A Visioning Weekend

I am now back in Vancouver after travels that took me to Portland, Breitenbush, Amsterdam, Berlin, Toronto, and Smiths Falls, Ontario.  I am still processing the experiences and encounters I had, and the memories I made.

One persistent theme I heard at Breitenbush in conversations concerned the sense that we are on the cusp – or, indeed, already experiencing – a transformation of planetary consciousness.  Radical Faeries are a tribe made up of sensitive shamans and perceptive prophets, and many of us can now clearly discern the seeds spurring the growth of this transformation:

  • The seemingly intractable biocide placing life on Earth at risk;
  • The failure of our economic and political systems to satisfy human need and want, while succeeding admirably at entrenching inequality, hegemony, militarism, and unsustainablity;
  • The collapse of organised religion and other cultural institutions as a venue through which to transcend the material and discover the vibrancy of light, life, and love lying at the core of creation.

These informal conversations found collective voice in the Occupy Faeries discussion led by Stardust during the gathering, but they also found voice in a workshop that looked at living in the transformation by establishing intentional community in British Columbia.  This would be a household living out the values of sustainability, sanctuary, and subject-subject consciousness so lacking in our society right now.

Present for the workshop were marmot, Lance Hansen, Tulip, Scotty Dog, Wiggletoes, Chris Pallett, Raspberry, and Rosario.  But we all know that the net could be cast much more broadly from our conversations with others, as well as those who follow our blogsite for intentional Radical Faerie Community in British Columbia – https://bcfaeriecommunity.wordpress.com/.  And so I’m forwarding this to all whom I know who are seriously interested in manifesting this vision.  I would urge any of you receiving this to forward it to others similarly moved.

Scotty Dog proved an incredibly rich resource for exploring the nuts and bolts of making cohabitation happen.  He shared with us the story of Songaia, an intentional community sharing similar values operating out of Bothell, Washington (http://www.songaia.com/).  He also shared with us the groundbreaking work of Diana Leafe Christian (http://www.dianaleafechristian.org/) on establishing intentional community, through her books Finding Community and Creating a Life Together (the latter which I bought at last year’s BCRFC auction).

Originally, I had envisioned a rural sanctuary, along the lines of Wolf Creek, Zuni Mountain, or Short Mountain – a commune with a core residency, but generally functioning as a place for sanctuary, through gatherings and individual retreats.  But conversations have been tending towards the idea of shared housing in an urban or semi-urban setting.  In this model, we would have a common house, kitchen(s), workshops, and studios.  We would share management of the structures and the land using a model of permaculture.  We agreed that those interested in participating would need to bring passion, skills, and – yes – money to the table (Scotty Dog mentioned that Terry Cavanagh [sp?] would be a good person to talk to about money).

Scotty Dog suggested that we mount a visioning weekend to discuss the essentials of creating community:  money, sustainability, locale, people, ground rules.  We can also discuss deeper, more philosophical issues, such as:

  • What would make this a specifically Radical Faerie community?  What is involved in cohabiting in a male-loving-male environment?
  • How open do we want the community?  Do we want it to be sanctuary, in the traditional, Faerie sense of the word?  Do we want to have gatherings there?
  • What is the spirituality of property ownership?

If this interests you, please email me at sookehills@gmail.com, and I will forward you a link with proposed dates for a vision weekend in April, May, or early June.  If you are interested in pursuing this discussion, please respond there by next Friday, March 23.  These will be two, six hour sessions, with breaks for lunch and refreshment.  Please note that the vision weekend is not going to be a continuation of “wouldn’t it be nice?” dreaming, but a hard-headed, clear-eyed focussed discussion on what we need to do to make it happen.  By participating in this circle, you are signalling your commitment to make intentional community a part of your future.  Please send along your suggestions in crafting an agenda for the weekend.

