Sunday, July 19, 2009

The good the bad and the ugly

(My thoughts on the gathering in New Mexico)

The most wonderful and terrifying aspects of the Rainbow Gathering are identical – this is a spontaneous gathering of people creating utopia as each person sees it. Of course one person’s utopia can be another person’s purgatory – but in general many people who gather are committed to accepting each diverse expression of utopia and many people try to prevent their utopia from turning into another person’s purgatory.

In a world where so much of life is structured to mitigate risks and prevent “bad” from happening, we have turned our society into one of the blandness places on the face of the planet. Of course there’s no money to be made by things that can’t be infinitely duplicated and marketed like Disneyland. Lucky for us as the gathering is one of the last “happenings” that is always an authentic expression of the human condition.

Since each gathering is a direct result of the individuals who participate in it and since the mix of individuals is different every year, each gathering is a one of a kind event – never to be repeated – like the day of playing pirates in Janelle’s backyard when I was eight years old. Still one of the best days of my life and those of my playmates as well. We tried many times to recreate that one magical day, but it wasn’t possible so I’ll have to be content with one perfect day of being a pirate on a jungle gym amongst oak trees and remain open to future days that may turn out as magical but very different.

On to the review.

The Good:

The site was beautiful, fire danger was low, we were at peace with the resource branch of the United States Forest Service. Every day Main Meadow was filled with councils, workshops, games, heartsongs and children playing. I haven’t seen a gathering with this much energy in the meadow since the 1990s (before things got contentious with the Forest Service). Main Council happened every day but July 1 (when it rained). We had an amazing Warrior Women Shanti Sena Council that lasted for five hours of incredible sharing, love, and respect for each other. There were Shanti Sena workshops, an emissary from the Hopi Nation, Tepees and I was able to hang out with a bunch of the earlies whom I’d never before met.

The Om on the 4th happened during a downpour and we stood in the meadow in the rain. When the rain came down harder, the Om grew stronger, when the rain let up, the Om faded a bit. I still don’t know what it means, but in talking to some earlies, it’s the first time in 38 years that we have had serious rain during the Om. In the afternoon, people played and danced and drummed in the rain and mud. We had no major incidents with the law enforcement branch of the United States Forest Service and we were focused on peacefully interacting with them (even if we yelled Six Up a lot.).

Last year’s generation gap seemed to have disappeared as people of all ages were trying hard to connect and share. There was plenty of water for drinking and cooking. Food was everywhere. The weather was awesome - not too hot, not too cold. And thanks to the near daily rain, the fire danger was low and the air somewhat moist. Rainbows, rainbows and more rainbows.

The Bad:

The site was situated adjacent to the road in which made it way too easy for people to run back and forth to their cars every day. I’m a firm believer that that we as a family do better when it takes great effort to get into the gathering even if it means we have to carry the less mobile among us for a couple of miles. Easy access to cars and hence to town contributes to more alcohol, which has the effect of causing more social problems. When we’re closer to town, some people tend to go there and disrupt the town’s normal activities and/or ambiance. When it’s too hard to get to town, we seem to turn to each other more often for assistance (and I think that’s a positive thing).

Trade circle was on one of the main trails. Most people who know me know that I’m not a big fan of trade circle, but if we are going to have trading happen, it’s much better off when it’s to the side where it doesn’t impede the flow of human traffic and the hauling of supplies to and from kitchens. Just an FYI, just because Trade Circle is on a trail that doesn’t lead to the cars, doesn’t mean it’s not on the “Main Trail.”

We’re just starting to recover from too many years of focusing our energy on the Forest Service instead of our family. Too many people still don’t know what Shanti Sena is (peacekeepers), who the Shanti Sena are (everyone) and what Shanti Sena does (help people resolve conflicts peacefully, find lost kids, help create positive situations that prevent bad things from happening, look out for each other, etc.). Not enough people know the hipstories (stories of gatherings past) or the songs and chants of our family. In year’s past, serious Shanti Sena issues were solved by singing, song circles helped us mellow some of our wilder energy or as George Santayana said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Dog guardians, dog guardians, dog guardians. human beings who travel with well taken care of dogs who stay by their side, who pick up after their dogs, and make sure they stay safe and healthy are our heroes. Unfortunately, we have too many people who think letting their dog eat out of the shitter, run amok through dinner circle, or leave poop on the trail is taking care of our four legged family. Enough said.

The Ugly:

Most of what I consider the ugly is the result of the bad taken to extreme. Too much alcohol and not enough focus on Shanti Sena resulted in a stabbing. Some dogs were brought to the gathering without appropriate shots and a Parvo outbreak ensued. At least three dogs died (maybe more). Our circle on the 4th broke before the children’s parade reached the center of the circle and all the children were there – it quickly regrouped and let them in before breaking up again. The X%&R pole was in the center of our circle on the 4th– for some reason people want to worship at an alter instead of letting the pole be part of the circle by having it along the edge of the circle. We had a few people get too high/drunk and no one looked out for them, which turned simple mistakes into a nightmares for more than one person.

1 comment:

Alma Hawk said...

I've been reeling from the stabbing incident in NM. I had a front row seat to the mayhem. I was not drunk, but there was definitely drunkenness around which led to the stabbing.

I haven't seen much written about the incident and I understand the need to not dwell on the terrible things that happen but it was traumatic for me and I will be writing about it and I hope it will be cathartic for me and perhaps clear some of the concerns or rumors.
old news right. ah well. never too late to heal.