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September 2005

 

200 NOT OUT

- Alan




When Auroville Today began, back in October, 1988, a senior Aurovilian opined that we wouldn't get beyond six issues. Today we reach 200. So perhaps he'll consider taking out a subscription...
But what's much more interesting than this somewhat arbitrary landmark is what our 200 issues represent in terms of the areas we have covered. Here there are some surprises. For example, over the 17 years of Auroville Today's existence by far the most popular category has been culture: 234 articles in all (I'm indebted for most of these figures to Jan Lohman, who has faithfully kept up the Auroville Today index). This is a little misleading – ‘culture' can include a 50 word book announcement as well as a full-blooded article – but it does rather nail the lie that Auroville is a ‘cultural desert'. Environment (216 articles) comes next. This is also a little surprising as the impression in the community is that landwork receives much less attention today than it did 20 years ago. However, the new emphasis on taking our afforestation and water management skills out into the bioregion seems to have compensated for this.

The next most popular category (179 articles) is economy and organization. Paradoxically, this preoccupation with our structural navel seems to have resulted in few radically-interesting results as yet. Next comes profiles: the fact that no less than 130 articles have been profiles of, or personal pieces by, Aurovilians is a source of great satisfaction. One of our original aims was to give a voice to as many different Aurovilians and perspectives as possible and, while certain cultures or age groups may still be under-represented, over the years Auroville Today has presented a rich palette of personalities and views.

Matrimandir, education, commercial units and architecture/ town planning have each had about 100 articles devoted to them. However, these bland figures disguise interesting trends. For example, town planning has come more and more to the fore in recent years, while there was a sudden dip in articles on Matrimandir between 1993-7, perhaps reflecting increased difficulty in obtaining information from the management group of that period.

As always, some statistics are misleading. The record shows, for example, that only 46 articles are devoted exclusively to yoga and spirituality. But the ‘other dimension' is woven into our daily lives here in a way that prevents it being teased out or examined in isolation. Mother, after all, characterized Auroville as a place of karma yoga, and of all the spiritual paths this is probably the least visible to the outer eye.

There are, however, some less satisfying statistics. For example, it seems we have run relatively few – 63 articles – on the local villagers and the villages, and the trend is declining in spite of recent coverage of post–tsunami reconstruction. This certainly doesn't reflect the importance the team ascribes to this issue; it may be due to the fact that we don't have close contacts in this area. Auroville International, which was the catalyst for getting us started, has also received less than generous coverage, although the fact that we've covered 90 different topics in the ‘Auroville and the world' category perhaps demonstrates that Aurovilians are not so in–turned and parochial as is sometimes believed.

Finally, the biggest disappointments – only 33 articles on Auroville youth and a measly 31 which qualify as ‘humour'. Of course, given the fact that only two and a half of the present editors can claim English as their native language there may be a great deal of unconscious humour in the way we phrase our articles (our Welsh proof-reader does his best but, well, he's Welsh). But if any place is God's gift to humorists, if any place cries out for the cathartic cleansing of laughter it is Auroville and here, I fear, we have failed miserably. (As tardy compensation, in this issue we feature articles on youth and even a smattering of lighter stuff.)

In spite of all this, Auroville Today remains unique. For nobody else has documented the ideals, quirks, achievements, struggles and failures of this community, this consciousness-in-the-making, between 1988 and today. Of course, we haven't always got the balance right and, of course, we've missed a lot. But, hopefully, by our 300th issue we'll be a little closer to perfection.

And that Aurovilian will finally have subscribed.

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