Last week, my wife Ellen and I made a pilgrimage up through the California heartland, over Mt Shasta and into Oregon to a little town of about 20,000 known as Ashland. In addition to being a culturally vibrant hub of activity with a famous Shakespeare festival, a respected university, and many other attractions, Ashland is also the residence of human potential pioneer Jean Houston. So after driving for 6 ½ hours through the Northern California plains and mountains, we arrived at Houston’s Oregon home, intending to give her a copy of my new book Evolutionaries and talk with her about some other projects that touch upon her life’s work.
As it turns out, Houston’s house really should be one of the cultural attractions of this small town. After I’d greeted Houston, who I have known for many years, and introduced my wife, she immediately showed us in, introduced us to her two huge, furry, friendly dogs, and began to show us around the house (designed by Buckminster Fuller shortly before his death).
Over tea under a geodesic dome, we enjoyed a two-hour conversation about all kinds of things, including three or four fascinating stories about the incredible figures who have populated Houston’s life—Teilhard de Chardin, whom she knew as a young girl; Margaret Mead, who lived with her during the last years of her life; and Helen Keller, whom she met while in school. We didn’t even get to Katherine Hepburn, Fritz Perls, Joseph Campbell or the Clintons—all of whom she has known. Houston lives up to her reputation as a delightful, larger-than-life figure, whose three-quarters-of-a-century has contained a seemingly impossible number of storylines and is really a one-woman history of the human potential movement.
As we drove back down the hill into the main part of town, the sun was setting over the beautiful Oregon hills. In the wonderful Enoteca Edenvale, I read Teilhard’s “Hymn to Matter” and contemplated evolutionary metamorphosis as well as grape metamorphosis, while I tasted an impressive flight of southern Oregon’s best vino. All in all, it was a beautiful day.
From Hymn to Matter:
Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever new-born; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth.
Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations: you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards or measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God.