American Avatar (2)
Boston, November 1968, [pp 22-33].

The Fort Hill Community

by Mel Lyman

The largest community I am aware of is the universe but that is a very abstract kind of awareness. The community within that community that I am most familiar with is the United States, that is a much less abstract kind of awareness. The community within that community that I am most aware of is Fort Hill Community, I have to deal with that one every day. The community within that community is me, I have to deal with that one every moment. So I will start with myself and attempt to work back.

I was born lonely. I reached out for whatever my little hands could grasp and I found my mother. What a joy to find a mother in this strange wilderness. I learned to walk so I could follow her around and I learned to talk so that I could tell her what I want. Then I had to leave my mother and go to school. At first I missed her terribly but soon I learned that I could relieve my terrible loneliness by being with the other children, communicating with them, playing with them. That was difficult at first because I was afraid they wouldn't like me but soon I learned that I had only to try. And so I made friends, we did things together, I was part of a community.

When I was 17 years old I left home and friends and set out into the wilderness again. I was alone in the world. I reached out and found a wife. We made children. We made friends. We had a community.

After 6 years I set out into the wilderness again. I didn't know what I wanted but I DID know that what I had wasn't enough. I sought new friends and new places.

I yearned to communicate with vast numbers of people. I learned many new languages. I became a musician. I now spoke a language that allowed me to feel close to perfect strangers. My community was growing.

I travelled around playing music for people for several years. Thousands of people enjoyed my music, hundreds felt very close to me, and a handful wanted to be near me all the time. They loved me and I loved their loving me. Soon we were all living together in the same house. At first it was wonderful, I played and sang and everybody sang with me. But you can't play music all the time. We had to learn to share other things. Some had to earn money, others had to cook; many requirements had to be met if we were to continue living together. We all had to give things up and that was a struggle. We began to see each other clearer and clearer and we saw some things we didn't like. It is always hard to tell your friend he has bad breath but if you keep it to yourself you will begin to hate him and wish he would go away. We began to criticize each other. I found that often people were afraid to tell each other what was bothering them and would instead come to me with their problem and I encouraged them to work it out with the people involved. This brought us closer together. Soon a policy of open criticism developed and this created a wonderful understanding amongst us. We improved each other. Now we all know each other so well that we have become as one person. We have a block of houses and we all work together on whatever needs to be done at the time. We do not need a set of rules to guarantee that everyone does his part because we trust each other and we are able to trust each other because we have come to KNOW each other.

Once the basic requirements of survival had been met we were able to devote some time to other things. We no longer filled our spare time talking to each other because we no longer had anything to talk about. We wanted to talk to some new people, we wanted to make new friends, we wanted to share what we had. We had something good and something can only stay good if it is shared. And so we created a newspaper called AVATAR and with it we reached out and made a lot of new friends. And new struggles developed, and new resolutions came, and we grew. Now we are attempting to speak to people all over the United States and if we succeed then we will have to try to reach people all over the world. We are still one lonely little person reaching out but we are reaching out with many hands.

We are considered a very unique community but that is only because we ARE a community, in every sense of the word. If the United States community cooperated as well as we cooperate many of its problems would be solved. When people mistrust each other then they work against each other and that is a terrible waste of energy but before people can trust each other they have to KNOW each other and on a nationwide scale that is a gigantic undertaking. To know someone you have to first reveal yourself to them to give them the courage to reveal themselves to you. Once that kind of communication has been established then it is only a matter of time before a feeling of trust prevails in the relationship. It is painful to reveal yourself to someone because you may have to show them something that neither one of you is going to like but that is the only way that it is ever going to come out, if you keep it to yourself it will rot inside of you. Once it is out you will be closer and that is the most rewarding experience in the world, to be close to people. We have accomplished a great closeness here on Fort Hill, we can be ourselves with each other, what a relief.

What we have evolved together is a family structure, an ideal example of the natural order inherent in the family of man. All men are brothers, all women are sisters, all men and women are brothers and sisters. But this kind of organic order is not realized overnight. People have been learning how to live together on this planet ever since there were people and there is no end to this process, together we are creating the world and always HAVE been. The world we create is a reflection of how we communicate with each other and how we communicate with each other is a reflection of how conscious we are of ourselves, the more we know about ourselves the more we know about others and the more we know the more we have to share and sharing is the purpose of communal living. We are here to create a world together, the Family is building a home.

