I’ve spent a lot of the last week thinking about two things that are usually ignored or avoided or generally brushed under the rug in mainstream society: darkness and conflict.
Christina here, writing about the death of the year, some tough feelings between Rabbits, and how I’ve been celebrating in new ways this week.
My week started off with an email to “conres,” otherwise known as the Conflict Resolution Team (or Conflict Celebration as Hassan likes to call it). My first reaction to hearing about conflict is one that I still carry over from my previous life in the mainstream: I wish I didn’t know about this! But as I shadowed Alyson as she worked with this conflict this week, I spent a lot of time listening to people talk about their pain and hurt feelings and some bad experiences. Again, things that I’ve been taught my whole life to avoid or ignore or stuff down or just pretend that they aren’t there.
I’m just beginning to scratch the surface on new ways to deal with conflict, and I think I’m getting a decent understanding of about 10 percent of the process around here. But what I understand about it is that it will likely be really super hard for everyone involved, and it will also result in some new appreciations, some changes and shifts, and hopefully some deeper connections and friendships when all is said and done.
I’ve heard Alyson say more than once that she believes in going towards conflict. And while I can understand intellectually why that works, I’m not totally sure that I’m there yet. But I love learning and really appreciate the work that is being done. I wouldn’t say that conflict is exactly fun, but it should be celebrated for its growth potential at least.
I’ve also been reflecting a lot over the past week about something else that is generally not popular in mainstream society: darkness.
Yesterday, as I’m writing this, was winter solstice, also known as the longest night of the year. Christmas holidays in mainstream America are all about music and lights and exciting bright things. I love music and lights and exciting bright things, but I also can’t help but wonder if the point of all of the jazziness around what we generally call the holidays is really about trying to pretend that it isn’t dark and cold and a little lonely outside. It isn’t exactly easy to think about darkness when you’re busy buying cookies and humming Christmas music and rushing around from one party to the next.
Instead, people in the tri-communities have spent a lot of time this week celebrating that darkness. Yesterday, there was a lot to choose from—meditation and dance, a singing walk around the village with lanterns, a quiet all-night hangout, an open house at the Bunges’ new place at Red Earth Farms. Some of it was familiar, and some of it was new.
I was especially struck by Burl’s idea to go out on to the land, leave all lights behind and walk into the darkness for a few minutes. It was cold, and I was tired, and I could barely see a thing. It was nothing like any holiday celebration I’ve ever attended, and it was also quite beautiful and memorable.
We sing a song at song circle called “Jewels,” and the lyrics go something like this: “Every time I go into the darkness, I return with fistfuls of jewels.” I think that concept is really hard to grasp as someone who’s spent most of her life in mainstream America. Darkness, for me, has always been something to fix: When it’s dark, you turn on the light. So just being in darkness was new and special and maybe not very easy.
I’m writing this on Friday (not on Sunday or Monday when I usually would) because we’re heading back East to celebrate those mainstream holidays with family and friends. In a few hours, we’ll be in our rental car, stopping at fast food restaurants along the highway, humming Christmas songs and admiring shiny decorations. I’m not always sure how much of DR life I want to take with me when I go back to visit—I try to utilize the communication tools that I’ve learned here, I make a little bowl to compost whenever I can, and I will happily talk to anyone who asks about the benefits of community.
But without the systems and support that I have here at DR, I don’t think I’m yet brave enough to embrace conflict and darkness in my old life. Maybe I will be one day.
Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.