The gathering itself is a temporary community with not exactly rules, but guidelines on how to gather and create the peace we want to see on this planet. In gathering speak--these guidelines are called the “Raps.” I strongly recommend you read the raps, which you can find here as well as the Mini Manual of Gathering Consciousness. Or read Paul's a rainbow guide.
When we come to the gathering, each of us comes as an individual with our own personality, life style, hopes, and dreams. The beauty of the gathering is that you are free to be who you truly are and express your beautiful unique being in costume, face paint, sleeping habitats, musical tastes, etc. . We have individuals that come home and promote teeth brushing, veganism, free hugs, and naked peace signs --to name just a few of my beloved characters. The variations on this theme are endless and the amazing diversity of opinions and unique expressions of these opinions is what makes the gathering amazing, insane and creatively vibrant.
We are an opinionated family with many strong willed personalities. We welcome every peaceful person with a belly button to come home (and offer exemptions to those who are missing belly buttons due to freak accidents). We welcome republicans, occupiers, democrats, libertarians, greens, hippies, punks, beats, tea partiers, christians, jews, muslims, hindus, burners, pagans, voodoo priestesses, rednecks, cowgirls/boys, peace workers, middle-of-the-roaders, poor/rich/middle class, doctors, lawyer and indian chiefs. We even welcome wanna be-ers.
As you can imagine, a delicate balance exists between all these diverse individuals and creating temporary community. As a long time gatherer (or one of the earlies) once told me, we work on the basis of “peaceful respect.” Peaceful respect means that we offer respect to every belly at our gathering including cops, lawyers and dirty kids. We don’t always have to agree with each other, but when we disagree, using respectful modes of communication helps us work towards peace.
Some people at the gathering focus almost exclusively on their individual rights to do whatever the FX^& they want. Other people focus strictly on community. In my mind, the beauty of the gathering is the heartfelt attempt to find a modern way to live in community while still celebrating our individuality. Hundreds of years ago (and in some place on this planet today), the community mores ruled with an iron fist and if you didn’t fit it, you were kicked out, persecuted or worse.
In my lifetime, I have witnessed the pendulum swing to the side of individuality over community (at least in the USA). The gathering can be seen as an attempt to find a balance between the two all the while holding them both in tension with each other.
IMHO, the gathering works bests when we respect both the needs of the community and the needs of the individuals who make up this community (including every person in the area in which we gather). Gathering works best when we talk softly, sit in a circle, and speak from our hearts. Gathering works best when we all realize that creating community means something different to each individual. Gathering works best when we let our individual trip support the community and the community supports our individual trip. Gathering works best when we approach it with an open heart and each of us try to be the most peaceful, loving, helpful individuals we are capable. Gathering is a journey of the soul and a practice of the heart. I invite the world to join this journey.