Regaining Our Connection

The news was on in the background as I worked on my computer, proceeding as news normally does, when my ears picked up some words that did not at all sound like what is regularly on the news.  It sounded more like a part of a science fiction show, or perhaps a section of a movie about healing via a strange version of the esoteric.   I focused and was astounded by what I saw (although I admit that afterwards I laughed at the absurdity).  An elderly woman, ostensibly a doctor, was passionately warning people to make sure God was watching when they had intercourse to make sure that they were not sleeping with spirits and demons (which was the cause of illness) and that vaccines were made with alien DNA.  Was this really a news program??  It was, and this was the person with whom Trump wishes to replace the current senior advisor on the pandemic, Dr. Fauci.  Replace Dr. Fauci with a witch doctor????   (Not to be confused with shamans, who are sane.) Alice in Wonderland had just expanded exponentially.  I have my reservations about vaccines, especially about the designer vaccine being hurriedly developed to ward off the Coronavirus, but I am certain the vaccine has not been made with alien DNA.

The news is also telling us that we need to come together to defeat the virus.  This is partly true.  However, the news puts out mixed messages about connecting with each other.  It says we should stay connected virtually and by acts of charity performed within the parameters of distancing, connecting at a surface level but continuing to wear masks and stay in our houses, or at least six feet away from each other.  I believe the reasoning is that if we do this, we will feel satisfied, rather than isolated from each other.  People do not like to be deprived of touch and of proximity.  Despite the surface nature of its pronouncement, the news is not incorrect in this matter.  We do need to connect, more than virtually, more than just sharing a meal outside a restaurant at tables six feet apart.

 I am not talking about being sheep in a herd, led by the latest official direction and pressure from the bandwagon.  People who connect respect the individuality of each other; they listen and discuss; they cooperate without pressuring each other to conform. For example, whatever I may think of masks, it does not hurt me to wear one either out of concern for the safety of others or simply to refrain from adding to the already overwhelming anxiety that many people feel.  Being vaccinated with a vaccine I do not think is safe and doubt is effective or being tracked to ensure that I get vaccinated is a completely different matter.  There is a difference between radical cooperation and tyranny.  We need to come together in cooperation at a deeper level, to sustain each other, to survive as a species and to influence the evolution of events towards a healed Earth,  disease-free living, and a just, compassionate and respectful social and economic order.

One concept we have for a long time been taught is that life is competitive; it is everyone for him/herself and for his/her immediate family.  Our schools, with their system of grades, are built that way.  The economic inequality we currently experience is built on a foundation of competition, winner take all.  Now that we are faced with the challenge of the pandemic (and also the ongoing challenge of an ever-warming Earth), we seem unable to come together to solve it using the standard competitive paradigm.

To achieve the deep cooperation we need is a major undertaking.  We once had that kind of cooperation, when people lived in tribes, or even in small neighborhoods, and worked together for the benefit of all.  Sure, there were disagreements then, but the disagreements were not allowed to destroy the well-being of the whole.  In various ways, the community would help the members who were at odds with each other work out their differences in ways that allowed life to go on.   We have lost that.   Now we have competition, fights, wars, winners, losers, and increasing chaos.   The mainly competitive path is not working. 

To succeed in reclaiming cooperation between ourselves, we must change the directive which instructs us that life is every man or woman for himself or herself, and that we need to defeat someone else in order to be successful or happy.  We have to give up some of our defining individualism, sacrificing some of it to the benefit of the whole.  No, our individual identities will not go away completely.  We are, after all, each unique, each an irreplaceable individual.  The value of our talents, though, must be geared towards helping the other unique individuals with whom we live.  The community supports us; we support the community.  That is the essence of cooperation.  We work together towards what we all in our wisdom perceive to be the best.  That is quite different than a government, or corporations, deciding what is best and giving us the illusion that if we just do it their way, we may manage to succeed, and life will be good for some of us at least.

