Four Lights Tiny House Company

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Or "How We Named Our Company by Following Radiohead Down the Rabbit Hole"

Mark, Alicia, Takeshi and I—and seemingly everyone we know—spent way too much time trying to decide what company name to go with. In the end we chose the one amongst dozens that most closely reflects our values.

Upon recently googling some Radiohead lyrics, I rediscovered that “2+2=5” is a direct reference to George Orwell’s 1984. I say, “RE-discovered”, because, in high school, I learned (then forgot) that “2+2=5” is, essentially, Orwellian shorthand for the concept that common sense is our best defense against senseless authoritarianism. More googling led me to other references to the referent, including a Star Trek episode called Four Lights, which is a way better company name than 2+2=5, if you ask me.

To us, “Four Lights” essentially means, “common sense uber alles”. — Jay Shafer

Captain Picard stands up against the Cardassians while under extreme duress: 

For your listening pleasure: Radiohead's 2+2=5

Posted by Jay Shafer — December 13, 2012


Jillian D.:

LOOOOOOVE The Star Trek Reference!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOP WOOP!!!

December 13 2012 at 04:12 PM

Donnell Allan:

These are great. I shared with my friends who are fighting battles on another front. Thanks for the inspiration!

December 16 2012 at 12:12 PM


I think that 2 + 2 =5 video is really gross and I don’t understand at all how that has to do with the name or concept of lights. that video has violence and bestiality.. and I just don’t get it. I love Tumbleweed Houses and I love the concepts presented for Four Lights… I’m surprised to find a video like this as any kind of inspiration. Maybe you can explain what I’ve apparently totally missed!

December 21 2012 at 08:12 PM

Jay Shafer:

Hi Leslie.

The correlation between Gaston Vina’s animation and our houses is no more direct than the one between our houses and the Star Trek episode also referenced. We’d hoped that linking to a couple adaptations of Orwell’s 1984 might make the commitment and concept behind our Four Lights name more clear. Your comment clearly demonstrates that the links have, at least in this case, achieved exactly the opposite. I’m sorry for the confusion.

Orwell’s actual phrasing in his book 1984 is, “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?”.

OK. So I get your point, Leslie. A direct link from a Small House website to dancing-porno-cows might not be the most universal way to convey this concept. We’ve removed the overt link. But for those who are into interpreting obscure Orwellian references (or just into dancing-porno-cows), you can still see Gaston Vina’s video here…

December 22 2012 at 09:12 PM


Whatever you name your company, or whatever inspired it, it’s a wonderful idea. I am just turning 50 this year and it’s time I began to live like I have always wanted to…compact, eco friendly and simple. I’m hoping to build the Zinn (Tumbleweed home) around the end of the year. (with vertigo I simply can’t do ladders/lofts) In the meantime, I’m on a mission to reduce my “stuff” and streamline my life. Honestly I’d rather have a tiny home surrounded by organic veggie beds and fruit trees than to have a McMansion surrounded by a toxic barren golf course. I totally understand the 2+2=5 reference.

January 03 2013 at 12:01 AM

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