Joyful Disillusionment

This last weekend was the WoodenBoat Show held at Mystic Seaport. This luckily is within an hour’s drive for me and by saving up it’s manageable to attend for the three days – with the help of a generously offered Press Pass. I’ll be writing about the experience on Boats for Difficult Times, but I wanted to take this opportunity to bring up one of the results of that gathering.

Many of you here are familiar with Dark Mountain, and their now annual festival to be held in August this year. This gathering at Mystic isn’t quite like that, but it does function, perhaps without any awareness from its sponsors, in a roughly similar fashion, at least in related ways, for some of us who attend. The community that has built up around WoodenBoat Magazine and the Wooden Boat Revival in this country which began as I was coming of age in the seventies and has spread around the world has been an incubator of sorts for ideas, attitudes, skills, and habits of mind that are now increasingly relevant as we approach collapse. It has been an unintended Queequeg’s Coffin that may provide a series of life saving services as we go forward.

Long before there was a Dark Mountain – for twenty years now in total! – I’ve yearly trekked to this gathering and found an opportunity to be immersed in – if not an alternate reality then at least – a safe haven carved out of consumer & car culture where people who have dedicated themselves to something simple and direct can get together. It has been a place where a variety of related disciplines, sailing, wood working, boatbuilding, and design; valued, and practiced in a variety of backwaters by people who could at least gather for these few days every year and celebrate what matters to us. Earlier, I saw it – or at least attempted to justify it – as a way to “market” my work and find new work. Now I see it as a unique opportunity to wind around a theme park village that, because of the people and artifacts it has attracted, has transcended its money-making “purposes” and provides hints at a life that once was, and if seen in the right light, can provide hints as to how aspects of that life might be regained.

I’ve been so fortunate to have cultivated a series of deep and lasting relationships with many of the people who make this yearly pilgrimage. One of my conundrums is that none of them live close enough to me for regular contact, but in a continuation of the habits of friendship I developed growing up in a resort where I had the same friends for a week or two each summer throughout my childhood as a shadow society carved from the time away from school and the day-by-day local relationships we all have, I’ve known these people for decades, for a few days a year.

Going around this gathering for me is a series of reunions and opportunities to pick up where we left off. Something that more often than not seems to be almost effortless and seamless in the doing. That was definitely the case this year. There’s something profound to be said about the similarities and differences between this and our virtual world here and elsewhere on-line. I hope to write about that too….

Joyful Disillusionment. This is a phrase I woke up with two-thirds of the way through the show. It struck me hard enough to know I didn’t have to get up and write it down. I knew I’d remember it in the morning. It came after a series of conversations, and pointed towards some new potentialities just then beginning to present themselves. As with anything I do that’s worth anything, it came to me, I didn’t make it. In those hours when I’m most open to the intelligence residing in Mind it appeared. That next day I tried it out on a few of my cohorts at the show.

What struck me was how aptly it describes what I’ve been working towards for so long. It describes, points towards, and perhaps leads beyond what I started Horizons of Significance to explore. It certainly combines with a thunderclap – or what Bart Simpson might recognize as the sound of one hand clapping – the two sides of this labor. It throws joy and disillusionment together and lets us see them both in a way we’re not accustomed to.

I’ve held off writing this for a few days. Perhaps I should have held off longer…. I don’t want to talk it to death or attempt to explain it away, but I did want to tell you about it.

Let’s leave it at that for now.

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14 thoughts on “Joyful Disillusionment

  1. Hehe, your timing is pretty good, as thinking about disillusionment had me up off my feet pondering as I was journalling half an hour ago.

    I crashed out of my mental health recovery job a month or so ago as I couldn’t sustain the emphasis on ‘hope’ as a key concept, knowing its shadow too well and being influenced by the likes of Clive Hamilton’s “Requiem for a Species” and others arguing that giving up hope is the first step of recovery. But I knew there was some positive force that kept me going through the despair I allowed myself to sink into, and didn’t know how to express it while caught in this hope/despair dichotomy.

    ‘Joyful disillusionment’ covers it. Thank you.

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    1. I’m glad to hear that joyful disillusionment hits a chord with you. You’re on the mark relating this to optimism and the expectations we have surrounding hope. I began reflecting on this relationship through Shoal Hope and carving out a distinction between this and our predisposition to see hope as optimistic wish-fulfillment whose opposite was pessimistic despondency and depression. Joyful disillusionment, while a mouthful, does appear to take this notion of Shoal Hope onto another way of looking at our concerns surrounding our relationship with what is.

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  2. […] Disillusionment begins as a wrenching experience. Everything our conditioning has led us to accept and to bond with comes into question. Our props fall away. We find that we have little practice at standing on our own, and our apparent increase in instability is frightening. We are also enslaved to fear as the principle means of this behavior’s control over us. Everything we have been conditioned to accept cries out that our worst imaginings will come true if we leave the apparent security of our conditioning behind. It’s only after we make the first break and begin to open our attention to the innate strengths this conditioning has sapped from us that we begin to find the connection between disillusionment and Joy. There is a power in finding these strengths that outstrips anything that might be cajoled out of us by persuasion, or forced from us by coercion. As we make the connection between the traps of futility and the forces that sap our strength, our organism decides for us. This is not a matter of competing opinions at that point, our instincts begin to align with our budding framework in ways that feed its development and create a kind of knowing that is not subject to argument, just as no one can “convince” you to place a limb into fire because “It will be good for you!” […]

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