France's Community of the Ark is one of the past century's most successful experiments in utopian living. Founded by Lanza del Vasto, a Christian disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, it offers an inspiring model for a nonviolent society. Mark Shepard shared the life of this remarkable community for six weeks in 1979 and reported on what he found.
Mark Shepard is the author of "Mahatma Gandhi and His Myths," "The Community of the Ark," and "Gandhi Today," called by the American Library Association's Booklist "a masterpiece of committed reporting." His writings on social alternatives have appeared in over 30 publications in the United States, Canada, England, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, and India.
"A joy to read." -- Ray Olson, American Library Association Booklist, Sept. 1, 1989
"Will be welcomed by many. . . . Highly informative and full of little-known information." -- Harmony, Sept.-Oct 1989
"Shepard is able to transform the community and its members from mere images or abstractions into real individuals with both their [virtues] and their defects. Anyone interested in the history of contemporary communities will profit from Shepard's keen observations." -- Andre J. M. Prevos, Utopian Studies
"Shepard makes the community come alive." -- PRC Newsletter, Spring 1990
The bell in the tower tolls, first weakly, but quickly building up strength to a full-bodied tone -- then stops abruptly.
When I reach the courtyard of the main building, there are already people there, talking in small groups -- people from La Borie Noble, from the Ark's other villages, and guests from the local area; others are still on their way on the paths from La Flayssiere and Nogaret.
The people of the Ark wear their festival clothes, handmade all from white wool: the men with their heavy sweaters and pants, the women with their long dresses, and many of both with hooded cloaks down to their feet. The children rush around among the adults, then after a while pass out boughs for the adults to hold. The sun shines brightly, though the air hanging between the tree-covered mountain slopes is still icy-cold.
Now all gather in a circle, each one holding a bough. Soon the singing begins: a hundred voices raised in stately, full harmonies.
Glory to God in the highest heaven
And peace on earth to men of good will.
In the music, in the entire scene, the ancient and the modern seem to blend, giving a sense of timelessness. It is as if this could take place anywhere, in any time -- while it is surprising to find it at all.
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