We will gather peacefully for silent meditation the morning of July 4th, 2018 from dawn until noon; and a peaceful assembly of free speech and expression from July 1st through the end of Vision Counsel; in the southern Appalachian Mountains. DIRECTIONS TO THE GATHERING ARE HERE (and contain road closure info, and other critical information. This post is updated frequently so check back for the latest.To learn how to get into the gathering without getting a mandatory court appearance ticket, click here.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

It's an Experiment Folks

The social media world is full of criticisms of the gathering, arguments over who shoulda, woulda, coulda. There are people who think the gathering is full of criminals because they hear a rumor about something that happened, there are people who don't understand why we don't always walk our talk. Did I mention internet rumors? 

I hear rumors about all sorts of things that never happened - and sometimes about things that maybe happened but have been blown out of proportion on-line. Have you ever heard of the Telephone Game? If you are not familiar with living in a non-hierarchical, direct-democracy community with no one in charge, the entire situation can be very scary.

You may be wondering what is this experiment and who is involved.

The way I see it, the gathering is an experiment in creating temporary community. The values we talk center on creating a peace focused egalitarian community that intends to create a safe and peaceful gathering and a safe and peaceful world. The values we talk include deep care and respect for mother earth and the land upon which we gather.  This means that everyone contributes according to their ability and their desire. We provide free food, free medical care, and if you came without a tent or sleeping bag, sometimes folks have extra to share.

Does everyone come with this intention?  Of course not.  This is not a perfect world in which we live, nor is everyone who attends the gathering perfect. Although even the roughest, meanest folks who come home, are probably searching for something better then the culture in which they normally live. Does that mean that when we come home we are instantly transformed into kind loving people?  Of course not.

So what's the truth?  I can't speak for the truth as there is no "one" truth. Different people come home with different baggage and needs. We try to address issues like poor behavior,  unequal access, differential abilities, and capacity to contribute from a place of love and compassion. Does that mean that every problem is met with love and compassion?  Of course not. Does that mean that every situation is met with actions that you personally feel are appropriate?  Of course not.

What it means is that the majority of individuals at the gathering are trying to help others from a perspective they feel is loving and caring.  It might not be your perspective of love and care, but it is someone's perspective.

Can we do better?  Of course we can.  The more we teach and learn from each other, the better we get at this experiment.  The more we remember to engage from a place of compassion, the more loving our actions become.  Sometimes we focus on harm reduction -- preventing an individual from hurting her/himself or others. Sometimes we focus on triage. Sometimes we spend hours or days trying to diffuse a situation and nothing seems to change. Sometimes the relationship between cause and effect is not clear. The person you spent days trying to help may not change their behavior today or tomorrow. Maybe the change happens in six days or six months.  I've seen plenty of situations with  lots of kind loving energy put into them fall apart without any obvious effect. Then days later, the behavior problem suddenly resolves itself and the problem behavior has been transformed into wood chopping.

This is a love based endeavor. Sometimes love is keeping a two year old from putting a dangerous object in her/his mouth. Sometimes love is being strict with acceptable behavior. Sometimes love is taking care of someone when they are down.  Sometimes love is food.

If you don't like to learn and grow as a human being, then this probably isn't the place for you. Every gathering I go to I learn more about how to be a loving and compassionate person while still creating peace and having boundaries. I am student of the gathering and the gathering is a tough teacher -- sometimes the lessons you learn are ones you have been trying to avoid. If you are looking for something that is already perfect, then this probably isn't the place for you.  However, just cause this isn't the place for you, doesn't mean it's a bad place.

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