- I don't gather because it's full of enlightened people (as frankly I find enlightened people a bit boring).
- I don't gather because I want to prove how much better we are than others (because we're not and we're struggling to be kind and loving humans in the world).
- I don't gather because we have all the answers (because we don't, but we're willing to try to make things better).
In 1994, a lot of folks I know from gatherings went to work the camping areas at the second Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. We had it pretty cush because we were camped on the hill in a private area with showers, great food and no mud. Some earlies were getting paid to do this and lot's of us (not so earlies) got paid to help out so it was a working vacation.
Well Woodstock Music and Arts Festivals being what they are, things went a bit wacky pretty fast. The fences came down and no more tickets were required. A bunch of people set up their tents by the stages instead of in the designated camping areas. A few of us tried to explain to people that the mosh pit would be in the spot they put their tent, but very few people took us seriously. Fantuzzi even went so far as to start carrying people's tents from the spaces in front of the stage, up the hill to the designated camping areas. People actually looked at me with serious faces and said, "There can't be a mosh pit here cause my tent's in the way." (Stop laughing it's totally true). Well as you can imagine with bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus, the tents didn't last long.
By the end of day one, I think the entire thing was a mud pit, the porta potties were placed in such a way the trucks to service them couldn't get in, and there were so many people crossing the bridge to the electronica area that the railings on the bridge broke and people fell into the creek which by that point was a pee and poop drainage. YUCK! It's true, I witnessed it and had to help rescue people.
Yet people banded together and one out of every ten tents became a dedicated bathroom (statistics are made up but you get the point).
The day after it was over, all us happy Rainbows woke up, got our gloves and our trash bags and went to clean up the mess. Boy where we overwhelmed. I remember just standing there and gazing around at a huge field of mud, tents trampled into the mud, clothes strewn about and who knows what else. Most disgusting thing I could every imagine. A total nightmare. But we spent the day trying to clean up and scoring sleeping bags and other cool stuff in the process.
After two days of that, I had to head home. I was taking the bus back to NYC to catch a flight home to Cali. The bus was full of people who had been at the festival. All they talked about was how cool it was that everyone banded together, created communities, shared food with each other, and made communal crappers out of tents. They had discovered that working together, we can create the world the way we want it to exist. Their world views had been revolutionized.
Coming together with my family to solve common problems is what keeps me coming back to the gathering. So to those who had a great time and those who didn't, when you see a problem start talking to other people about it, call a council, talk in a circle and figure out how YOU are going to deal with this issue. Too much of our lives are spent in relinquishing our agency to the "authorities" and depending on other people to solve problems. Too much of our lives are spent in looking for that cool event someone else created. Too much of our lives are spent waiting to be alive and live.
So to my beautiful, crazy, wild and brilliant family, no one is in charge and that means everyone has to be responsible for creating the type of gathering we want to have and which makes space for the wide cross section of humans that want to gather.
The big challenge is that my ideas of a good gathering and your ideas are probably going to be different. I'm sure we can reach consensus on some things and not on others. So when we don't reach consensus we always need to be thinking of how peaceful respect can be used to allow each of us the freedom to be who we are, while create a safe and healthy gathering for all of us. To do that, we need to spend a lot of time talking to our family who have different opinions.
Working out problems is hard and I've made more mistakes than I've had successes but it's made me a stronger, more compassionate person. Folks have come up with lots of solutions over the years, some of them work out well, others not so great. The more we share our successes and failures with each other, the better solutions we can create for the future. We're not going to solve this in our lifetime - it's a problem that has existed as long as human have. But what we can do is work on processes that help motivate people to be constructive as opposed to destructive participants.