A view of the Old Homestead, where Rabbits sometimes go to reflect.

Ringing in 2020 With the Radical Act of Love: A Dancing Rabbit Update

“But tell me,” my friend’s grandfather said, looking me in the eyes as he lobbed another question about Dancing Rabbit my way with a mix of skepticism and curiosity, “do you find, there, that familiarity breeds contempt?”

A view of the Old Homestead, where Rabbits sometimes go to reflect.

Avi here, using the winter to reflect on the question of how close I actually want to live with other humans and sending you season’s greetings from unseasonably warm and sunny northeast Missouri. As the calendar has turned to 2020, the land and weather has been beckoning me out for long jogs on our 2.5-mile trail loop through our 280 acres of land. 

My running playlist consists mostly of hip-hop songs. One of my favorite rappers is J Cole. His song “G.O.M.D.” seems to consistently shuffle on just as I reach the far end of our property, out at the Old Homestead, where a bald eagle likes to patrol the skies.

“Get to know somebody and you really learn a lot about ’em,
Won’t be long before you start to doubt ’em,
Tell yourself you’re better off without ’em.
Then in time you will find can’t walk without ’em,
Can’t talk without ’em, can’t breathe without ’em,
Came here together, you can’t leave without ’em.
So you walk back in, make a scene about ’em,
On your Amerie it’s just one thing about ’em;
It’s called love.
Don’t nobody sing about it no more.
No more, no more.
It’s called love.
Don’t nobody sing about it no more.”

There’s a popular refrain long-tenured Rabbits occasionally use to encourage me when I’m gearing up for tending to humanure (the composting of human waste).

“Humanure is the most radical thing we do here,” veterans will tell me in hopes of stimulating meaning and verve for the task of emptying 5-gallon buckets of human waste mixed with sawdust into a large composting bin and covering it with straw. (I’ve found this task considerably more palatable in the winter, as long as I do it on a sunny day. Mid-summer humanure is, to put it delicately, a more stimulating sensory experience.) 

Anyway, I must respectfully disagree with this refrain.

The most radical thing we do here is attempt to love each other every day, despite knowing each other all too well.

Allow me to get biblical, quoting from Matthew 22:

[36] Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?
[37] Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
[38] This is the first and greatest commandment.
[39] And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
[40] On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This week, I spent a lot of time with my Conflict Resolution hat on (meaning, acting in an official capacity as a committee member), trying to help communication flow between my neighbors and affirm the validity and importance of everyone’s experience and needs.  At its best, the Conflict Resolution Committee helps people deal with the aforementioned contempt that surfaces amidst our familiarity. 

I’ve been wondering about the usefulness of policy in enabling us to live closely and lovingly with one another, collectively owning and managing land and infrastructure. 

At DR, as in the wider world, seemingly competing strategies and interests come to the table together and try to come to an agreement; a policy that everyone can live with and under. Our way of doing this is often championed around these parts as being much better than voting. We call it consensus. 

Consensus meetings often suck. I don’t think I live with anyone here who would say any different. We do it because it sucks less than other policy-making systems we’re familiar with. 

The negotiation that forms the policy is sometimes excruciating and unpleasant. The more important the discussion, the more excruciating and unpleasant the negotiation tends to be. 

Just like in the outside world, we tend to pretend as if our laws (we call them policies here, it sounds nicer) are causal to ethical behavior. But in a country that imprisons a larger percent of its own population than any other country at any other time in human history, it seems to me that the laws of men are causal to policing and power struggling. The problem of the devaluing of life, be it mineral, plant, animal, or human, cannot be solved by the creation of laws, or policies, and their enforcement. 

All too often we lose sight of the great wisdom of Jesus’ teaching: the greatest of all laws, or policy in our case, is to love the source of life, and all the forms of life created by that source. 

When we’re scared, or attached to an outcome, we throw the book at each other out of fear and control. We power struggle. 

And it has the same result here as it does anywhere else: it damages and strains our interpersonal relationships. 

Too often, our love for one another is conditional. We’re willing to love each other to the extent that others show up according to our expectations and preferences. 

Living in a place where our houses are densely clustered and our personal lives are public consumption, familiarity can breed contempt. Knowing certain things about each other brings up all sorts of fears, projections, judgments, and stories. At Dancing Rabbit, our relationships face many of the interpersonal problems typically reserved for a nuclear family unit, where familiarity, also, often breeds contempt.

Living next to neighbors we know nothing about leaves us longing for community and connection, but it protects us from grappling with the limitations of our own hearts.

J Cole was rapping about romantic love, and yet the lines capture many of the feelings I have about my neighbors. 

“Get to know somebody and you really learn a lot about ’em,
Won’t be long before you start to doubt ’em,
Tell yourself you’re better off without ’em.
Then in time you will find can’t walk without ’em,
Can’t talk without ’em, can’t breathe without ’em,
Came here together, you can’t leave without ’em.
So you walk back in, make a scene about ’em,
On your Amerie it’s just one thing about ’em;
It’s called love.
Don’t nobody sing about it no more.
No more, no more.
It’s called love.
Don’t nobody sing about it no more.”

If familiarity really does necessarily breed contempt, then how do we feel about ourselves? 

There’s no one we live closer to than ourselves. Escapism runs rampant in our society today. Is that our way of distancing ourselves from ourselves? Better to feel nothing at all than the contempt we hold in our hearts for ourselves. 

My prayer for us here at Dancing Rabbit, and you, in 2020 is this: may we all sing about love this year. 

May we sing about love in our thoughts, words, and deeds. 

In 2020, may love heal our contempt. And preserve our familiarity. 

Are you ready for the rewards, and the challenges, of exploring love with other humans? Come visit us this year. We can’t wait to meet you.

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