Everything that is true of the Fort Hill Community is true of the entire Family of Man. We sleep, eat, work, play and learn more about the nature of man. We contain all the virtues and all the weaknesses of mankind, we are humanity in microcosm. Everyone who resides within this community has lived and experienced widely in the greater community, we are not strangers to the world. We have not gathered here to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world but rather to establish a greater order within that order, an order born of willing cooperation and necessary discipline, an order that adapts to the needs of the moment. When men live together there must be systems to guarantee that all have opportunity to experience and develop to the fullest potential and this inner law manifests as man-made law. Men make laws and laws make governments. Governments set out to guarantee freedom and end up RESTRICTING freedom. Then there is a conflict and government is changed. Our government is changed daily. Not without a struggle for conflict is a necessary step to greater understanding but it just doesn't take us very long to figure out what's wrong and then DO something about it. Things move very quickly around here, we're a fast crowd.

In order for me to continue writing about the Fort Hill Community I'll have to get a little more personal. I have no absolute definition of it or anything else. I try to define it in whatever terms the situation requires but I never define it to myself at all. Definitions are a form of communication, not truths unto themselves. My purpose in writing this is to communicate and I feel that I've communicated in the language of definitions adequately enough to merit a little more freedom, I'm expanding my government, I'm going to be a little more creative now.

Being confined in a concept is necessary up to a point. You must live in one place long enough to become completely familiar with all its parts. Once you know them you can take them with you and move on, on to greater freedom, on to greater creativity, on to greater responsibility. Now I must tell you more truth, I must speak from loftier heights, I must explore a new area. At first it makes me a little dizzy, all these seemingly unlimited possibilities. It's fun, it's play, WOW! Oh oh, there IS some kind of order here. The fun's over, back to work. I will attempt to communicate this new order.

There is always an order in life, life is the reflection of that order as man is the reflection of God. In every effect there is a cause and that cause is always the effect of a GREATER cause. It takes a long time to FIND the meaning in our day to day activities but in reflection we will always detect the moving finger that traced the pattern we have followed, there IS a plan. Every man is his own unique part of that plan, every life has a purpose. Lives that seemingly were lived with no kind of purpose at all might have simply served the purpose of distinguishing purpose by LACK of purpose, it all fits together in some crazy way.

That paragraph was a humdinger, you should go back and read it again. I am communicating on a much higher level now don't you think. I am beginning to find my balance in this new world I have entered, at least I've learned how to WALK here. Once I learn how to DANCE here I will be writing poetry. I feel I'm getting a little closer to home, I hope some of you are coming with me, it's no fun to be home alone. When I'm at home I'm filled with love and understanding, in order to SHARE it I must COMMUNICATE it, from my pen to your mind and then, hopefully, THROUGH your mind to your heart. I only really want to speak to men's hearts but I don't want to go around the mind, I don't want to leave it out, I want to go through it like a door. The mind truly should be an instrument for the heart to express itself through. My heart is all love and my mind is how I give it away. I warned you I was going to get a little more personal but the more personally I communicate the more deeply you are moved. If I can move you deeply enough then there will be a communion between us and we will be a community, it makes things so much easier when people understand each other, then there is no need for tiresome explanations. To understand you must WANT to understand, otherwise all you will find in life are your own misgivings and doubts. People surround themselves with an invisible shield of their own faults and then spend the rest of their lives not seeing through it. That is prison. If you cannot see beyond your own wall then you cannot see that my door is open. I will not let you shut me out, I will leap through my door and tear your wall down. You will resist me to the bitter end but I will get through because I have nowhere to go but into people. My self is YOUR self. I am inside of everybody in this community, we are as one person, that is what a community is. We all feel each other as ourself and so we all are totally responsible for each other. That is why the policy of open criticism, we are criticizing OURSELVES. When somebody doesn't do something as well as I know he CAN do it then I tell him so because it HURTS me. I expect no more of others than I expect of myself, I give my best and I demand that you give YOUR best because only then are we giving the BEST! That is what I meant by willing cooperation and necessary discipline. It requires a great discipline to do your best. We discipline each OTHER. We drive each other NUTS!

And now I am back defining communities again. A community needs a leader, someone who best knows the potential of that particular group of people and how to bring it into actuality. A guide. I am that leader and guide, the father at the head of this family. The people who live within this community have come to know me, respect me, and trust me; I am all things to all men. Inwardly I am at one with God's Will, outwardly I seek to be one with all my children. I realize how outrageous these statements appear, if you do not know yourself then you cannot possibly know me. The people in this community know themselves deeply enough to recognize that I know them, that is a comfort and a direction. I know where we're going because I know what we are. I lead by example and follow by adaptability. I am all things to all men.

Newcomers to Fort Hill approach me with awe and mixed feelings. They invariably have developed some sort of definite concept about who or what I am and it always comes as a pleasant surprise to them when they discover that I am so easy to get along with. My relationships with people are solely dependent on how close they are to themselves, the closer they are the more intimate our relationship. I do not know any bonds on intimacy, if you do they are yours. All life yearns to be one...........