Managing Alan's Temper
I have only had two people treat me with exceptional kindliness in my life, and Alan Chadwick was one of them. The other was my old grandfather who took me under his wing so many years ago. I spent every weekend of my childhood helping him on his avocado ranch in southern California, but he had died about a year before I met Alan Chadwick. So for me, Alan was something of a replacement for the mentor of my youth, and to be honest, he never let me down.
The Spirit of the Moon, by Libby Haynes Jackson
I learned early-on how to avoid provoking his incendiary temper, and this helped immeasurably to keep the air clear between us. One important rule I had with Alan was never to accept his generosity. If he gave you something, then he almost unconsciously felt that you owed him something in return, and if you didn’t come through, he felt cheated. Feeling cheated tended to bring out Alan’s anger, as it does in most of us, so my being scrupulous about our mutual account-balances generally kept me in his good graces.
Once, we ran out of chicken feed during that time in the spring of 1971 when Alan had dismissed the four regular staff members and closed the garden to everyone. Allen Kalpin and I had defied the ban, and were working alone with Alan for the month or so that this phase lasted. Allen Kalpin, who was in charge of the animals, had apparently informed Chadwick one day that the poultry feed was all gone, and Alan had given him a check so that we could go down to the feed store and buy more. When Allen showed me the check, I promptly grabbed it and tore it up. He must have thought I was crazy and that this would infuriate Alan Chadwick, but I knew that we had to make a statement of independence and self-reliance for Alan to begin to respect us. I said that we would go down and buy the feed with our own money, and asked him to return the torn check to Chadwick.
So, that’s what we did. Several weeks later, when the garden was reopened to visitors and volunteers, and the traditional morning meetings resumed, Alan made a point of announcing to the assembled group of fifteen or twenty people that the only two responsible individuals in the whole garden project were Greg and Allen. They had taken it on themselves, he said, to provide the necessary feed for the hungry animals, and that was the first time anything like that had ever occurred in the whole history of the project.
I knew from this experience, and others, that Alan must have had a history of people taking advantage of him, and that such behavior made him feel used by them. It was probably about that time, and most likely a result of my interactions with Alan Chadwick, that I adopted a general policy in life that I have followed ever since. If I receive something from anyone, I invariably will return the gift with something of equal or greater value. After many years of living by this rule, I can testify that it keeps things far cleaner than if you allow yourself to fall into the debt of others. And because we all have the tendency to over-value our own contributions, and under-value those of other people, that makes it necessary to repay the debt with a little extra—as it will be viewed as just barely enough by your benefactors.
The corollary to the above philosophy is the following: Never accept a compliment from anyone without reciprocating with an equal or stronger compliment. I may also have learned that through my interactions with Chadwick, but then again, it may have come from other experiences altogether. I have learned that you can save yourself a heap of trouble in life by following these two precepts unstintingly. People only give compliments in order to gain psychological advantage. If you turn the tables on them, you actually come out on top in the subtle psychological battles that almost always exist, for example, in the typical workplace.
Another time, I was attempting to court the lovely Miss Christina Gibbs, an attractive student at the University, who also worked part time at the garden. One evening, after my day’s work was done in the garden, I hurriedly prepared a box of freshly harvested vegetables and drove over to her house in downtown Santa Cruz to present my offering to her. To my great disappointment, she was not at home when I got there and wouldn’t be back for a few days, according to her roommate. The gentlemanly thing to do would probably have been to leave the vegetables with the roommate, but that didn’t occur to me. I loaded the wooden box back into my car and left. As it happened, Alan Chadwick was then living in the same general neighborhood, and as I passed by that area I suddenly had the idea to leave it on his doorstep, which I did. The next day in the garden he asked me if I knew anything about a box of vegetables that was left on his porch the night before, and I told him that, yes, I had left it there. He thanked me profusely, saying that it was difficult for him to transport much in the way of produce on his bicycle, so that he very much appreciated the thought.
This is just an example of what it took to get along with Alan in the long term, avoiding misunderstandings and complications in the personal realm. It was actually quite easy, for the most part, as I can’t think of a single instance where Alan was anything but polite and respectful to me in return. Those who make much of Alan’s awful temper should ask themselves if they ever thought of reciprocating his generosity, or if they merely took what they could from him as if they had it coming by right. My guess is that the majority of people who belly-ache about his character fall into the second category, which is purely infantile.
On another occasion, this time at Green Gulch, we went on a hike into the hills that were part of the nature preserve area that lay to the south. I had recently acquired a book on the wild flowers of the San Francisco Bay Area, and from time to time would peruse it in the evenings. On that day we happened upon a particular plant, and Alan, testing us, asked if we could identify it. Since it was just the common teasel, of course we knew it. But then I asked Alan if he knew the common garden flower that is related to the teasel. He thought for a minute, but drew a blank, asking me what it was. I replied that it was the scabiosa, also known as pincushion flower. When the inner light dawned on him as he recognized the key similarities between the two plants, he smiled and said that he was truly delighted whenever someone taught him something new.
As I have described elsewhere on this website, when the atmosphere at Santa Cruz became intolerable as a result of Steve Kaffka’s insurgency, I decided to leave the project for awhile and pursue other interests. I planned to head up north to join a commune run by Robert deRopp, a kind of Gurdjieffian guru who had a large tract of land up on Sonoma Mountain. Since the expectation was that anybody who joined that group had to donate all their worldly possessions to the commune, I decided in advance to give the old station wagon that I had inherited from my grandfather to Alan Chadwick instead. Alan had no car at that time, so this was a considerable help to him. For me on the other hand it was no great loss, but here again, it was the gesture of reciprocation that earned me some respect in Alan’s mind. In general, too many people over time just took too much advantage of his generosity: It wore him down and demoralized him, just as it would understandably do to anyone else in those same circumstances.
— Greg Haynes, December, 2013