As we discussed this sacred project at Breitenbush, I noticed a framed quote from Jack Kerouac hanging on the wall of the Forest Sanctuary.  It read:  “The vision of the freedom of eternity was mine forever.”  May we be guided by this, and other visions as we work and play together in realising the transformation that is ours to behold and to model.

Blessings, marmot

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A Doorknob in the Wall

As far back as my childhood, I understood that government existed to do things for people.  We can’t all have a swimming pool, so the government gives us swimming pools.  We sometimes get sick, so the government provides us with hospitals.  We need to get downtown, so the government provides us with buses.  We can’t have everyone cut down trees, and so the government regulates forest use.  We need to get educated, so the government builds schools and hires teachers.  We get old and can no longer work, so the government provides us with money.  The price we pay for these services is that compromises between priorities need to be made, and we have to share and queue in the midst of scarcity, but we all get access to the same basic stuff, and the same basic rights, security, and care.

Even now as an adult, this remains my ideal of government.  It is also my ideal of community.  For, in the best case, the two categories are one and the same – the community governs, and government is of and for the community.  We teach and learn from one another.  We care and are cared for.  We govern and serve.  Some would call this socialism, but I call it civilisation.  It is also, perhaps paradoxically, the system that most honours and uplifts the individual.  For it is a system that seeks to address the needs and the aspirations of the individual; but considers the individual in the context of community.  Corporatist-style capitalism, on the other hand, values the individual in isolation, not based on his or her integrity as a human being, but upon his or her material wealth.  In this disordered world view, money is regarded as the conduit to freedom and happiness.

Anthropologists have long noted that a key factor in advancing human evolution was the formation of cooperative communities; first based on kinship, and then on fictive kinship.  There were general expectations of everyone to maintain the community, but there was also the utilisation of special talents.  Thus, some would be raised up in distinction as mediators, as textile workers, as shamans, as musicians, as toolmakers, as artists, as fire-starters, as dancers, as surgeons.  The notion of an individual standing apart from community was simply inconceivable.  The talents they had were to serve and uplift the group as a whole, and in so doing, experience the joy of self-fulfillment and the positive regard of those for whom the service is offered.  In this world view, it is the exchange of spiritual intimacy which is perceived as the conduit to freedom and happiness.

Opportunities to build or sustain meaningful community is opposed to the principles of the power elite today.  The best consumers are those who are focused on self-satisfaction rather than mutual service and sacrifice.  The most compliant citizens are those who are fearful or disdainful of their neighbour.  The most materially efficient society is one built on a network of financial obligation.  The foundation of exploitation is the dehumanizing rock of isolation, loneliness, and hopelessness perpetuated by the purveyors of corporatism.  That is not the way we human beings are created.  We are beings in a state of constant becoming.  And we become fully who we are in the spiritual intimacy of genuinely self-offering, loving community.

This sort of utopian blather will strike many as simply crazy.  But sometimes craziness is the last coping strategy available.  It is as if we have been plunked down in a room from which we believe there is no escape, because it never occurs to us that there may be a door out.  In this context, the idea that someone would get up and start feeling the walls for a doorknob may very well seem, at best, futile.  But the door is there.  We know the door is there, because human beings have been in other rooms.  They exist.  We have been there.  In fact, some societies are still living in those rooms, against all odds.

The dream of intentional Radical Faerie community in British Columbia is an exercise in finding the doorknob back into the room of community.  Call it socialist, call it left-libertarian, call it syndicalist, call it green, call it anarchy.  I call it being human together.  It is an exercise in living out faerie consciousness for real, rather than for a weekend.  It is a model to the wider society that islands of sanity can exist, with hope, to float above the tempestuous sea of a disordered, homicidal, homo-cidal, biocidal world.  A sea that will drown us all, if we let it.

