being history

Colin Leath's version
       I can't really say what the being group is, because the being group is what happens at each meeting. To some extent what happens at the meeting is influenced by what the people who come to the meeting want. However, often the people who come to these meetings aren't too sure what they want. . .
       I can say what has happened at past meetings, and I can tell you what my guesses about what I wanted to happen at the meetings were. I can give you some idea of what I did to try to get the group started, and why I put the energy I did into making the meetings happen.
       So, this web page is meant to provide some history of the being group. What follows is a reverse chronology of the events leading to the present (April '98) being group.

4/8/98 The first meeting of spring quarter
       Attended by Johanna and Tap.
3/12/98 The organizational meeting for spring quarter
       This meeting was attended by Johanna, Tap, Grant, Sonny, Yoko, Stacia, and I (Colin). A record turnout! We talked about what the group was about and how it could be kept going, if people wanted to keep it going after I left the Seattle area. I was leaving on March 21st.
       I had been the organizer of the group to this point-although my goal had always been to have a group that required no organizer, or at least have the organizer be as replaceable as possible so that the success of the group would not be dependent on one particular person. Also, over the years I may have scared away more people than I attracted to the group, so I was interested to see what would happen with me not there-if anything. It means a whole lot to me that the group is still going as of April 98. . .
       Some people who came to this meeting had been with the group for a while. Others had found out about the group when I was advertising for the "Meaning in Life Forum" (see below). Stacia and Grant found out about the meeting from an email I sent to the CHID (Comparative History of Ideas) email list.
3/10/98 The last meeting of the "Meaning in Life Forum"
       This meeting was attended by George, Maile, and Colin. George handed out a 90-minute two-sided tape of clips of songs he felt were related to meaning in life.
       The Meaning in Life Forum is a more structured spinoff of the being group.
related links: Information about the Meaning in Life Forum
3/3/98 An interesting exercise
       At this meeting of the Meaning in Life Forum we told each other about the meaningful experiences in our past day, week, month, year, and life. This was Johanna's idea. It was good to see how people approached the activity differently, and to visualize the meaningful events the others were telling me about.
2/12/98 Meaning-in-life-related references
       At this meeting of the Meaning in Life Forum, those present discussed books, movies, art, etc., which they thought related to "meaning in life."
related links: A list of some of the works mentioned
1/20/98 The first meeting of the Meaning in Life Forum
       This meeting was attended by all 8 people who had signed up for the Forum. Most of the people who had signed up found out about the Forum by reading a one-paragraph description of the Forum in the Experimental College catalog. The Experimental College is a student-run organization offering non-credit classes to the community. After the first meeting, attendance began to dwindle, eventually stabilizing at 3 to 4 people. Our meetings were in the basement of the Social Work Building, in a small, windowless, carpeted room with florescent lights. I later brought a candle and incandescent lights to improve the ambiance of the room.
       At this first meeting, we closely followed the format I had imagined the group would follow (see Information about the Meaning in Life Forum). Later on as the group size shrunk and participants expressed a preference for larger group discussions, meetings became continuous group discussions of various topics. On occasion we would stop and have each person respond to a particular question as in "An interesting exercise."
       Contrary to the plan for the Forum, there was no dramatic presentation of papers about the experience of meaning in life at the end of the Forum. George did share a musical meaning-in-life-related project, and Maile wrote notes to each of us about "a few reasons you are wonderful," which was very nice, seriously.
       I was also attempting to use the Forum for my senior project in Psychology. Later I will be writing up my results and probably a more detailed description of the Forum. Check back here later for a link to that information.
12/5/97Decision to not hold regular being meetings during winter quarter
       I decided to not hold regular being meetings winter quarter because attendance had been low at November meetings. Also, because I would be participating in the Meaning in Life Forum winter quarter, I doubted I would have time for another weekly meeting. In lieu of weekly being meetings, I offered the monthly dinners I held at my house as a place for having being-like meetings.
       I mention this event because I had become dissatisfied with recent being meetings, and was hoping I could do with the Meaning in Life Forum what I had not been able to do with the being group. The being group had been successful in the past with small numbers of certain people, but I had been trying to find a way that the group could grow, becoming something an increasing number of people could do. Here are some of my thoughts about growing being, and a good meeting.
