The more I continue on my spiritual journey, the more I ponder the four quadrants of Ken Wilber’s Kosmos. We are such a cultural species that all of us, without exception, see the world through socially constructed lenses (the left half of the Kosmos). Our worldviews might attempt to represent external reality (science) or they might be elaborately otherworldly (religion). They exist inside our heads (the upper left quadrant) but also require a collective expression (the lower left quadrant).
An infinitude of socially constructed worldviews are possible and every one of them motivates a suite of actions. Actions take us to the right half of the Kosmos, where not everything is a matter of how we think about it. If you think you can fly and jump off the roof of a skyscraper, you will die. Anyone who had that thought and acted upon it is no longer with us–and the thought died with them. In this fashion, the worldviews that reside on the left half of the Kosmos are winnowed by the actions that take place on the right side, exactly as genes are winnowed by natural selection.
A worldview worth wanting must therefore deliver on two fronts. It must be personally fulfilling, getting us out of bed in the morning brimming with purpose. It must also result in actions that are sustainable. Self-care and Earth-care, as the title of the Colorado event put it (see part 1). However, that formulation misses a crucial link, as I stressed during my talk at the event. The small group is a fundamental unit of human social organization, so we should add Group-care to Self-care and Earth-care. Individuals are far more likely to be personally fulfilled and efficacious at Earth-care if they are members of a group dedicated to both purposes. That’s what Dancing Rabbit seems to do particularly well.
What does the left side of the Kosmos look like at Dancing Rabbit, which has become so well adapted to Self-care, Group-care, and Earth-care? I don’t pretend to know on the basis of such little experience, but here is my most informed guess based on what I have studied, observed, and discussed with Ma’ikwe and some of the other rabbits, along with my more general study of religion and spirituality.
The closest thing that the rabbits have to a strict religion is their ecological ethic. They must abide by a list of covenants that forbid the use of personalized motorized vehicles, regulate the use of fossil fuels, agricultural practices, electricity, construction materials, and waste disposal. The membership agreement commits a rabbit to help the community achieve its goals, to contribute time and money to the community, to engage in democratic governance, to resolve conflicts peacefully, and to generally uphold the mission of DR, which is:
To create a society, the size of a small town or village, made up of individuals and communities of various sizes and social structures, which allows and encourages its members to live sustainably*. To encourage this sustainable society to grow to have the size and recognition necessary to have an influence on the global community by example, education, and research.
* Sustainably: In such a manner than, within the defined area, no resources are consumed faster than their natural replenishment, and the enclosed system can continue indefinitely without degradation of its internal resource base or the standard of living of the people and the rest of the ecosytem within it, and without contributing to the non-sustainability of ecosystems outside.
There is nothing religious about any of this, if by religion we mean belief in supernatural agents. But if we remember that the Latin root of religion, ligo, means “bind together” and is also the root of words such as ligature, then we can see that a strong and binding ecological ethic has the hallmarks of a strong religion. Joining Dancing Rabbit requires becoming part of something larger than oneself. If you’re not willing to pitch in with all your heart and soul, you probably won’t become a member in the first place. The ecological covenant and membership agreement therefore acts like a filter, screening out worldviews that would be poorly adapted to life in an ecovillage. It demands costly commitment, in the same way as the most successful religious communities that existed during the 19th century.
Also, recall what Kurt Johnson said about Interspirituality as the converging awareness of all wisdom traditions that everything is interconnected and that certain ethical conclusions follow from this fact (see Part 2). An ecological perspective converges upon the same awareness without requiring the trappings of religion. That’s what makes Interspirituality so exciting as a movement that can include scientific and secular worldviews in addition to diverse religious worldviews.
Becoming part of something larger than oneself requires an experiential component in addition to an intellectual component. I am always amused when there is a snowstorm in my city of Binghamton and neighbors, who typically don’t interact with each other at all, find themselves shoveling their driveways and sidewalks side by side. A sense of brotherhood instantly develops, only to wane when everyone goes back inside. Attending a rock concert or a sports event gives the same sensation of merging into a larger whole. Singing and dancing together, a shared mythology, and sharing the same visual symbols all have ancient roots that far predate organized religions. Religions freely indulge in them, however, which is one reason that they do such a good job at creating strong communities.
A lot of bonding takes place at Dancing Rabbit without needing to be made up. What Binghamton residents experience ephemerally during a snow storm happens on a daily basis at Dancing Rabbit, such as the work group moving the big log pictured in Part 6. In addition, Ma’ikwe told me about a few bonding rituals practiced by the rabbits that are reminiscent of religious rituals, although stripped of any belief in supernatural agents. One is Land Day, which celebrates the purchase of the land on October 19. Another is a ritual of holding hands, a moment of silence, and song that precedes communal meals on Tuesday and Friday nights, one of which includes members of all three nearby intentional communities. A third is the weekly “Week in Preview (WIP)” meeting, which is mostly devoted to practical matters but has developed a ritual component over the years by allowing time for the rabbits to express their appreciation for the community and each other. Some rabbits even jokingly refer to the WIP as their weekly Mass.
It might seem that all this communal stuff would make the rabbits as uniform as peas in a pod, but that’s not true at all. There is another dimension to Dancing Rabbit that promotes personal growth, a diversity of lifestyles, and a diversity of spiritual beliefs. In academic parlance, the culture that has evolved at Dancing Rabbit is simultaneously “tight” and “loose,” a social engineering trick that might go a long way toward explaining its success.
To be continued…