Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bob Brown: a Promoter of Community & a Kid at Heart

This spring the Fellowship for Intentional Community celebrated its 25th anniversary. Sadly, Bob Brown—an original FIC Board member back in 1987—didn't quite make it long enough to help us raise a glass in recognition of achieving that milestone.

I learned yesterday from Bob's niece, Lynn, that he'd had passed away in February. He would have been 80 in September.

It's my pleasure this morning to remember Bob...

Though he was only a part of FIC's inner orbit for a few years, Bob helped us get started. After serving a single term on the Board he stepped down and let others take his spot in the traces. Bob was a gentle soul whose gift was more about vision than implementation, and I enjoyed an epistolary relationship with him over the years, where he'd share his latest thinking about how to make the world a better place. (In fact, I was awaiting a response to my last note to him when Lynn broke the news of his death). As Bob never made the shift to email, that meant real letters with postage and envelopes… many of which were decorated with stickers. There was always a kid inside Bob trying to get out.

I recall fondly Bob's generosity. At FIC's second organizational meeting (at East Wind in the backwoods of the Missouri Ozarks in fall 1987) we wanted to connect with a couple Board members who were not able to make it to that meeting, and Bob sprang for a conference call so we could hear each others' voices. While such calls are no big expense today, 30 minutes cost $100 at the time, which was a significant fraction of the fledgling Fellowship's budget! Bob's donation made it possible.

Eight years later, he made another stand-out gesture in support of FIC relationships when, for the first time, we held our organizational meetings in northern California. It's always been part of FIC's culture to rotate the site our semi-annual meetings around the continent, both to even out travel expenses for Board members who live on either coast, and to attract the participation of intentional communities when we're in their area. (To date we've held 51 organizational meetings, meeting in 23 different states and two provinces.) In 1995 we met at Christ Church of the Golden Rule in Willits.

Bob was living in nearby Middletown and was delighted to have us in the neighborhood. Knowing that we all work hard during the meetings, he gifted all the Board members a day pass and massage at Harbin Hot Springs, also located in Middletown. I hold that in my memory as the most relaxed wrap-up sessions in FIC's history. It was also where I experienced my first watsu massage, courtesy of Bob's largesse. In the years since I've managed to get back to Harbin now and again, and every time I do I think of Bob.

In addition to our FIC connection, Bob and I shared a little-known common history with northeast Missouri. He had been in the US Air Force during the Korean War and did a portion of his service in the obscure town of Sublette MO, located seven miles north of Kirksville, which is the regional center for that part of Missouri. Bob was part of the crew that built a radar surveillance radar station there that was quietly in operation for 17 years: 1951-68. Six years after the Air Force Base was closed, I moved into the area (at the callow age of 24) and helped start Sandhill Farm.

For most of the last 20 years Bob devoted his loving energy to creating an intentional community styled Kidstown. While it never blossomed as he'd hoped, the aim was to "parent and grandparent deprived neighborhood children, teaching them high principles and how to live a harmonious life within dysfunctional families and society... Our highest priority is turning around tyrannical corporations and countries depriving people of their human rights, and abusing and destroying the environment. We are evolving into a spiritual, activist community, which may seem like an oxymoron but which is necessary for our own emotional, spiritual, and psychological health." 

Bob didn't aim small. 

In the spirit of Bob's spirit, I'll close with the Global Pledge of Allegiance, which Lynn had printed up and sent to me as a remembrance bookmark, capturing the essence of her uncle's good intent, augmented by a smiling color portrait of his visage:

I pledge allegiance to the earth
And to the Universal Spirit
Which gives us Life;
One planet, indivisible,
With Peace and Justice for all.

I pledge to do my best
To uphold the trust bestowed
In the gift of my Life;
To care for our planet and our atmosphere,
To respect and honor all her inhabitants,
All people, animals, plants and resources,
To create a legacy for our children
And our children's children
In a world of Harmony and Love.

I pledge allegiance to the Universal Spirit,
By whatever name it may be called,
I align my Life
With the ongoing process of Creation;
To grow myself with care,
To act from my own integrity,
To be for others
How I would want them to be for me.

May we carry this vision in our hearts,
Into our daily choices,
And through our expanding consciousness
With and beyond our planet…

Those are words to live by, Bob. I'll miss you.

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