|Commitment and Community; Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective. Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press. x, 303 pp. 24 cm. bibliography: p. -286. ISBN: 0-674-14575-5. 1972 (6th ptg 1977).|
References to Mel Lyman in:
Commitment and Community
Many modern utopias practice mutual criticism in the form of T-groups (sensitivity training groups) or encounter groups in which members provide one another with an objective understanding of their behavior and its impact on others. For them such knowledge and mutual understanding is a prelude not only to growth but also to the intimacy and interpersonal harmony of the community. Open, honest, authentic relations are one goal of utopias. Mel Lyman, leader of the present-day Fort Hall commune in Roxbury, Massachusetts, for example, has recognized the need for such encounters in a utopian community. "It is always hard to tell your friend he has bad breath," he wrote, "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 . . . 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." [American Avatar, Publication of Fort Hill Community, Roxbury, Mass., 1968]
Another utopian value is order. In contradistinction to the larger society, which is seen as chaotic, uncoordinated, and allowing accidental, random, or purposeless events to give rise to conflict, waste, or needless duplication, utopian communities are characterized by conscious planning and coordination whereby the welfare of every member is ensured. Some of today's communes capture this quality by referring to themselves as intentional communities. Utopia is not only an intended but a predicted society, in which events follow a pattern and an uncertain future is made certain. To this end, a utopian often desires meaning and control, order and purpose, and he seeks these ends explicitly through his community. He is convinced that they are possible, and that they can be expressed in daily life. Mel Lyman, the leader of the Fort Hill Community, explained: "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.'' [Avatar]
... A hippie commune of fifty people in California, for example, calls itself the "Lynch family." One member explains: "We call ourselves the Lynch family for a variety of reasons. One is the convenience, since we consider ourselves one family - we number about fifty all told - and rather than introducing everybody with a different name, it's easier to say we're the Lynch family. Also, considering that we are one family, it would seem normal to take a family name. And the person who founded this group of people, who bound us all together, so to speak, is David Lynch."* In the Fort Hill community there has evolved "a family structure," with "all men and women brothers and sisters" and Mel Lyman "the father at the head of this family."
*[Kanter references this as "Gross, Flower People, pp. 71-72." Michael Kindman, in "My Odyssey through the Underground Press" p. 413, writes: "Below this, was a long letter from a reader, Patti Ramsay, who writes of reading a book entitled The Flower People by Henry Gross, whose slightly fictionalized account of Fort Hill, under the name the "Lynch family," especially appealed to her. She had obtained from the author more information about the actual "Lyman family" and now was asking Mel to tell her more about it." ...]
... Twin Oaks in Virginia, for example, hopes eventually to become one of a network of utopian communities across the country, making the good life available to everyone. Other new communes are organized around charismatic leaders preaching a new religion, such as Messiah's World Crusade in San Francisco, coalescing around Allen Noonan; Fort Hill in Boston, following Mel Lyman; and the Brotherhood of the Spirit in rural Massachusetts, led by Michael Metelica.