The Low Road to Freedom – How Buildings Learn

This BBC-produced video showcases low cost construction and its relationship to freedom.  As a lifelong follower of Thoreau’s philosophies, this resonates with me. Freedom to build “what you need” is a principle upon which the Village on Sewanee Creek rests. 

So, we have a roughly 5,500 square foot mansion currently under construction here. It is anything but low cost. But it is what the owners decided they need. From my point of view, that’s wonderful. If you have the resources so that the building does not become a lead weight on your life, it can become such a blessing, not only to the owners, but to those they chose to share it with. In the Village, where we are collectively all about voluntary sharing, what a blessing that can be!   It’s what’s inside that counts.  I’m confident that the owners who will become the heart of this magnificent home when it is completed, will bless all of us with their generous spirit and wise hearts.

On the other extreme, we have three “Tiny Homes” that are “finished” and occupied with capacity for future expansion and creative expression as need dictates. Large or small, expensive or low cost, or somewhere in between, the range of homes in the Village expresses our core values.  One of the most important among our values is the individual freedom to build according to needs as each of us defines them. 

Out of that freedom, comes a natural diversity of expression. That diversity, or lack of sameness can be viewed in different ways.  Differences can be viewed either as low-end eyesores that depress property values or as egotistical displays of wealth on the other extreme.  As we elevate our consciousness and supress lower ego-driven impulses, these differences can be perceived as beautiful, artistic expressions of freedom.  Again, where the building is only an expression of the builder, it’s what’s inside that counts.

When our personal artistic senses are challenged by diversity, it is an opportunity to reevaluate the depth of our spirituality and the quality of our values – to dig a little deeper and discover more enlightened ways of perceiving and interacting with the world around us. 

Monday, we celebrate the 4th of July. For me, it’s a celebration of the liberated human spirit, not just freedom from political tyranny. My fondest hope is that the Village will continue to evolve and improve as a society that values freedom in its deepest, spiritual sense, thereby securing not only freedom for ourselves but fostering it for others.

Keep reading to my previous post.  You are invited to celebrate the 4th with us tomorrow, or for the rest of forever.

Informative, Non-partisan News

The following is a dialog from “Friends of Sewanee Creek” a private site.

I just discovered a website with a mission to report on issues in depth, in a non-partisan balanced manner. Check out http://www.publicintegrity.org
At times, it seems to have a liberal bias. But on second reading, that’s probably because I have a clearly conservative bias. I like being able to read articles that at least try to present both sides, then make up my mind which side is right.
I believe it’s time to lose the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Conservative, Liberal and Progressive labels. Labels are used to simplify and obscure shenanigans we would reject if not for the cloud of stupid party or generalized philosophical positioning.
I believe in the free market, not the market that is paid for by big Corporate special interest donors to “free market” conservatives.
From what I have read so far on The Center for Public Integrity Website, there is enough information there to make informed independent decisions. I hope you get good value from this site and will share what you learn with other thinking people here.

———– commented on 09/13/2014 05:55:48 am
Grant, Some have asked me why I quoted a “Liberal Blog”, it inevitably was because it represented some “Flawed Thinking” or outright Lunacy! It is always good to read both sides! As they say, “Know Thine Enemy”…! Unfortunately the “Low Info” people never do this and continue to get their information from those “reliable sources” such as Jon Stewart or Al Sharpton or the Liberal and Biased TV News!
LOL…!

Grant Miller commented on 09/13/2014 08:31:50 am
Excellent points! It’s good to know your enemy.
Sometimes, it’s even better to discover that, as Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and it is us.”

Grant Miller commented on 09/17/2014 08:21:16 am
I believe that our world has been intentionally polarized. This divides grass roots power and assures that those with concentrated power at the top of the pyramid maintain a strangle hold on the masses, unchallenged, despite how egregious their sins and obviously corrupt they are. I am speaking primarily of two power bases, government and massive corporate interests. Perhaps the largest and most nefarious subset of corporate power is the military industrial complex that keeps us perpetually at war.

When we label liberals as the enemy, or liberals label conservatives as the enemy, the divide increases, grass roots power is diluted and the real enemy is free to enslave and rob the general population.

When I read balanced, well articulated perspectives from both sides of the divide or speak with intelligent representatives of either side, I find an amazing amount of agreement on the core problems, causes and perpetrators. Differences are usually found in proposed solutions that come out of differing world views. By listening carefully to opposing views, I often discover insights that I had been blinded to because of labels, biases and ignorance.