Cooperative community is the way of the future.  It is in process; the substance is still evolving.  In community, each voice is heard, and time is taken to reach consensus.  Consensus is possible because people have learned to listen, and to discuss their differences and respect another’s stance without needing to feel that they have ‘won’. People work with and support each other.  The wisdom of even a few is not only heard but incorporated into consensus decisions.   Because the process takes time, the pace is slower, less frenzied.   This is new to us; if there are even distant memories of how it was, we still need to learn or relearn the patterns.  However, this ‘road less taken’ is the one that can lead us into a healed, peaceful world, prosperous equally for all.

Now is the time for change; now is the time for action.  If we shy away from this deeper working together, we are abdicating any influence we might have on what evolves.  Do we wish to live in the world some distant authority prescribes for us?  We can see the beginning of that now.   Let us pause now to think, to come together, to know each other as the wonderful, creative people we are at heart, and to use our combined talents to build a world in which we wish to live.

Peace, Diane

A Call to Community

Wisdom tells us that the present is the only reality.  The past is gone, the future not yet here.  Thus, a snapshot of the present is the clearest truth.  The rest is memory or guesswork.   Currently, my state of Virginia has just gone into stage 3 of opening its economy, which had been closed by the Coronavirus.   Other states are in various stages of re-opening.  Yes, the virus is still being transmitted, but the consensus seems to be that if the states do not open their economies, we can choose between death from Coronavirus or death from deceased economies.  Most states have added precautionary regulations to their re-opening plans.  Some states are more consistent about enforcement than others.  Many people are rejoicing, seeing a return to “normal”, or the way things used to be before the virus.  Others are reserving their joy, maintaining a ‘wait and see” attitude. There is no consensus.

In true Alice in Wonderland fashion, events keep happening and creating chaos.  Given, needed changes can emerge out of chaos.  Ending racism, economic justice, and climate change are three of them currently in the news; others, such as restorative agriculture and abolishing war seem to garner less attention now.  No one really knows what will happen.  The only development with some certainty is that the “normal” of before the coronavirus is gone and will not return.   The new normal is yet unformed but will be different than before.

There are predictions by pundits of oncoming catastrophes of one kind or another that will inform the new normal.  One such prediction is economic collapse; the dollar will lose its value, there will be massive inflation and disruption to supply lines, creating shortages of foods, medicines, supplements (and maybe more toilet paper).  Another is a physical calamity, such as an EMP, or the sabotage of the power grid, or perhaps earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.   Yet another is the advent of massive Big Brother type tyranny, and the digitization of everything, even our bodies, so that we and everything else can be tracked.  A fourth is the effects of climate change, such as droughts, storms, floods, and dwindling water tables.  Each prediction has its reasons, and they can be investigated online. Some may happen, in full or part, and some may not.  Or, the other extreme, none of these things will happen and we will somehow attain a utopian society without much effort at change-making.  Whatever happens, it will not be the same as pre-Coronavirus.

Many of those who see catastrophes happening are busy preparing silently for the difficulties they foresee.   Most of this prepping is done individually by families who prepare for themselves, in as much detail as they can.  A few groups prepare together.  An underlying theme is that there will be chaos, and everyone will have to fend for himself/his family amidst looting and violence.  Cooperation is not the largest goal.  The thrust is to have as much of everything necessary or desired for oneself and one’s family and protect that from the envisioned chaos.

There is wisdom in being prepared, and perhaps the anticipated chaos will occur, although that cannot be known for certain.   What is missing, so far as I can see, is the element of community, cooperation and sharing.  This used to be a part of the lives of our ancestors, whether those in tribes or neighborhoods or frontier homesteads.  One cooperated and shared with one’s neighbors and hosting a stranger with generosity was a virtue.  We seem to have lost this in modern times.  It is not that there was no struggle; tribes and homesteaders fought, and neighborhoods tended to be of people who had known each other for a while.  However, the concepts of the virtues of cooperation and sharing were there.

We need to recapture these virtues if we are to create a new normal that is nurturing for people.  We need to expand these virtues, extending them to others who are different.  We need to combine our skills, wisdom, and energy to create a new normal in which all of us can live with dignity, exercise our creativity, be assured that our world will not poison us and that there will be enough food, shelter, water, clothes, medicine, education and the like for all who are open to receiving it.  That cannot be legislated from above.  It must come from people changing their own hearts and attitudes and working together cooperatively to create these conditions.  We need to recapture the attitude of community.

