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jonathanstray

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Warning: Entering Alternate Reality [Jan. 26th, 2008|01:30 pm]
jonathanstray
[mood |amusedamused]

I have ensconed myself in a guesthouse in Auroville where I intend to stay for a couple of weeks.



Briefly, this is a small town just north on Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India, started in 1968 by "The Mother", a disciple of the late guru Sri Aurobindo. It was, and is, supposed to be a sort of utopian town. Spiritual but nominally not about "religion", it was built to be a living embodiment of the principles of the late Guru and Mother, a place for human "unity", where "human evolution" could be perfected.

Approximately 1800 people live here. It looks, in places, like a 1960's science fiction film, all strange white angles and curves. The town plan is supposed to look like a spiral galaxy. In the center is a huge golden sphere called the Matrimandir, inside which is a 70cm diameter crystal ball illuminated by the suns rays via tracking mirrors. I sometimes feel like I'm on the set of Logan's Run. I swear I'm not kidding, and will post pictures soon.

But in most places, it just looks like the semi-rural tropical plain it's built on, or the impoverished townships with which it coexists. Auroville has never been able to buy up all the land within its planned "borders", so the landscape alternates between Indian village and largely white, middle-class, wildly international (but often French!) futuristic township.

I came here because I needed a break from the intensity of motorcycling on Indian highways, needed a nearby place to relax and recuperate and eat food that wasn't rice and goo. And this seemed both peaceful and damned interesting.

I am fascinated by this attempt at an alternative city. Like Burning Man, it's a toy society, but this one is permanent. I want to know how it works. I want to know how they have addressed (or ignored) the problems of economy, justice, political power, environment, and the interface with the outside world. It's kooky, but not instantly dismissable: their alt-entergy and reforestation projects are impressive, as is the fact that they've managed to keep what is in effect a glorified international hippie commune together for 40 years. However, it's definitely way out there on the New Age Weirdo scale. I haven't decided whether or not it's a cult; probably not -- I don't see enough control of personal schedules and access to information. They believe in the internet.

Naturally, I will be writing about all this in some detail, eventually. And hopefully publish it somewhere (where? suggestions?) Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go join the screening of the crop-circle film in the communal dining hall.
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