I've been having great luck with the weather almost all summer. But today is a cold rainy day in Berlin, so I'll take the occasion to sit in an internet cafe and write you guys a little bit more.
The day I got on the train from Belzig back to Berlin was a month and a day from the day I arrived in Germany. Hard to believe. It seemed like I'd been in Germany at least several months by then.
From the moment I got off the train again in Berlin, I was aware again of the extent to which ZEGG is an alternate universe. Suddenly all sorts of things which had seemed very real during the past two weeks no longer seemed real any more.
I'm not sure quite why ZEGG becomes this sort of alternate universe, but I think part of it is simply do to the isolation. It's about a half hour walk into Belzig, and the bus runs once an hour. And one has no contact with television or radio (I could have brought my own radio, of course, but as far as I know, no one does), and the only newspapers available are in German.
The other thing is that one gets to know the members in one's "Dorf group" (the English-speaking group, in my case) extremely well in some ways because of the Forum process. And yet at the same time one doesn't know a lot of the rather mundane things one quickly learns about people in more mundane social interactions.
I was thinking, for instance, about the things I knew about Sylviane when I first met her. We knew that we were both interested in languages, literature, and writing. And we exchanged a lot of banter. It was very different from what one gets by hearing people talk about their problems in the Forum. It would seem that the things I knew about Sylviane at that point were much more superficial, and yet somehow I feel that I knew her better then, before first meeting her, than I know my friends from ZEGG.
Anyway, as I've mentioned before, the English-speaking group this time was fantastically successful, and I think even many of the Germans started noticing that there was something special about us.
Anyway, the second week was definitely better than the first, and the first was good. At the begining of the second week, the ZEGG leaders made an announcement that the "English Speaking Group" was to be canceled, since there weren't enough of us, and we would be put in with one of the German groups, which would make translation necessary. But as people lined up for the groups, it was quickly apparent that it was the English speaking group which was large, and one of the other groups which was almost nil. So we wound up not only with our group, but with it led by Kastor Stein (along with a young woman), as it had been during previous summers, but not during the first week this time.
Well, we had ten people, plus or minus people showing up or leaving during the course of the second week. So to say it was "large" is a bit of an exaggeration. But it was a good size. Pretty much an ideal size, I think. And the really nice thing was that everybody showed up for almost every meeting, twice a day. Quite a change from previous summers when people would often just not come on a given day, not bothering to even send a message.
One of my complaints about previous summercamps was the rather heavy emphasis on what I call "politics," whether anti-globalization, feminism, environmentalism, or even the "intentional communities" movement. In previous years, summercamp had to some extent doubled as an occasion for a conference devoted to one of these topics, and there was a somewhat uneasy coexistence between people who had come to participate in a conference on a specific topic and those of us who had just come for the usual summercamp.
This time, there were no lectures scheduled in the mornings during weekdays, and lots of Small Group activity scheduled.
The first weekend there were two morning lectures, but they were both extremely good. One on Free Love (the Zegg people haven't really cottoned to the word polyamory) and the other by a British woman named Scilla Elworthy, the only person who can make me listen to a political talk without complaining. Most of the political talks (as I categorize them) at ZEGG have to do with what's wrong with the world and what needs to be changed. But with little constructive suggestion on how we might see to it that these changes are actually made. Scilla Ellworthy is the only person in the peace movement, as far as I know, who actually does something about it and actually helps bring about non-violent resolution of conflicts.
She's no longer part of the Oxford Research Group which she helped found and was formerly the director for, and I don't find a web page for her. Unfortunately, the computer here insists on giving me the German version of Google and lists mostly articles in German.)
Anyway, she gave an extremely enlightening talk on Iraq. As the US and British war in Iraq turned into a catastrophe, Tony Blair, who had formerly distainfully rejected the information offered by Elworthy and her colleagues, started desperately asking to fund the projects she was offering.
She gave not only a lecture here, but a group seminar for those who wanted to discuss the issues with her and ask questions. But what, for me, at least, was even more exciting was that she actually participated in our own English Speaking Group, partly because she wanted to learn more about the Forum process. Unfortunately, what with all the Important People urgently asking for her help right now, she was only able to be at summercamp for three and a half days.
After Scilla left, the focus both in our English speaking group and in the summercamp as a whole turned primarily to polyamory, to a much greater extent than in previous years.
Some of us were not completely happy with our group leader for the first week (well, it was hard for him to compete with our memory from previous years of Kastor), but then one day, I can't remember whatever reason, he talked to us at length about his own experiences in first coming to ZEGG and becoming polyamorous. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, his acceptance of his wife's decision to become polyamorous, followed by his own decision to do the same. And then the next day, his wife came to our group and told us (in German, with translation) her own side of the story. This was an extremely interesting and useful account. Better than one can find in any of the books on polyamory.
Kastor's point of view, as he explained during the second week when he had become our leader, was that it takes a community to support a polamorous relationship. If one doesn't have the support of a community, he claims, then a polyamorous relationship can't work.
Well, I'm always a little suspicious of statements made in such widesweeping generality, and I wonder on what basis these statements are made. I wonder if the Pali Paths group in Honolulu is enough of a community to count for this purpose.
It's certainly true that a number of the relationships within the Pali Paths group have not proved successful, if by success one means something that lasts forever, or even several years.
And yet a few of the Pali Paths relationships do seem very stable and long lasting. Mostly it seems to me that the one that work over a period of time are the ones that follow the "open marriage" paradigm, a marriage between a couple were each of the two has outside secondary relationship, which are often more short-term things.
Storm and Gloria have something that seems pretty stable and has survived for many years. I think it's also true that they have developed a sort of community around themselves in Seattle, although whether this community is the secret to their success I don't know. Certainly the individual personalities (i.e. Storm and Gloria) also have a lot to do with it.
I suggested to Kastor that the Findhorn community in Scotland, which was represented by several members of our group, seemed to be much less effective in supporting polyamorous relationships, although not in principle opposed to them. And at that point there was a sort of general loud murmur indicating that this was such a big topic that we should probably not get into it. In any case, nobody tried to bring the topic up again. There are always a number of Findhorn people at ZEGG summercamps, and I'm told that when they get back to Findhorn they are greeted with lots of questions about their experiences at ZEGG. But as yet, they are apparently unready to address the polyamory issue seriously at Findhorn.
And yet I think that for most communities it's an important issue. Because when a lot of people are living and working together very closely, I think that situations will always arise where monogamy becomes difficult to maintain.
But then I'm not the most suitable person to talk about Findhorn, where I've never been and will probably never go.