Concept Exchange Society


Wednesday, April 8, 1998 6:30 pm

At Glenn Johnston's House.

Presentation: All who wish

Who Are We?

Pre-Meeting Notice:

Who Are We?
Come prepared with a summary personal biography - say 5 to 10 minutes long - portrayed as colorfully as you can paint it. As a variation, present a single episode in your life that comprised a turning point or enlightenment.


CES Photo

Photo taken in October 1997 at the meeting celebrating Glenn's sixty-second birthday.

Present at this April 1998 meeting were six of us: Glenn, Don, Meredyth, Jeff, Roberto and Marvin

Roberto spoke first. He told his story via a piece he wrote and read to us of an imaginary encounter with Siddhartha, the protagonist in the novel of the same name by Hermann Hesse. Roberto's Reading. His conclusion: "The purpose of life is to live. The dream of happiness is happiness."

Jeff told us his story via an enumeration of the many jobs he has had beginning as a box boy in a market at age 13. Later he delivered mail at the Warner Brothers movie studio. Was a Studio Tour Guide. Went on to study architectural engineering for awhile. Did interior design for Las Vegas hotels in what turned out to be a mafia money-laundering scheme. Started his own business, "Love Can Get It For You Wholesale" which failed in nine months. Came to the consciousness raising and enlightenment movement which took him to centers in Southern California's Topanga Canyon, Esalon in Big Sur, Harbin Hot Springs and Boulder, Colorado. And then to London, in pursuit of Humanistic Psychology, where he had much success leading "Enlightenment Intensives". Family obligations brought him back to the U.S. where, now, years later, he is again beginning to lead Enlightenment Intensives.

As Don's contribution he read to us a charming piece he wrote called, "Voyage of the Chautauqua". It is an episode from his army experience connected to the U.S. Weather Bureau in World War II.

Glenn was born in Minnesota. His mother was 49 years old at the time. His father was a trapper. Muskrat skins. Glenn has known the wild from childhood.

He recounted some events from that time. They confirmed and illustrated his assessment that his upbringing was completely devoid of culture - no music, no art nor science, no books - other than the Bible. His father got angry at the idea that Glenn actually expected space ships to exist some day. It was an idea prevalent fifty years ago among those playing Buck Rogers games.

Glenn "picked up" his considerable technical skills "on the job". His brother had a metal spinning shop. It was his introduction to machining. Eventually he became a tool and die maker. He told us his career philosophy. Volunteering to undertake more than he had been equipped for. And then manufacturing new competence by learning through doing.

Over the years he has evidently broadened his intellectual horizons considerably. He is a knowledgable mathematics buff, is well read in many subjects, has learned computer programming and has even had a short stint as a musician. He says of his guitar playing that he stopped when he came to Los Angeles because, there, any amateur was much better than a professional in Minnesota.

He came to California in 1966, driven by a "wretched state of despair" in Minnesota. Here he found "fellow outsiders". He joined Mensa, tried psychedelics, joined a commune, had nude encounters, taught pottery-making for five years, . . . and has been here ever since.

Meredyth invented the word Qifully. (Qi is spiritual body substance of Chinese medicine and is pronounced CHEE.) Her automobile license plate reads QiWiz. She is a Qi wizard.

Inspired by Jeff's enumeration of his jobs Meredyth decided to enumerate her religions. She was born in Boston and baptized at the First Congregationalist Church. She remembers a dream when she was five years old of meeting Jesus who let her fly. When in the school play, she was to sit at the feet of Jesus, she was shocked to find, when she looked up, that it was the wrong Jesus.

Meredyth was raised a Christian Scientist but when she was 12 some Jehovah's Witnesses appeared at the door and converted her. In 1960 at the age of 20 she was married in the Episcopalian Church to an MIT organic chemistry student. She became a Unitarian for the sake of her daughter.

"Your possessions are the thieves of your soul", said a friend in Boston. In 1967 she divorced and came to California.

She explored the consciousness movement, became a devotee of Ram Dass. Her picture is there next to him in early editions of his book, "Be Here Now". Meredyth tried psychedelics, had nudest encounters and visited the centers of that enlightenment culture. One was Harbin Hot Springs where, says Meredyth, Jeff "reigned King". Evidently Jeff and Meredyth have known each other for about thirty years.

Meredyth learned that "magic happened in life". Bells rang without cause. A painting jumped off the wall. A sound saved her from fire. She recounted how these were items from her own personal experience. She read about miracles and found that "if she opened herself up to them, they happen."

She got married. Went to the Lama Foundation in New Mexico. Met Sufis, learned their beliefs and took on the new name Fetarama. Taught Sufi dancing, founded the Sufi group in Santa Cruz. And taught Tantra, a body of practice to transcend ego.

She took spiritual pilgrimages. One to Japan in 1976, another to India in 1980. Meredyth says she doesn't have a religion now. They are all satisfactory. She doesn't like the organized ones.

Looking over his 67 years Marvin can only wonder at the cornucopaea of good fortune that has rained down on him. Even the ill fortune was good fortune! He told an illustrative story.

Inspired by the work of his fellow graduate student, Paul Craig, who was investigating the Bernoulli Effect in superfuid liquid helium, Marvin convinced himself that the electron gas inside a metal should exhibit such an effect. He could give a clear and convincing estimate of its magnitude.

He brought the idea to Richard Feynman, who took an interest in it and guided him through a systematic exploration of the theory.

At one point, making a conceptual error, Feynman concluded that the effect could yield experimental access to a parameter of considerable theoretical interest. The effect could be quite important he said.
But he was wrong and Marvin convinced him of it. Proving the great man wrong enhanced Marvin's professional stature. Feynman's casual error launched Marvin's career. It started with very good references from an acknowledged great man!

The physical effect is of no interest today.

April 1998
Marvin Chester

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© m chester 1998 Occidental CA