11/5/97 New member meeting that didn't go too well!
       By this time both Meg and Samantha would come to meetings some of the time. (both Samantha and Meg found out about the being group through the listing of groups in the notebook in the Student Activities Office). At this meeting both Heather and another woman came for a bit, but a while through it they had an opportunity to leave, and they never came back. This was Gordon's last meeting. Gordon had found a full-time job, so he could come no longer at these late-afternoon times. Up until this time you can assume that Gordon was at just about every meeting. At this meeting I was trying out a way of letting new people know what the group was about without tying up the whole group. . . especially myself, since I didn't always enjoy trying to explain what we do at our meetings to newcomers.
       The plan was this: The first two people who came to the being meeting would form one two-person group. If a third person came, he or she would join the first group. If a fourth person came, the third person would form a new group with the fourth person. If a fifth person came, she would be a part of #3 and #4's group until a sixth person came. And so on. This way late-comers would not have to disturb those who had come before them to the meeting. If there were people who had not come to a being meeting before, they would join the group of the told-timer that had come last to the meeting. This method could possibly work out, although some people, especially some visitors, really like more structure to meetings than being meetings generally had. . . so they would be a bit uncomfortable until they could finally leave. Part of the difficulty with newcomers is that they don't really have a good idea of what the group does at meetings. . . Perhaps this history will help reduce that lack of information a bit, although I have no idea what you guys are doing at your meetings now.
10/14/97 Proposed first meeting of a 6-week Meaning in Life Forum
       I first attempted to offer the Meaning in Life Forum through the Phinney Neighborhood Association. The Forum was listed in their class bulletin, and I also posted numerous flyers around the community. Only three people responded, and two of these responded after I had canceled the Forum. One of these people, however, was able to participate in the Meaning in Life Forum I offered through the Experimental College.
10/97 Meg emails, Alex emails
       This was the first time Meg emailed me about the group.
       For most of the summer the being meetings consisted only of Gordon and I, and for a while, Marcia. Now that the new school year had started, several people went up to the Student Activities Office and looked at the being group's listing there. In that listing, the being group's purpose reads: "The purpose of this group is to discuss and create experience. A secondary purpose of this group is to increase the amount of time people enjoy being alive." Based on that, people occasionally contacted me about the group. Meg's friend Lauren also came to meetings a few times, and we had some good meetings together. Alex came to a meeting once, and I was able to get Meg and Alex to sign up as officers for the group so I could renew the group's status in October. Several other people emailed me about the group, often with intentions to come to a meeting, but they never made it. Michael H. also came to a meeting once this month.
       I was also able to get a nice, carpeted corner room (windows on two sides) in the HUB (HUB 200C, specifically) for this quarter, which was nice.
6/97 Marcia!
       At about this time, Marcia started coming to meetings, which was very cool. . . She continued until about the end of the summer, so for a while the meetings had more than two people again. In the summer we were meeting in Sylvan Theater (the area with four white pillars in it which is surrounded by trees-near the EE building), which was pretty nice.
6/97 Listproc in operation
       The being-l listproc begins operation. Check out the archives of our listproc here. The following entries in this timeline include emails that were sent out to people in the being group before there was a listproc that would archive the emails.
5/26/97 pre-listproc email
email of 5/26/97
5/97 Natalia, Colleen, & Allison; general discussion group
       At this time I was attempting to get people to come to meetings by advertising the group as a general discussion group. I made an overhead, and showed this overhead only to the people in the classes I was currently taking (statistics, biology, and social psychology). Stacey from statistics, and James from biology came to one meeting, but never came again. Allison from my social psychology class met with me to talk for a while about the group and our class. A few weeks or so after I had talked to classes about the group, Natalia from my biology class showed up at a meeting, and she later brought her friend Colleen, and for several weeks before summer started, Gordon, Natalia, Colleen, and Colin were all at the meetings.
