Friday, May 09, 2008

Success comes to those who can weather the storm

"Just as the tumultuous chaos of a thunderstorm brings a nurturing rain that allows life to flourish, so too in human affairs times of advancement are preceded by times of disorder. Success comes to those who can weather the storm.”
I Ching - the Book of Changes (the hexagram does not corresond exactly with the above quote).

I read this from the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, IChing that came into my hand by serendipity. It was in the summer 1970, location Thylejren, a three month long, unbelievable camp event with thousands of people from literally all over the world, with music and shared joy, and a free and open spirit of anarchy, flower power energies and hot spots of creative madness. It was under influence of this surreal situation that there was a wild western thunderstorm coming up, putting down all of our tents, even the large military tents that housed 30-40 sleeping bagged people in the hay. This put our efforts and ability to tackle survival to a new level, Some were organising rescue for those who might still be hiding under the fallen tents, while others took care of getting some tents up and stbilised them so that there was shelter for those who were in need. Many were under influence of alcohol or drugs, or both; after all this was an endless party and holiday and only few real life obligations, at least not for the large majority who were just enjoying the fruit of other people's hard work with the whole arrangement, the artist's special arrangements, the overall maintenance, the logistics, some instant health and social care, and so on.

Facilitation, organization and natural stewardship talents; most of them were five to ten years older than me. I was 20, just finished school and quite irresponsible and careless, like so many others from my cohort. I was rather independant and free, until then. There I was, and by the way, all of my own luggage and values had been stolen on day one, so I had also learnt how to deal with total poverty, making life go round and offer helpful service for food, as I really did not want to go home before time. After some very difficult hours, the storm suddenly became quiet, but he rain was now falling as if there was a hole in the sky. This emergency situation was sort of a wakeup call for me, and I organised a small task force from our own tent, a cleanup raid, so that we could save the most necessary properties, before the flood was taking its toll. All sorts of things, from whole backpacks to items just scattered all over in the hay mattress, such as shoes, glasses and clothes. We found a dry pack of cigarettes, and smoked one, and started to laugh and relax; after all there were only minor harm done, a broken arm or a concussion, but no dead bodies. Some were still in a condition of shock, but apparently some cups of hot tea, soup and bread and an oocasional beer helped them get over this trauma.

And then, I also found a plastic bag with three interesting books. I kept these with me for the rest of my three long weeks, and as I could never find the real owner, I thought of them as a treasure and read then with extra attention. Those books have travelled again long ago; they were the iChing quoted above, the Tibetan Book of Dead, and a collection of extraordinary folk tales which my new Californian boyfriend read aloud to us on the beach, in the dunes. The sun came back after some days of very bad weather, but our camp life transformed into something more organized, less chaotic

It is hard to imagine today. This camp had perhaps 5.000 inhabitants or more - and ONE public telephone, no organised mail service as people were not even registered; there was no street names or identity cards, no TV - the most appreciated facility was the famous shared open air unisex shower unit, with hot water at certain hours. We might be hungry, or exhausted, or mad, but at least nobody had to be dirty! This was a great tourist attraction, as the local fishermen and their friends came from far away to have a good look at these crazy nudes. In a way this life experiment was a fantastic contrast to the ordinary civilised everyday life which we all,to more or less degree, had to take up again after the holidays. I've always carried these days with me in my heart, for better or for worse. The event transformed my life forever. I had discovered a new side of myself, the ability to react and adapt with an unexpected and difficult situation, and to lead an action. This was when I understood more about the responsibilities that follow with an adult life, and with being part of a larger community.

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