That was at Roosevelt School (named not for Franklin but for Teddy), which was a stately old structure that for reasons totally unclear to me wasn't turned into co-housing when it was decided "housing" - as in "more dwelling spaces" - was needed immediate to the railroad in Huntington Station. Well, dwellings there are, now, and a building to replace stately Roosevelt there is: the Jack Abrams Elementary School. (No snap available at the moment.) Trouble starts with greed, make no mistake. What was done to Huntington Station was Not Nice. It took decades to get that school and the housing surrounding it built, it will take even more decades for the Station to put itself together as a community - which, in fact, it once was.
But "Life is a journey" and "All journeys begin with a single step." I went to Seattle, middle of last month, to see the family of a friend of long standing who'd died quite suddenly in early September. A fellow-traveler, Richard had been. There had been a party for him before he died that I'd wanted to attend but at the time I couldn't deal with the travel. My lack of foresight made me quick to take advantage of an opportunity to get a lift with a guy who'd also known my old pal, who'd also called him friend. Serious, is the mutual friend's name.
Serious is his name ("Joel don't you play that thing so serious" wrote a baby-sweet guy pal, back in the day, trying to catch me out); serious, too, was the trip to Seattle. I went so I could hang out, lend a hand however I could. I've seen/done enough widowhood to know it ain't fun; plus I was raised by an actor whose mother was widowed when he was a year old, who also knew widow's weeds to be a costume for a role married women have to be prepared to practice, to entertain. (In a geisha society, it's a little more obvious. Here, it's television personalities who do that demonstrating.)
The Seattle sojourn was supposed to take about a week but - you know - things happened...as they sometimes do: The father of a guy from Arcosanti who lives near Seattle died; I stayed for the funeral service. Went to see the place that guy is hand-building, over on Whidbey Island. (Arcosanti has inspired many builders.)
Took the train to Vancouver, stopped over a couple of days to see old friends. Builders among them. Got a lift back to the Kootenays through Kootenayrideshare.com with a guy who is - are you ready for it? A builder.
So! "Building" is on my mind when I get back - (Hello, Slocan Lake!) - and when I walk into my apartment, glad to be home, I have a Eureka flash, a moment of insight. A revelation, of sorts. I perceive, if you will, the architectural mind behind the building. The building suddenly gets configured in my mind as a built environment product, a constructed space, a built entity. Somehow I *get* that the orientation of the building is at odds with how it's "normally" being used.
It comes to me that the door I've been using when I come in or go out is actually the back door. The hallway door, which I use to get to the common kitchen or the laundry room, or to watch a video at my neighbor's place, is the front door. This is why the light switches are positioned the way they are, with the outdoor light switch next to the back door but no switch next to it to turn on any overhead indoor light if you come in that way. The builder did not expect the Lodge dwellers to always come in that way, for them to come in through the back door. Nope, the building designer imagined people would use the front entrance, go through the hallway to their individual apartments.
Every apartment is identical in construction. Every one of them has a door that opens onto the central hallway: a front door. Every one of them has a door that opens to the outside: a back door. The back door opens directly to the living room with its kitchenette; the front door opens onto a short hallway, a bathroom immediately on the right; at the end of the hallways (we're talking less than 10 feet) is the bedroom. (Which, in my apartment, is more studio space. I live as minimally, as arcologically as I can, no matter where I am. I have to take it with me because if I didn't, I wouldn't know who I am.)
Disclosure: It would be disrespectful of me not to acknowledge that encountering Cosanti changed my life. As profoundly as a friend here in New Denver told me the Galapagos changed his.
To get back to my thought about the building: Hardly anyone other than me, it seems, finds that "back door" mentality a material culture oddity. But I do.
I'm pretty well perfectly used to it but a while before the so-to-speak revelation, I had started finding it odd.
Because I can appreciate having to take karmic responsibility for life-altering experiences, I'm going to say something about this one now, and eventually I'm going to talk about how it fitted into my foray into my concomitant exploration of contemplation and meditation. But for now, I'm going to put my analysis in the form of a sort of rant. (This is what comes of winning $20 in a lottery. Heaven help us all.) So, here goes:
I've been involved in the non-profit sector most of my life. What I've learned about non-profits is:The administrative body of a non-profit (I'm referring to a registered organizational entity that is analogous to the other type, a corporate one) has two.point.one (2.1) responsibilities:
1. Set policy.
2. Raise money.
.1 Hire someone to execute the policy and manage the money.
Conflicts of interest ineluctably arise if any person who is a member of the administrative body is employed by that body. In fact, that is the singularly significant administrative difference between a corporation and a non-profit.
This is the paradox that was ironically not discussed, likely not even mentioned at the Paradox conference. (Not that anyone can or should expect a fish to have wings.) This is also, I am convinced, what has been preventing Arcosanti from maximizing its capitalization of its potential as a registered 501-3C.
A few days after I had this minor, innocuous-seeming revelation, a different version of this problem ironically played itself out (as in "revealed itself") in the ten-unit apartment block with the culturally confusing back door/front door configuration. That went down like this:
There was kerfuffle about the conduct of one of the tenants. It was nothing earth-shattering but we're just a bunch of old geezers here and one of the guys was taken to task for something he was doing. The way the kerfuffle came down, it came across like a personal attack, which upset him *really* a lot.
In the course of trying to figure out what the actual source of the conflict was, so we could get on with how to resolve it simply, I discovered that there is, in fact, a registered non-profit (a Society, they're called here) that has been the care-keeping group responsible for managing the building.
Now, before I moved in and even after I did, no-one told me about the existence of this registered non-profit Society: no-one mentioned membership or directors or the date of an AGM. In fact, the whole place at first seemed to be administered pretty informally. One person seemed to be in charge: if you had any problem, you called her. If you couldn't reach her, you could call one of two other people.
This was fine, insofar as it went - she's a lovely person, well-meaning and conscientious. No-one could or should fault her energy or dedication - for heaven's sake, she's a volunteer.! No-one's paying her to keep her eye focused on us old geezers and our lodgings, at how we're all getting along.
But when I did learn there is a bona fide Society, I was genuinely shocked. Duh! What's its mandate? How is its Constitution worded? What do its By-Laws say? Moreover, why were none of us old geezers invited to join when we applied to move in? Is there some reason we can't take some responsibility for at least some part of the management of our lodgings?
So here I am, wondering: How can Arcosanti actually do what Arcosanti needs to do in order to fulfill its own mandate? If the mandate of the Cosanti Foundation is to build Arcosanti, what policies must be put in place (and followed) in order to achieve its purpose?