I returned from my second Rainbow Gathering last night. Once again, it was a life-changing experience.
The Gathering is a community event that takes place in national forest land around the 4th of July each year. The idea is that every person on the planet should love each other as members of a giant family. People work together to build temporary infrastructure that supports a community of 5-15,000 people for about a week.
People unfamiliar with the Gathering often describe it as some kind of hippie event. There is some truth to this, as the hippie subculture of the 1960s had an emphasis on peace and love. The Gathering also got its start in 1972, and culminates in a prayer for peace. However, I get the sense that people view a “hippie” today as tuned-out idealists of yesterday rather than active and engaged proponents of love and peace.
So why do people attend Gathering, and what are they doing in the forest?
The Washington State National Gathering in 2011 was my first time with the Rainbow Family of Living Light. My sense is that it takes years of attending Gathering to fully appreciate and understand its purpose.
At this point, my impression is that the Gathering is proposing change to the world through its own vision of humanity’s potential. Most people go to the Gathering to participate in a group of people who want to realize change.
The people who attend Gathering build structures and pathways that serve as community spaces. They use and support outdoor kitchens made of logs. They build and maintain sanitization buckets and access to live and filtered ground water. They gather for workshops such as nature appreciation and leadership. They play instruments and sing together.
Most importantly: they think differently as a result of these experiences.
I spend a lot of time thinking about, talking about and creating technology. I do so in the context of an extremely modernized environment in the United States. I forget how basic living can be when ground down to its core. Rainbow Gathering offers a glimpse of what this can be.
For me, Rainbow Gathering serves as a reminder that is an portion of Western society that feels a real potential for universal love between people. This belief is unquestionably counter-culture.
A common line of discussion at Rainbow Gathering is how the movement at Gathering can be evangelized in the real world, which is commonly referred to as “Babylon.” For myself, it will come as an opportunity to improve myself through my behavior toward and thoughts about others.
I believe that Occupy Wall Street movement represents what can happen when concepts of the Gathering are projected onto modernity. Through my own observations, and a growing body of evidence I’ve collected, I feel more strongly than ever that Rainbow Gathering and Occupy Wall Street are interconnected.
I loved attending the 2012 nationals. I had planned on attending since leaving the Washington State Gathering. Particularly amazing about the experience was that I was joined by my sister Hannah. Before we left, we talked about what it meant to work at Seed Camp (the two weeks leading up to Gathering). Perhaps, I’ll participate at this level next year.
I’d welcome contact from other folks in the Rainbow family or people interested who have questions. Feel free to use the comment form below or contact me at my email: rob at banagale dot com. For a more journalistic impression of Rainbow Gathering and photos, you may enjoy this page.
Fabulous to see your reflections on this experience so soon after your return.