The world is a highly complex place. The more I learn the more convinced I am that I understand very little. In business, I was once counseled by an associate (who incidentally held a liberal perspective) to “stay in learning mode as long as possible”. I think that is a fairly accurate definition of the word humility and I have found it to be wise counsel, albeit difficult to follow.

One of my objectives in the Village is to heal divides and increase power at the grass roots through building community. That is happening within our tiny Village as we are open to civil, intelligent exploration of opposing ideas. As we practice this, our influence spills out of the Village to the larger community like ripples in a pond.

Let’s avoid demonizing people who hold opposing views. If their views make them an enemy, we will not defeat that enemy by force of labels. The only way to defeat an idea is with a better idea. Better ideas are never effectively delivered by shouting across a divide, but through clear logic, respect, patience and love, unfeigned.

This, I believe, is what Christ taught by parables and example.

Voluntary

The Village on Sewanee Creek is located in rural Tennessee, the “Volunteer State”

“Voluntary” is a key word in our community. Expectations, demands or compulsory involvement are kept low in favor of personal choice and personal circumstances. We trust that the primary reason for joining our community is the desire for community. Largely due to lack of compulsion or pressure, the community has flourished with high levels of regular, voluntary, joyful involvement.

Regular traditions include:

Friday Project. Rotates weekly by homestead, as calendared on our Private Village website. Each week, a designated home owner plans and gathers materials. Everybody shows up to work about 10 am, sometimes earlier in summer. A simple meal is often provided by the home owner. Project work is usually planned to last two hours, but frequently ends up an all day project as members generously linger to volunteer time. The payback is simple and obvious. We enjoy each other’s company and we learn project, leadership, organization and social skills. We learn to trust each other in all the important dimensions of trust: reliability, competence, integrity, respect, caring. And we know that as each gives, the gift is returned in a regular rotation. It’s a virtuous spiral. Hundreds of discrete projects have been completed. A short list includes such things as help building houses (primary and guest), a chicken coop, a large hoop greenhouse, raised bed gardens, maintenance on the community amphitheater or trails, harvesting cabbage and making sauerkraut, canning green beans or venison, installing a rainwater catchment system, a goat enclosure, house painting, framing and roofing a carport, and on and on.

Monday Evening FHE: Games, discussion, lesson, problem solving, planning, followed by light refreshments.

Bi-monthly formal potluck dinner. Host rotates between families.

As the community has continued to grow in numbers, greater specialization has emerged. Members are assigned and voluntarily accept callings that include: director/coordinator of music, drama, facilities, community scheduling, security, beekeeping, Open-Source Ecology (distributed manufacturing), games, etc.

We maintain shared, online virtual libraries of books and movies and a private website for sharing of ideas and general communication. These don’t require a leader or curator, just the initiative of someone to create the format for a shared online database and the generous trust of friends volunteering to share their resources in an open, organized fashion. We have no need to build a physical library, only information about what resources are voluntarily available and stored by each member in their homes. It has been said that the millennial generation cares little about ownership; it’s all about access. Older generations, on the other hand, care about personal ownership and care of things. The bridge is TRUST. We do not own many things in common, but we actively cultivate trust. As trust develops, open sharing is a natural consequence. Where there is no need to replicate assets, personal costs decline; abundance increases. This isn’t a new idea. It’s the way communities functioned before they became fractured.

As you can see from our Friday Project tradition, this concept is applied to the sharing of skills and services as well as things like books or tools.

The community is composed of active, accomplished individuals with diverse skills and backgrounds that include:
PhD’s in plant genetics, Psychology, Counseling & Philosophy.
Masters in Engineering, Bio-Chemistry, Business, Computer Engineering.
BA’s / other certifications in mathematics, elementary and secondary teaching, textiles, registered nursing, and more.

Equally if not more important and respected are our member’s practical skills in construction, plumbing, electrical, landscaping and excavation, military and police, bee-keeping, water purification and management, horticulture (organic & greenhouse gardening, orchards), animal husbandry and the performing arts (singer/songwriters, instrumental music, live theater, film directing and editing)

Each year community strength grows. 2014 has been a watershed year, as our active population and skills sets virtually doubled. Over the years, more lots have been sold with the promise that, as homes are built, transitions made, new trusting relationships created, the Village will only grow in strength and stability. It’s a pretty nice place to live for a volunteer.

Why is Freedom Important?

