Many years ago in the bright Nevada sun of Burning Man, I was talking with Rob Brezney, the author of Free Will Astrology. He made the case that part of what hampers efforts to build a more just and positive future is a lack of the right words. He complained that the English language was asymmetric in a fashion that favored negative terms: jealousy, paranoia, contagion, trauma. He helped popularize the term “pronoia” (paranoia’s opposite), the belief that the universe and the people around you are conspiring to do good things and/or make you happy.
Activists and organizers, politicians and propagandists will oft tell you that we are in the business of storytelling. These new words allow us to tell new, richer stories. You want to coin something that is simple and elegant, yet compelling and desirable. A word that once someone hears it, they will start to use it and think about how to bring it into the story of their lives. One of the long lever words we have been crafting is “quink”.
Quink is the opposite of trauma. It is an experience which lastingly transforms your life for the better. A quink is a spark, a moment that shifts your life path, or helps you move out of an unhealthy situation. A stroke of enlightenment, falling in love, finally kicking your addiction to a drug or a toxic relationship- these are all quinks. Quinks can be a coincidence like bumping into an old friend at the farmers market, going to a mind blowing festival, or reading just the right book at the right moment.
We thought we should design an event around sparking quinks. Thus, Quink Fair began with the question “What if we took the best aspects of our favorite festivals and fused them together in one event?” Quink Fair! is a celebration which invites change by exploring the participants’ desires and obstacles. Quink Fair! draws deeply from Burning Man, an interactive art event based around the principles of participation, and self-expression with no paid performers and no passive audience. From the Rainbow Gathering we draw decentralized organizing and generous sharing. From the intentional communities movement, we bring the importance of cooperation, sustainability, and consent. We also draw from the communities movement the idea that we are better off sharing our lives and our possessions than taking on this world alone.
Through a colorful and chaotic mix of exhibits, theme camps, music, guides, oracles, workshops, dance, and your own curiosity, we will seek experience and insights as a catalyst for personal growth and cultural change. And at the very least, it will help you find a good story. Join us at Quink Fair in Louisa, VA, July 12-15, 2019. This is a 4 day, 3 night camping event, food included. Tickets are $90 for adults, $45 for children 11 to 15, kids 10 and under free. See www.quink.org for more information and to purchase tickets.
Bring your spark.
This article originally appeared in July 2019 issue of Echo World Magazine.
Put another way, what kind of guidance can you provide to someone who is coming to a festival so that the experience will be positively transformative and healing? From the start we have to recognize we are guessing. We do not actually know much about these mysterious quink things and we know even less about how to induce them. But our ignorance is no excuse for not making clever guesses and trying to figure it out through imaginative experiments how we might do this. This post is a bit of what we have come up with so far.
In contrast to the Temple of Oracles, which uses various different divination techniques (tarot, runes, I ching, etc) to help people consider future paths, Ignition uses personality tests, typology systems and self reflection tools to help people figure out who they are and thus where they might go. Ignition is a theme camp at Quink Fair! located near the entrance to the festival designed to guide participants towards quinks .
While we are still deep in the design phase of this experience, what we have come up with so far is certainly worthy of discussion.
Ignition will offer Myers Briggs tests, one of the better known systems, and help participants interpret their results. This pseudoscientific analysis is based on a theory of different personality types and how people differ in making decisions and interpreting the world around them. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) is based on the analogy of psychiatrist Carl Jung that there are four different psychological functions with which humans experience the world: sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking.
A different tool set being used at Ignition is the Enneagram of personality, which is a set of 9 personality types. Again using tests and assessment tools, Ignition guides will help participants figure out how the information directs them to experience the festival and where accessible quinks might be in their lives. If you want you can take a free online Enneagram test here.
Transparency Games are being used in some intentional communities to help members self reflect and build empathy and trust. These tools have been developed to make it possible for people to have intimate conversations in a safe environment without lots of training in advance. One of the most common and powerful games of the transparency suite is called Hot Seat.
5 Paths to a Quink. This is the new stuff which we are developing for Ignition. The basic idea is that you might well come into Quink Fair with an idea of where your breakthrough experience might be lurking. These 5 paths represent some of the largest vectors for personal change. The job of the Ignition guide is to start asking you the pair of most central self reflective questions for each path. Our best guess as to the 5 paths is the following:
- Don’t Know
Love while the simple path name is “love” really this is a more general category of love or alliance. It is seeking the person who will be your principal ally in getting to your quink. It could certainly be a romantic relationship, but it might also be a coach or counselor or guide – either in a peer relationship (as thru co-counseling) or a professional who you pay, or someone who is willing to volunteer these services.
