Ritual Report: Schelling Day

On Sunday, April 14th, the Boston group held our first Schelling Day celebration. The idea was to open up and share our private selves. It was a rousing success.

That doesn’t do it justice. Let me try again.

By all the stars, you guys. This was beautiful.

About fifteen people showed up. Most of us were from the hard core of Boston’s rationalist community. Two of us were new to the group. (I’m hopeful this will convince them to start attending our regular meetups.) There was a brief explanation and a few vital clarifying questions before we began the ritual, which went for maybe 90-120 minutes, including a couple of short breaks. All of us spoke at least once.

I don’t want to go into specifics about what people said, but it was powerful. I learned about sides of my friends I would never have guessed at. People went into depth about issues I had only seen from the surface. I heard things that will make me change my behavior towards my friends. I saw angst and guilt and hope and pain and wild joy. I saw compassion and uncertainty and courage. People said things they had never said before, things I might not have been brave enough even to think in their position. I had tears in my eyes more than once.

Speaking went remarkably smoothly. I set a timer for five minutes for each speaker, but it never ran out. (Five minutes is a surprisingly long time.) Partway through, Julia suggested we leave a long moment of silence between speakers, which was a very good idea and I wish I’d done a better job of enforcing it.

Afterwards, we had a potluck and mingled in small groups. At first we talked about our revelations, but over time our conversation started drifting towards our usual topics. Next time, in order to keep us on topic, I’ll probably try adding more structure to this stage.

The other area I wanted to improve was the ritual with the snacks. We had five categories: Struggles, Confessions, Hopes, Joys, and Other. There weren’t many Hopes, and there wasn’t much distinction between Struggles and Confessions. I’ll change this for next time, possibly to Hardships, Joys, Histories, and Other. There’s room for improvement in the specific snacks I picked, too.

This celebration was the most powerful thing I’ve experienced since the Solstice megameetup. I don’t think I want to do this again soon—it was one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done, even if I didn’t notice until after I’d left—but I know I want to do it again sometime.

To everyone who came: I’m so proud of what you did and who you are. Thank you for your courage and sincerity.