It is to safeguard our ability to choose and do that which is good.

To defend freedom in the name of freedom only – the right to do whatever we want because we want to – is to be morally bankrupt, destructive to the world God created for us and at odds with “natural law”.

If we commit unspeakable acts of violence and evil in the name of freedom, we have no moral basis for the defense of “freedom”. We fight not for freedom, but for personal greed and dominance.

The dirty little secret that The American people have bought into, the elephant in the room that we choose to ignore, is that the empire we support through endless wars of conquest disproportionately benefits us vs the rest of the world. As the empire crumbles and the benefits that trickle down from the elite to the masses wane, the masses will wake up, not out of righteous indignation, but out of a displaced sense of loss. The gravy train has been good. We have collectively turned a blind eye to our wars of aggression waged in the name of freedom, or as G.W. Bush euphemistically said it, “our way of life”. Is our way of life just an excuse for conquest and plunder?
These are my thoughts as I considered the following interview from The Real News.

I believe that the mission and message of our little community, the Village on Sewanee Creek, should be about freedom in its fullest and best sense – the freedom to do positive good. Not as “do-gooders”out to reform everyone else, but people quietly reforming our own lives in harmony with that which is good.
The American paradigm we live within has focused our thinking to be against or at war with almost everything. There are wars against poverty, drugs, inequality, injustice, terrorism, illegal immigration, and on and on. A war mentality breeds anger, dissension and more war.

What is the antidote for a world that is continuously at war at every level? Christ taught us to repent. Repent of your acceptance of all forms of war. Champion freedom for the sole purpose of thinking and doing positive good. Repent of your natural inclination to justify evil in the name of false, self-serving good. When we learn to focus all of our thoughts and actions on doing that which is good and productive and always rejecting that which is harmful or destructive, our lives will be full of light, joy and peace.

I write this with no personal sense of moral satisfaction, for I am as guilty as anyone of self-serving thoughts and behaviors that justify evil in the name of false good. When we stop focusing on the greed of others (Wall Street, corporations, politicians, etc.) we may begin to recognize our own complicity in a system, built from the ground up on self-interest, a nicer word for greed. Christ identified the problem in His mote/beam parable.

I desire to live among people who don’t see themselves as righteous or good, but humbly seek to become so through striving for that which is good – people who are continuously in an active process of repentance – or reaching upward for the light. I hope that being with such people, I will be inspired and strengthened to repent myself.

The world will become a better place not through conquest of others but by conquest of oneself.

Regardless of our circumstances or the political system we live within,  we are all, ALWAYS, free to do that.

To End All Wars – The Possible Dream

To End All WarsTo End All Wars is a powerful, gut-wrenching moral tale that lays bare the core dilemma of True Christians.  Starring Robert Carlyle and Kiefer Sutherland, the movie is set in the hell of a WWII Japanese POW camp in Burma, where a war rages between two factions of prisoners.  It is a philosophical war between justice and mercy, complete with the crucifixion of the leader of the mercy faction.

Since 2011, our world is at war everywhere.  By definition, the war against stateless terrorism defines the battlefield as having no boundaries.  It is, therefore, already an undeclared, unrecognized World War III on the verge of exploding into something even larger.  Every citizen of the world is now a soldier in some sense and a POW in another.

In a surprising twist, this powerful movie makes the case that the real war is not over territory or strategic resources.  It is a war over the soul of every man.

To end all wars;  It is a perennial quest and the hollow justification for all wars.  Is there a resolution, a real answer?  As with most profound questions, the answer is, “it depends on your definition”.

Here is the dilemma:
To take up arms in defense of family, freedom, justice and righteous principles?
Or,
To lay down arms and bear with unbearable courage and unconditional love, the hate of Satanic forces and by so doing, to overcome hate and evil in the only way that it can be ended?
These are the profound questions asked of each of us in this tale based on true events.

These questions are not unique to Christianity.  Gandhi based his life work on reaching a Machiavellian balance between an aggressive but non-violent war and surrender to love.  Thereby, he won India’s independence from England.  But he did not achieve a lasting peace on Earth or even for India.  The realist says such an earthly peace is beyond possible.  And that is true until the war for the soul is won for all mankind.   THAT is the only War with the potential to End All Wars.  It is a costly and intensely personal war.  Few are willing to wage it.  The sacrifices it requires can not be placed on others.

