For the first time in at least a year and a half, I left my computer and all wireless contact behind for five days. I say this with some chagrin because I have railed endlessly about how imprisoned we are becoming by the instruments that were intended to free us but end up chaining us. But this is the time of year we celebrate our annual family reunion at Oregon Country Fair, this place we ceremonially separate ourselves from our ordinary reality to live in the community that celebrates the art, science and spirit of living together in harmony with people and planet.
I love coming here, although it’s not easy living. This is the only place I still tent camp, use portable toilets and washbasins. We live side by side, in a multi-generational community of about 20 families, many of whom we only see at this time. The OCF is always an extraordinary experience… music, theater, vaudeville, saunas, clowning as The Truth Fairy, intellectual stimulation, and the camaraderie of friends who live in a spirit of tolerance.
This year’s most personally impactful moment was when I spoke to four boys (aged 5 through 12. We were sitting under a tent canopy illuminated by a fluorescent lamp, and I told the colorful Native American story about two boys who were once sworn enemies but later became brothers.
My grandson fell asleep in my arms not long after I started talking (which happens frequently among my family members), but it still left 75% of my audience staring hypnotically with mouths open in awe. I can’t remember the last time I have left an audience so entranced.
Native American legends hold that if you can tell the stories you learned from your great-grandfather to your grandchildren then your tribe will survive forever. Stories, myths, ceremonies, that transmit an ethic of morality and teach us something about how to live in the world.
Our future is not ensured through the transmission of our DNA, but through the transmission of our stories. So get away and play, separate yourself from your ordinary reality, leave your wireless instruments behind and remember another way to tell your story .