Like most things, winter was once a mystery.
The world got cold, and dark. Life became fragile. People died. And they didn't know what was happening or understand why. They desperately threw festivals in honor of sun gods with all-too-human motivations, and prayed for the light's return.
It didn't help. Though we did discover that throwing parties in the middle of winter is an excellent idea.
But then something incredible and beautiful happened. We studied the sky. We invented astronomy, and other sciences. We began a long journey towards truly understanding our place in the universe. And we used that knowledge to plan for the future, and make our world better. Five thousand years later, the winter isn't so scary. But the symbol of the solstice - the departure and return of the sun - is still powerful. The work we have done to transform winter from a terrifying season of darkness into a modern festival of light deserves a reverence with all the weight of an ancient cultural cornerstone.
And the work we have yet to do, to fully explore humanity's potential, is even more inspiring.
Almost three years ago, the NY Rationality community celebrated their first Winter Solstice. This year, I'm ready to share this with as many people as possible. I'm aiming to host a large, concert event, with a goal of filling an 800-seat auditorium. I'm hoping to reach several different communities, connect people, and teach a broader audience about some important rationality concepts.
To make this happen, we're running a kickstarter, beginning today, that'll determine the scope of the event.
A Brief History:
We didn't intend it to be a big thing - it was just twenty of us gathered in a room, celebrating something we thought was important. I put together a series of songs and stories about the oddly specific things that we valued.
I meant it as a small, personal holiday. But I took its construction seriously. I put a lot of thought into why ritual works, why it's so hard to build from scratch, but how you might build it from scratch anyway.
And then I wrote some blog posts about it, and... it turned out to really really resonate with people here. And when I shared with non-Less Wrong folk, even people who had little interest in rationality, they still by and large found it interesting and powerful. I had worried it might look weird - to the contrary, it almost seemed reassuringly normal... and yet also something distinct and new that seemed novel and compelling.
The first year, there were 20 attendees from NY. The second year, we had 50 people coming from Boston, San Francisco and other places, and a group in Ohio who took as inspiration to create their own event. The event was far more successful from an emotional standpoint - many people walked away feeling inspired, connected and awed.
A few months ago, the Melbourne rationalists, put on their own Winter Solstice as well. And this December, we have people in Boston, San Francisco, Ohio, Germany, and Washington DC planning their own events.
What Comes Next:
In NYC this year, my goal is to make a serious stab at creating mainstream culture. I should note that this is somewhat different from "Less Wrong Culture" - there are somethings that LW offers that I think are genuinely valuable to everyone, and there are things I think we focus on because of the people LW attracts. I'm branding this as distinct from Less Wrong (the website I'm running this from is 'humanistculture.com', and is intended to be a general hub for skeptical/rational/humanist artwork and culture.
But we have important messages that the rest of the world should hear. One of my primary goals with the event is to make the ideas behind Effective Altruism not just intellectually but emotionally salient, and to hightlight Existential Risk, in particular, as a concept that people should seriously evaluate. Dovetailing with this will be an attempt to reach people who have the potential to become valuable agents of positive change, and giving them some activation energy.
One event isn't enough to radically change anyone's life, unless they were already hovering on the cusp of agent-hood. So it is also my hope to host a large reception afterwards, where people can connect over what they just experienced, and find their way to a community that will meet their needs, where they can become the people they want to be, over time. For some people, this will be Less Wrong or similar groups. For others it may be Effective Altruism-focused groups, or more mainstream secular communities.
Although this is growing beyond the LW community at this point, it has firm roots in some of our most important ideas. I think it will continue to have value to the community here.
The kickstarter page is here, for those who wish to come, or to support the event.
Ray, you are awesome and this stuff is awesome also. Pledged.
For others: if you want to know if you'll enjoy the stuff Ray produces, I would say if you enjoy the "humanism" arc of HPMOR (http://hpmor.com/chapter/45) you will certainly enjoy this. For some reason that chapter, and Ray's work, both resonate very strongly emotionally with me.
I'll be involved with a regional Solstice ritual, but I pledged anyways because I want this to happen.
There will be one in Berkeley? Keep me up dated! :)
Is there an option to, for example, just get the download of the CD instead of the ticket for the $25 pledge level - for those of us who can't come to the main event?
Yes. Make the 25 dollar pledge and specify your request in the comments for that pledge.
I suggest making the possibility of getting a CD explicit on the front page.
I added that as a reward you can choose, distinct from the ticket, for $25.
Congratulations on hitting your goal! I'm glad this is happening
I'm from Germany but didn't know about this. Which city exactly? Could you please link to or name the people organizing the event?
I hope I'll be able to be there. The music in the campaign video is pretty. What is it?
(You can now hear the first part of the Brighter Than Today song over here:
Most of it is written by me. (The instrumental track in the middle is something I paid for the rights to for this project).
This continues to make me uncomfortable. I don't expect anyone to do anything about this, really, but I figured I might as well be an anecdote point.
Do you have a picture of the poster that comes with a $40 pledge? Also, do you still get the poster if you pledge more?
Apart from the tickets and reception rewards (which go to anyone who pledges $25 and $75, respectively), making the pledge only gets you one of the rewards. However, you can make multiple pledges, and for subsequent ones, reduce your pledge by $25 and note which additional reward you'd like.
The poster is not finished yet, but will most likely be revealed sometime in the next week or two. It will be stylistically similar to (although better quality than) the art on humanistculture.com.
I'm not so sure I followed that. Do you still get tickets as long as you pledge $25 or higher? Or if you want the poster and a ticket do you have to make 2 pledges totaling $65?
Anyone who pledges at least $25 gets a ticket, and one other reward. Anyone who pledges at least $75 gets a reception pass, a ticket, and one other reward. (I realize this is confusing. Kickstarter is unfortunately not set up to make for a really comprehensible marketplace).
That said, I actually just realized that the poster reward wasn't cost effective enough (it was almost exactly charging print value, so while it covered supply costs, it didn't raise any additional funds for the kickstarter itself). So I'm currently marking that one as sold-out, and next week I'll be revealing the poster itself, and a new reward for $50 that is slightly less confusing, explaining that it includes the ticket)
Part of the Kickstarter description seems to get cut off:
Huh, I tried to fix that multiple times and the edit never seemed to take. I think it's fixed now though.
Looks good now!