Sunday, September 27, 2009

Designing Rituals that Stick

My funological comrades and I are in a conversation about what the “central ritual” will be at the Villages in the Sky festival in the Ozarks in 2010. Central rituals play important roles in two of the inspirational events for VIS – Burning Man and the Rainbow Gathering.

At Burning Man there are actually two central rituals. The first (on the Saturday night) is the burning of the man. A 40 foot high effigy is set alight amongst dozens of fire dancers and a host of fireworks displays. Participants run in circles around the burning man and make incredible noise. Crystal actually does not think this is a ritual at all, he prefers to refer to it as “the spectacle” and it certainly is that.

On Sunday night the temple is burned. The temple is further out, and actually much larger overall It is made entirely of wood and is an incredibly intricate art piece. On it participants scribble what ever it is they want to let go of, often sadness about a loved one who passed in the last year (or anytime really). In sharp contrast to the burn of the man, this is a highly somber and quiet. Up close, both of these rituals are physically quite hot. They are also magnificent enuf so that they can be enjoyably viewed from a fairly significant distance.

At the Rainbow Gathering the central ritual mixes noise and quite. Part of the site selection for the part of the national parks which hosts these gatherings is that they need to have a space (for the national gatherings) which can accommodate 25,000 people standing in a large circle holding hands. For the first half of the fourth of July, rainbow kids (some of whom are in their 80s) are silent, doing their daily chores, heading toward a mid day gathering which comes together in a large silent circle. After some length of time which seems cosmologically determined, the kids run into the middle yelling and this is the signal for everyone to run in. Much dancing and partying ensues.

We will have tree houses and zip lines and hopefully turbine platforms as our environment. Presumably, there will be an open field to operate in, and n year one only a few hundred participants. And I believe that this ritual, and its power and effect on people will be one of the things which determines how many people come back for year 2 and beyond.

So I am in dialog with my new lover Premin, who lives in a spiritual resort which used to be a spiritual commune about what gives ritual life and bond people with them. She said these clever things:

The real important thing about ritual is, that it is not a ritual. that it is alive in every moment, that it makes sense, that it takes people into account, and when it doesn’t feel right or fitting any more, it can be changed. It grows with the moment, with the people. It takes presence, and not routine.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Culture Follies

For those of you who have tuned in late, i am a bit of an odd duck.

The other day i was in Boston helping Keyvah and Gpaul and Benji (a charming newish Oaker) set up for the Natural Food Expo at the convention center. Keyvah has a strange addiction to fancy hotels, so we were staying in the Omni Paker House right downtown.

I have trouble talking quietly on a cell phone, so Keyvah had thrown me out of the room while i was chatting about the Testival (test festival) we are organizing for the tree house launch at Acorn. So i went into the hallway at the Omni on the 8th floor and parked myself in front of the elevators.

i did not even think about it a laydown on the super clean hotel floor with my head propped up against the wall, in my slightly strange shorts and continued talking on the phone. My position looked something like the picture below (without the hat and not asleep).

For perhaps 20 minutes no one comes out of the elevator, but then 2 older couples emerge decked out in very nice clothes having an animated conversation. They are clearly a bit shcoked by my presene and position. i ignore them and continue blabbing.

About 5 minutes later a hotel security guy comes out of the elevator, looking for me. He starts with a confrontive manner, clearly a bit unsure of how to deal with the situation. But he quickly notices i have a hotel key in my hand, and he chills a bit.

He instructs me that you cant lay on the floor in this hotel. i am slightly disbelieving, but he assures me this is so. he then points to the collection of perfectly reasonable chairs which are less than 5 meters away from me and asks if i could continue my phone call from there.

i cave to the pressure and sit in one of the plush chairs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Arguing with Willow

Part of the communities agreements is that children will do small amounts of work for the collective good. The amount they are asked to do is based on age and for a 7 year old, only here part time (because Willow spends part of each week in Cville with Sky) is one hour per week. Next year it will be two hours per week.

For a while we often did part of Willow's quota in the hammock shop. He was getting pretty good at winding shuttles and toddling them over to the welding station. But the economy and our own inability to market hammocks swept the business and now the hammock shop is nearly closed. Hawina has been having Willow do a bit of food processing (where we preserve our harvest for later in the year) and he has been unloading the dishwashers are Tupelo and MorningStar. While we continue to seek places to find labor credits for him.

We had an argument about it yesterday.

Our clothes were up to dry outside MorningStar and Willow and i were taking them down. "You can take labor credits for this." i replied casually. "No i cant." replied my clever son. "These are our clothes and not community clothes" And i realized he understood the system better than i had given him credit for. Indeed, normally one can not take labor credits for work which just benefits ones self.

I explained to Willow that there was actually a policy which gave members labor credits for drying their own clothes on the line, instead of using a dryer to save electricity and money for the community. He was having none of it.

"Can i get labor credits for taking down our own laundry?" Willow asked Hawina, skeptical of my claims. Hawina explained about the perhaps passed eco-laundry labor credits. But i could tell it was not sitting well with Willow. "You should not get labor credits for doing your own stuff." i could see him thinking.

When i was 7, i had quite some notion of family, and some vague notion about states and countries. But i had nothing like the sense of fairness and equity that my small partner seems to have developed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Just one question

Burning Man was quite the bust this year. We had an amazing team and an interesting project to hype. But dear friends were caught up in this crazy sting/entrapment escapade and much of our energy was defused in getting them sprung.

Ironically, with all the amazing art and bizarre contraptions on the Playa, the best part of this years Burning Man for me was a set of conversations i had with my dear friend Crystal which could have just as easily be held in a Santa Cruz coffee shop.

Crystal wants to build an international camp at next years burn. US nationals could participate, but everyone who is there must pass a short admissions test, which is in it's entirety the question "Are you a revolutionary?"