Friday, July 15, 2011

A Week on the Farm: Thursday

Thursday: Back in the Kitchen

By Thursday the daily rhythm of life on the farm starts to settle in. You get up with the wake up bell, sit for two sessions, have morning service, do soji, break for breakfast, and after breakfast is work meeting. At work meeting the Guest Student Manager goes around the circle and checks in with arrivals and departures, senior staff makes announcements, any exceptions to the daily schedule are announced, and there is some time at the end for general announcements.

A Riot at Work Meeting

One morning (to be honest I'm not sure it was Thursday) there was an outbreak of unrest. Durning the general announcement someone mentioned that the internet hadn't been working the last day or two. There was a murmur of agreement around the circle, a low group chorus of disappointment and anxiety over being cut off from the outside world.

Now, even when the Internet is working at the farm there is very little bandwidth available. More than 100 people share a single link that would be embarrassingly slow just five miles away. There are signs all over about restrictions: no downloading movies, no streaming video, strict bandwidth limits are enforced. It's a precious resource here, just over the hill from the bustling heart of silicon valley a small farm and the community of Muir Beach rely on a single commercial backhaul connection which tops out at ~ 3Mb/s.

The lack of bandwidth is one of the reasons I go to the farm, besides the slow internet it's also just outside of the various cellular networks. A hike to the ridge or beach puts you back on the grid but within the confines of the valley you're in an RF free zone (except for the Wi-Fi mesh network used to distribute the meager uplink). For someone who spends their working days on the edge of info-shock, constantly consuming and synthesizing large amounts of information from across the global internet and regurgitating parts of it onto social networks (and blogs!) and gleaning the best bits for personal or professional development, having a quiet space is important, probably necessary, to long term sanity.

But for the residents, especially the children who didn't really decide to live here, having a link to the outside world is probably just as important if not more, than my refuge. I come here to get out of the world for a minute, to turn down the volume on the information cascade I spend my days immersed in. I may have only really realized it but the silence is a gift, and seeing the other side of that makes it clear how profound our relationship with communication is. And for people who've chosen to remove themselves from the world, but who don't live in Tassajara where electronics are strongly discouraged (there's very little power, it's a harsh environment, and aren't you there to get away from that), the thin thread of connection back to family, friends, other practitioners around the world is a critical lifeline.

So, despite sort of enjoying the blackout I offered to help out, but didn't get called into service. Maybe next time… The internet came back later that day and things got back to normal. In the mean time I continue to keep up with current and former residents on Facebook, they're all over it (even the Tanto ;).


IMG 0074