The guiding two questions to the participant for this could be:
- What are the key things you have learned from your love/alliance relationships?
- What do you most hope to find in your new significant relationship? [This can be an existing relationship which is being amped up for the quink experience.]
Spirit is the name for the spiritual path to quink. We give enlightenment as a quink example, but there are books and books and gurus and guides on enlightenment and it is hardly a clear process. Of the 5 paths this is the one that i am most uncomfortable giving advice in. Here are the two guiding questions I would ask of a participant who is excited about seeking quink through spiritual means:
- What are your core spiritual beliefs?
- Where will progress on this path take you?
Community is the path which Quink Fair! is most excited about introducing people to. There are lots of different ways to explore this, and the starting two questions for Quink Fair participants excited about community as an entrance ramp to a quink experience might be:
- What can you offer community that you believe is desirable to them?
- What do you want from community?
Project is again a short hand label which includes all jobs (existing or new) and avocational activities (unpaid projects) which might help you find purpose and direction. There are definitely quinks over here, and there are all manner of other distractions and problems. The two questions I have here are:
- What endeavor inspires you ?
- What does success in this endeavor look and feel like?
No Clue – Some participants will show up with no idea where their quink might be hiding. And we will have directions for them. Of course the same tools can be used like transparency games and different personality tests. There will also be opportunities to integrate workshops to explore different paths and opportunities to have a follow up with a chosen advisor during the festival for people who desire.
The guiding questions will range from “Which circumstances made you feel most empowered or aligned in your path?” to “What are the circumstances that trigger you the most?” We hope/believe that these types of inquiries can help people get in touch with the hopes, desires, fears, and challenges they can address at QuinkFair or after.
I don’t consider myself a spiritual person. I was raised in a religious family, and in a small town where the church was the center of community and social life. As I’ve grown, religion and spirituality have been less present in my daily reality. Part of this is no longer living in that small town, but the larger part is that I am a practical person and there are few spiritual paths that fit the way I approach the world. Prayer may be emotionally helpful for someone coping with the death of a spouse, but a casserole or helping with child care are equally (or more) important things that will help them get through this week. The church community I was raised in had a healthy balance with an emphasis on practical support, but that’s been difficult for me to find as an adult.
The one religious sentiment which resonated…
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The idea was compelling, study the really exciting festivals and celebrations, take the best pieces of these cultures and combine them into a beautiful Frankensteinian creation. The tricky part is establishing which are the finest parts and figuring out if (and how) they fit together.
Central rituals are a major difference between Burning Man and the Rainbow Gathering. At Rainbow thousands of participants hold hands in silence in a giant ring on the 4th of July. When the moment feels complete the children run into the center, break the trance, and thus commences wild dancing. At Burning Man there are two central rituals, the effigy burn and the temple burn, both of which revolve around fire but have very different flavors. The former is a pyrotechnic exhibition of tremendous scale, with fire dancers and a giant man which blazes for hours leading into a bacchanalian celebration of wild dancing in the desert.
Burning Man Fire Eaters
Photo Credit: rosehalady0 from Pixabay
The temple burn is a more somber and self reflective ritual which is powerful like a brilliant funeral can be. It is all about letting go of things, your sadness at a deceased friend or relative, your addiction to online games or a dysfunctional relationship, or realize it really is finally time to quit the job which is not working for you.
We decided to embrace the Burning Man central rituals. There were several reasons for this, the first is an effort to bring people who are familiar with or excited by Burning Man culture to the event. It feels like especially the temple burn is potentially quink inducing, and a bacchanalian celebration is practically guaranteed to be a good time. While the rainbow ritual is elegant, accessible and unifying, it did not feel powerful enough for us to embrace for Quink Fair. One of the key ideas of Quink Fair! Is to introduce creative people from mainstream cultures to the intentional communities (and especially income sharing) movement.
Free is nice, but quite limiting
Tickets are another important cultural aspect, and major cultural difference. Part of the brilliance of the regional and national Rainbow Gatherings is that they are free to attend and no one is “controlling” a gate that keeps some people out. Despite it’s inclusion principle, Burning Man is a privileged event. The low income tickets are $240 and literally thousands of people pay over $1,000 to be assured to get in. This is before you pay for a camp and gear, and transportation to this remote site- it’s quite normal to spend $1,000 or more on these expenses, especially if you’re traveling from far away. The advantage of the paid ticket model is organizers can pay for porta potties and event insurance and art grants, and what ever else is important.
