At one esoteric festival, we sit in a big circle. Someone holding the microphone shouts.
Who is the most crucial person here?
Me! Me! Me!
The crowd responds in unison. Another memory: I’m observing a ritual from behind my mask. I see intimate couples in THEIR invisible bubbles fulfilling THEIR desires. Earlier at the opening of the same ritual, an inquiry is given: What do YOU want tonight? What are your dreams?
It happens often in the course of a festival that someone will ask me, “How are you doing?” I often feel perplexed at that. I’m not hungry, I slept well, and I have no pain in my body. I just don’t care that much about myself in those environments because I’m more curious about what the group can become together and how I can contribute to that.
Many individual dreams are being expressed and explored, but ultimately, I believe we all share a single dream: to be a part of a tribe and let go of the control that our ego-focused, hierarchical society is pushing upon us. So I get confused in these kinds of situations: why is the focus still so individualistic? I remember a time, ten years ago, when I felt there was less of a ‘me, me, me’ mentality in spiritual circles. I remember standing in an ending ceremony and screaming: “We are love! We are LOVE! WE ARE LOVE!”
How To Practically Join The ‘We’
Something was different back then. It was more ‘we’ and less ‘me’. I think it may be due to the current state of crisis we find ourselves in, with pandemics, economic collapse, political polarisation, and global warming. There is a feeling that now we have to take care of ourselves to survive, but that this is not what people need to feel truly alive. People need to learn how to care for their needs while also focusing on the tribe, because participating in something larger than the small me is where true pleasure and meaning is found.
To join the ‘we’ in a ritual, it’s not enough to just be there physically. One must shift their focus away from the individual self, first towards a partner, and eventually towards the shared space of the group. But how to interact with what is happening outside the intimate bubble with my partner? How can I initiate or support what is happening on a group level?
This can be hugely challenging because people who are focused on themselves do not want to be pulled into a ‘we’ because they are busy ensuring their own experience. It’s a catch-22: for the group to come together, enough people must be willing to shift their focus together into a ‘we’. But for this to happen, people need to develop the skills and intimacy to interact with a wide variety of people.
The We Is Scary For Good Reasons
When talking about this with a stranger in my sauna club, he said it all sounded very flower-power hippie to abandon the ‘me’ for the ‘we’, almost like a religious cult. I can understand the general fear of leaving the ‘me’ because it has gone wrong in the past when tried on a large scale. Just look at fascism and communism. But maybe it could work on a small scale. My theatre teacher taught me that ensemble life is different from everyday life. It’s collective, and the story is always in focus. During the second year of my studies, I went to a village in Tanzania’s poor and religious countryside. I was to teach an acting methodology without words, and I encountered a place where God comes first. Second is the village elders, followed by the parents and older siblings. If there was any time left, we would play football.
I remember reading a book about a young girl growing up in a religious cult. When she was kidnapped away from her church (or should I say rescued), she first needed to re-learn that she had her own feelings. Before, she thought emotions were only something communal – If the group was happy, then she must be satisfied. And if the group was sad, then she was unhappy. So I can see how it can go horribly wrong on smaller scales as well. Nowadays, I feel that many events I attend are on the opposite extreme where it is only about me, me, me. And maybe I’m crazy, but ME alone gets pretty dull in sexual and creative spheres; it’s a bit like masturbating. If I am co-creating with only one other person, it’s like having a lover in the invisible bubble I mentioned before. But something more significant is reaching for the ‘we’ outside that bubble. Like, watching intensely and mirroring someone else’s movements, leading a stranger in a new direction with the touch of a fingertip, lending a skilled hand in an interaction, or moving a piece of furniture around to change the room. But none of it works if it comes from a greedy me, me, me because the ‘me’ scares people in the ‘we’ – just like the other way around.