       These few weeks before summer started (Colleen and Natalia left for the summer) was one of the golden times of the being group. . . the group was stable, required little or no organizing effort on my part, and the meetings were good. I think that one reason these meetings with four people worked out so well was that Gordon and I had known each other for some time, and Colleen and Natalia and been good friends for a while, so it was almost like a meeting of two people. Also, Colleen is a pretty enthusiastic person, and she often had something she wanted to tell us about or read to us.
related links: A web version of the "DISCUSS" overhead
4/97 Mustaf, Psychology discussion group
       At this time I was trying to start a discussion/forum-type group like the being group, but specifically for the subject of psychology. I made an overhead and a flyer and talked about the group in each of my psychology classes. As a result, Mustaf came to one of the meetings, and he actually agreed to help advertise the group. . . but neither he nor I put enough effort into recruitment to make the psychology discussion group a reality.
related links: A web version of the psychology flyer
4/9/97 pre-listproc email
email of 4/9/97
2/23/97 pre-listproc email
email of 2/23/97
2/17/97 pre-listproc email
email of 2/17/97
2/10/97 pre-listproc email
email of 2/10/97
1/97 being group becomes a registered student organization!
       About this time I completed getting the being group registered as an official student organization. I had initially wanted the group to be entirely independent of the campus and have as little officialness about it as possible. . . and also no required paperwork or other things like that. I think my main motivation for registering the group was to get free advertising in the Student Activities Office's notebook of student groups, since putting flyers all over campus got pretty tedious after a while. I was also motivated by the ability of a registered student organization [RSO] to get free indoor meeting space, an email account and web page, a mail box, and possibly advertising money.
       In order to register the group, I needed five "officers" who were currently registered students. In addition to Gordon and myself, I asked Mollie, Becky, and Rebecca to be temporary officers for the group. I also wrote up a constitution for the group. I also had to attend an orientation session. In order for the being group to maintain its RSO status, one of the people listed as officers for the group needs to attend an RSO orientation session each October, and that person needs to turn in a form that lists all the new officers, with their addresses and signatures, the purpose of the group, and xerox copies of each officer's student ID. Every other year, a copy of the group's constitution needs to be turned in, I believe.
       Because the group had not been registered before winter quarter, I had not been able to get good meeting space for winter quarter (the submission date for room requests is usually 15 days or so before the end of the previous quarter, and room requests are first-come, first-served), so we tried different alternatives for meeting space, one of which was the South Campus Center. Read the pre-listproc emails for more details about this.
12/9/96 I gave a speech about the group I wanted to organize to my Speech Communication class.
       This speech was meant to be the keynote speech of the first meeting of the new group. Reading it (see link below), you can see what some of my ideas for the group were. At the time, I thought I might call the group "Consciousness-d."
       I also gave two other speeches in that class. One was on "Meaning, meaninglessness, and saving the world," and the other was about persuasion and true happiness. In choosing to give speeches about such tough topics, I challenged myself to come to some conclusion about these different topics. . . and because I had to make a coherent presentation of my ideas to other people, I was challenged to come to some coherent conclusions about these ideas for myself. Often I started preparing for the speech with only a feeling of what I wanted to express, and then, after working at it for a while, I came to a more expressible form of that emotion. Below are the (rough) notes of those other two speeches, for what it's worth.
       Because giving speeches to my speech communications class had spurred me to develop my opinions and thoughts on things so much, and because I liked that feeling of development, I thought it would be good if whatever group I did organize had a place for some kind of speech or presentation giving.
related links: The keynote speech
On persuasion and true happiness
Meaning, meaninglessness, and saving the world (Actually these notes are too disorganized for me to want to send you to them, but you can look at them in the being_hs/writings directory of this website if you really want to) 2002-12-28-1547 I keep wanting to see them, so here's the link: writings/mmstwspc.txt and full-on: writings/mmstwex1
7/12/96 Scanned in the drawing "Time scream"
        Even though I had a new friend (see below), I still had a lot to agonize about. . . I had a relationship to agonize about. It's hard to say whether I was happier now or in mid summer. . . I might have been more stressed at this time, mostly when I was away from Rebecca. I had some attachment/insecurity issues to get over. I was pretty amazed that someone would spend so much time with me and seem to like me so much, I wasn't sure it was real, I wasn't sure it would last, and I knew she was leaving. I can't remember exactly what Time scream is about, but it is about an agonizing part of the experience of time.