Burning Man preaches “radical self-reliance” which means a number of things, but near the top of the list is “bring everything you will need” and packing for attending this harsh desert event is a complex and expensive affair. Rainbow Gather’s unofficial motto is “Welcome Home” and true to this tagline is the idea that when you go home you need to bring the fewest things of any journey, since your stuff or your support network is already there. From a festival organizers perspective, when you have well stocked and equipped participants you reduce costs and you share the provisioning burden for the event. But if you can welcome almost anyone, including people who have little gear or money, then you are a more diverse and inclusive crowd and you provide a more full service experience.
This is where the Fair part of the name comes from
The Quink Fair! “disorganizers” made the choice to have ticket prices, but make them fairly low ($90 for three days) and include work exchange options. And of course we hope we have the money we need for porta potties, insurance and art grants and more.
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay
Kitchens and food are another major cultural difference. At the Rainbow Gatherings perhaps 1/3 of the camps are free kitchens serving to anyone who comes to them. At Burning Man people are responsible for bringing their own food to this difficult environment and preparing it. There is some food being given away at BM (clever DC friends are doing a pizza delivery service this year), but it would be an odd diet and an organizing struggle to attend this event without food or a camp which provides it for you.
For Quink Fair we’ve gone with a hybrid model around food. Haven House theme camp (run by one of the disorganizers who threw a temper tantrum upon hearing food wouldn’t be provided) will provide 3 meals a day, plus drinks and snacks between meals. This is free and available to all who want or need food, or who just enjoy sharing meals with a group. But some (perhaps most) attendees will still bring some of their own food and/or cooking equipment, either for their own use or to share. It’s a combination of Burning Man’s freedom with Rainbow’s safety net, which we hope will bring the best of both systems;
And Rainbow was a huge influence. We want to make food accessible, we want to decentralize organizing as much as we can, we want anyone who really wants to attend to be able to come.
Image found at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/481181541408416340/
Rainbow, Burning Man and the Communities Conference (which we draw inspiration from) all have workshops offered by participants. The communities conference curates them by selecting headliners and scheduling open space separately. We did not want to go this way. There is a large collection of workshops, some given by event disorganizers, most by participants and there is no distinction between which are organized by who.
There is a lot of experience in the group of disorganizers who are trying to pull this event together, but we can’t be certain that we have made the right choices. We’ve likely made wrong choices but that’s part of the adventure of a new event. We have been talking a lot about our own quink experiences and how they can be replicated at this event. Almost everyone we talk with is enthusiastic about the idea.
Lots more information to be found at www.quink.org where you can also buy tickets. If you are excited or intrigues you, go to the facebook Quink Fair! 2019 event and click “interested” or “going” and we will send you more information. If you have questions, suggestions, or want to lend a hand, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other blog posts about Quink Fair!
- Temple of Oracles
- Quink Fair! Forming
- Getting the Band back together
- Fail Soft
- Words you don’t know might help you
- Paths to Ignition
I was panicking. I was thinking i had again taken on something larger than i could pull off. I had believed optimistic promises of support and had over estimated my own capacity to plug volunteers into useful work.
I even considered canceling the Quink Fair! event because i could not see how it would come together. Then i realized there was another way. And if you will excuse the martial overtones. I decided it was time to call in the cavalry.
I’ve described Angie before as a plug and play organizer. Someone with the capacity to walk into almost any circumstance and make it be better. It is a rare mix of self confidence, common sense and the capacity to not get stuck in other peoples mistakes. Angie has these in spades.
She is also quite busy. She has been the driving force behind birthing the Karass Inn in Chester Vermont which was started by ex-communards. Which now in it’s third year is well established and profitable.
“Can we agree we need a website within 48 hours?” I thought we needed one last month. But by adding Angie to the mix, our additional capacity to do things spikes. What she is really saying is “if you can’t get your people to pull this together in 2 days, i will do it myself. ” And she can, she is not a pro at it, but fully capable. As she is fully capable for running registration, or coordinating workshops, or doing outreach or staying within budget, to getting more training. And most importantly, she can play an anarchist chief of staff. This is where you ask volunteers what they are excited about working on and when they think they will have measurable progress, she will nudge things along.
