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Summer Camp 1995 Reviews

The following article was taken from issue #11 of New Culture, the Network for a New Culture's quarterly journal:

NFNC's first Summer Camp, held in mid-June just outside Portland, Oregon, was a huge success. The non-stop rain couldn't dampen our spirits. Temperatures 10 degrees below average couldn't dim the flame of the vision in each of us. Okay, no more bad one-liners. But the weather was really miserable.

The experience really started in the month before the Camp, as crews gathered to prepare the site. Volunteers worked each day (in the sun), building beautiful showers in the woods, installing plumbing and electricity, and setting up the kitchen. Stoves, re-frigerators, pipes, wires, cooking supplies, even a bathtub appeared. A pool became a large hot (warm) tub, and there was a smaller hot tub that stayed hot. Christmas lights brightened the path to the showers. The creative spirit of the volunteers showed in each of the details. Meanwhile the organizational teams were busily meeting to set up registration, structure Village Group activities, make meal plans, and formulate all kinds of other plans that weren't really followed because the participants came and created their own event. The big day came and the Camp started, as did the rain. The community spirit kicked in immediately. One participant set up a very complex trash and recycling system. Volunteers crowded the kitchen helping to speed up the dinner preparation once the stoves were fixed by other volunteers. There was a strong sense of togetherness, that the Network and the Summer Camp really belonged to the participants. People put up rain shelters, drained water from the roof of the main tent, improvised solutions for drips and mud. In the middle of the week volunteers even did laundry for the entire camp. The deep desire for community and connection was very touching. It was obvious in the way people worked to make the place more comfortable for the group and in the continued good spirits even though we were all cold, wet and muddy. It was a definite charge to be part of a large group of people who shared a common vision and purpose.

Each day there was a lecture in the morning, discussion period in the afternoon, and a village meeting. At night villages or the full group met, or there was dancing and a campfire. The camp was split into three villages: Portland and points north, the coast from the San Francisco area up to Portland, and the rest of the country. Village time was spent working on communication, personal and interpersonal issues, and generally getting to know each other. Because of a daily flow of new participants, a close sense of family never developed in the villages, but village time was still the highlight for many, and the general consensus was that more time should be set aside for village meetings in the future.

The morning talks had several highlights. On Monday, Michael Aluna gave a lively and inspirational presentation about deep green spirituality, interconnectedness, and communication and communion with all forms of life including the living planet. There was another lecture that night because the next speaker, Bruce Lipton, needed a dark room for slides. Energetic, entertaining, and fast-paced, he held our attention for two hours Monday night, and again Tuesday morning, and again Tuesday afternoon. He is a cell biologist and researcher, and presented what seemed to be authoritative scientific evidence for a view of evolution based on cooperation rather than competition. He showed how cells formed communities for greater efficiency and ability to process more information, then they specialized and formed more complex communities and so on. Therefore in social evolution, which seems to follow the same stages as physical evolution, community is a natural and inevitable structure. Other presenters early in the week included Janine Muller from Project Meiga (ZEGG) who talked about the necessity of free sexuality, and Sten Linnander from the Network who talked about the role of community in social change.

After that we relaxed on Wednesday with the Community Day. Several people came just for this day and the talks covered a broad range of community issues such as elements of successful communities, cultural change, and children in community. On Thursday, Stan Dale led each of us to a personal emotional release that reached an incredible peak because it happened with the whole group. He talked about love, connection and openness. He led us through exercises with eye contact and touching, which I usually can't get into, but on that day I found it strangely moving. I think what really did it was the way Stan so openly expressed his own emotions, showing hurt, love, and acceptance. After six days of building our own sense of community and connection in the group, and facing the highs and lows of new relationships and personal challenges, we were ready. When Stan got emotional during his talk, the whole room let go. I was standing in the back waiting to make some announcements. I watched people let their emotions come pouring out, moaning, laughing, crying and saw how they turned to each other. Not for support, just to share the experience. Groups formed, some to support one person whose experience was very intense, others swaying in a circle. The sharing is what set my emotions flowing. I joined a group and saved the announcements for the afternoon. For the rest of the day, interactions between people seemed deeper and more sober. Community means more than just the joy of coming together--it means a willingness to share all sides of yourself.

In the village meetings, we at-tempted to voice what had come up for us in the morning and started processing our personal experiences and lessons from the Summer Camp with the group. It was an incredible day.

As the week wound down, we began to focus on the Network and future plans. People talked about their visions and the projects they wanted to do. People who had been strangers the week before were making plans together. And Saturday afternoon, the sun came out for a few hours.

Editor's note: We wouldn't be fully transparent if we didn't mention that there were also a number of problems and hassles at camp. Taking them in roughly chronological sequence, they were: During the setup for camp there was a lot of tension between the administrative folks and the volun-teers who came early (some as much as six weeks) to do the physical setup, largely as a result of hassles about spending money on the setup. Both sides felt unappreciated by the other, and there was no sustained attempt to deal with these problems until a week before camp when the German facilitators arrived. At that point, several forums were held without the participation of the setup crew (with the exception of one single person), which struck some of us doing setup as elitist and which also played into the dependence on the Germans--something which virtually all of us agree that we need to get away from.

As well, there was a considerable amount of culture clash between the Germans and a number of the American camp participants. Several participants voiced the opinion (among themselves, not openly) that the Germans were cold, unapproachable, dictatorial, not open to allowing Americans to participate in the facilitation, and not open to learning anything from the Americans. (At least one of those who volunteered to help with the facilitation is a professional counselor with considerable experience.) For their part the Germans (Rotraud Rospert, Janine Muller, Ilona Trinkert, and Karsten Guschke) seemed to feel trashed and unappreciated--which made it all the more remarkable that between the four of them they donated $1200, half of the money raised to pay off the network debts at the fundraiser on the last night of camp. They also paid their own airfares in order to come here to help with the facilitation. Both of those things say a lot about their dedication to the ideals on which Project Meiga and the network are founded.