Communities, of whatever flavor, such as tribe, neighborhood, extended family, intentional community, are self-governing groups of people, from, say, 10 or 15 to as many as say, 50 (there is no set number, other than that which is workable for the group in its entirety) who commit to helping and supporting each other, working together, and who have the intent of staying together over time.  They occupy land of various acreages (some are rural, some urban) and are often self-sustaining.  They tend to be cognizant of the needs of the earth and the non-human life which inhabits it, and work in cooperation with those needs.   Generally, they govern themselves by consensus.  This contrasts with what now exists (and is in chaos) such as nations, states, counties, and other large units using forms of governance which are top heavy and authoritarian.  Voting still exists, but direct participation of the governed is rare.  People usually tend to look out for themselves and their families, embracing an ethos of competition and a race to the top or a sinking to the bottom.  Resources are indisputably unevenly distributed; those at the bottom often do not have enough.  The needs of the earth and other creatures go unseen or are neglected, following the apparent belief that the entire Earth and its resources are there simply to serve the needs and convenience of humanity.  (Some human beings were once held in slavery on plantations under a similar assumption.)

What now exists does not seem to be working very well.

Examples of how a modern community can function exist.  These extant communities show that people are truly able to come together and create successful community not only now, but also more prevalently into the future.  Like-minded people tend to gather into communities with others who hold similar values.  They are also willing to allow other groups their own values and beliefs.   Other than not attacking and harming one another, they recognize structures which are different from their own.  They also recognize the value and the right to continue living of the Earth and the plants and other animals who inhabit the Earth along with us.   Their ability to use communal wisdom enhances their ability to live in general harmony with the Earth and with each other. This is a summary; details can be found online at www.fic.org , for one, and also from many books written on the topic, including a directory of communities worldwide, available through www.fic.org .

We need now to examine how such a lifestyle might be possible for us.  Yes, there are difficulties to overcome; they are difficulties inherent in ourselves as people of a dominant and prosperous culture.  For example, we need to be less dependent on being right, on being one up on another, of being dependent on having many things, of tending to argue rather than try to reach agreement.  We can choose to overcome these difficulties and learn to truly cooperate, or we can carry our current stances into our demise.  The Earth will not choose to die so we can continue to be “right” until the end.  Even if the Earth did so choose, the death of the world which sustains us is also our own death.   Community is our hope; it is people working together, as cooperative units, to learn to heal the Earth and to give value and sustenance to every living being on the Earth.   People, is it harder to learn these things, or to continue to struggle with the chaos around us as we refuse to change?  Neither will be easy, but I do believe that the former will be exponentially more satisfying.

Let us now, before it is too late, to ponder the changes that need to be made, and the ineffectiveness of top-heavy government to make those changes.  We cannot avoid individual responsibility.  The struggle and chaos of the virus have given us our second chance.  Let us examine the format of cooperative community as a supportive medium in which to make these changes.  Let us research websites, read books and talk to those who have already made community, and then talk with each other about how we might do the same.    It is time.   We need community if we ourselves are to survive.  The whole supports the many, and the many support the whole.

Peace, Diane

We Really Do Matter

” I have marched, petitioned, written letters to the editor, made phone calls and donated, but despite all I can do, nothing seems to have changed.   I feel I cannot make a difference.”  The words refer to the current crisis of climate change, uttered during a conversation about that topic.  The words are poignant, but the speaker is not the only one who feels that way.  At some time or another, each of us experiences frustration at not being able to inspire the changes we want to see, and many also experience a strong desire to give up and stop working.  Paradoxically, while we experience that desire, we also know that actually doing that will not bring lasting happiness.

I, too, experience such discouragement.  At times, it seems that no matter what words I use, they will simply echo back from the void of inertia, slip into the antithesis of what I am trying to challenge, and perish unread and unconsidered.  At such times, it is hard to continue.  Yet, giving up would simply create more hopelessness, and negate the essence of who I am, re-incorporating it into a standard status-quo.  No wealth or luxury (or the “righteousness” of its opposite) can soothe the injection of pain resulting from giving up.