A few weeks ago, four B.C. faeries discussed what it would take to create intentional community here.  The conversation was not theoretical.  It did not take the usual track of “wouldn’t it be nice if…?”  It was about where to locate a sanctuary, how much it would cost and where to get the money, what would be a realistic timeframe, who we could invite who has the time, energy, and something to contribute.  It was about getting from this room into the next.  We spoke of meeting again in January.  I’m excited!  I’m excited, because it feels that I am emerging from the darkness of an old order on the brink of collapse into a new one built on principles at once both ancient and postmodern.  And I`m excited, because it is my own Radical Faerie tribe leading the way.

Pax, marmot

 

 

Notes for a Workshop at Breitenbush on Intentional Community

Steps to Building a Faerie Sanctuary – Finding an Ethos, Making it Work

1.  What is “intentional community”?

  • A place where people with a common affinity come together to live and work together.
  • The community is “intentional” because of a shared ethos or mission, and a commitment to project that ethos on the community as an organic whole.
  • This requires both an explicit and an implicit social contract…the community can only succeed so long as participants invest themselves emotionally, physically, and materially in a mutually agreed-upon vision.

2.  How are intentional communities formed?

  • The shared ethos has to be carefully and explicitly articulated:  What are we trying to achieve, why are we trying to achieve it, and how will we go about achieving it?
  • The vision needs to include the following elements:
  • Venue – Will our goals be better attained in a rural milieu, or an urban one?
  • Financial responsibility – How we will we pay for the property and materials needed to physically build and maintain an infrastructure to support an intentional community?  How do we deal with questions of ownership, individual and collective?  How much of a person’s assets do we expect to be given to the community, and how will that money be overseen and disbursed?
  • Organization – How will we deliberate and make decisions as a community?  How do we view the individual functioning within the context of community?
  • Labour – How we will assign tasks in the building and maintenance of community?  How do we deal with “free riders”?  With those physically, emotionally, or intellectually unable to contribute in a meaningful way?
  • Relationships – How do we deal with issues around sex, dating, and love?
  • Resources – How self-sustaining do we envision this community as being?  Will we look at mounting paying events (like retreats and gatherings) as a community?  Will we look at selling produce or crafts as a community?  Will we expect individuals to be employed offsite and to contribute their earnings to the community?  If so, how much?

3.  What can damage or destroy intentional communities? (may be actual or perceived)

  • Disagreements about the vision, or how to achieve it.
  • Unequal financial participation or contribution of labour.
  • Disagreements over decision-making processes, or the decisions actually made.
  • A general breakdown in communication due to any or all of the above, or simply a clash of personalities.
  • Relationship-based jealousy.

4. The “Faerie Ethos”

5.  Building intentional Faerie community is British Columbia.

  • What would a B.C. faerie sanctuary look like?
  • How would we begin a process of exploring the possibility?
  • What short and long term goals do we need to set, within what timeframe, and what steps  are needed to fulfill them?
  • Where are we going to find the people?  The vision?  The money?

5.  Free-form discussion.

Renounce and Renew

“The assimilationist movement is running us into the ground.” – Harry Hay

Today, the stock market faced another decline, as investors picked up their moneybags and moved them elsewhere.  Business is losing confidence in the United States, and its government’s failure to seriously grapple with the debt crisis hasn’t helped matters. Oddly, the bone that Congress and the President threw to the rich and to multinational corporations has either backfired, or has been cynically snatched with the intention of exacting more punishments to get further concessions from a bleeding empire.  Money doesn’t care about anything – people, the environment, nation states.  Money cares about acquiring more capital, and the United States is being mined mercilessly – and so far successfully – for it.

