Steve Torma ~ Keeper of the Flame

In this post we profile one of our villagers.

“My whole life has been leading toward me doing this role.”

Steve Torma is guiding Earthaven through the awkward teen years as Earthaven’s Fire Keeper. As Fire Keeper, Steve seeks to honor and value the community history while accepting change and valuing transformation.

Steve sees Earthaven as one of the places on the planet that’s grappling with what humans need to do to evolve as a species. Steve believes that for Earthaven to thrive, we need to balance our attention between developing the physical and cultural aspects of the village. To keep this balance, he uses the four-quadrant view of the Integral Model:

  • I quadrant – how I view reality, what I like and don’t like
  • It quadrant– my body and things, such as food and housing
  • We quadrant – relationships between two or more people
  • Its quadrant – systems that we are part of, such as collective buildings, the ecosystem, and external governing bodies

During the first 15 years of the community, Earthaven placed most of its attention in the It and Its quadrants — developing the roads, water systems, community buildings, housing, and farms needed to house the village. With some of those completed, Steve sees “my role is being a catalyst in the I and we quadrants so we can evolve more successfully – be more creative and productive.”

Steve explains more about the Integral Model at Earthaven in a series of videos:

Steve has a strong appreciation for “the value of the group mind and synergy of the collective intelligence.” As Fire Keeper, he is the leader of the Fire Orbo, which is responsible for the overall well being of the community, including peace, safety, spirit, and community process, and is also the President of the homeowner’s association. He is supported in this role by his co-Fire Keeper, Kimchi Rylander, and a committee of Fire Tenders.

Steve’s personal transformation mirrors Earthaven’s. When he came to Earthaven Steve was in poor health and made his living selling books at conferences. After rebuilding his health and co-creating the Village Terraces neighborhood, Steve turned his attention to developing a teaching and coaching practice. Steve teaches through the REAL Center where he offers courses on compassionate communication and the art of intimacy. He also offers personal coaching and mediation services, and is available for workshop and consulting for groups and businesses.

For fun, Steve likes to build and fix things, enjoys lifting heavy objects, and gets deep satisfaction out of seeing the richness of life at Village Terraces and Earthaven. “With each passing year we become more of a village. I enjoy watching the children being able to walk around and knowing that they are held in the safety of our village. I also like having our own cow and chickens.”

In Praise of Inefficiency

by Kimchi Rylander

Unplugging from consumer culture, living simply and building community . . . it’s not an easy path! As I review my past ten years here at Earthaven, I’ve discovered that letting go of efficiency may be a shortcut to village togetherness and happiness.

I owe so much gratitude to the Tribal Condo, one of the earliest timber framed, hand built structures at Earthaven and a place that I call home. While the original builders gained much needed skill, building with lumber hand harvested from the land, the house has minimal plumbing, salvaged leaky windows, and no inside insulation between floors. In essence, it’s a house that needs constant maintenance and care. In 2001, I took a leap of faith and bought into the 1000 sq ft “apartment” house.

In the early years, I wondered if I had made a poor decision. Clearly, this house was inefficient and likely to decay sooner than other homes. However, as Suchi (my house partner) and I began to maintain and repair it, we noticed how each episode offered a tremendous opportunity to connect and relate within the village.

One year, our roof blew off when a strong wind funneled down the mountain and pulled out purlins that had only been nailed (not screwed) in. Torrents of rain came down, and all the residents of our home crawled out on the roof at two o’clock in the morning to pull the tin back on. The next day, villagers offered to provide lodging for us and repair the damage. It was awesome how the community helped us through our “disaster!”

While efficiency offers a way to make the most of the available energy, time, and money we have on hand, it doesn’t always maximize opportunities for relationships in a community. Take a look at Nature: at one level it’s very inefficient, but at another level, it provides myriad opportunities to weave a tapestry of dense interdependency within a locale.

“If a house is built too well, so efficiently that it is permanent and refuses to fall apart, then people do not have a reason to come together. Though the house stays together, the people fall apart and nothing gets renewed. Coming together … to do communal tasks gracefully—tasks that a machine could do in an instant anonymously—or to repair rickety houses ensures the very smiley togetherness so missing in the pre-planned, alienated lives of modern civilization.” (Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: Memoirs From the Living Heart of a Mayan Village, by Martín Pretchel.)

Suchi and I chuckled after discovering yet another item to be fixed in the house. “Please pass the bottle of inefficiency,” I decided. “I’d like to sprinkle some more of that on my plate of life.”

Kimchi Rylander is co-Firekeeper, and longtime member of Earthaven Ecovillage. An artist, deep ecologist, and permaculture activist, she is currently building delicious new cultural topsoil beginning in “her own backyard.”