Less seriously, many participants were unhappy with the food at camp. We ate a strict vegan diet, without a lot of variety basically, rice, beans and salad, and variations thereof. Those of us used to eating such food thought that, overall, it was good, while at least some of those used to eating more conventional diets hated it.

Still, given that this was our first camp and that it was hastily organized, these were minor problems or should we say "learning experiences"? For most of us, summer camp was an incredible high, and with what we learned there, we can only do even better in the future.

--Diana Malsky

Summer Camp was an incredible place for learning, growing, and changing, depending on your personal desires, expectations, fears and perceptions. Some people had a wonderful time, while others fell down and did not seem to get back up. Most of the people I talked with, including myself, experienced a wild roller coaster ride with thrilling peaks and scary valleys.

For me, the kitchen was a real challenge--preparing food for 50 to 90 people on two regular stoves, with not enough pots and pans, only two small cutting boards and two sharp knives, five spices, the same vegetables every day, along with beans and rice, etc.. For many, eating vegan meals was a totally new, and in some cases unwelcome, experience. I was asked to create new meals every day, something I had never done for that many people, without any recipes!

My partner and I made new discoveries about ourselves every single day, sometimes moment by moment. Being able to remain honest and open, allowed us to process each issue and deepen our relationship. I especially enjoyed meeting in the smaller community groups, although the one large forum we did in the evening turned out to be wonderful too. One of the high points was a few hours of sun one afternoon when some people lay nude on the grass next to others playing volleyball. Many people had to work hard to make this event a success and most people helped wherever they were needed. I was grateful for the determination shown by many to "stick it out" despite the wet weather, the mud, or personal problems, and I think most of us were rewarded in one way or another. Was is fun? No, not in the common usage of the term. Was it rewarding? Yes, I learned more about myself and a lot more about how other people view life, which helps me understand myself and the world a little more. I am grateful I came.

--Morgan Jurdan

As I fly now above the Earth's great and gracious beauty, I reflect back to how I came to be on this journey. My life has become significantly altered since my sojourn into Summer Camp.

I entered into the whole affair with just a tidbit of information about what it was all about. My fears told me that it was a very clever ploy on the part of men to get more sex. These men were selling this plot under the guise of saving the Earth. The only reason I showed up at all was to find out if there was any truth to this, because saving the Earth was my one priority, but up until then I didn't have an avenue in which to proceed. I was prepared to slap down any misguided pups that might come sniffing around me. I came for the Earth, and nothing else.

What I discovered, however, was that the men involved in the camp were not sex starved pigs, but, instead, men who truly listened to what a woman said. They really seemed to respect and honor women. This was a nice surprise. I began to let my guard down a little and eventually removed two of the three coats I was wearing. This forced me to sit a little closer to the group, as it rained endlessly all week and I desperately needed body warmth to survive the cold.

At first, I chose only men who I felt were safe: men who were celibate, or in monogamous relationships, or who were gay. What could have been safer?

On Monday, I had to return to the real world, but before I did I was able to hear what Michael Aluna had to say about saving the Earth. I was moved, and I suddenly felt empowered. I knew that I alone couldn't stop the destruction of the Earth, but here sitting all around me were others who felt the same urgency that I did about creating change so as to save the Earth. Together we could do it. And if these sixty people were willing to create positive changes in how we live, then there had to be thousands of others who were having the same thoughts, but as yet didn't know what to do. All we had to do was get the word out there.

I found myself completely distracted when I was back in the real world. My job, which anyone could have handled, became one error after another. I couldn't keep my mind on anything, so I gave two day notice and returned to the camp on Thursday morning. Stan Dale was the speaker that day and I was caught completely in the love energy that he exuded. It felt safe to start to take the walls down that I had erected around myself. I began to inch toward the edge and to look into the void. What were my fears? Did I love the Earth vehemently enough to let go of my own fears and jump into the void? Yes, and thus I did. A journey where I had no map to guide me, where I would have to trust only my heart and the universe to show me the way. I dumped all of the old criteria that I had used in choosing a partner and just allowed the energy to flow where it needed to be. I would trust in the universe to lead me to a lover. The next day I found myself drawn to several men, but one man in particular kept appearing time and time again. There are no accidents in the universe, so I knew he would be the one.

While other Summer Campers had to re-enter the real world after camp broke that following Sunday, I found myself still deeply entrenched in the journey. Chaz and I spent part of the next week together in Portland, and then ten more days in Tucson together. I decided to use the opportunity of being in Arizona to clean up some emotional baggage that I had been lugging around for nearly twenty years. Knowing that I had the power to be transparent, I let go of my fears of rejection and told a man that I had been in love with him for the last nineteen years. I needed closure and was finally willing to let the cards fall as they may. To my delight, he didn't reject me or my feelings, and we ended up making love that night, and he told me that he loved me, too.

The next day, while driving back to Tucson, I could smell the odor of my Phoenix lover on me. I reveled in it, and with every breath I took, my being seemed to melt, my every muscle tingled. I didn't have to put these feelings away to be with Chaz. I could share it all with him and he would love me all the more. It was at this moment, as I thought of both my lovers, that I felt such an abundance of love that I could actually feel it spilling over, like champagne poured too quickly into a glass. It was then that I realized what it was that the Earth asks of us--to love without fear and without guilt. To understand that loving isn't something that has to be bottled and doled out to a limited, chosen few. Love is boundless, and to love more than just one person at a time, we can multiply the emotion to such a state that we overflow. It is this overflow that our Earth asks of us now, so that she can heal herself.


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