Canada is doing better because our economy is resource-based. China and other countries are doing well because their economies are built on manufacturing. Paradoxically, the US is doing poorly because its economy is built on money. Financial institutions, borrowing and lending, debt servicing, and essentially printing money to pay for it all.  Heaven help the United States when its currency is no longer the reserve currency of choice.  In fact, heaven help Canada, as well.  In Europe, in Canada, but most deeply in the United States, individuals, government, and even financial institutions are stimulated into buying that which they cannot afford.  On purpose.  On purpose, so that there can be more debt, so more money can be printed, so more can be loaned at interest, so things can be bought, so more debt can be made…and so on and so on and so on.  It’s a vicious cycle of unsustainability.  And yet everyone seems to have bought into the delusion.  And why not?  It is not in the economic interest of the indebted to inquire into the origin and future of their indebtedness.

We all know how this story will end – at least in broad strokes.  What we don’t know is whether (yet again) society will govern events or allow itself to be governed by them.  Will we plan for the future and the consequences of our actions?  The current crisis, like the environmental crisis, is the product of a mistake that humanity makes repeatedly – namely, assuming that the path of least resistance will work out alright in the end.  This is a collective abdication of responsibility, occurring either because people are apathetic, or feel genuinely helpless.  We have to get over this.  Responsibility begins with the individual, moves to the tribe or the family, branches into communities of communities, and thus spans a globe.  And being aware of the problem, of the unsustainability of our current system, how can we evade the ethical imperative to act?  For it is we, the falsely affluent of the so-called “developed world,” who have the most profound moral responsibility to renounce and to renew.

The building of new intentional communities – spiritual, economic, and relational – is an integral part of renunciation and renewal, and an important witness to others that there is another way.  And that way can either come gently, or it can come hard.  It is an important principle of the Faerie ethos that one consult one’s conscience on matters affecting one’s relationships.  It is important, because it is the way we learn to view others as subjects, rather than objects.  To do so is to take a spiritual, intimate, and magical stand against collective madness, biocide, genocide, and suicide.  In this way, Faerie community offers a witness to the world.

What do you imagine when you imagine a Faerie-based intentional community – a Faerie sanctuary?  I imagine an island of sustainability, built on the currency of love.  Fuelled by our Faerie identity as a “circle of loving companions” (to quote Harry Hay), we would share ourselves with one another – body, mind, and soul.  As for our collective labour – what we couldn’t make or grow, we would try to either do without or purchase locally, preferably for barter.  Does this mean giving up on the Money Concept?  Yes and no.  People need products.  People need infrastructure.  People need technology that they cannot produce at home or in small-scale communities.  But I am convinced that there’s a better way of controlling and managing research, production, distribution, and disposal of goods, and the development and deployment of services – which is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about economy.  Time and energy is rarely freely given, and the ability to purchase that which makes life more comfortable is the tried and true way of getting people to surrender both.  What is the better way?  That way is to re-imagine what it means to “need” something, and to re-imagine what makes for a “comfortable life” with which we are to be compensated.

The most comfortable life is a life filled with love, and with meaningful productivity.

The Absolute Necessity

“We believe that one spirit child can lead a hundred of the physical children out of the woods.” – Harry Hay

Gay rights pioneer and proto-Faerie Harry Hay saw seeds of hope for the world in his vision of a queer male culture that brings “spirit children” to birth.  This is a term Harry used to describe ideas, words, art, and ways of being produced through queer consciousness and creativity.  As he said, “gay men are those who are constantly trying to put their dreams into words, music, and motion – into new ways of talking to one another.  We find the means to bring into articulation our innermost visions.”  While we do this alone, we do it in the context of community.  Our community feeds us, challenges us, embraces us, and empowers us to live authentically, with integrity.  This is the heart of the Faerie ethos.

Ultimately, the Faerie gathering is an alternative community founded on the notion of heartspace, which is reinforced, ritualised, and celebrated in heart circle.  For Faeries, this alternative community is in fact the genuine community to which the dominant hetero world is the distorted and disordered alternative.  Hence, the salutation when one arrives at a gathering is “Welcome home.”  As Hay put it:  “At Faerie gatherings we discover that we want to share rather than compete, that we like to listen to one another and exchange our touch in loving ways.  We begin to recognize that we’re moving in a different direction from the world we left behind.”

