Idealism as an Evolutionary Impulse

I wrote this piece when in the thrall of NYC life (November 10, 2011) during the last days of the Occupy Wallstreet movement.

Living in New York – is simply both an exhilarating and anxious experience.  Often getting up and facing the day can feel like jumping off a cliff into a churning sea …. there is a promise of vibrant stimulation and also of being beaten and battered – just by stepping out of one’s door and joining the crowds.  The challenge is finding that bubble of peace that will allow one to lightly engage and disengage, floating through it all, seeing everything,  while avoiding harm and harming nothing.  I think of facing a day in New York as a microcosm of facing the world today – all the challenges, the accomplishments, the despairs, the thrills, the mysteries, the traditions, the connections and disconnections of peoples and all the cultural baggage that comes with them.  It makes sense that the “Occupy” movement started here.

But as the days go on, and there are no instant fixes to the myriad of problems that surround us, when our idealism and hopes wear thin – when we feel small to change even the least of our lives, let alone take on the corporate machinery that consumes the world, there is a perspective that at least gives me peace.  It is a spiritual principle, shared by many faiths – that it is not our individual job to save the whole world, but rather to discover our part in the greater whole, and to do as best we can.  That we are one of many, and we are not isolated and alone, and need to find a way to reconnect to our strength and power, and to the power that surrounds us – however you want to define it – that power is an energy that is greater than any one of us alone.

Waking up, and trying to sleep away my anxiety before I started chipping away at my many projects – the thought of which is overwhelming – WHAT have I got myself into?!  Can’t I just hide from my life?  I decided to listen to a podcast from http://www.newdimensions.org/ – Whenever I get lost in my own mind of self-defeat, a sense of disconnection and fear … I check in with this program – and see what sort of messages I can glean from it.  Today I listened to – New Dimensions Media : THE UNCREATED FUTURE DEPENDS ON US with Andrew Cohen.

(At this point, you will have to pay for the podcast.  If you aren’t interested in listening to the details of Mr. Cohen’s spiritual journey, you can skip listening to the middle 25 or so minutes and listen to the first 10 and last 15 minutes.)  His most powerful insights are about how mankind is the only species that via its evolutionary impulse needs to improve and innovate “everything.” To create new things.  But at this point in our world – the human race is “stuck” in a cultural paradigm that is outdated.  We need to go beyond the idea of individual existence and excellence and expand into a greater vision of self and life.  That history and existence is a linear and evolving process, that is progressive and demands our participation in the world.  Again, this touches on the “occupy” movement, in that those who support the “occupy” movement are filling up the void of a culture that has stolen the rich meaning from our lives and depleted the earth’s resources.  The challenge is to occupy one’s mind and life with thought and action of alternatives, improvements, innovations … rather than vacantly accept the status quo. *

Many religious traditions demand that humans separate themselves in one way or another from  the world – but he disagrees with this focus upon an afterlife, or of withdrawing from worldly things, etc.  He insists that men and women of conscience need to engage, and to become part of the greater whole, so that we can all move on with the world toward an ever improving reality – we need to align ourselves with a present time and reality that is synchronized with the world of our children and children’s children and on and on into a sense of timelessness.  This is what “sustainable” should mean … that it allows us (the greater us – the earth, humans, all living) to progressively evolve into the everlasting now and future and future’s future.

Santiago Calatrava’s – Sundial Bridge – Redding, California – The cantilevered design was innovated so that bridge construction would not disrupt the river habitat.

*(A similar concept to “occupy” is the true but often misinterpreted meaning of “jihad” which means engaged struggle, and is meant to be associated with any sort of struggle one can have that leads to a change – it can involve self-improvement, family relations, pursuit of knowledge and so forth.  Unfortunately, the fullness of the word, and its meaning has been corrupted in the public mind.  Interesting contrast – the word – “Occupy” has had a negative connotation, politically – one where military might has brutally and oppressively occupied another land.  “Occupy” now has a new connotation of peaceful activism and preoccupation of people to change away from political oppression.)

Recollections of Occupy Wallstreet – Democracy Redefined

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, “ – Janis Joplin

(Day 25 – Working to Clean-up Camp – October 11th, 2011)

There is a recurrent refrain in the mainstream media that “Occupy Wallstreet” lacks an identifiable agenda or a cohesive

Far from chaotic, the Occupy Movement community was regularly informed of all major activities.

Far from chaotic, the Occupy Movement community was regularly informed of all major activities.

program.  What the “dumb-down” media elites so desperately want from the movement are soundbites that they can rally against with their panel of insta-pundits put together with the intent to dis-inform the American public.  But “Occupy Wallstreet” refuses to participate in the oversimplification of the mess that the political and economic superpower brokers have wrought upon the world.

