50 Issues and Still Open to the Ecstatic Possibilities by Peter Moore
We started Alternatives in 1997 from a curiosity I had. As a co-founder of Breitenbush Hot Springs Community in the ’70’s, I watched it grow from an isolated work camp in the wilderness to a retreat & conference center with worldwide reach. Programs ranged from spiritual retreats to public policy advances, to self-actualization, artistic expression, holistic health, ecological sustainability, and more. People who came to Breitenbush were interested in everything, and their enthusiasm guided Breitenbush’s development. Who were these people?
In the mid-1990s, I read an article by Paul Ray, a sociologist researching the development of the most consequential social evolution of our era, the emergence of the “Cultural Creatives”. Ray named them that because they are already creating a new culture. He described them as both inner directed and social activists, numbering well over 50 million Americans—people who care deeply about ecology and sustainable energy, organic and local, peace and social justice—but also about authenticity, self-actualization, spirituality and relationships. Strangely, most feel oddly isolated in society. If they only knew how large their numbers are, and how promising their creativity is—if they could get past their isolation and interact with each other in economic and organized ways, many good things might follow.
Paul Ray’s description of Cultural Creatives coincided with my experience witnessing the emergent holistic scene at Breitenbush in the ’70s and ’80s. I decided to test his theory.
Timing was perfect. Oregon’s Department of Unemployment had just lived up to its name, informing me I was unemployable—educated, experienced, but too old and independent to be a good drone. Time to start a new career—or more accurately, to explore deeper into the exciting/at-times-terrifying mystery of making a living while making it up as I go along. I was curious to connect with Cultural Creatives via an independent media project.
I immediately reached out across time and space to find the perfect business partner. An exhaustive head-hunter search led me to my friend Richard’s living room, where I explained my idea: To in essence reinvent Breitenbush, but inside out. Instead of Cultural Creatives visiting a physical center in the forest, we’d visit them in public gathering places (coffee shops, libraries, natural foods stores, etc.) via a published seed-pod of free independent media every three months: “A Magazine For The Emerging Culture”. This new zine would contain ideas from across the spectrum of cultural creative interests, with writers, advertisers and readers coming directly from our local/regional area.
Richard’s business sense and meticulous nature, and his endless willingness to make fun of me were the perfect balance needed to carry the project forward.
We could have called it “Conventional Concepts” Magazine, but that didn’t quite capture the essence of what we were after. “Alternatives” offered a tidy one-word descriptor for our indy media experiment, and we went with that.
Other print media all have their lists of glowing commendations and awards. Not us. The staff of Alternatives are flagrantly proud of the criticisms and snubs received over the years from august organizations, associations and individuals who have chastised Alternatives for its editorial content. The truth hurts, I know. We’ve never been named Indy Media Publication of the Year by Utne Reader, for example, though we note that those we know about who received that honor have all gone out of business. Success apparently has its risks.
Passionate truth-based independent publishing has its risks as well. Our criticism of the Bush administration’s global death wish eventually prompted the US Government to classify Alternatives Magazine as a “Weapons” violator, and ban our website to all government employees without a security clearance. Happily, they didn’t send in the death squads.
On the other side are the wonderful readers, writers, advertisers and entrepreneurs who have connected in, with and through Alternatives. Fantastic wild spirited people living the life of independent empowerment in this strange age.
We do live in a wacky and charged world. At Alternatives, it’s never been about the money (obviously!), although we did find out that there are tens of dollars to be made when you are your own publisher to the world. After 50 issues, and over 500 articles, we’re still open to the ecstatic possibilities.
Thank you for reading and participating. And remember, if you don’t like the culture you’re in, go out and make one of your own.
Peter Moore is Editor of Alternatives Magazine, and Business Director of Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat & Conference Center. He can be reached at: [email protected]