I. Harel's background
After a childhood which included 8 different schools during the first 12 grades, Harel has spent most of his student and working life at universities. While this entailed some disadvantages (e.g. more breadth might be nice), some advantages included at least partially avoiding spiritual homogination into the mainstream. Although higher education institutions are part of 'the system', yet in many ways it can provide a life allowing one to avoid some of the soul-crushing aspects of traditional corporate jobs, while one tries to help and encourage students. However, free time (even on weekends/evenings) is very limited, which is a challenge when the soul yearns to help heal the world (or even expand its own horizons).
The experience of being schooled in an experimental 'open' and largely liberatory school during grades 5 and 6 was a radicalizing experience. At the time it did not seem radical, but as a most reasonable way for things to be. This was in Israel, where Harel was born in 1966. He was in the US ages 6 to 8, back to Israel ages 8-12 and in the US since. (As an aside, his views on the government of Israel are approximately those of Gush Shalom and Noam Chomsky).
A vegetarian since about 1991, and vegan since 1994, Harel does not drink alcohol but does not mind if others do (though he avoids mainstream alcohol-based, loud-music or big-crowds type parties) He has been a TV non-owner by choice for over 20 years (since freshman year). He loves kids and hopes to make the world a better place for today's and tomorrow's children, but has decided not to have kids of his own. Prefers rural to urban/suburban (but not complete wilderness). He's non-religious, but is spiritual (but non "New Age"). A pragmatic idealist, a realistic dreamer.
As a child, visits to his grandparents at a Kibbutz were deeply meaningful. A 'radicalizing' aspect was growing up knowing that societies whose economics was based on democratic principles and which lacked homelessness, etc, were not only possible, but natural.
But it was not until 2000 or 2001 that he learned that 'communes' in the U.S. were not merely part of past history..that 'intentional communities' are alive and well today. This discovery was one of the beams of light and hope, suggesting positive possibilities, during a dark period of stolen elections, bombing campaigns, invasions and a reactionary political climate on the domestic side..
By summer 2003, life changes, which had slowly evolved, reached the point where modest steps could be taken. Summers no longer needed to be dedicated to working on talks/papers and other "catching up with work" when not recuperating from exhaustion..but could include also a time to explore a possibly different future. This led to a visit to Heathcote (an IC in Maryland) that summer and a few visits since. In 2005 Harel and partner Joanna visited Twin Oaks for an overnight stay and a short tour of Acorn and have also visited Heathcote in Maryland. People Harel admires include Noam Chomsky, Susie Bright, Richard Stallman, and Emmett Miller.
II. Past Activism
Activism during and after graduate school includes organizing (over the internet back in 1989 when this was not common) the El Salvador Project, creating the Activists Mailing List (1990) and co-founding ACTIV-L and the first moderated progressive newsgroup, misc.activism.progressive (1991- ), which peaked at 60,000 readers.
Was a faculty member at Z magazine's Left Online University (LOLU, now ZEO) during '94 and '95 (during the first semester fellow faculty among the half-dozen included Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn) And was the internet contact for 1992 presidential candidacy of former Irvine, CA mayor Larry Agran. Had to stop activism cold turkey to finish graduate degree ('97) and to pause most activism until ~2000 to survive early stages of university teaching..
In 2004 and 2005 Harel was able to successfully lobby for his university to invite and host Post Carbon Institute founder and prominent member of the peak oil awareness movement Julian Darley (2004) and likewise in 2005 with Earthaven Ecovillage member and permaculture teacher Patricia Allison. Founded EconomicDemocracy.org in 2000 and now focusing mostly on strategy articles and project proposals, some of which have recently received new outside interest. One proposal is for a democratic community alternative to Wall Street.
(It seemed easier to write sections I and II in the third person in order to be able to open up this fully to people he doesn't yet know that well -- he can now transition, below to some first person descriptions alongside third person prose :-)
I wanted to share the above in answer to the (very reasonable!) question people might have, "so he's been at mainstream jobs at universities for most of his life -- has he had any involvement in non-mainstream activities?" So the answer is yes as much as I've managed to find time for over the years. A secondary reason for mentioning the above is wanting to share my need for 'activism outside the IC' which is one of the "balance" factors.
III. Alignment and Compatibility
Longer-term issues of Life Balance will probably include: balancing local work (helping the IC we join to grow and thrive as well as local/regional activist project) with some of the above yearnings to follow the heart and creative visions for national/global activist projects and ideas. And to balance both of these with "inner work" healing the inner world and helping it follow its own path of development. We all need to balance healing the inner world with healing the outer world, I think. Another one would be balancing personal space, quiet time, individuality and autonomy on the one hand, with community, sharing, cooperation, inter-dependence, and mutual enrichment. Communitarian Harvey Baker mentions balance for the community includes not letting transparency and honesty become a case of 'dumping on someone' and at the same time, difficult issues need to be discussed rather than submerged under the surface.