I would that it were easier for us to continue.  I would that we were not surrounded by the integrated tangle we have made for ourselves by assuming that we can create better than the wisdom of nature, or the tenets of Wisdom.  However, wishing does not make it so.  We are indeed all linked, whether in chaos or creation, or both at the same time.  This connection, while it may seem at times to present an insurmountable obstacle, is in fact an innate strength upon which we all may draw as we continue living and doing our parts to nurture each other and our planet.  Understanding this can lift us up; acting on the understanding can help us perceive often imperceptibly slow forward movement.

We need community; we need others with whom to work, strive and share.  We need those whose efforts commingle with ours to heal ourselves and our planet.  We need to act on the knowledge that we are all linked, and that each of us does make a difference to the nature and quality of the whole.  Our connection is creative – even if we are joined in creating destruction – and allowing ourselves to be separated each from the other, perceiving the separation rather than the link, inhibits our creative manifestation.   Many ways exist to connect.  Some are those of technology (not the same as physical proximity, but yes, a kind of connection), discussion groups, action/service groups, economic cooperatives, extended family, neighborhoods and co-housing, monastic groups, intentional communities, to name a few.  These groups, each in its own way, support their members (and sometimes others, too) and devote their pooled energy into influencing the creation of the as-yet-unformed that is to come.

Another obstacle many of us experience is the perceived lack of time.  Often our experience is that when all the work done to support ourselves is finished, there remains the maintenance work at home to sustain us, and some time spent to connect with family and friends.  That done, perhaps we can eke out a little time to read, exercise or learn and grow in one way or another.   When all that is accomplished, there remains little time to sleep, even if we have been operating with the stress of full speed ahead.  Community is helpful in this way as well.  Work shared (remunerative or for maintenance) means less time each individual needs to spend on tasks.  Shared effort means support for each other.  Shared knowledge means learning and growing in the course of being.  Time saved means less time spent rushing and more time available for sleep and healing, and more time in which to pursue those efforts about which one is passionate.

“It is all so complex,” one might protest.  “We are becoming more fully aware of the consequences of climate change, yet it seems that averting the full effects of climate change cannot be addressed without also engaging the issues with which it is linked.”  It is as if the totality of mistakes made in human society are the drivers of the changes on the planet as a whole.  Yes, fossil fuels are certainly a large part.  But what about people trapped residing in marginalized areas or substandard housing, an agricultural system seemingly bent on destroying the life of the soil as it goes about chemically killing everything it cannot sell, factory farms selling meat from abused animals while polluting ecosystems, a political and economic system structured to exclude or minimize minorities, escalating wars, and technology fever, which separates us from the earth and gives us the illusion that it will protect us from change?  These are a few of today’s issues; they are related to climate change.  Cause for hopelessness?   Not when we realize that each little bit helps; when enough drops have fallen into the bucket, the bucket will overflow.

Let us hold on to hope, learn to feel the interconnectedness of all things, gather into community, and be aware that we do, indeed, matter.  Anything, small or large, that we do counts.  Let us “hold the vision and keep the faith” and continue to contribute from the time we manage to devote and the talents we have been given.  In this way, we continue to grow, helping the earth and others in the process.

Peace, Diane

Little Drops of Water; Little Bits of Sound

As we approach the end of 2019 and the cumulation of the holiday season, I find myself at times falling into a pensive state amidst the bustle of to-dos.  I have been recalling a passage from C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, in which the singing of the lion Aslan results in the formation of the country of Narnia.  Another, different memory flows from that passage.  The sixties and early seventies were times of rapid and needed changes, among them civil rights, anti-war and the environment.  What kept those changes moving was the nonstop messaging of the music of that era.  Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie, Peter, Paul and Mary were among the creative musical souls who with their music, often generated from our heritage of folk songs, kept the constant musical drumbeat that propelled the sixties forward.  Sound has power, be it the sound of music or the sound of prosaic voice.