I plunged into the Faerie world like a parched desert wanderer would plunge into a lake.  I felt re-baptised in the thermal pools of Breitenbush, and then experienced door after door opening onto amazing men who had the inspiration, vision, and courage to live life on their own terms – daring to say that the real world is the fabulous world; that the money concept is death dealing; and that the highest calling is to live fearlessly.  These are all values essential for survival in this time.

To give birth to spirit children in the context of alternative community is a gift that the world needs now more than ever.  I was reminded of this when I read something a Salt Spring Island Radical Faerie shared with me:

“My colleague and mentor Derrick Jensen has been asking people this question for a while: ‘Do you believe that our culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living?’ He says, ‘For the last several years, I’ve taken to asking people this question, at talks and rallies, in libraries, on buses, in airplanes, at the grocery store, the hardware store. Everywhere.  The answers range from emphatic nos to laughter.  No one answers in the affirmative.  One fellow at one talk did raise his hand, and when everyone looked at him, he dropped his hand, then said, sheepishly, “Oh, voluntary?  No, of course not.”  My next question: how will this understanding – that this culture will not voluntarily stop destroying the natural world, eliminating indigenous cultures, exploiting the poor, and killing those who resist – shift our strategy and tactics?  The answer?  Nobody knows, because we never talk about it: we’re too busy pretending the culture will undergo a magical transformation.’”

We have to be aware that humankind lives today at the intersection of destruction and creation.  This is not a question of a romantic return to idealised primitive existence.  This is a question of distinguishing between sustainable and life-affirming technologies, beliefs, and ways of being – and those which are killing the only habitable planet we know.  This is about living, and living abundantly; of taking the water of life we have discovered in the desert of our society, and irrigating humanity with spirit children.  This is an absolute necessity.

And this is where the imperative of creating intentional community comes into play.  I envision Faerie sanctuaries and allied communities as oases of life, love, light, and hope amidst an encroaching desert of death, hate, darkness, and despair.  We choose to live in community not as an escape, but as a destination.  We not only have a desire, but a responsibility to model sustainability and the heartspace of a sacred-erotic existence, which is the epitome of subject-subject consciousness.  We not only have a desire, but a responsibility to live authentically, with integrity.

Consider our calling, brothers!  We are a queer tribal nation sharing affinity in the spiritual underpinnings of non-mainstream sexuality and heart-centered relationship.   While heterosexuality is not our enemy, its hegemonic construction is.  And so we are conscious that the unique gifts of our two-spirited nature are best nurtured in a two-spirited milieu.  We look for a spiritual dimension to our sexuality; and many of us are healers, creators, and shamans of one kind or another.  Our values include communalism, respect for the Earth, celebrating our bodies, honouring our elders and our ancestors, nurturing our young people, and cultivating joy and mutual responsibility.

We seek to uncover an authentic way of being queer – transcending destructive social norms that have led to us objectifying our bodies and one another; filling our spiritual yearning with consumerism, addiction, and abuse.  Objectification places one in a power relationship to the other; repressing and eliminating all subjective passion and compassion.  In their place, fear, anxiety, and hostility emerge as tools to seek and maintain power and control.  Or, in the words of the poet, essayist, and Radical Faerie, James Broughton, “So much of human society is resentfully loveless, no wonder it is violent and guilt-ridden.  All power seekers want to make slaves of others; hence they create abusive relationships.”  From the Faerie view, this is the disordered hetero-male deformation of masculinity, which has infected all of society.

I want us to begin the discussion now in earnest.  What is your vision of intentional Faerie community?  What are the challenges?  What are the opportunities?  What are the gifts we possess, waiting to be poured out to create the oasis our minds envision?  How do we move from Faeriespace of the mind to a Faeriespace of living?  Is it time to meet?  To post your own blog entry, the username is bcradfae, and the password is bcrf2011.

marmot

“It can be like this…always.”

