for me.” In the sixties, seeing astral plane phenomena—energy, auras, feeling vibes, experiencing telepathy—was reality for millions of people. There was magic in the air, and the world was changing before our very eyes. Einstein’s formula—
E=mc2— Mass times the speed of light, squared—seemed to have new meaning— Enlightenment = Masses on psychedelics, un-squared!
By the late sixties, unprecedented masses of people were getting out of the box, leaving the rat race—exploring high states of consciousness and telepathy, suddenly exploding on the scene through such vectors as marijuana, magic mushrooms, peyote and LSD.The Farm community was a product of this energy. Members agreed to live spiritually, but did not follow any particular religion or ism. “Farmies” followed world wisdom teachings, their own hearts, and a powerful call that seemed to come from the Earth itself—beckoning back to the land, back to the garden.
At a time when civilization seemed poised for imminent collapse, in 1971, three hundred people agreed to pool resources and work together to create an intentional community—a peaceful, fun, safe, eco-friendly, people-friendly, gracious way of living the world can afford. I was one of these wildly idealistic pioneers and lived thirteen years on The Farm—building, farming, developing vegan diet, and going through a roller coaster ride of personal growth and changes.
The heart and soul of the community was individual effort—love, dedication, bravery, good vibes and heroically long hours of hard work. We saw the wisdom in unity and witnessed a great group spirit arise that nurtured and empowered all who participated.
Of course, communes were not invented by hippies in the sixties. Throughout history, people have experimented. A century ago, Count Leo Tolstoy gave up his nobility and wealth to create a commune of pacifists in Russia. Mahatma Ghandi had a commune in South Africa. Israel had kibbutzim. Helen and Scott Nearing describe their Depression Era, Vermont commune in Living the Good Life, How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World.
Enter a mind-and-heart-expanding world of p
sychedelic energy, far-out, telepathic adventures and discoveries at the fantastic, San Francisco spiritual smorgasbord of 1969—a veritable hotbed of psychedelic experimentation and paradigm-shattering revolution.
Feel the energy at Monday Night Class, aka Telepathy and Energy 101, once wildly popular San Francisco gatherings that drew a thousand trippers each week to share psychedelic adventure stories, and learn how to manifest a good trip—by being cool, peaceful, spiritual revolutionaries—as taught by hippie guru, Stephen Gaskin, a “self-realized spiritual teacher.” Here, Gaskin attempted to pick up where Timothy Leary left off as guru to a dynamic, searching generation.
Now, as in the sixties, a tremendous, irresistible wave of change is spreading around the world, only now at unprecedented, internet speed. Our challenge—Adapt, survive, flourish. This book explores intriguing alternative lifestyle possibilities and positive, down-to-earth paths—paths with heart that can lead to peace, happiness and sustainability for all.
Trip aboard an audacious, 12,000-mile, consciousness-raising, peace-spreading journey that landed right smack, dab in the middle of moonshine country in the boondocks of Tennessee, where the sudden, unannounced arrival of 250 hippies in 100 colorful buses, stirred up locals, the FBI, KKK, and vigilantes who resembled the Hatfields and McCoy's. Call it what you will—amazing grace, good karma—the meek, idealistic peacemakers prevailed, and the community began, from scratch, to build its own town and, hopefully a better way of life.
Part One, The Birth of The Farm imparts the period’s flavor, energy and mindscape of the San Francisco genesis of the Caravan, which, in turn, gave birth to The Farm. Part One gets us to the land in Tennessee, where the story takes surprising twists and turns; reveals human nature and the powerful human drive to live in peaceful, friendly community. Voluntary Peasants is a deeply-personal, first-person, inside history of The Farm.
What are voluntary peasants? Voluntary peasants are everyday people from all walks of life, who choose to live simply—close to the earth, growing food and community—for the sake of the planet, their families and their own souls.
The author baking bread in The Farm Bakery, 1983
Five days a week, we baked 350 hand-shaped-with-love loaves of bread for the community. We also made bagels, cookies, granola, cake and vegan pizza.
The Author Melvyn Stiriss writes from a remarkably broad range of life and work experiences as a news reporter, editor, announcer; community builder, communard, farmer, carpenter, ditch digger, road builder, mason, mechanic, miller, baker, vegan chef, movie set carpenter, set dresser, prop maker and extra in a dozen movies, also as a theater stage hand, rock-and-roll roadie, humanitarian aid worker, and co-director of Casa Marianela, a nonprofit aiding Central American refugees.
A “Space Age Baby,” Melvyn was born the same day the first V2 Rocket was launched, inaugurating the Space Age, October 3, 1942. Melvyn grew up in a blue-collar family in Edgewater, New Jersey, in view of New York City and the Hudson River, his playgrounds. The author attended the University of Richmond in a segregated South, was an announcer on the air when John F. Kennedy was assassinated; worked as a newspaper and UPI wire service reporter in NY and Chicago; a stint as a Madison Avenue “Mad Man,” ran into the 60s, smoked marijuana, tried LSD and Zen, went to Woodstock and followed the powerful energy of the time to the great, San Francisco spiritual smorgasbord of 1969. Here, Melvyn found a “psychedelic Zen guru,” Stephen Gaskin, and went down the rabbit hole in search of enlightenment.
Melvyn now lives in rural upstate New York, enjoying a new career as author, publisher, speaker, and movie maker. Influenced by Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck and Maxine Hong Kingston, Melvyn is a visionary, twenty-first century, renaissance man and generalist. Melvyn writes—Life is amazing! I went to high school with a cat, Peter Cohon, who would grow up to be Peter Coyote, the actor, narrator, writer, activist. When I was sixteen, Peter introduced me to Greenwich Village, where I found these words scribbled on the wall of a bar men's room— What is Truth?
A bird sings.
Half a century later, I read in the latest Allen Ginsburg biography, I Celebrate Myself that beatnik literary icons, Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac and Buddhist scholar, D.T. Suzuki used to frequent that bar, the San Remo. Any one of those cats, maybe all three, may have written that drunken koan. Now, I am very happy to preserve and publish their message, and now, my high school buddy, Peter Coyote is a Zen priest.
Part One ebook PDF $1.99
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They also have Free Kindle for Mac and iphones www.amazon.com/kindleforpc Talks Oral and Print Social Historian, Melvyn speaks about his remarkable experiences, the lessons of the sixties, personal development, alternative lifestyle, intentional community, world wisdom teachings, spirituality, marijuana, volunteer service, survival in the twenty-first century, gurus, second careers, memoir writing and self-publishing. To have Melvyn read or speak to your group email email@example.com