Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Of Temenos and Temporality

Hey, gorgeous ones...

I've been mulling over a question for awhile now, one that I'm sure has bounced around in everyone's head for years, to some extent. I'm wondering about the festival phenomena, and what it means to forge a community around an annual gathering, as opposed to local geography. With what intensity do we infuse our connections with each other--for five, maybe ten days a year, and how does this intensity serve to create, rather rapidly, a new subculture?

We are, of course, one of thousands upon thousands of communities who meet annually, have intense experiences, and look forward to next year all year round. But I'm really curious about this. I'm curious about the sharp demarcation some of us make between "fire world" and "real life." I'm curious about the commitment we have to SpiritFire, and sometimes I wonder if, for some, an annual festival is becoming a substitute for year-round, local community. Or, perhaps more accurately, that year-round, local community has never really existed, and the festival model has given us perhaps our first vision of what community can really be.




a said...

Oh Lyra, I just love your ponderings! They make my psyche roll over and purr :)

A couple of quickie responses ...
Yes, I use SpiritFire and the other gatherings I go to as a specific "instead of" community. I find that these gatherings generally have an intensity of purpose and process that daily/real communities do not. There is more of a group understanding of "where are we coming from, what are we hoping to 'accomplish', how do we agree to live in relationship to each other while we are together" at the front and center of our relationships in gathering community. In other words, I believe that the short time and focused activity of a gathering such as spiritfire means we come primed differently for it than we do waking up each day at home.
I, personally, have a different level, flavor, and scope of trust and interaction with folks at a gathering than I do with my home peeps. In some ways I connect more deeply with fire family but in many other ways fire family barely knows me at all.
However, I am also finding that forums like this, and my LiveJournal (and similar) blogs, and plain ol e-mail *have* been turning my fire/ spirit/ gathering community into my real one as well.
In many ways I am thankful for my fire connections ... even though you (individually and collectively) are not "local," many times you are the one(s) with whom I have deepest connections.
If all y'all were closer, I'd be hangin with you here. Since you aren't, I have to commit to some intensive summer days and a bunch of winter e-mailing!
I think that poked at a few of the ideas you brought up. I admit I got lose in the middle of my soapbox.
blessings all around,

Josselyne said...

SFF as a specific gathering definitely feels like a distinct community for me; but it doesn't replace my local one. The greater fire circle "family" or "tribe" often feels deeper, more relevant, to my life, than local community does, though. At the same time, I think work around the fire stands as a sort of microcosm of the larger "world" and what we do from dark to dawn has greatly influenced how I choose to interact with my local community, and what my sense of values are. It's a very complex relationship we've woven, isn't it?

wendy the moon said...

Thanks for asking, Lyra:)

After reading your post, I felt moved to look up the word community in the dictionary and on wikipedia. I found that community is described in relation to both geographic connection and through commonality of groups larger than the average household. What caught my eye and resonated with my idea of what SFF means to me in relationship to community was the idea of intentional community.
"An intentional community is a deliberate residential community with a much higher degree of social interaction than other communities. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political or spiritual vision and share responsibilities and resources.

Definitions of community as "organisms inhabiting a common environment and interacting with one another," while scientifically accurate, do not convey the richness, diversity and complexity of human communities. Their classification, likewise is almost never precise. Untidy as it may be, community is vital for humans.

Scott Peck expresses this in the following way: "There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community."

So, I live and work in a community...but how often do I feel connected to it? That totally depends on who I am interacting with. There are many people near me who share a similar vision of living with depth. The idea of believing in or knowing our greatness,our purpose, the gift of our life, perhaps a connection to the universe or spirit. There are also many folks who don't have the desire to explore beyond their daily experience of things. They remain a part of my community because of the geographic nature we share as well as the energy that we exchange either through our working directly or indirectly with each other. There is always some form of energy being exchanged. Could be who I bought my cup of coffee from, or one of my clients, or someone I know at the local gym and exchange a few words with but wouldn't invite over to howl at the moon with.

SFF provides me with a sense of knowing there is both a shared sense of purpose happening as well as space and support for individual growth, movement and healing to happen all at once. Having a place to share my authenticity and human vulnerability in a large group gives me strength when I feel surrounded by communities all over the world who don't reach through the dark to find their personal light. So many people are suffering because they don't know their greatness. I wish to end this suffering in myself and and others...This is what brought me to SFF in the first place. The moments of finding trust and love in my uncertainty is what keeps bringing me back again and again. Always back into myself, wrapped in a mountain of bliss,my tears kissed by the sky and my fears burning into ash. I have seen and faced fear on that mountain and witnessed others doing the same in their own personal way. When I leave you on that final day, I am closer to you than I was when I arrived. When we are apart, I long for you like a lost lover uncovering the layers of my heart.
I keep going deeper and deeper as a result of it and you all. I think the temporality of it makes it sweeter, like the seasons, maple syrup,apples,fresh strawberries,corn on the cob...
You get the idea.
So, no I don't feel as if SFF replaces my community, it simply is one of the ones I connect to as deeply as I dare.