I shared this line from Brokeback Mountain with the men who attended my workshop on “Building Intentional Faerie Community in B.C.” at the recent B.C. Radical Faerie Camp gathering at Evans Lake over the Victoria Day long weekend.  You may recall that the character Jack says this to Ennis, as a way of inviting his secret lover to join him in building a life together.  But Ennis, frightened, draws back – and so it never becomes “like this…always.”  But instead, the two share occasional weekends of unrestrained joy and love, before returning to mundane lives in which something essential is missing.

I felt a little like this as I drove to work on the day following the gathering of the tribe at the 2011 B.C. Radical Faerie Camp.  I had made an early morning run to the Shoppers Drug Mart, where I bought nail polish remover, and rushed home to scrub until the fabulous blue glitter faded and dripped and washed away down the drain.  As my car sluggishly made its way through congested traffic along Highway One heading east into New Westminster, stray bits of glitter left in my cuticles caught the sunlight, stirring a peculiar mixture of grief and joy in my soul.  I looked around at my fellow drivers – tired, dejected, resigned to what they felt they must do.  Streams of vehicles heading to work.  To work for whom?  For themselves?  For their friends?  For their family?  For their tribe? …or for the machine?

They are trapped.  I am trapped.  We are trapped.  Or are we?

Rewind to a Breitenbush winter gathering.  I am returning from a magical time in Breitenbush, and my friends and I decide to stop at the “Seattle Premium Outlets” mall north of Marysville.  I can’t recall what it is my friend wants to look for.  Even less than a week of Faerie consciousness has fucked with my brain (in a good way).  I am standing in the courtyard in the rain, looking at all these people, pushing by with their bags in one hand – American Eagle, Jockey, The Gap – and a Starbucks in the other.  Tired, dejected, resigned to what they felt they must do.  I felt sad and repulsed at the same time.  And then I started looking for those cool sneakers I want.  And I felt worse – because I was already back to participating in the bullshit, like the good, programmed, hetero-normative boy that they want me to be.

Enough.  We don’t have to do this.  What is holding us back from building an intentional community in British Columbia, where we can live out the principles we claim to espouse:  a chosen family of brothers, working for one another, living sustainably, loving extravagantly, providing space to teach and learn from one another?  What is holding us back from creating a place where Faeries live, learn, love, and work together – where we invite others to come and be healed – where we provide a model to a world that is sick, a way of being that will replace a dying and death-dealing system?  As members of a Faerie tribe, we know all too well the violence, oppression, greed, dehumanization, and ecocide built into the structures that WE participate in on a daily basis.  Why do we keep doing that?

Fear?  A lack of confidence?  A feeling we can’t do it – don’t have the money, don’t have the skills, don’t have the energy, the time, the commitment?

It can be like this always.  We can create our own reality.  We can transform the magic into practical energy for growth.  This blog is for a discussion of what might be possible…of how we might proceed.   The first task is finding Faes interested in having a discussion, which we can begin here and expand into face-to-face meetings, Skype conversations, and the like.  We would need to talk about commitment, about practicalities (like money, division of labour, and building a sustainable community).  And we would need to talk about steps to take to make this dream a reality.  Do we want a place in the city?  A full-blown sanctuary in the country?  Do we want to begin with a loose-knit community in one location like the city, before committing to something more permanent?

Let the conversation begin!  I’d love to read your thoughts and suggestions for moving forward.  In time, this blog will become a link to a larger B.C. Radical Faeries website that is being developed and we will be able to create better tools for organizing.  I am by no means a computer whiz, so any help in creating effective communication is welcome.

James Broughton said that our particular gift was to bring to birth “spirit children” who could save the world.  The time is now.  The means is by building intentional communities throughout the world – centres of life, love, healing, and magic.

If you’d like to post here, the username is bcradfae, and the password is BCRF2011.

Blessings, marmot