Grant County has evolved significantly from the time of my arrival in 1967 as an 18 year old local pastor’s son. Since that time, it has been increasingly impossible to remain isolated in a future shock world where we are all now interconnected with instant worldwide feedback
While the county obviously remains dominantly conservative in a political sense, socially and economically it has become broadly established here that a toleration of differences is a better way to get along, and also that it makes more money for everyone. We can all observe the positive economic benefit to our communities from the current steady summer-long flow of pedal-powered and motorized two wheeled tourists, as well as RV-based visitors. And by word of mouth I understand that the piggy-banks of the county are already fat and swollen with the deposits of our future August 21 eclipse visitors. Some of these transient visitors may talk, look, and dress strange, but they are still viewed positively, and that toleration is well and good.
Now the natural beauty of our land has attracted another large influx of temporary visitors, but the reaction to this news, that Grant County shall be hosting The 2017 National Rainbow Gathering, is ‘cautious’. Unfortunately, government and media are in part culpable parties in creating this view, for the historical propaganda spin over the years has been one emphasizing the problematic conundrums of dealing with the less responsible elements attracted to this annual event. However, wisdom has always taught that there is no such thing as a problem---without a blessing being contained within it. Therefore, as I have considerable positive personal experience with it, please allow me to share with you how The Rainbow Gathering is such a blessing…both for the attendees, and the hosting communities.
Let us ask first…what is The Rainbow Gathering? In my own experience and speaking only for myself based upon attending about 10 Gatherings over the years, the Rainbow Gathering is a highly idealistic social experiment…at it’s best it’s a portal…to an exalted state of large-group selfless cooperation rarely experienced within even the best institutions of mainstream society. First called into being as a week-long Colorado Rocky Mountain-sited gathering of 30,000 people to pray for world peace in 1972, in this 45th gathering it continues the ethics and traditions that I witnessed created at that first gathering. Such as….because it is viewed that all valid spirituality (no matter the tradition or faith) requires that each individual human being learn to be completely responsible for their own actions, the Rainbow Gathering has no official or elected organizational leadership hierarchy, for it is viewed that no one person can authentically speak for the freewill or choices of any other. That means that I, in writing this, do NOT speak for ‘The Rainbow Gathering’, by the way…. Further, all decisions made by ‘the council’ are by a 100% consensus (imagine Congress achieving that!). Further, there is no ticket to purchase… because the Rainbow Gathering is free. And while a ‘barter/trading circle’ is allowed, there is no currency-based buy/sell commercial activity or use of money at the gathering, with the exception of ‘the magic hat’. The Magic Hat is what feeds the gathering…as everyone puts their money donations into it, and that donated money is then used to buy the semi-truckloads of food supplies that the numerous volunteer kitchens serving free meals to everyone throughout the gathering require. Further, the gathering is a truly awesome and joyous celebration… day and night, there is so much home-grown acoustic music, singing, drumming, so much camaraderie, so much open-heartedness among the thousands of beautiful people everywhere in evidence… that it is hard to believe you are not in a kind of Heaven…especially since the gathering site is always held in a natural and beautiful National Forest environment, such as this year, at Flagtail Creek, west of Bear Valley. And, on the dawn of the 4th of July… hours of prayerful silence…and then thousands upon thousands of souls circling in mass as one people together to pray-- each in our own ways-- for the Peace of Love to enter this war-torn world, and for the survival of the at-risk future of the human race. So… as a temporary but annually recurring utopian social experiment, the Rainbow Gathering has much to offer to all people, including to the witnessing and economically benefiting communities nearby it, in terms of demonstrating the inherent best possibilities of a fully open-hearted human life. And for the ripe and mature soul desiring to contribute back, The Rainbow Gathering contains within itself a highly concentrated volunteer community service curriculum of personal spiritual development: the opportunity to wake up, grow up, clean up, show up, and walk the talk.
Yet despite the high intentions and motivations, there are also notable failures, and this is where I believe the negative conversations about the Gatherings come from. The Gathering attracts more than it fair share of unconscious and unscrupulous and con-artist type people. Since (just like in any local church) it is free and open to all, there is no filter that prevents this, and scammers are known to be attracted to easy pickings. So…be aware. Also, normally the first thing a person sees upon arrival at parking is “A-Camp” (the alcoholic camp)… which fortunately does not represent what awaits within. While generally friendly and harmless, ‘A-Camp’ folks are primarily there in order to panhandle money from new arrivals in order to stay intoxicated. In my opinion, just like the epidemic of homelessness in our society, they represent our nation’s cultural failure to cope with the stresses of modern life without a ‘medication’. The question is: How are we going to choose to respond to this? If our heart is a large and compassionate one, we will see through and beyond what the eyes see--- to the individual being. (It is amazing, but simply deeply seeing someone can completely change their life.) In any event, if you come to Rainbow, expect to pass through ‘A-Camp’ in order to enter the Gathering.
