Yes, I know, "Lent" is an emotionally loaded word for lots of folks. Maybe we'll go with something else- but I kind of like the universal recognition it has; and it may help if you realize the word just means "Spring"-
Trying to explain what I hope this Party will be- has kind of got me stymied. It CAN be made very complex; with tons of explanations, justifications, etc.
A big point to it, though, is that we need an event for everyone. Not just the heavy thinkers. One of the big hazards we face is over-intellectualizing bloody everything. It turns folks off, and actually I'm kind of on their side.
A brand new parable I acquired yesterday. Talking on the phone with a distant close friend, we were hitting some of the Big Topics, as we tend to. Some years ago he had the great good fortune to be free to kick around in New Guinea for a while. He's one of those people who has his eyes open, all the time.
Like everyone else on the planet, there are still plenty of aspects of Life that baffle both of us. And he said this; laughing: "You know, if you ask the people living in the bush in New Guinea- trying to understand them- 'so, what is the meaning of Life?' - they'll just look at you like you're crazy. And kind of point around. And say something like.. 'Look! It's a beautiful day.'"
That's quite possibly the best and most profound answer for that question I've ever heard, I said. Laughing, and completely serious.
That's what we want people to leave this party with. Life is good. Laughing.
Not - life is in desperate trouble. We get plenty of that elsewhere. It's true, and we all know it. But "Life is good" is true, too. And we need to remember that, and teach it to our children.
Maybe it will work if I just try to paint a picture of what I see. Picnic, is more where I'm going than Mardi Gras, for sure.
It's late afternoon on a clear early summer day- a little hot, but you can tell you'll need a sweater after dark. In trickles, folks start to show up for it.
It's a park- maybe with a lake nearby. Picnic benches; plenty of grass to run on, some trees for shade. Every little town used to have a town park; lots still do. (ok, I admit I fantasize about Central Park turning into one huge Planet Picnic...)
Inevitably, the picnic organizers show up first- set out some food, some drink; sit down and wait. There are kids- toddlers to teenagers. All kinds, of course, including the irritating ones. Hopefully they'll take long walks in the shrubbery before long. Somebody brought a frisbee. Somebody brought their dog.
As the sun goes down, a couple fires spring up, and folks start to cook fun stuff to keep the kids from starving. Weenies (don't start! nobody's taking my bratwurst!) - marshmallows- s'mores if you're brave enough to cope with the mess.
Crucially- there are some old folks, too. Brought, if they can't make it on their own. They're the ones who remember how to do this. We need our elders back- and everybody who comes to this picnic will leave knowing it. Bring a bus from the Rest Home, if you can.
A couple of people brought guitars- or flutes- or harps or harmonicas. Real homemade music- PLEASE no loud rock. We need to talk to each other. It's easy for the folks who want to dance in the evening to be down at one end of the park, and if the music isn't blaring from loudspeakers, the others can be just a little ways away, talking.
It would be great to have some specific after-dark event, to hold folks. How about a ghost story-telling contest? Dance? Plain story-telling? If the group gets too big to be comfortable- split it off; start another story teller, a little ways off. The old-timers can be fantastic here- antique jokes? Volleyball? Summer Solstice celebrations are very ancient- it would be rather easy to dig up some old customs, and take a run at reviving them.
Fireflies come out- the kids REALLY NEED to be allowed to chase them, and catch a few, and keep them in a jar- just for a while. Frogs, too, if they're in the pond. In the old days, an older kids would show them how- now you may need an elder to get the kids going; show them how to catch things without hurting them; when to let them go; how to hold them. Imagine being a kid who is never allowed to chase a firefly. Awful. "Look what I got, Ma! Lookit, Dad!" Those experiences are critical to feeling like you belong in this world; and increasingly, kids have no opportunities.
Yes, one or two fireflies will get squished. Sad. Won't hurt the child to cry a little. But if you weren't there, those fireflies probably would have been eaten by the frogs, anyway, you know. If they're slow enough for the kids to catch... And the memories in the children will save millions of fireflies, in the years ahead.
Relax. Watch the evening progress; listen to it all. Talk to your neighbors- talk to someone you've never met before. Just once, during the evening, ask someone- "So what are you doing for Earth-Lent?" And tell them what you might do. And once during the evening; ask someone to call you, during the week; to check up on how you're doing. You can check on them, too.
Ok. I want to let that vision soak in just a little; tomorrow I'll post "how". This is very idyllic; bucolic- could we actually do it?
Confession. I've been having solstice parties for 15 years- pretty much like that.
And of course it doesn't have to be JUST like that. There's lots and lots of ways. And of course this is a picture of a picnic in the US Midwest- but it could just as well be in New Zealand, or Africa- just plug into where you are.