we spent a week in august attending the northwest world reggae festival, or, as quinn will probably only say for a short while longer, “festibal”. one of quinn’s dada’s skills is running a sound system, and he is a particularly handy person to have around when there are 20 impossible festival set-up tasks to accomplish before friday at 1pm, many of which involve electrical, plumbing, or carpentry skills. one of the things that struck me as i was assisting with a few of said impossible tasks, and finding that i was about the third most competent person on site in many of these skill areas (and yet i know myself to be quite a novice in all three!) is how astoundingly unskilled most of society now is in the basics for survival. one thing i’ve read a bit about in my devouring of permaculture literature, is the transition movement (wherein we all learn to get along without so much petroleum and transition to lower energy consumption) and one of the concepts coming out of the transition movement is the great reskilling. wherein we all relearn a whole bunch of basic survival skills, that for many of us today seem impossibly difficult, or else seem impossibly beneath us to tackle.

i feel quinn is in a lucky position, in that his entire life immersion schooling situation is enabling him to easily absorb all these survival and life skills. he is uncluttered by bubble tests and homework, and his days can be filled practicing knot tying and archery, how to measure pipe and mark it with a sharpie for setting up a pole tent structure so a festival admissions tent can be erected in short order in the correct dimensions.

daniel quinn, author of ishmael, has a great article about the hidden agenda of our educational system, that talks about the importance of these sorts of skills. “By the age of thirteen or fourteen, children in aboriginal societies–tribal societies–have completed what we, from our point of view, would call their ‘education.’ They’re ready to ‘graduate’ and become adults. In these societies, what this means is that their survival value is 100%. All their elders could disappear overnight, and there wouldn’t be chaos, anarchy, and famine among these new adults. They would be able to carry on without a hitch. None of the skills and technologies practiced by their parents would be lost. If they wanted to, they could live quite independently of the tribal structure in which they were reared.
But the last thing we want our children to be able to do is to live independently of our society. We don’t want our graduates to have a survival value of 100%, because this would make them free to opt out of our carefully constructed economic system and do whatever they please. We don’t want them to do whatever they please, we want them to have exactly two choices (assuming they’re not independently wealthy). Get a job or go to college. Either choice is good for us, because we need a constant supply of entry-level workers and we also need doctors, lawyers, physicists, mathematicians, psychologists, geologists, biologists, school teachers, and so on. The citizen’s education accomplishes this almost without fail. Ninety-nine point nine percent of our high school graduates make one of these two choices. ”

i love how he leaves that question hanging- well, what about the other 1% of our graduates, what did they choose? hmmm…

this is the kind of place my mind wanders when i’ve pitched my tent for a week among a group of relatively free-thinking people on a patch of beautiful farm landscape in the middle of nowhere. where suddenly out of piles of landfill-bound sinks, a bunch of tents, a generator and a pile of extension cords, blooms a temporary village.

maybe it’s also that the music seemed to have a theme of “love yourself.” this festibal lines up some amazing reggae artists, and the lyrics were feeding me just as much as the sound. it’s so amazing what can happen when people start to love themselves. i think you have to start there before you can love anyone else, even your child or your partner.

human beings are capable of so much when they work together. i love when experiences remind me of that.

i also love coming home with a pile of not-very-broken folding chairs, 2 tents with broken zippers to salvage fabric from for one new tent, 2 canvas shopping bags, a zipper hoodie… and quinn really loved his ground score: a whole watermelon. it pays to be on the cleanup crew. still, i look forward to the day when i won’t score all this junk, when the collective consciousness rises to the occasion on the pack-it-out part of pack-it-in, pack-it-out.

still, i think this crowd has the right idea. if we begin by loving ourselves, then work our way outward from there, eventually our love will expand to encompass the whole of mother earth.

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