       I have many other pages of drawings and writings on paper notepads. I would draw people and love them as I tried to draw what I saw about them that I love. . . a lot of the drawings are more realistic than the two that I show here (see "Who," below). These drawings are more about agony, while the realistic ones were more about love. Both the memory of love, the feeling of love, and the feeling of agony motivated me to try to make the being group happen.
related links: Time scream
10-12/96 With Rebecca
       During this time I spent much of my free time with Rebecca, my new friend/girl-friend. . . Because I had started the group (at this point the group was nameless, and at the time I thought it would be nice if the group stayed nameless) primarily because I was lonely for people to talk intimately with, I was no longer as motivated to grow the group. I still met every week with Gordon. Because I knew Rebecca would be leaving eventually—she was graduating a year before me—I knew I had to be careful of the tendency to only spend time with her to the neglect of other relationships, but I did not do such a good job of that. I was pretty sad, really sad, when she did finally leave in June of '97.
9/27/96 Meeting with Becky
       On this day I met with Becky in Sylvan Theater just to talk, and it was really nice. She hadn't been able to come to any of the other meetings, but we had emailed a bit, and found some ideas we wanted to talk to each other about. I was pretty excited for another opportunity to be with someone just to talk to her. . . this was still pretty new to me, and Becky is good to talk with.
9/19/96 Gretchen, the cellist
       She gave Gordon and I hugs!
       Gretchen was one of the people who responded to the "be together to be together" flyers (see below), and she came to a meeting this day. She was pretty cool, and friendly, and she gave Gordon and I hugs, which was really nice. Later on I wanted to try to make the group more of a hugging type group, because hugs are such good things, and there are some fairly unthreatening ways of making environments more hug rich. . . I have even read about some companies that have hugging policies to encourage their employees to hug each other, but it is hard for me to get over my "hands off" training. Also, if I were female, I might be able to get away with hugging more, but I don't know. I am always impressed when someone is so magnanimous, friendly, great-hearted (I don't think "loving" is quite right, but I'm not sure of the right word), that she can make me feel so loved and appreciated even in a pretty short encounter like one of those meetings. She never did make it to another meeting, but she gave me a good smile whenever I saw her after that.
9/1/96 Posting of "be together to be together" flyer all over campus
       I traipsed all over campus posting flyers everywhere. . . I got a few nice, new-agey sort of responses, and one or two unhappy responses (they were complaining about where I put the flyers). This flyer was one of my best, I think. But you can see by my later flyers that I became more conventional in my flyer design after this one.
related links: html approximation of the "be together to be together" flyer (343 kb)
       I believe it comes out looking all right if you're using a Netscape browser, but probably not anything else.
8/29/96 Getting to know Rebecca and others
       This is when I first started to hang out with Rebecca, and also Kristin, and Lise too. . . I met these three in the Union Bay Rowing Club, which was a group I had found that offered both exercise and company 6 mornings a week. I first, agonizingly, got up the courage to ask Kristin and then Rebecca to play tennis, but later I found that just going on walks with them, and meeting to talk was a lot more fun and trouble-free. If you're not into movies or restaurants, it can be hard to think of a good activity to ask someone to participate in. . . but after finding "going on a walk," I was pretty happy—There are few things I like to do more with another person, or by myself.
8/28/96 Gordon coming to meetings!
       This was the start of the group!
       Gordon had come by the Sylvan Theater one afternoon, probably after I had abandoned hope that someone might show up for a meeting (see below). But, after I joined the Union Bay Rowing Club, which he was also participating in at the time, he came up to me and asked if I was the Colin who had posted the "What is Being?, what is loving, what is the best of life?" flyers on campus. So, we arranged to start meeting.
       Gordon is great. . . I was motivated enough to keep trying to get the group started because he had responded, and because he kept coming to meetings. I could always, except once or twice, count on him to be there. He is also so good to talk to and to listen to, and he has thought a lot about being and the nature of things, so he has something to say, and questions to ask. I remember the imagery in his description of his ideas. It is beautiful to listen to him and to visualize what he is saying.
8/??/96 First flyer posted around campus. . .
       No response!. . . until later
       This is the first time I posted a flyer advertising a meeting around campus. I learned some things from this experience, for example, how to make the flyer stand out more against a background of many other flyers—I think it helps to have a dark border around the edge. Also days other than Friday are probably better for meetings. No one responded, except Gordon, later. I would console myself by considering flyer posting a creative act—believing that the flyers I posted would get some people to think in ways they had not before, and positively affect these persons' lives.
