At age 19, in a village on Kolombungara, a remote island of the Solomon Islands, where everyone comfortably wore bare feet all the time, I witnessed a community come together and construct a beautiful little dwelling, using only materials from the jungle in a spectacular, fun way that incorporated singing and sharing food. Various plants, grasses, and leaves were tightly woven and tied together to create a very attractive, cozy, ornate home that was perfect in its own way. Everyone was involved from toddlers to seniors. The interactive audience provided delicious homemade traditional food and a general sense of mirth. Frolicking children were highly engaged and integral to the magic created. And everyone sang together, producing heavenly soulful harmonies that were out of this world.
Can you imagine seeing a house sung into existence, with ease and tranquility and fun, like a dance? Can you imagine the effect that would have on a 19- year-old seeker? I saw proof of what I instinctively already knew was out there somewhere - a better way, and that was the reason I went there in the first place- to find it.
Such a generous, playful attitude towards something as serious as shelter, where does that come from? Children show us that play and fun are innate human traits, and I saw that the Solomon Islanders had somehow been able to more fully appreciate this and were more intentional about retaining it. And that’s where their magical formula lies for reducing shelter, the world’s most expensive item, down to zero cost, or even below zero, to where a surplus is generated, not a cost.
Fun is a special kind of currency that blurs the lines between the giver and receiver. It's what humans do best and it’s contagious. It spreads between us. It's very easy to recognise; you know it when you feel it, but if you were to try to objectively and rationally define exactly what it is, where it comes from and why, that would not be easy. To be able to generate it and apply it to the pursuit of basic needs such as food and shelter is a great accomplishment. And I hereby want to pay my respects to the Solomon Islanders, and also to all those who have found ways to do something like that.
Those Solomon Islands experiences sat somewhere inside me like a seed laying dormant, waiting and wanting to come out and express themselves somehow, some way. Then, one day, years later, the seed sprouted and I began creating festive building events with food, music, audiences, performing and building activities, under the banner of “Mud Fun” with groups of people.
At last count over 15,000 had taken part in the program, which has been free for most participants, and while much of it has been performed in the spirit of a hobby, especially in the beginning, I have also found ways to pay myself and others from various funds and resources made available for construction, education, promotion, community needs, and cultural arts. Although the number and size of the structures we have built have been small, the participation and positivity have been big.
These Mud Fun experiences are the very first shoots of a seed that is part proof and part promise that if we combine our innate propensity and need for fun and play with our instinctual needs to build and provide shelter, then it becomes a very powerful force for positive change.