I recently had the pleasure of reading from Hunga Dunga at the River Reader in Guerneville, CA. I had never been to the Russian River area. I found it to be a most amazing community of small, picturesque towns. The people are so far ahead of the progressive curve, they are an island of enlightenment that one hopes will eventually be emulated far and wide. It was a joy to be among them. They are keeping alive so many of the values we tried to live by at Hunga Dunga and at other communes during the 60’s and 70’s.
I arrived in Guerneville a few days before the reading took place. Friends took me on tours of the area. The redwoods were spectacular. The people were among the kindest I’ve encountered. But I found in Forestville the most impressive sight of all. It was the beautifully designed building that housed the Food for Thought food bank, established to serve those with HIV/AIDS, but asks no questions of anyone in need of food.
Food for Thought is not much different from a very upscale, organic supermarket, except the building virtually levitates from the compassion and selflessness which abounds within its walls and in their own meticulously tended organic garden outside. That, and of course, everything is FREE!
At the reading, I chose excerpts from my book that talked about communal living and the intercommunal network in San Francisco during the heyday of hippiedom. Hunga Dunga was in charge of the Free Food Conspiracy, delivering the finest in organic produce to other communes, and what was left over to Churches and Missions.
That beautiful era began to witness individuals who opted for personal gain rather than to keep the faith. They fell prey to the temptations that greed and personal aggrandizement offered, as if profit would equal happiness.
The Free Food Conspiracy morphed into what today is the transnational company known as Greenleaf Produce. It was, to me, the most blatant indicator that the world would not yet be governed by the peace and love we yearned for, but rather by for-profit (and only profit) corporations. The world would not yet be ready to bring in the Aquarian Age. The collective consciousness had only been temporarily expanded, and soon would be shrunk by our capitalistic market mentality of survival of the fittest, rather than survival of all humankind and the environment.
There were and there are exceptions. Many, many people had already experienced beyond a shadow of a doubt, the connectedness of all beings. And they continued to live their lives, as best they could, according to that tenet. Here, in this little bookstore, in attendance at my reading, were many of those same people.
I looked up from my book and made a quick survey of the faces staring at me. Waves of love, tears, and laughter crashed over me. I felt my eyes begin to water. I put the book down and just began to talk to these brothers and sisters, seemingly so rapt with my stories. I needed to tell them that I felt as if I had come home. I needed to tell them that here, in the countryside of the Russian River, I had found a place where peace and love were guiding, if not the planet, if not the country, at least a little piece of earth.
And the food bank, Food for Thought, is the place where it is most evident. It is the place where the connectness of all beings is not a philosophical discussion. It is a place where the truth of it is actualized. It is a place that accomplishes what we had hoped the Free Food Conspiracy would. So in the truest sense of the phrase, things have come full circle.
The original mission of the Free Food Conspiracy did not die after all, but was resurrected decades later by Food for Thought, a fantastic model for food banks everywhere, but in no way a fantasy. It is compassionate thought made manifest through the hard and diligent work of many volunteers. May the circle be unbroken!
Note: When a Food for Thought manager noticed a Greenleaf Produce truck in the area, she called the company. A sales rep came out to take a tour of this beautiful place, and when the rep was asked if Greenleaf would like to join the many farmers, markets, and restaurants that donate food, she simply handed the Food for Thought manager a price list with the admonition that more than likely the food bank would never be able to afford them. Ironic and sad, eh? But it does give one food for thought!