7/12/96 Scanned in the drawing, "Who"
       I posted this drawing on my web page at this time. It might give you some idea of how I was feeling. I used a fountain pen and an ear syringe filled black ink drawing on white paper.
related links: Who (90 kb)
6/25/96 Distribution of the BEING paper
       At this time I was thinking of becoming a journalism major and starting my own paper or journal. "BEING" was the first issue of that paper, the idea being that those interested in the ideas presented in the paper would get together and meet, and that the mechanism of the group's growth would be a paper that the members of the group wrote and distributed about the campus and community (I think that is a really good idea, if we have the time. . . but, generally, I did not).
       I distributed this paper only to my Journalism and Literature class, and my Intro to Mass Media class. My distributing this flyer did not result in any meeting, but people did treat me differently afterwards, in a way that I liked. They talked to me about more intimate things, and asked me what my plans were. A few weeks or a month later, I did start meeting and talking with Amy, from my Mass Media class.
       It was a challenge to distribute a letter as intimate as this to my classes, but I was seeking this type of challenge. This was a continuation of my effort to be able to talk about anything to anyone (see below). I sought out or noticed social situations that I was afraid of, and did what I was afraid to do. . . talking to a woman I didn't know, who I was attracted to (it is interesting how being attracted to a person makes it harder for me to talk to her), telling someone something intimate about myself, putting myself in a situation where I had to give speeches.
related links: BEING paper
6/16/96 Began formulating plan (the history of an idea)
       A while prior to this I had started keeping a journal on-line. This was part of my attempt to be able to talk about anything to anyone. And, I was feeling really bad, and I wanted there to be a record of it so I didn't forget about it and write off the bad feelings later as "oh, life has its ups and downs." There is something wrong in a society in which a person can feel as bad as I did. I called the journal "dire." In this journal, the older entries are at the bottom, the newer ones at the top. I did not have a computer at the time I wrote it—I would sit in the computer labs typing away.
       The particular section of "dire" that the link below is keyed to is mostly a statement of my problem. If you read up the page from there, you will see where I start working on a solution that takes its form as the BEING paper. I later took out some parts of dire that I did not write, and changed certain people's names. I have many more kilobytes of writings like these. This is just the first one.
       I stopped writing an on-line journal after I had known Rebecca for a while. I then did most of my talking to her instead of to the void, the future me, and whoever else might read what I had written.
related links: dire (204 kb)
5/25/96 Went to the Folk Life Festival with Brett
       Brett is not her real name—she probably would not want her name to be here. This was the beginning of my first post-pubertal intimate relationship with a female. As you can probably tell, I was really lonely, so having someone who I could talk to and share my feelings with and love was a powerful experience. But it was a short one. I think one of our mistakes was being physically intimate too soon, and me needing someone to be with too much. What relevance does this have to the history of the being group? I'm not sure. I suppose it helps you understand my situation. My interaction with Brett had pretty much ended by June 13, 1996.
5/96 Told Zach about my idea of a talking club
       Zach was the only person I saw and talked to regularly outside of classes. We would go on runs or bikerides in the mornings. One day I was telling him about all the different groups I had tried participating in, and I was complaining that none of them were quite what I'd like. I told him that I thought that a talking club might be nice, a club where people got together for no other reason than to talk.
       That quarter, and previous quarters at the UW, I had participated in many different groups. I worked on service projects taking care of the local parks, I participated in WashPIRG, the Washington Yacht Club, and I had even gone to Hillel, the campus Jewish organization, even though I'm not Jewish. (I took an Intro to Judaism class at Hillel. It is a pretty neat place, and I like the people there a lot). I had also looked into many other groups. One that I was especially interested in was the campus humanist group, but their primary activities appeared to be going to plays and restaurants. I did manage to make some friends by participating in groups. The notable one was Jackson who I met through his hiking club. I also met a lot of people through my work in the computer labs.
       Part of my social difficulty was probably due to my not being in the dorms with all the new freshman for my first year at school. Instead, I started at UW summer quarter, and then moved out of the dorms as soon as summer quarter was over. I moved into the cheapest room I could find because I was trying to save money and make money so I could become an in-state resident. The house I moved into came complete with drug dealers, other criminals, and (broken) locks on the refrigerators. Later, at the end of May '96, I moved into a house I thought would be good for inviting people over to.