Honesty, gentleness, progressive values, enjoyment of problem-solving and wanting to improve things, while also knowing that it's good to be patient and take time to get to know things better before trying to jump ahead trying improve them. Cooking is one "IC type" skill I have and which I definitely enjoy. Likewise with helping care for (and even providing math education for) k12 age kids. (Also fairly frugal given my circumstances, about $1400/mo, and could be more frugal given the right surroundings and environment)
Challenges and specific Needs
Certainly transitioning from mainstream jobs and housing and pace of life will be a challenge, even for vegans who don't own a TV, etc, it would still be a transition which at least in some days may not be easy. Also, the above on balancing community with privacy and quiet time/ time alone.
Needs: We have some allergies (mostly to cats and dust mites, significantly less so to dogs) and also may need small A/C for hot nights due to asthma. In addition, Joanna and I both need about 10 hours of sleep a night to function. Ouch, but that's an unfortunately non-negotiable fact of physiology we're stuck with. But hey, we have other strengths :-) We imagine that setting one's work hours, and being able to work afternoons, evenings, and nights, rather than mornings, would be fairly easily manageable in the IC context (please let us know if you see any problems) Plus, we don't require many luxuries (we currently sleep on futon mattress on the floor for example).
Some Possibly Useful Skills
These include teaching background, which could be used for teaching math and more to kids (and "progressive childcare" in general), or income generating workshops or courses for people outside the IC. Long term, it would be great if there was a joint project of ICs and other progressive groups, to have an umbrella university (environmental mathematics, quantitative skills for activists, etc) expanding on some of what Gaia U does, and maybe some workshops (medium term).
I could be ready to leave the university and leave my tenured job possibly as early May 2008, if a sufficiently good match is found. Joanna also would need to be able to deal with her student loans. Perhaps Joanna and I may need to aim for summer '08 (rather than aiming for a later date) to make it a reality by '09 or '10, but looking into whether it's possible by summer '08 is something we're certainly exploring. Transition would be no later than 24 or at most 36 months from now because life is too short to spend too much of it away from where the heart yearns to explore (and yet this must be balanced with very careful research and preparation rather than jumping in head first blindly)
Seeking what kind of new life?
Three related questions have been helpful towards answering the above: what do I have which I'm willing to give up? What do I have which I want to keep or even enhance? And, what do I lack which I'd like to have (or have more of)? It's an evolving process, so I don't have 'final answers' but the following summarizes my current feelings.
1. Two things I currently have which I'm certainly willing to give up are the tenure, and the middle class salary of my academic job.
2. What do I currently have which I'd like to keep? a) A basic level of access health care, including diagnostic (blood tests etc) as well as preventative. b) A situation close to having "no bosses" (in fact I'd like to improve this to a fully democratically run workplace) c) I'd like the new job to be meaningful (in fact a large part of the change is wanting it to be meaningful on a higher level than my present job) and to also let me (to at least a significant degree) set my own hours instead of "9 to 5" (and some reasonable level of economic security so I or we are not living week to week in doubt..this problem hopefully does not to apply to your businesses)
And d) "space" issues, e.g. i) Privacy and personal space (physical, personal life), and ii) A level of workplace autonomy (alongside healthy inter-dependence/cooperation).
As a consequence of b), a scenario of "living in an IC but with a corporate job" would not be a positive change, while one of "living in an IC but with a mainstream university job" would not be a major improvement (particularly if needing to leave current tenured job where I've worked many years to become known and valued). Seeking a workplace that is run democratically (as well as being healthy in other human dimensions)
3. What do I want to have more of, or what do I currently lack but wish to have in my life? These include a) Time. Getting off the constant 'treadmilll' I'd like to be able to work 42 or less hours per week (if/when I can get over workaholism..I might very well work more than the minimum, regularly, but don't want to "have" to do so) And crucially also b)) Connection to and living with a community of like-minded people sharing deeper values (non-capitalist, democratic, liberationist, ecological, etc) in common, while also not pushing conformity or 'groupthink', which tries conscientiously to practice Nonviolent Communication (NVC), and which is supportive of individual growth (be it in endeavors which are artistic, activist, socially responsible entrepreneurial, etc) and helps bring out the best in me while allowing me to support and help bring out the best in others :-)