She is a perfect nag that does not need training. She knows how to ask people to show up, she knows how much and what types of pressure motivate people and knows how to stop short of pushing too hard. The website was up in 48 hours and more serious promotion for the event has already started.
She is also good at untangling organizational messes i get myself into around events. Sometimes you need the cavalry.
Maud and i were arguing. She wants a centralized kitchen cooking for this event. I was drawing from the Burning Man culture and wanted every camp and participant to be self reliant. This energetic and fiery organizer from Montreal is helping the international effort to build a relatively small celebration in central Virginia. Maud was upset with me because the kitchen in a festival is something deeply important to her; it sets the mood on the type of sharing that is going to occur; and I hadn’t manage to find a time to talk with her about it.
The event is called Quink Fair!
The formulating idea is that we know a lot about festivals, and if we try to take the best parts of several of them, we might be onto something. Which of course invites all manner of comparisons between these quite different events.
Maud hails from Velo Quebec, the giant Quebecois bicycle tour company, where one of her jobs was to scout ahead and prepare these tiny towns for a temporary invasion of as many as 2000 cyclists. Housing, sanitation, food, medical and more all need to be on hand for these exhausted cyclists who will have even longer days.
For Quink Fair! the centralized kitchen versus everyone cooks for themselves question is ultimately a cultural one. When we are comparing Burning Man with the Rainbow Gathering, we see that food is a central and slightly exclusive part of a burner’s experience. Rainbow has a rule that every campfire is a public fire and for many of the camps, the principal activity is cooking for people who will not be paying for this service.
Maud is challenging that we want to be more like Rainbow than Burning Man. Part of the issue is about money. While Burning Man has a decommodification ethic, the treacherous nature of the venue requires serious preparation. The culture demands preparation, which makes the event expensive (Rainbow is free) and pushes participants to expensive and exclusionary meal plans. And Maud is a realist. Sophia House has a high functioning institutional kitchen, and groups of volunteers can sharing the cooking, with donated food, insuring that everyone gets fed. This will reduce the time spent cooking by most of the participants and camps, giving them more time to have a positively tranformational experience.
Which is what a quink actually is.
Turns out Maud is right. Rainbow’s hippie roots of sharing and dynamic group cooperation are more in line with the world we are trying to create than Burning Man’s radical self reliance. And clearly i should call her more.
When organizing a large event there are always some pieces that are iffy. Will we get the hot tub together before the party? Will this promised out-of -town performer really show up? Can participants be trusted to bring an even distribution of food items for the pot luck, or will we have 20 different desserts?
The best way to tell if something is really going to happen is if there are a bunch of people excited about it happening and there are some strong organizers in the group. Using this metric, there is one thing i am sure is going to happen at this years Quink Fair! and that is the Temple of Oracles.
We have done a Temple of Oracles at every Twin Oaks New Years party for almost 2 decades now. It is a reliable hit and it is its own subculture inside the great party event. Card, rune and coin readers assemble on a comfortably decorated space and provide readings short or long for party participants for free. [For a full description of the Temple review this fingerbook.] For some this is the first time they have felt comfortable having this type of reading. And even for some of the most deeply rational, I often hear reports that these readings were both useful and important.
We are exporting the Temple of Oracles to Quink Fair! and our first meeting had both new and old Oakers as well as experienced card readers and people who are excited and trying for the first time. People were willing to give workshops on tarot and other divination forms. Several people volunteered to do readings and build up the dome which will house the temple. A small budget was allocated for new decks to supplement the many that the group already had.
“What is this Quink Fair! event?”, you might ask. It is a fusion of several different gathering and festival cultures. Specifically, the Rainbow Gathering, Burning Man, Network for New Culture Camps and the Twin Oaks Communities Conference. It is happening July 12 thru 14th at Sophia House, a mere 1 mile from Twin Oaks. You can read more about the event. And you can even buy tickets on line at www.quink.org or https://burnertickets.com/quink-fair-2019/
Quink is roughly defined as the opposite of trauma; we have a particular memorable experience and afterwards our lives are significantly transformed in a positive way. Kicking an addiction is a quink, enlightenment would be another, sometimes falling in love is a quink event. The idea of this fair is we are trying to create a nurturing environment for quinks to happen, in the midst of an interactive art festival with many workshops, music, dancing, and performance.
Looks like we are going to need new words, if we want to build a new world.