       I had come to two conclusions: I wanted to meet people I felt I had more in common with, and I needed to have people whom I saw every day outside of class. Since I considered myself pretty unique, but I was sure there were other people like me, I thought I might have to start a group like the talking club. . . Advertising for the group would serve as a kind of personal ad for me. If I did a good job advertising for the most ideal group I could imagine participating in, I should attract other people who were oriented similarly to me (it worked).
       I eventually resolved most of my difficulties. I moved into a better house, I started a new group, I started having monthly pot-luck dinners at my house (to which I invited anyone who interested me—sometimes they came) and I joined the Union Bay Rowing Club [UBRC]. Joining UBRC enabled me to meet people who at least on occasion got up early (I like to go to bed and get up early, which can be pretty antisocial things to do at college). Also, it was something I could do every morning, there are lots of cool people who participate in UBRC, and there are lots of women in the group.
       Zach left at the end of May to go on his mission for the Mormon Church.
3/30/96 Began intimate emailings to people
       I had been at a loss for what to do when I saw someone who interested me among the thousands of other people at the University of Washington. Some time before this date I had started asking people for their email addresses, and then I compiled an email list of people I would email whenever there was something interesting that I thought they might like to do with me (no one ever did come with me to one of the events I mentioned, but then I did not know these people well). On this date however, instead of writing in my journal, I started writing to these people. I wanted to see what the reaction would be if I wrote to them about how I was feeling, about what I thought, and so on. Some people, understandably, wanted me to stop emailing them. Others liked it and wrote back. One person became a pretty good friend of mine as a result. After I met Brett, I stopped emailing these people.
       When I had first started at the UW, I had played around with virtual communities, most notably "alt.goodmorning" or maybe it is "alt.good.morning." My experience there taught me that I needed to find real people. That was my same conclusion after sending out these emails to these people I had seen, but did not really know.
       I also tried emailing people whom I had known only long ago, like in third grade, or junior high. I had not made any good friends in high school (only in one activity outside of school, teaching sailing).
       I would include one or two of the emails I sent out here, but, especially if you tried looking at "dire," you have probably had enough of that type of writing. These emails were similar to that, just more coherent and audience-oriented.
3/96 Quarter off
       I took spring quarter off this year. The previous quarter, I had dropped a math class and an electrical engineering class. I had been considering going into electrical engineering, but now, I wasn't sure what to do. I also needed to save money and make money to become an in-state resident, so throughout this quarter off, I worked in the computer labs. I also went home for two weeks to go on a spring vacation with my family. I looked around at a lot of groups, and spent time working on my web page during my free time this quarter. I also read a lot. I would spend time planning out my course schedule for the summer.
3/3/96 Began keeping journal on line.
       This is the date of my first entry into my online journal, "dire." I had also begun to work on my web page, which was pretty neat. That web page consisted of words and definitions of words I collected from my readings, names I liked and meanings of names, information and writing about historical figures I was interested in, stories I had written, and some other things. I wanted a web page which told people something about me more than what kind of music I liked.
       I was inspired to create my web page by Keith's page. I was shocked by this page. The emotional experience of reading it was something I wanted more of. The emotional experience, at least for me, is about being able to examine everything about one's self and one's environment, I think. And it is a thrill, because anyone could read it. Although, in truth, probably not very many people do. Moreover (I would tell myself), what would it matter if the whole world knew everything about you? Why would they care? One of my wimping out strategies in keeping my journal online was to have so much disclosure in it that disclosure would cease to be something special. It is also pretty incoherent. If you do want to read more of my on-line journal than I have linked to this page (above), let me know. I will be flattered, or concerned.
related links: Keith's page
Keith's current home page
(as long as he's at the UW)
6/13/95 I began school at UW
1985 love
       I was in love with a girl in my third grade class. I think I loved her because she loved everyone else. It was a powerful experience—I got from it a feeling for how good experience can be.

What am I up to now (5/98)?
I'm looking for an ecovillage to live in.

What is the current status of the being group?
I don't know if it even exists any more. Someday we can start one, if we want to. It only takes two. . .

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