Michael Hathaway was born in Southern California and has lived in San Francisco and Boston, along with three years in Germany, Greece, Kathmandu, Czechoslovakia and much of Europe. After decades working as an environmental activist and publishing several books, he is distilling what he has learned in a series of memoirs of engaging true stories, all showing “the possible happiness of life.”
His personal idealism and optimism began with his mystical German immigrant mother and his loving diplomat grandparents, and was then nurtured by seven years at the progressive and very liberating Besant Hill School. He studied Russian language, culture, politics and history at Stanford (where he also rowed in varsity crew), Monterey Institute of International Studies, Harvard, the Free University of Berlin and ancient Charles University in Prague. With this and varying fluency in seven languages, he’s at home in several European cultures. The Vietnam War led him to quit doctoral studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures to become more active in the peace movement, on the national staff of Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential bid, through to the infamous police riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago..
Then, after morphing for a time into a longhaired, VW-van-living hippie, he returned to Santa Barbara and found work as a researcher at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Robert Hutchin’s early progressive think tank.
Drawn to the magically beautiful Isle of Hydra in Greece at twenty-two, young Michael realized that his $2,000 garage summer job savings could buy a handsomely five-arched, 440-year-old ruined house, and then over the years restored it, as his new friend Yorgo had done. Later, when Yorgo traveled to Kathmandu to immerse himself in Tibetan Buddhism, Michael followed his wisest friend, with life-challenging results. Besides having wondrous experiences and shedding many illusions, Michael also lost 56 pounds, triggering a debilitating yearlong bout with hepatitis.
Inspired by Ralph Nader and the thousands of then emerging activists, he wrote and published a Calendar of Contemporary Saints Date Book for three years, which won praise from the likes of Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller, Jerry Brown, Lama Govinda, several Congresspeople, and was featured on THE TODAY SHOW by an enthusiastic Gene Shalit.
After several years involvement in the anti-Vietnam peace movement in Santa Barbara (risky and scary back then) and other progressive causes, he moved to San Francisco and became a full-time environmental activist for the next twenty-five years, first with David Brower at Friends of the Earth, and then joining with him as one of eight cofounders of the new Earth Island Institute. Beginning on borrowed funds and eight borrowed wooden folding chairs 30 years ago, EII now sponsors 64 projects in California and all over the world, is supported by a staff of more than a hundred, and as many volunteers, with frugal—yet multi-million-dollar—annual budgets.
When living in San Francisco, Michael also established and ran Magical Premises, an environmental-spiritual boarding house, for eight years. He co-led tours to the Soviet Union in 1986-87 during the emerging Gorbachev era to establish working ties with Soviet environmental and economic leaders.
He was active in the San Francisco and northern California gay communities, helping defend, celebrate and expand gay freedoms. As AIDS became known, he helped share what was being learned about the new disease, helped fight the fears and cared for stricken friends.
After living ten years in the Russian River area writing, volunteering weekly to work in the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s renowned acres of organic gardens, gardening, hunting wild mushrooms and cooking from West Sonoma’s farms and gardens—some of America’s most wondrous—he moved back to Santa Barbara to help his mother out in her final years. She passed on after 96 years of a truly rich, love-filled and rewarding life.
Since then he’s devoted his time to writing a series of books, memoirs with the central purpose of showing the possible happiness and satisfaction of life. He hadn’t planned on more activism, but as the new Cheney-Bush administration revealed itself as ever more astonishingly dangerous, destructive, and dishonest, more and more threatening to democracy, world order, the environment, social justice and more, he threw himself for the following seven years into this unsought task of exposing and discrediting them, as the ever-hungry Deep State advances its reign, daily sucking away more of America’s and democracy’s lifeblood. And since then, fending off the increasingly powerlusting, rapacious and mendacious rightwing, and challenging Obama and the too often complaisant national “corporate” Democrats to man-up and act on behalf of those they’re supposed to represent.
He has withdrawn from most of that to finish these books, trusting that this is the best use of his later years, trusting that they will offer hope, inspiration, sustenance and comfort for some of the spiritually bold and persevering among us.
Michael is very fortunate in his friends, some of forty and even fifty years. Last, having experien-ced the sweet powers and daily intimacy of deep love twice before, he is staying alert for further wonderful possibilities for that happiness.