Further, much of the negative conversation about the Gathering stems from reactions to the true reports of the widespread drug usage there. There is no denying that consciousness altering (or, in law enforcement language…impairing) substances are widely available, and that many (but certainly not all) people at the Gathering do use them, some in much more irresponsible and self damaging ways than others, which is why it sometimes happens that a drug related death occurs. I do note for you that most usage I’ve witnessed is of ‘soft’ and ‘becoming-widely-legalized’ drugs, and overall, exuberant and unselfregulated drug usage seems highest among the highly experimental young who are exploring their precious aliveness with great abandon. A great many attendees however, fit into another category…..they are generally sober responsible professional people who may have once experimented but who have often been drug-free or drug-responsible for decades. Why we still go to such a gathering then is because it is our turn to serve and to teach. After all, who comes to the Rainbow Gathering but the young rebels and creative artists who will hopefully become the adults and world leaders of tomorrow? Do not we elders have a responsibility to offer our youth whatever wisdom our life experience has given us, and to provide an example? How else will the future have wisdom? Did not our elders also give us all they had learned? Does not the future of the world depend on a continuity of wisdom and saneness being transferred from elder to youth? In exchange, we are blessed to be there as learners too, for the freedoms of the young and visionary and innocent always have much to teach their elders about remembering our own visionary and innocent younger days.
Another source of negative conversation about the Gathering is the cost to the public treasury. For instance, it was reported in a Blue Mountain Eagle article last week that the 2013 Rainbow Gathering held in Montana was at a cost of nearly $500,000 to that state. In my humble opinion such a huge monetary expenditure was completely unnecessary, and represents what I would term ‘bureaucratic negative opportunism’, meaning ‘an inflated fear-based unnecessary response, which suspiciously just happens to open the public coffer money flow to the emergency response agencies involved… so that excessive padding of manpower, overtime, equipment usage and procurement justification becomes possible’. And (as a sidestory of personal testimony) I was there in Montana and was unnecessarily arrested on a defective tail light stop pretext later proven false, was held pending warrant, was impounded and searched, was medically examined under duress at a hospital, was finally…after demonstrating yoga flexibility and positions that no impaired person could possibly have done, and along the way lecturing my captors as to their own obvious ill health (because of the visible symptoms they were exhibiting which my natural health education has taught me to recognize)….declared UN-impaired, and was thereafter un-arrested and released, and [to the credit of the Montana State Troopers involved] profusely apologized to. The arresting Trooper signed up for my blogs and still receives them, and since I was faultless, Montana citizens unfortunately had to pay the bill for their own LEO over-zealousness.
My own estimate is that a truly appropriately scaled public safety response would have cost about one fifth of what Montana spent. I summate my viewpoint here by stating that while a minor law enforcement presence is a public responsibility and appropriate as needed for emergencies, the Rainbow Gathering has in place it’s own internal security (called Shanti Sena) which is completely able to self-manage all but the most serious emergencies, without any need to cause a public treasury hemorrhage. I view the fact that the US Forest Service years ago created and maintains a special $500K budget to support a special 50 +/- team of LEO’s used exclusively to respond to this event as another completely unnecessary excessiveness. Their track record of surrounding the Gathering and ticketing or arresting people going or coming at the most minute justification presents us with the face of a harassing and dehumanized police state apparatus which I feel all citizens of a free country should find appalling. I would therefore urge local public officials whose faces we personally know to be duly restrained in their responses to this year’s Gathering, as a demonstration of rural Oregon’s official sound judgment and wise leadership in recognizing the wisdom of avoiding over-zealously creating constitutionally-disputed issues, when a live and let live attitude would prove harmless to all. Our area’s recent history of confrontation turning deadly begs us to be much wiser. And where official mistakes are made, as I learned in Montana, sincerely offered apologies go a long way to keep things out of court…for another place the public treasury unfortunately bleeds is from the need to pay court-ordered settlement damages to citizens who have suffered ‘color of law’ rights violations stemming from said excessive, and often illegal, over-enforcement.
In Summation, as within the world of ocean surfboarding, there are real surfers out in the waves, and there are ‘posers’ looking good but staying on the beach. Same within ‘the Rainbow Family’… some can walk the ‘Love everybody’ talk, some are very much unhealed and wounded, and can only lip-sync it. The deep spiritual beauty of the Gathering is that many who arrive wounded receive great greatly needed love… and therefore healing,… and then are able to begin practicing how to walk the talk. As the world-reknown Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “understanding is love’s other name”. Two millennia ago the Master Jesus taught similarly…”Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Nhat Hanh continues saying, “When our hearts are small we can’t accept or tolerate others, and we demand they change. But when our hearts expand, we have compassion and understanding, and we accept others as they are… then they have a chance to transform”.
Therefore, let us welcome this Rainbow Gathering, recognizing that as we all love both freedom and its spirit, The Gathering’s true intention reverberates within each of us also. Although the form may be different and unfamiliar to us, and there may be some issues to be respectfully addressed, the Gathering has chosen to be here for the same reason we have… love of this beautiful land. It is not here to destroy, but rather to respect the land and have prayerful communion with it and each other, as brothers and sisters… and as children of the one Maker. As any local pastor of this community would certainly do… inviting anyone interested to attend their congregation’s worship services… I also invite you to consider attending or at least visiting this Gathering… to share yourself with others there, perhaps even discovering newly who you are as a result, …and then to bring that personal renewedness back with you, to share it with us. This is the unexpected blessing and benefit fortuitiously available you… as a member of this nearby community.
May the Long-time Sun shine upon you, all Love surround you, and the Pure Light within you, Guide your way Home.
Rev. David Seacord
Fine art painter
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