Whether you’re on an intense journey of self-discovery or just looking for the next great opportunity to dance under the full moon, chances are good that, by now, you’ve been to at least one festival.
Since the dawn of the new millenium, a new generation of festivals has emerged, grown in size and reach, branched to every part of the world, and taken on a spectrum of forms. Perhaps you’ve watched the man burn at Burning Man, opened your mind and become a patron of Lucidity Festival, or made your way down to the celebration of culture and life at Envision in Costa Rica. Either way, we know they create change. Along with their evolution and the personal evolution they tend to instigate in attendees, they’ve earned the moniker “transformational.”
But just how transformational are they?
Well, enough to birth an entire new culture. One that breathes freedom, embodies joy, and seeks a new paradigm for living.
Festival or rave culture has its up and downs but there is a very interesting phenomenon that I believe has been playing out for quite some time.
Festivals are the seeds from which many communities form, particularly eco villages.
The atmosphere these festivals create allows three key ingredients for eco communities to spawn as a natural byproduct — and I’ll use Envision as a running example as I am headed there myself this February… (thanks for pictures @EnvisionFestival)
Tribe Building for the Conscious Collective
Festivals are the real life Linked-In of the changemaker network — a sort of right of passage where people come to have a great time but also to envision a new world. A new paradigm where fringe concepts like the sharing economy become more and more mainstream and start germinating in the world of everyday life.
These gatherings represent the thought patterns of many permaculturalists, yogis, digital creatives, nomads or backpackers, music junkies, alchemists, artists of all kinds, and more, but recently it seems millennials are making these festivals increasingly popular.
Although social media allows us to connect digitally, there is no doubt that in-person connection in the environment festivals curate allows for some real powerful bonding and trust building to happen, and on a whole new scale.
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The first key ingredient for an eco village to take shape is alignment of vision, values, and mission, and there is only one way to figure that out: in person. You might find some people in your tribe online, but you KNOW they are part of your tribe when you look them in the eyes and realize there is co-creation to be had.
There is a certain amount of chemistry that comes out of liberating yourself from distractions to dive deeper with others around you.
However, the best creation requires a judgement-free zone to manifest.
Although festivals each hold their own themes and although there exist some common threads that many paint with a broad brush, like plant medicine exploration, powerful sound and lighting setups, and workshops, they each carry their own flavour.
This being said, the motivations of those who organize seem to always be to express the growth of a new way of life — a mentality in which community can replace isolation; in which organic growth can replace mindless industrial monocultures; where trust and collaboration puts to rest a sense of competition and disconnection and therefore become the real world experiment in which, in the short term, sustainable communal living becomes the norm.
What is really interesting about these festivals is that, for the most part, there are far fewer rules. Sure there are guiding principles or pillars of which we all take note, but if you compare this to the laws of modern society, it’s truly a liberating space.
The second ingredient necessary for a new paradigm to take hold in these communities is the freedom to explore an entirely new modus operandi.
There must be new structures that will govern the direction of a tribe and what they might bond around and create on a longer term scale than the confines of a festival. Concepts like non-violent communication, sociocracy, and alternative organization structures have been fused into companies like Zappos — known for their great company culture — and I bet you anything Tony Hsieh might have had a few realizations at Burning Man.
However, in the business world, I think the biggest innovation going on is happening through the emergence of crowdsourcing.
For decades we spent time building up our individualized wealth, but today the truly wealthy are turning more and more to services and conveniences afforded only by the social trust we have built into innovations like Uber or Airbnb.
Let’s just say I believe festivals were the testing grounds for the emerging sharing economy.
Festivals seem to be the gateway through which the patrons of the festival themselves rally around and organize. Communities require many assets but none more than the members themselves who dedicate energy and resources to make them happen.
The true trouble of communities like the one I am part of at Valhalla is that, more than anything, they lack dedicated patrons to build the world we know is possible in our hearts.
However, just like with online networks that can only really find their power once they achieve a certain critical mass, such is true also of the power of festivals…
The old adage, It takes a village to to raise a child, is step two of building an alternative village.
It takes a village to build a village.
This might seem obvious in plain black and white text, but when trying to start up a new wellness retreat centre, build an off-grid school, or start an eco village, there is a strong need for people to be confident in pooling their resources and, more importantly, their time into the project.
To rebuild society from scratch is a commitment that requires a whole tribe to link arms and create and the makeshift villages of festivals — although impermanent — do lead us to believe that something more permanent and long term is possible.
Festivals provide the inspiration or the seed through which we can imagine a different way of living our lives — a new way of sharing our authentic selves and full expression. This therefore begs a simple question: Will you be going to a festival this year?
I know I’ll be down at Envision real soon! See you in the jungle!
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