Watching the Oasis

As I write this, I’m at Baycon 2017, sitting in room 3084: The Oasis.

The Oasis is an interfaith project, staffed by two Christians and two Pagans (you can guess where I fall in that list), providing quiet space where folks who find themselves overwhelmed by the rest of the con can come to decompress. We’re a self-care facilitation space rather than a hospitality suite; there are some snacks for those who need the boost, water, and a small first aid kit. Also, we’re all clergy, and one of us (me) has counseling psychology training, so we help out with non-physical self-care as well.

The room is quiet now. It’s early afternoon, and the con itself is humming along quietly; things won’t speed up to the point where people start needing our services until the evening events and parties are going. Most of our visitors today have been just curious about what we do here. As the evening goes on, I’m sure we’ll get someone, maybe several someones, who’s had too much to drink or not enough to eat or just a quiet spot to regroup.

Fandom is part of my community. Mostly, they’re not the people I practice with. Hell, this is an old-style literary science fiction/fantasy convention; there are plenty of folks here who think all religion is irrational delusion. That doesn’t make them not my community, though. For that matter, I don’t know most of the con-goers personally, and many I do know are folks I only see at conventions. That doesn’t make them not my community, either.

Community, in this sense, includes the people who provide a space for me to live part of my life, and who (directly or indirectly) share in that life. They help create a place where I belong, and I help create that space for them. Sure, fandom isn’t a community in the sense of, say, a small town, but it is a place where those who didn’t have a place anywhere else can come together and be at ease among folks like themselves.

This isn’t unlike the Pagan community in the Bay Area. We’re scattered physically (being a few thousand people among eight million), coming together en masse only once or twice a year–one of these at a convention in a hotel, no less. Otherwise, it’s just a handful here and there as we observe our rites more privately.

Community isn’t just our friends, or the people we like, or the people we choose to hang out with. It’s the people who make the space we move in, who maintain the resources we use, who are there for us when we need them (in theory, at least). That last bit is what the Oasis is all about.

About the Author

Lon Sarver is a Dionysian priest in the San Francisco Bay Area. He's been at this for 28 years, more or less, in the Midwest and California Pagan and Polytheist communities and is still functionally sane, or at least puts up a good front. Lon leads a devotional group, Thiasos Bakkheios, in monthly rites to Dionysos and annual public rituals at Pantheacon. He edits fiction and provides disability care for his paying gigs. His cat approves of his blogging activities, as it gives her more opportunities to climb up onto his shoulders as he tries to type.

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