Dear Friends, this is my unauthorized vision of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, coming from 25 years of experience, participation, observation and questioning any and all I have met. This is especially for you young folks coming to your first gathering. Every year there are lots of you, which is a clear sign the the Family is still needed, and is a vital force for the human race for years to come.
This all grew from a collection of peace activists, hippies and Vietnam Vets who were sickened by the war. They came together to pray for world peace in 1972. We have done this every year since. GB drove an old school bus all over the country, visiting peace groups he knew of and invited all to come. Many did.
Those first gatherers established many of the principles that we use today. The gathering was not a party! All those substances that were antagonistic to peace and prayer were given their place too. A-Camp. A-Camp was set off away from the rest of the gathering. There, you could find alcohol, cocaine, meth, heroin and other bad-assed heavy drugs. Not that they were welcomed, but even then some good brothers back from Vietnam found then needed to medicate themselves with drugs that in many cases killed them eventually. The brothers were welcomed, but their drugs weren’t. Within the gathering proper, cannabis, shrooms, LSD and others that expanded the human consciousness were welcome, but not required. For a long time, A-Camp stayed near the main gate and formed a gauntlet that gatherers had to pass through to get within. This wasn’t a bad thing, and mirrors the spiritual journey of a hero from classical mythology. In recent years, A-Camp has grown and spread into the very depths of the gathering, as group after group found they couldn’t stand the other drunks. This is not a good thing.
Some have espoused the idea that the gatherings are an example for the rest of the world of how we can all live cooperatively. That idea is just plain silly. It takes only a little study of the way things actually are to realize that gatherings are not sustainable. Gatherings do not produce any of the food they consume. Those who come first bring their own food and a little extra to share with neighbors. Later, the Supply volunteers take funds from the Magic Hat and buy in bulk to distribute to large communal kitchens. These folks cook basic food and then haul it to the evening circle in buckets to hand out to waiting hippies. You are likely to not get enough calories to sustain yourself this way. It is common to lose 10-15 lbs in 2 weeks. Many kitchens also cook and serve breakfast and a lunch to whomever shows up. One, Kid Village, specializes in taking care of families with young children and pregnant girls. They always get enough food to take care of their neighborhood, which often has thousands of folks.
Water is always a problem. In the east, there often isn’t any drinkable surface water and few springs. In the west, nearly all water is likely to have protozoa which cause “beaver fever” and is a particularly nasty way to lose weight. A small group of dedicated folks have worked on this for years. They have developed water piping systems and filter systems that will make nearly any water safe to drink. For the most part, they have done this out of their pockets, with no help from the family at large. It is simple. It is pretty near impossible to pray for world peace with cramps in your gut and nasty liquids coming out of your body, both north and south.
Another group of volunteers form a loosely knit group called CALM who try to keep the rest of us healthy. Many of them have medical experience, from EMTs to nurse practitioners, from midwives to Md., and from massage therapists to chiropractors. They mostly bring donated medical supplies and give of themselves unselfishly to take care of accidents and illnesses that are inevitable.
Imagine 10000 people shitting in the woods, along with a thousand or so dogs. That is a huge load! The earliest gatherers took lessons from the military and dug slit-trench latrines. Sometimes they were narrow enough to straddle while taking care of business. I have seen some dug by ambitious volunteers that were nearly three feet wide; hard to use; don’t really want to fall in. This helps, but still doesn’t keep the flies off your shit. If you don’t prevent it, the flies eat on your shit, pick up e-coli bacteria and then bring it to your food being prepared. Next thing you know, everybody is sick. Part of the solution is to keep the flies off the shit. A layer 6 inches deep of dirt will pretty well do the trick. Any less, and they will tunnel down to the shit. A thin layer of wood ash works quite well if you have enough around. Hydrated, slaked lime is the most effective. Even after doing all this, lots of idiots just shit wherever they get the urge and leave paper and shit on the ground. Dog owners often do not take care of their dogs shit. HINT Every kitchen has a shovel or two around. I know that sometimes you can’t find a shitter in time. But, you can get a shovel and pick it up and either bury it or put it in a proper latrine.
Bad things sometimes happen. Some folks have psychological problems, some react badly to substances, some become violent (usually alcohol). Rapes have happened, and assaults. Imagine 10-20 thousand people in a small area in the woods. Pretty clearly we need someone to look out for those who are weak, young or infirm. Shanta Sena is the group of volunteers who do this for the family. If you need help, scream “Shanta Sena”. Others will pass the alarm on and help will come. The words mean peace keepers, by the way.
In the best of all possible worlds, each person would carry out all the trash they brought in. We do not live in that world. At the end of each gathering, a mountain of trash is left behind. Another group of volunteers (the cleanup crew) stay behind and dispose of all that trash. They also deal with the damage we have done to the environment with hard-packed trails, bliss fires, etc.
I hope I have given you something to think about. Clearly the gathering is not just a big party in the woods. It has a structure, traditions and volunteers to help it work. Anarchy is the last thing it is! After the work is done, there is time to party and meet new friends. Come on down!
~~ by Tim Gillespie