Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Elephant: Harbin Watsu because “Modernity sucks” as Reg said, Dutch commitment to reclaim land from the sea, Harbin and the Long Term

Harbin ethnography:

... In my umbrella characterization of modernity, I include what is often referred to as post-modernity, as this term emerges with and relates to, loosely, hippies and counterculture.

“Modernity sucks,” as Reg said this morning in the (Harbin's Fern community) kitchen. He’s lived in Holland for 16 years, and is focusing on taking 320 hours of Watsu and water dance and healing dance credit hours so that he can become a Watsu practitioner at Harbin.

We were first talking about the Dutch commitment to reclaim land from the sea, which extends over 3 or 4 centuries, a very long-term cultural approach involving identity, group interests and place. We were then talking about the Internet, and how he sees it as a time-suck and limiting. I mentioned Global Voices Online (, which is an aggregator of blogs from countries around the world, a very populist and empowering technology to collect, translate, and make available the blogs/thoughts from people around the world on the ground. He was then observing how he didn’t like information technology’s negative effects. I wondered whether this emerged with industrialization’s telecommunications and transportation, all of which were dislocating vis-à-vis place-based, extended families, for example, and whether Harbin is a response to all of that, to modernity itself, emerging as it did from the 1960s and 1970s fabric of life, with life there centered around its pools and in the pool area.

Could Harbin take such an approach to the future (as the Dutch have)? Could it generate a kind of place-based, or pool-based, (hippie) identity that then has a kind of staying power over the centuries? In its ‘system’ aspects, where Harbin delivers a kind of experience that just emerged, but is kinds of also planned, and is social, and is a response to modernity, could Harbin create more profoundly the music that it’s been creating, for centuries ahead, and more resonantly?

Reg observed that the Dutch are very matter of fact, and I observed that they are very reason-oriented.

So, out of the wildness of the 1960s and early 1970s, Harbin, as place and hippy-organization, wants people to work, too, {when they become residents}. While it may have sheltered lots of folks who didn’t want to work for long (? some) periods of time, this may not have been sustainable (i.e. worked out culturally), but it (Harbin) still may shelter some, defined partly by which residents have been on the land the longest” (MacLeod, Harbin Field Notes 2007-2008, April 13, 2008).

While this interpretation of the Harbin pools as place in contrast to 'Modernities' may seem irrelevant, or even trivial (Boellstorff 2008:91), how place significantly informs Harbin, as a kind of human technology vis-a-vis the warm pool and in contrast possibly to modernity – as a kind of technology as discourse? :) - vis-a-vis hippies, counterculture and the 1960s offers very fruitful ways to understand Harbin Hot Springs, on-the-ground and in-the-waters, I here suggest. ...

( - February 23, 2011)

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