Our own age has as many – perhaps more – issues as the sixties.  Some are similar, such as continued civil rights.  We have peace movements and the exemplary seeds of communities, some of which survived the sixties and matured.  We have political turmoil and economic inequality, healthcare and education among our issues.  What is new about our era is the rapidity with which public attention fluctuates from one issue to another in kaleidoscopic fashion, resulting in continued stress and few solutions.  The political system seems to be teetering, hampered by infighting, talking heads, and inactivity.  We go, for example, from focus on Greta Thunberg and climate change to political debate between electoral candidates to the impeachment of the president, as if an invisible hand were turning a giant kaleidoscope.

Also new in our area is an overarching issue, to which all others are related.  We are faced with the imminent and ominous advent of climate change.  Without our planet, the rest does not matter.  Without viable solutions to the subsidiary issues, healing the planet and adapting to what is currently inevitable is a herculean task.  Sadly, we are focused on the tributary tasks feeding the current of climate change and comparatively neglectful of the overarching issue.

The obstacle is that the issue of climate change and the needed changes (no, technology will not solve everything for us while we continue the present path) is a highly uncomfortable issue for most people; the changes needed are massive.  We cannot persist in an extraction-based economy, an assumption that it is permissible to kill for our advancement or convenience, in economic and social inequity, in a lifestyle of throwaway consumption and a detachment from the earth and the plants and animals that live upon it.  This is the crossroads. 

Change is usually not comfortable.  It is easier to focus on the other issues contingent to this central one, and to hide our heads in the sand, so to speak, as we mostly ignore the imminent and ominous approach of the results of our actions upon the earth.   Because we cease to speak of it, it is easier to not think of it and not make any of those uncomfortable changes.   We like to assume that someone else will fix the problem, or that it will fix itself.  Then we can feel that we are not responsible.  The truth is that no one else will fix the problem for us.   We are responsible for the results we want.  

Many years ago, the Earth/Nature went through another period of global warming – possibly fueled by volcanic eruption. Over the eons, the Earth in her wisdom healed herself by capturing those elements that contributed to the warming and sequestering them underground in the form of oil, coal and natural gas.  Frozen methane was also sequestered in the permafrost of the polar regions as the earth cooled.  There was extinction during those times, too.  Eventually, people evolved – supposedly the most intelligent of all creatures.  We, the intelligent creatures, learned how to put back into the atmosphere all that Nature had hidden underground, and we proceeded to do that as fast as we could.  We thus began to bring back the times of warming and extinction.  Are we intelligent enough now to correct our actions and stop the release of the pollution which spoils the Earth and warms it, and causes extinction of species, including ourselves?  Are we intelligent enough to change, and restore at least some of what we have taken?  It is past time to start that process.

We need again the power of sound to reorient ourselves to the need of the present moment.  We need it to energize our awareness that no matter what else we may be working on, that project is subsidiary (important as a contribution) to the elephant in the room, climate change.  To mitigate or tack across the effects of the climate change we have wittingly or unwittingly created will take the efforts and contributions of each of us.  No one of us can do the job alone.  Technology will not excuse or save us from our responsibility.

Admittedly, we cannot all march in the streets, pay to fund activists, research and educate people, form communities, garden on our rooftops, install solar panels or paint our roofs white.  Some of us (and our neighborhoods) even have difficulty in recycling, despite expanding landfills and the omnipresent plastic waste on land, in the air, and at sea.   There is, however, one thing that everyone can do. Everyone can keep the reality of climate change from being forgotten, deleted from the conversation by the short attention span of public interest.

We need sound.  Musicians, if you are up to the challenge, focus your creativity here.   It is not necessary, though, to be a musician to contribute.  Whoever you are, whatever else you do, you can help to create a tsunami of lasting attention to what needs addressing.  Each of us can each day mention climate change to just one different person and ask that person to do the same.  We can connect in person, by email or social media, by letter to the editor, on the bus, at work, via chance encounter – the ways to choose are many.  There is no need to argue – just mention, each day, consistently.  The rest will follow, in ourselves and in our world.

I commit to doing this.  I invite all to join me.  Together we may be strong enough to heal our planetary home.

Peace, Diane