I feel like I’m finally starting to understand my parents. It’s taken 50 years to get to this point, but maybe that’s normal. I’ve made enough orbits now that I’m beginning to be aware of larger patterns, the deeper periodicity of human social systems (a.k.a. politics), and the different perspectives on life across generations.
Cob here, with this week’s perspective on life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. To be clear, this is MY perspective, as there are many to choose from. This week I’ve been noticing patterns. Historical patterns, cultural patterns, political pendulums, seasonal arrhythmia, and my children encountering opportunities to repeat my own mistakes (or make new ones of their own). I’m still somewhat mystified by the biological rhythms of Miss Moneypenny, a newly free-roaming canine Rabbit, whose random downing of non-human rabbits throws her digestion/elimination schedule out of sync with the rest of her family.
As I’m writing, I’m over-hearing a skype conversation between another parent (who’s cooking dinner for our co-op) and her college-age son. It’s bringing up reflections on my own parenting experience, memories of my own limited self-awareness as a young man of 20, and the amazing confidence as well as sense of purpose and direction of Rabbit youth.
My grandparents were very much in the “children are to be seen but not heard” era, and my own parents moved through the “just do what you’re told or else” period, to my own generation’s impulse to over-correct by praising everything to build confidence and prevent failure at all costs. Thankfully, I believe my own children have escaped the worst of these external influences, and along with other Rabbits, have been allowed to make their own mistakes.
They’ve learned that it’s OK to pursue a dream or vision, it’s OK to fail and learn from the experience, and that anyone (even the stranger you haven’t yet met) may have the piece of information you need to succeed. I confess to a sense of tiredness or defeat sometimes, until I observe the confidence and enthusiasm of the next generation of movers and shakers.
I also feel hopeful for our collective future every spring, as new seedlings take root and plans for the bounty of the season take over. Intellectually I know that storms, pests, or drought may take their toll, but right now I’m rejoicing in the new bright green growth and potential for the future. Another cycle of growth, sequestering of genetic material, patient waiting, followed by a warm softening and new vigor. I’ve managed the genetic propagation bit, and am now enjoying watching the results unfold as my boys learn how to make their way in the world, but not only the world as it has been, but the world as they believe it should be.
Engineer, artist, or rugby player, they will find their way, and influence those around them as they go. Intelligent young men who have learned how to hear other perspectives, express their own deep feelings, and to know themselves in a way that I can only envy. However stuck I might feel sometimes– politically, economically, or emotionally– I relax when I imagine this next cohort taking over from our various attempts to control or fix things. These kids are fearless and confident in their own ways. I look forward to the results.
And then I read the news about the 2016 Presidential elections and campaigns. Pardon me while I try to remove my ears from my shoulders. I suppose there’s some truth to the perception that the folks living at Dancing Rabbit lean somewhat to the left, but we are far from unanimous in our opinions or perspectives. Dissenting voices are actually valued here (even if there is some reflexive eye-rolling), and a deep commitment to understanding alternate views. This is what peeves me most, and is notably lacking, in the public discourse.
Perhaps like many other folks in their second half, I wonder what exactly happened during the commercial break while I was having kids? Were things always this rancorous, or have squalling children sensitized me to the political shouting? Just when I’m ready to yell back at everyone, our kids spontaneously break out a laughing contest. I’m still not quite sure what the rules were (if any), or even who won, but maybe we all did in the end.
I laughed all the way down to my big garden, where the weather has apparently been ideal for the weeds and native grasses. I am once again amazed at the sheer volume of new growth and new seedlings in all the wrong places. Somehow all the seeds I carefully put into the ground are waiting on some further signal before they dare to venture forth. This happens every year also.
Many of my neighbors carefully tend starts and early seedlings in greenhouses and sunny windows, spending untold hours on caring for and nurturing these future calories. I mostly opt for direct seeding, now that I know what they look like when they emerge from the soil, rather than spending all that advance effort and transplanting. Near as I can tell, everything ripens at about the same time anyway. And if not, who’s counting anyway?
Yes, this is another pattern I’m noticing: the ways in which we habitually focus our efforts. Not always to the best effect, but certainly where we think we should. I’m increasingly inclined to question the things I’ve done for years. Why am I doing this? Why am I doing it this way? The urge is strong, but I won’t bring this back around to politics again.
There certainly are things I enjoy repeating, year after year, as markers in my own journey or as reminders of good times passed. This week in particular held the annual May Day celebration of our dear friends at neighboring Sandhill community, along with the occasional birthday or anniversary. And even in these celebrations, while enjoying the moment and feeling the love of the participants, I couldn’t help but be aware of the transitory nature of things. Sandhill has been celebrating this event for many years, but with an ever changing cast of characters. Friends from high school or college have celebrated their last birthdays. Anniversaries are occurring in the midst of life-changing challenges.
In the midst of such bittersweet remembrance, I’m making silly faces with a not-quite-two year old visitor with a delightful laugh and audacious vivacity. I’m co-learning with Miss Moneypenny what it means to be a free-roaming dog who sometimes still needs to remember how to behave on a leash. I’m learning how to do a new job, while encouraging one of my children to take on their first.
Despite my own personal angst, which seems to change from week to week these days, people are still learning how to build their homes, grow their own food, communicate more clearly with one another, make different mistakes than their parents made before them, and generally leave the world a better place than they found it. This is not a new impulse. This is not a new, radical agenda.
So why is this drive, which seems so fundamental to humanity, subject to so much ridicule or anger? I know, politics again… I’m sorry. Sort of. This is the pattern that bothers me the most: the dismissal of anything outside our prior experience. Making fun of anyone different in either appearance or thought. Really? Is that how we define ourselves these days? By being something that other people are not?
Oh, patterns. Patterns of thought, habit, training… How do we interrupt them? How do we shake ourselves loose and have new thoughts or ideas? I remember the foundational wisdom of Dr. Seuss, who said in his insightful story about the star-bellied Sneetches, running back and forth between the star-belly on and the star-belly off machines, while attempting to show whom was superior to who, “…until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one or that one was this one or which one was what one or what one was who.”
So, why do we do the things we do? Because it’s what we were shown? Because it’s what we were taught? Because it’s what we believe is right? What patterns are we caught up in, all unknowing, that limit possibility, crush hopes, diminish dreams? Think of these seedlings (thank you for the picture, Javi), which know nothing about climate change or even normal Missouri weather. They’re simply expressing themselves, their own hopes and dreams for a beautiful season of growth, maturity, and senescence. Who are we to tell them differently or get in their way? No… My role, our role, is to feed, water, nurture, and hope. Ultimately it’s not about me; it’s about those who come after. And I’ll do my utmost to guarantee they stand a chance, whatever may come their way.
Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and educational non-profit outside Rutledge, MO, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. We offer public tours of the village at 1pm on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, April-October; the next is this Saturday, May 14th. Reservations not required. Tours are free, though donations to help us continue our educational and outreach efforts are gratefully accepted. For directions, call the office at 660-883-5511 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about us, you can also check out our website: www.dancingrabbit.org.