Why Magic?

People tell us, "I love the name," and they tell us, "That's an awful name." Some ask, "What does magic have to do with science?" or, "Is it an acronym?"

Like most aspects of Magic, our name has elements of both intention and serendipity.

Back in the summer of 1972 a bunch of us were camping out in life-home was a backpack or a van or a gym lockers. We bounced around among the mountains, the beaches, the social experiments, and the university campuses of Northern California.

Wanting some way to stay in touch - there was no 'net,' and small computers were the size of your refrigerator! - we went to the post office to rent a box. The postmaster informed us, "Unrelated individuals cannot share a box."

One of us asked, "What about organizations?"
"They're different," he acknowledged.
"OK, then, this'll be the Magic box."
"What are you talking about?"
"We're Magic. It's an organization. We want to rent a box."
The postmaster lightened up a bit. "OK, but remember, every piece of mail we deliver there has to have 'Magic' on it."

By 1975, when some of us rented a home together in Palo Alto, and began working as a team to address issues of individual, social, and environmental well-being in an integrated way, we were already known as Magic. With each project and event, the name became better established.

In 1979, we decided to incorporate as a 501(c)(3) public benefit organization. Though we considered names like "Center for Human Ecology," Magic seemed to capture more of our style and spirit. After all, 'real' magic is about using science to surprise and delight, and that's what we aim to do.

What Basis Community?

Magic was a community of friends before it was incorporated as a public service organization. Like many who came of age in the 1960's, the first Magicians had enjoyed a sweet ride on the post-War economic boom and the reforms of the Great Society. Material life seemed steadily better. We thought we were able to discern progress towards health, wealth, freedom, justice, and peace.

John and Paul sang, "All you need is love," and it sounded good to us. We dreamed of leaving behind material excess and cooperating for mutual benefit, of working towards our ideals and enjoying each moment, rather than grinding away at a job at best tangentially connected to our highest aspirations and counting days until retirement.

Our original credo was, "Science and loving," because we considered the reintegration of what used to be called natural philosophy (science) and moral philosophy (ethics) a necessary step towards our and others' living better.

Forming an intentional community was a way to "walk our talk." We wanted partners in living healthfully, in practicing peaceful conflict resolution, and in learning to generate more satisfaction within. Owning only one car was easier if six of us lived under the same roof. Seeing our own foibles was more likely when so much of our "private" lives was exposed to others who shared our goal of seeing self and world more accurately. And together we were able to demonstrate what alone we were only able to talk about.

Like many who engaged in similar experiments, we fell short of being as we imagined. We were comfortable living within our means, so money for today was rarely an issue. Still we feared what might occur were we to separate. In the sexual realm we experimented, and wound up competing for rank in our nominally non-hierarchical group. The women among us, especially, wondered about child-bearing and rearing. Barraged with criticism and dire warnings from family, friends, and even relative strangers, we looked often at the rewards being reaped by peers on other paths, and doubted our own choices.

In 1979, we realized that dedication to some purpose beyond satisfaction of our own desires to be comfortable and to propagate was essential. We decided to become a public benefit corporation which simultaneously addressed human potential, peace and justice, and environmental protection, and we rooted our approach to all of these in ecology.

Despite lots of good works and fun living, we experienced steady turnover. Hopes for acquiring additional nearby homes, or growing large enough to occupy a rural 'sister' site remained unfulfilled. In the 1980's several founders and long-term residents left.

Over the past several years we have refounded Magic with a much stronger emphasis on public service. Many recent and current residents have participated in Magic service activities for months or years before living here. Now about a dozen adults ranging in age from 20 to 60, twin girls born in 1999, and a boy born in 2004 live together.

The Magic residential community blends smoothly into a larger community of service which includes several dozen affiliates who regularly volunteer, or contribute money, or participate in Magic's programs, and hundreds more who do these things occasionally. A number of these folks, including former residents and other close friends, live within a few blocks. Gradually we are developing a more inclusive and diverse group, capable of demonstrating by our interactions with each other and with the world beyond advantages of a valuescience approach to living.