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Ritual Report: Schelling Day

31 Post author: ModusPonies 17 April 2013 03:46AM


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.

Comments (113)

Comment author: Raemon 18 April 2013 11:59:10PM 11 points [-]

(In the interest of attempting to counterbalance the peer pressure here, I would like to officially solicit [perhaps privately, or perhaps ModusPonies may want to sent up an anonymous comment box], for people who attended the event who had criticisms or just were not quite as awed as the people who've commented so far)

This is not in any way intended to assume there was a problem worth examining. But one of the legitimate criticisms of ritual is that it creates something difficult to criticize, and I think all rationalist rituals should come built in with an appropriate time (a few days afterwards) to evaluate the event and try to counterbalance the social pressure to conform.

Comment author: ModusPonies 19 April 2013 12:38:30AM *  7 points [-]

I agree completely. Everyone, feel free to leave me anonymous feedback.* Let me emphasize that, if anyone had a bad experience, I really want to know.

*This address is not just for Schelling Day. Anyone is welcome to give me any sort of feedback.

Comment author: jkaufman 23 April 2013 07:06:10PM 5 points [-]

just were not quite as awed as the people who've commented so far


  • I feel closer to the people who were there than I did before.
  • Some people said things that felt like missing puzzle pieces, explaining something about them that had always seemed strange to me.


  • There were parts where I was bored.
  • People coming in in the middle, while someone was speaking especially, was disruptive.
  • The "eating the combined food" was a little awkward, as people had preferences and didn't really like the combinations.

Overall I'm glad I went. The negatives were minor compared to the positives.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 22 April 2013 12:11:18AM 5 points [-]

So we just ran this ritual at the Cincinnati meetup. We had nine participants, and went three rounds; everybody spoke at least once, and some three times. It was clearly possible to continue with more rounds, but I think we were roughly at the limit of our attention span; more would have been counterproductive. in accordance with the insight about confessions and struggles being much the same thing, we combined these into one category, which seemed to work well. We had a mix of all four categories, with some being, as our resident theorist put it, superpositions.

Everyone seemed pleased with the results; it was even suggested that we might run the ritual more often than once a year. In truth, any organised activity that leads to someone shouting, in full seriousness, "Sweden shall be CLEANSED with FIRE and FLAME" cannot be all bad.

Comment author: taelor 22 April 2013 10:13:58AM 2 points [-]

In truth, any organised activity that leads to someone shouting, in full seriousness, "Sweden shall be CLEANSED with FIRE and FLAME" cannot be all bad.

I think that the Swedes might disagree about that.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 22 April 2013 07:15:01PM 2 points [-]

The context is that the Swedes had just spent the better part of two decades in revolt against my humane and enlightened rule, and all the jarls and most of the chiefs were in my dungeon awaiting my decision on their fate. Moreover, most of them had ransomed themselves at least once and then rebelled again; so I was not particularly inclined to mercy. Their opinion, then, was not actually very important. :)

The category for this was "other".

Comment author: juliawise 19 April 2013 01:28:33AM 2 points [-]

More thoughts on this on the earlier post.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 17 April 2013 12:11:48PM *  6 points [-]

Wait, the 14th? Oh crud. I... I meant to be there but I remembered it as 'my second weekend in boston' instead of an absolute date. So when my arrival was delayed by a week...


Comment author: Matt_Simpson 17 April 2013 04:31:19PM 10 points [-]

This is simultaneously hilarious and weak evidence that the holiday isn't working as intended (though I think repeating the holiday every year will do the trick).

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 17 April 2013 07:19:08PM 2 points [-]

It has a lot more to do with how crazy my schedule has been lately.

And what the heck people, upvoting that to +4?


Comment author: Matt_Simpson 18 April 2013 06:36:45AM 6 points [-]

It's a Schelling point, er, joke isn't the right word, but it's funny because the day was supposed to be a Schelling point. And you forgot about it.

Comment author: chronophasiac 18 April 2013 03:19:59PM 3 points [-]

As one of the participants, I can honestly say Schelling Day was a highlight of the past year. The experience was every bit as powerful as described. Afterwards, I felt a sense of friendship and goodwill towards my friends (old and new) that was nearly overwhelming.

Thank you so much for organizing this event. Here's to next year's Schelling Day!

Comment author: Raemon 17 April 2013 03:50:42PM 1 point [-]

Glad this went really well!

We've done some non-ritualized group therapy sessions at the New York meetup, which seem similar. I'm interested in running something closer to what you describe here, and see if it feels noticeably different.

Comment author: juliawise 19 April 2013 12:28:59AM *  2 points [-]

We also recently started something partly based on the New York group therapy sessions. (Huh, we should do a writeup of that, too. I'd love to see a writeup of what you guys are doing.)

This felt very different. There's a difference between something that you want to spend 90 minutes talking about with people and something that you just kind of want your friends to know about you. So people were willing to say a wider variety of things, and more people were willing to speak, than would probably do so in a longer and more specific session.

Comment author: Raemon 19 April 2013 02:42:06PM 0 points [-]


Do you anticipate it would work well again if you repeated it with the same people? (I suppose with a year in between them there may be new things to bring up. I'm curious how well it'll work as a permanent yearly thing)

Comment author: juliawise 21 April 2013 01:00:46PM 0 points [-]

Yes, I would expect it to work fine. People said between 1 and 3 things about themselves. This session probably was where people said the things they most wanted to get off their chests, but I would expect people to have more than 3 things that they might want their friends to know about themselves.

Comment author: ModusPonies 19 April 2013 06:11:08PM 0 points [-]

In a year? Probably, although that's mostly a guess. If I did it again now, I wouldn't have much to say.

Comment deleted 22 April 2013 11:27:50AM [-]