My very favorite place to think about that jumbled thing that is culture is at the Playground.
It’s been nearly a year since we found the space, and in that time I have watched it transform from a tiny, sweet thing in my head and heart into the most amazing place I have ever been.
I puzzle over what exactly makes it so magical. And why does it smell so good?
Then I boggle over all the rituals, traditions, customs and stories that come together to make something the way it is.
How once that something is a thing, it continues to generate more customs, more traditions.
Why is this night different from all other nights?*
This week we’re on Rally (Rally!) and it’s the ninth Rally, so as you might imagine, we have all sorts of Rally customs that have emerged from previous rallies.
Inevitably we expand on these customs or change them. Some of these have become ritualized and set, and some become increasingly baroque, in the way of things.
* Sorry, obscure reference! See? Traditions!
And new customs are born each Rally. Each day, even.
Like yesterday when Darcy wore the flouncy floofy pirate skirt to lunch at a restaurant.
It became immediately apparent to all of us that taking things from the Costumery and wearing them out to lunch is an absolutely lovely way to bring more of Rally into the parts of our day that aren’t at the Playground.
I’m pretty sure you’ll see me this afternoon brandishing a cutlass and wearing a tiara at one of the food carts. See? Like that. It just sort of happens.
Or tonight at the wine and cheese evening (a tradition started by Jessica at the last Shiva Nata teacher training and cemented at Rally #6), we’ll be having a mini show-and-tell. I can see how that might stick too.
Who knows. By Rally #10, it might just be what we do. And it will get more interesting each time.
We have traditions about monsters and sunglasses and blanket forts.
We have rituals of stone skipping. We randomly yell silent retreat!
And none of this is prescriptive. It’s not about expectations of how you need to be.
It’s never this: “Okay, so this is how you have to do things.”
It’s more like this: “We kind of have this tradition of moving the fairy door around. You don’t have to do it. It’s just a thing that happens a lot.”
Customs and ritual work like code. They’re shorthand. They carry the qualities of Playground culture:
Curiosity, play, light-heartedness, invention, inspiration, creativity, agility, wonder, spaciousness and sovereignty.
Who keeps the culture?
The biggest difference between the culture of Rally and the culture of say, a city, is that no one lives at the Playground. There isn’t continuity in the same way.
The Playground is an island. And empty one, except for me and Selma.
Of course since so many people do multiple Rallies, it often happens that at any given Rally we have experienced Rallions.
I think at the current Rally there are at least two people who have already rallied.
But it won’t always happen, which means that part of my role is to be the keeper of the culture. The curator, in a way.
I can’t keep it all in my head. And that’s not the way culture works, anyway.
So I put some pieces in the PLUM (the Playground User Manual). And I have a version of the Book of Me that is a Book of Playground.
I don’t ever want the culture of Rally or of the Playground to be about expectations. I don’t want people to worry about how to be or what to do. I want the culture to hold everyone in safety, permission and amnesty.
That’s what it’s there for.
Something kind of funny. Funny-unlikely.
Yesterday at Rally I was looking for something and happened on some notes from a class I taught at my Kitchen Table program.
Notes about this thing that is culture. And it was so perfect.
Here’s what I had said, and forgotten:
Culture is all the stories that come together to create a feel for the whole.
Culture gets stronger through being tested.
Culture is subtle. It lives in your business cards, in your systems and policies, in how your space works (even if people can’t see it).
Culture is an accumulation of you-ness.
Culture creates and solves all problems.
Culture is transmitted through many things. Know your beacons.
If I were queen of an island, what would that island be like?
Door and doors.
We have this very charming fairy door at the Playground. You can see it on the contact page, of all places.
Which kind of implies that the best way to contact us is through the fairies, not sure if that’s a good idea or not.
And it’s become a thing at the Playground that whenever you see it, you move it. To a different wall or a different room or on top of a lamp or next to a treasure chest.
It sounds kind of stupid but it’s highly entertaining. And then each room ends up feeling slightly different at any given time because there’s a door or not a door, and it’s always not where you expect it.
Now we have a second fairy door, because Lisa brought us one. It’s pink! And it doesn’t get moved around at all ever.
New traditions have already sprung up around it, as they do.
People bring little decorations to the pink door.
The pink door came with tiny rainboots and a bucket with a tiny key. Now there are little plants next to the door. And a ladybug and some tiny pebbles.
And someone promised to bring a footbridge. See? It’s crazy.
When I think about my business, and the past nearly six years, I think a lot about the beautiful things that have been accidents or surprises.
Who knew that the Friday Chicken would still be going strong after nearly three years (we haven’t missed a week and this is the 146th week…)?
We’d never have built a Refueling Station at the Playground if it hadn’t been for Crankypants McGrumblebug’s Kvetchtastic Whine Bar at the Kitchen Table.
Traditions are funny that way.
Funny and endlessly fascinating.
You plant culture in the form of love, trust, hope, gwishing and so on.
And then you see what you get, based on what it interacts with.
Play with me? And comment zen for today.
It’s a hard and complicated adventure growing a business. Or running a blog. Or doing any form of working on your stuff.
And documenting the culture of your business, or your art or your internal world is a really hard practice, because it’s so close that it’s hard to see. And because we have pain and grief about what isn’t the way we want it to be.
So this stuff can be hard.
It can also be really useful.
If you want to invent customs and rituals with me, you are welcome. And if you want to think out loud about this thing that is culture, that works too.