Andrew B. Watt said...

Increasingly, I view firecircles, SpiritFire included, as being akin to the great cathedrals or pilgrimage sites of the middle ages. They are places where I go in order to engage in deep ritual, to meet others of like mind, and to seek to encounter the divine. I view my local community as akin to my parish... a place where I go for the ordinary work of developing and changing myself in the slow milling of the day-to-day. Thus, there's no disconnect between the local community and the great circles: they are part and parcel of the same thing. I sing fire-chants in home circles, and I do rituals on days that are sacred to me... and when SpiritFire rolls around each year, I consider how the SpiritFire experience integrates with the work I've done all year, and that I will do in the coming year.

Brett Brumby said...


One of the things I like most about SpiritFire and similer intentional gatherings is exposure to an array of evolutionary folks, ideas and ways of being in and of service to the world, as well as the opportunity to better understand differing perceptions.
I believe the subsequent subculture serves to raise the awareness of the "collective conscious" in our day to day environment. I also think this is a part of an awakening that is happening at an unprecedented rate in the world today .
In my experience there is a blending of "fire" and "real" that occurs over time with continued exposure to the "intention" of the communities we seek and find nourishment in.
For me there was initially a stark difference between "fire" and "real" but as I began to explore the possibilities of "fire in the real" the blending began and the annual fire gatherings are becomeing more like a Thanksgiving gathering, hanging with my family, bringing some food to share and getting fed!.

Janet said...

A friend recently wrote about community and communitas, the intense sense of connection with a group. I think of them as everyday connections and intense, intimate connections. I get communitas from gatherings and festivals. My community is the people I know well, who I can rely on in everyday kinds of ways.

Communitas and community aren't exclusive, but they aren't the same, either. Familiarity is what makes people cross from communitas to my community. I've had very intense experiences with folks at gatherings, and felt the mountaintop bliss. However, the connection fades unless we get to know each other, become familiar with each other. Have you ever been to a gathering, sworn to one another it was the best experience ever, and yet the email stops after a month? Have you run into someone at a festival year after year, and yet realized you don't really know them?

I'm blessed to be geographically near some fire family and see them in person from time to time. Other folks I stay in touch with through the mailing list or their blogs. As I get to know them, they seem more and more like an everyday community to me. Without familiarity, the connection feels brittle.

I don't have a year-round local Fire community, and that's fine. Gatherings feed me. I don't want to relate to all my year round communities in the same way that I do at gatherings. ( In a work setting, I think they call that a "startup").

I wonder what the magic ingredient is that transmutes community into communitas?


michael wall said...

My thoughts are that interpreting the festival experience as “community” is based in a craving many of us share for a sense of depth and interconnectedness that we do not easily find in the neighborhoods we live in. A foray into the world of personal growth workshops reveals people there with the same interpretation, based on the same desires. Some of the elements of both the fire circle and workshop experiences that people may equate with community include:

Intense experiences of self-realization
Vulnerable communication and self-disclosure
Agreement on shared purpose and process
Deep emotional bonding
Unbridled release and celebration

In my mind, being in a “real” community includes:

Geographic proximity and regular interaction
Reliance on each other for sustenance on many levels
Confronting the difficulties we have with other members
Shared responsibility for gathering and maintaining resources
Various rituals, rites of passage, and group practices

Much of my deep craving for “community” springs from the years I lived in a commune with a spiritual focus, which featured all the elements listed above.

Andrew’s’s metaphor of the festivals “being akin to the great cathedrals or pilgrimage sites of the middle ages” is wonderful. It speaks both to the magnificence we experience at a fire festival, and to the “parish” where we live.

I have come to use the word “fellowship” to describe what I experience around fire circles – both those at home, and when on a pilgrimage. Some of the relevant dictionary definitions include “an association of persons having similar tastes and interests,” “communion, as between members of the same church,” and “the companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms.”

The final definition speaks strongly to what we love about festivals – suddenly it seems like everyone is a friend, as if we all already know each other. This sense is produced in part by suspending our knowing otherwise, and in part by the intensity of our shared experiences and emotions during the all night ordeal of creativity.

“We know a secret, and we’re gonna tell
We found a pure, remarkable well
It lives wherever we gather again
A fellowship of fire, family and friends”

Interesting reading on this topic:

Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Paganism and the Search for Community
Sarah M. Pike
University of California Press, 2001
ISBN 0-520-22030-7 (hdbk); 0-520-22086-2 (pbk)

Lyra said...

Well, Michael, wouldn't you know that I had ordered Pike and her very book arrived within hours of your post! I'm still musing on this, and musing on the responses thus far...there's some stuff to unpack out of the intimacy v anonymity bag, I believe...hmft.

Thank you, Jane, for that community v communitas distinction, which Michael echoed as well. And fellowship! Great, apt word choice. More soon...

Lyra said...

Janet. (grr! where's the edit on this thing?!!!!)