This post was written by Marko, our stage manager.
While putting on my celebration clothing, I became aware of my own uncertainty and excitement that the evening brought with it. Shortly before 10 p.m., I lit the fire in the middle of the altar; it was reluctant to burn, so I added small pieces of wood to it. In the final minutes before the ceremony, I gazed at the light in the valley from our vantage point in order to find my own silence once again.
It was not easy to come to a common decision regarding which vows we would take for the summer. Surprisingly, we succeeded without needing to have more significant discussions requiring more than one week’s time. Each of us in our community of thirteen contributed our own vows and values to the circle and, with the aid of this collection, we voted on which values we would not want to take on as common agreements. In this way, we found three special vows for our community: tabula rasa, celebration, and loving kindness. I found this method very useful, as it spared us long discussions involving different opinions; instead, it created a space free of negative observations.
And a surprise was left over: I hadn’t consciously decided for myself what my own solution could be, but yes—I could say yes to the three vows. A journey began, a way that we didn’t know exactly; the only thing of which I could be really sure was to go this common way.
“Break ’em on down these walls between us…” sang Raphael upon entering our temple, signaling the end of our collective two-hour silence and summoning the thirteen black-clad Artmonks from their individual rooms. I got a candle, entered the circle around the altar, and lit the candle from the fire. Betsy gave us short instructions before, one at a time, we read the fine-tuned and perfected vows out to the neighbor to our left, so that this person could repeat the meaningful words and, thus, take the vow while feeling the weight in the utterance of its very words.
“I vow for this summer to tabula rasa, to approach each day as a new opportunity for myself, my community, and the world to reach our fullest potential, and be ready to accept the unknown and unexpected as a teacher and a gift.
“For this summer, I take the vow of celebration, to love and honor equally the light, the darkness, and the full spectrum of possibilities within me, my community, and the world.
“I vow for this summer to practice loving kindness in all situations, and with myself, my community, and all beings.”
In reading our oaths to one another and repeating these oaths in front of the entire community, we remained aligned with the task that I see in our three-month community: to take on responsibility for myself and support the responsibility of each member in our circle.
I have felt for a long time a respect to the task, which the refined vows inherently contain. I took part in the communal process of deciding on these vows, and I think that these can serve our small community as a common goal for a healthy group atmosphere and a progressive group development in the remaining 70 days. Proud to have participated in this step, I feel the challenge that these goals set to my own behavior. We clink glasses and celebrate the daring jump until deep in the night.
One question has arisen from our talks, which has provided food for thought for a long time: Why don’t we have similar possibilities in our respective societies to make vows and celebrate our own values?