As always, we all have our stuff. We let other people have their stuff. And we don’t give each other advice unless people ask.
Love. And cutlasses!
Oh man do I love rally traditions!
I was just thinking about my typo policy. Which is actually a huge written out thing, not that anyone would ever know that, especially when they e-mail me about a typo.
But for me, leaving most typos in is about authenticity, awareness, respect for my process and my time, and mostly about sovereignty. Because if I spent a lot of time trying to sanitize my writing to keep people there, it violates their sovereignty. So it’s about me practicing letting them have their reactions.
And it’s such a small thing. It’s just whether or not I fix the smaller typos that happen to live in my writing sometimes (if they obscure meaning I change them). But it’s this totally powerful symbolic transmitter of what I believe. For me, anyway.
(Though of course other people may get all the same things out of very diligently correcting all their typos – this is just a me thing).
Anyways, yay for the fascinating, deep and complex beast that is culture!
(And for Rallies, and the Playground.)
I don’t exactly have a comment on culture, except to say that the more I read about the Playground, the more I want to create a similar space for people where I live.
I’m different of course, so my purpose would be different and my culture slightly different – although I aspire to pretty much all of these attributes.
I just don’t know what I would offer people who came, or why they would come or how I would make money doing it. I couldn’t even copy this method if I wanted to – as I wouldn’t know how to lead a Rally or Shiva Nata or yoga or anything.
So I guess it is a gwish of sorts — to figure that out. To understand what it is that I want to create and give to the world and how I can be financially supported in return. But I know it includes a physical space and that people come to it. That seems like a start.
In this case, advice is actually welcome if anyone is interested in offering any.
I love this comment space and I like being here. So I trust you all. Thanks for that.
Customs, traditions, habits, rituals, routines, ruts … they’re all patterns. Some aid and support us and some don’t. Some make us more aware and some allow us to be less mindful… I’m thinking a lot about that because I’m trying to establish some useful ones.
So it is timely and fun to read this.
Years ago a group of writers met at a downtown cafe; it was an established group when I first joined them. We called it a “disorganization” because, other than the time and location, everything was open, There were no dues, no officers, no requirements or expectations. Lots of fun, lots of play, love, support and encouragement, not just for writing but for everything else too.
“Our” cafe lost its lease. We changed locations several times. The group continues to meet but it lost something when we moved. Something about the configuration of the space perhaps, because we used to annex tables in a kind of freeform dominoes fashion, and now we can only add to the ends of our line of tables.
Sigh. I miss it. The Playground sounds like that kind of place.
Mmm. Yes! Culture! Tastier than yogurt!
I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I build a new space for my people. The thing that really solidified the culture was when they voted to name it Starship Adventure.
That just summed everything up: it’s not a LEARNING space or a GROWING space..it’s a Starship. We’re all captains, we’re all responsible, we’re all showing up in this space (pun alert!) together.
(and yes, we’re all THAT geeky)
Above all, we’re each on our own mission (to seek out…) and THAT sets the culture and expectations.
All the same, I’m mining old Star Treks to soak in that culture (and to leave out the military-ness) and see how it applies to this adventure.
But yes…documenting what’s already there: HARD!
Yes, me again. To say that if a magic wand wielder could bring back our cafe and its culture, I’d totally say yes.
Also, another magic wand wish: x-ray vision, for when I’m driving so I can see through the SUVs and pickups.
I love that the culture of this site supports this kind of wishing.
Tara, I love the name and that everyone is a captain with their own mission … the Star Trek geekiness of it. Sending lots of good wishes for it.
And for you, Fruit Maven, for your Maven’s Haven (I couldn’t resist), for figuring it out.
If I were queen of an island, what would that island be like?
This question reminds me of the connection between culture and sovereignty, at least in my mind. Knowing my internal culture, and maintaining it, protecting it, sending it out into the world…these are sovereignty practices.
A few random notes about the Culture of Kat:
–I wear a pendant every day — not the same pendant every day, but always a pendant. It serves as a talisman and a reminder to me.
–As much as I can, I surround myself with things that are pleasing to the eye, soothing to the touch, and a balm to the spirit. I create altars everywhere I dwell.
–I believe in the power of laughter — to shift perspective, to build intimacy, to open doors.
–I will never be too old for children’s toys and stories. There will always be a part of me that connects with these things, and I will never reject the needs (or the wisdom) of this part of me.
–Traveling to new places helps me to energize, to heal, to wake up.
Thank you for this, Havi.
Docmenting is hard. For big tarnsitions, and goal-setting I use chart paper that my dad gave me. (he’s a sailor) It allows you t plot how to et where you are goign with cool lines of axis–you put your destination in the middle in a bulls-eye looking cirlce and i write all the steps that lead there. I really find the chart paper so helpful,and magickal for mapping out lots of steps, especiall fi they are non-linear.
Today I started tackling my most fearsome bundle of “having to figure this out and SOON, hugh stakes, unpleasant consequences, lots fo reisstance” stuff and decided to turn it into a Treasure Map. More on this as it develops. But it’s so ncie to finally have a way to approach this Bundle of Stuff which SCARES the pants off me, and it is the culture of the Playground an the Kicthen Table and this whole wonderful space that Havi captains, made that possible.
Acknowledgement and stinky French cheese!
Acknowledgement and creamy Oregon cheese from happy hippy goats!
I’m always happy to oblige!