New Testament, Mark, Chapter 8:
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

For anyone who has struggled with the question, “why do we need a Savior to atone for our sins?”,  To End All Wars offers the answer.  Because the Savior’s example of perfect, unconditional love changes us. It saves us from ourselves.  But as the movie shows, it does not work for everyone, only those who embrace the example and live it.  For these, the war for the soul has a happy and permanent ending even if the price is high.  For the rest, war may be an eternal reality.

I highly recommend this film with a warning that neither its Christian ideals nor the graphic violence or language in it are for the faint of heart.  I’m adding it to my list of the Top 100 Movies for Troubled Times.

The Village is for people who seek an end to war, specifically the war of the soul that leads to war against people and nature.  That spirit is embodied in our theme, “in harmony with nature and people”.  Gandhi would have been a welcome resident, though he was not a Christian.  If that kind of sustainable, self-sufficient neighborhood appeals to you, ask here.

ETHOS: Left and Right are just arms and legs on the same body

Oops, too close for youtube’s comfort? Only hours after I posted this it disappeared. http://vimeo.com/24706064
Watch the video before you read the following:

“Our Ethos is all that we currently hold to be true. It is what we act upon. It governs our manners, our business and our politics.”
Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010

The left/right, liberal/conservative paradigm is meaningless. It is a smoke screen, a delusion, a diversion. I have to keep reminding myself of that because my thoughts and values are so steeped in conservative traditions. Harrelson, Zinn and others in this movie are icons of the left. Yet, here he is speaking intelligently to the same issues that have polarized the right against the left and reaching similar conclusions to mine on what to do about it.

One of the prime reasons for this Village is a reaction to a world gone berserk. 9/11 was the watershed moment that changed my world view and led ultimately to my decision to find another solution. It is a reaction to powerlessness against overwhelmingly powerful forces.

Most of the world has taken refuge in the very activities that perpetuate their surrender of freedom and meaning in life. Harrelson correctly points out that in the aftermath of 9/11, we were told the solution was to go shopping. And again, in 2008 when the economy crumbled, we were told that it was our duty to save the economy by doing what? “Go shopping”.

How ironic is it that I am now teaching “Strategic Marketing” at the University? Yet, Marketing, like the Internet, like a gun, like a drill press or a saw, is a tool, not inherently good or evil. It is simply a means of identifying and satisfying human needs and desires. Some enterprises use marketing effectively to pander to base human needs and wants. There is a BIG market for these products and services.

I do marketing to find and satisfy people who are looking for a means to improve their lives, to find meaning and joy. The product I am building is mostly intangible. It is community, harmony, security, connection to nature, creative and constructive work, a meaningful life. In this context and for this purpose, is marketing evil? Only if what I am selling is bogus or of poor quality.

Yet, while I agree with Harrelson’s prescription, it is only one element of a total solution for an empty, shackled life. “Stop shopping” or at least shop wisely. It’s positioned as an offensive weapon against an entrenched corporate enemy. Is that where it ends? In the unlikely event that this perpetual war should end, either in victory or defeat, what do we, the wounded and weary foot-soldiers, return from the battle front to? There must be something more, something meaningful to replace our culture’s obsession with consumptive living.

Sandy Hook is another 9/11 event. It is meant to polarize right and left. Masterful marketing used with malice aforethought, IMHO. Extreme polarization between left and right. Strident calls for disarmament from the left while demand for guns and ammo empties the gun stores and heavily armed and fortified communities appear in Idaho and elsewhere.

Left and right are just arms and legs on the same body.
Powers that divide, profitably conquer
while the masses, having lost their heads,
trade arms, legs, body and soul for fear and division.
– Grant Miller

In answer to this insanity, can we not respectfully explore and enjoy different perspectives and world views while we live peaceably within our means and “in Harmony with Nature and People”? That is my solution and my intent.

Most Important Lessons from Homesteading


This man tells the truth. I can’t say it any better or even as well, so here it is, unvarnished, intelligent, true.

These are the reasons I founded the Village on Sewanee Creek.  And, it’s not easy. But, as he explains, it’s worth it.  The real “safety-net” called family and community was dismantled and replaced by a false government welfare “safety net” as part of the system of broken promises he speaks of.  Working together with like-minded people makes it doable and more rewarding than going it alone.

The visuals may seem irrelevant to the words, but pay attention anyway. The video shows why it is worth it – to live “in harmony with nature and people”.

It is our mission in the Village, to make what is impossible, not only possible, but enjoyable and fulfilling, through community.