It has been a long time since I have trusted any sort of news coming from the television, so the day after an unfortunate exposure to the O’Reilly Factor’s verbal write-off of “Occupy Wallstreet” as a movement with the political impact of a renaissance faire where one can get a contact high off of as a passerby, I headed down to Zucotti park.  Rising up from the R station Cortlandt exit – the beats of the drum circle announced my promised destination.  What I first noticed were the standard aluminum crowd control gates surrounding the 1 Liberty Plaza, located a block north of the park and then nearly 40 police vans and cars parked pointing toward the park.  Above all this is a 30 foot high mobile police tower,monitoring the scene.

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Camp Anonymous – with cardboard, tarp and camping gear representing all name brands – the Occupiers made their homes in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, the realm of Wallstreet.

Makeshift Shelters of Tarps and Cardboard keep Protesters Dry

From across the street, the view was visually chaotic with hundreds of people making their way through the encampment of tarped mounds under which people would sleep/stay to keep dry and warm.  Up closer, “Camp anonymous” was announced via Sharpie lettering on a cardboard box window/door flap.   Given the day was drizzling and overcast, and that New York has had soggy weather as a norm throughout the summer and into the fall, I mentally gave those living here for nearly a month props for their fortitude.  (As I write this a torrential downpour is beating down on Manhattan.  I am hoping those tarps hold strong tonight.) This is definitely not glamping, but a survive-with-the-minimum living environment.  Nowhere did I see a port-a-potty, or availability of running water.  If either of these exist, there are far too few for thousands of protesters.  The most luxurious sleeping I saw was a mattress wrapped in plastic. The typical sleeping arrangement is a sleeping bag on cement.

Distributing Donated Box Lunches

Further on, about a half a block into the park was the communal kitchen of modular aluminum shelving surrounded by towers of plastic storage bins on the west, and the food prep area. Beyond the women preparing the food were buffet tables loaded with  lunches which volunteers gave to anyone who chose to wait in line.

As I was taking in this scene, a 50ish woman holding her professional video-recorder fitted with a shotgun mike at her side was conversing with a 50ish man about the movement.  I felt my eyes roll in my head as he said – “I just don’t think that these kids have the temerity to follow the movement through to the end.”  While he was making his authoritative observations, the morning’s General Assembly meeting was in session.

Every point was made in waves of three: first from one of the speakers, who stood side by side on a 50 foot long granite embankment serving as the stage; then the first echo by an intermediate singular announcer, and the final echo shared by alternating volunteers of 3 or more.  All of this was done so everyone could hear without the use of sound equipment or megaphones.  The messages carried along each wave like a mantra.  The listeners would respond to various messages with upturned “yay” hands fingers wiggling for emphasis.

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In the space of an hour, this purportedly, “ajenda-less” community of protesters covered the following points through consensus: The beginning of their “good neighbor policy” which included 1) the community  participation in a full-scale park clean-up, for which they allocated $3,000 toward the renting of power-washers and professional cleaners, in addition to cleaning supplies; 2) the organization of a group to replant and remulch the park’s flower beds, along with the suggestion of funds to be spent toward this effort; 3) and in response to complaints of the park neighbors – a schedule set up for the drumming circle limiting the beats between 11 am and 5 pm; 4)  a logistical storage solution suggested for protesters’ possessions aided by the donation of a storage facility by the United Teachers Union.  During a moment when distant ambulance sirens rang out over the crowd, the time out sign was given, and a couple people broke out with – “This is what democracy looks like!”  Yes, a democracy that gets things done through consensual agreement, rather than competitive one-up-manship, which has held the U.S. Congress in a disgraceful political stagnation these past few years.

This is a new democracy, not based on the pseudo-democratic paradigm of ancient Greece, where only the free, land-owning, male elite were allowed to vote.  This democracy is for those who decide to show up and participate and take responsibility for governing their own lives, with or without the sanction of the “state.” This democracy is open for business to anyone.  And in spite of all the frustrations that may have brought these people together to protest in Zucotti park, there is a palpable sense of peace and calm throughout.  Even the NYPD police posted at the perimeter, seemed to sense this with their bodies leaning casually against the crowd-control gates, as they observed the actions of the crowd.  Peace, is a dominant message of this movement.  Haven’t we had enough of war already?  And isn’t it time we figure out how to kick this addiction to violence, contention, and disrespect of each other and the earth at large?  Isn’t it time we figure out how to make the most of the resources of community and our planet, rather than thieving those resources for selfish gain?

The issue at hand is – how do we save the world – when the institutions and systems and roles of power whom we were taught to trust are bankrupt/ corrupt or lack the courage and vision to forge ahead breaking the old rules and making new ones?  How is this done?  The folks of “Occupy Wall Street” and millions of others involved in similar community actions worldwide are starting to figure this out and desire our support and participation.  It is time for us, the people, to take over the responsibility of governing our lives and our communities. Beyond the babble of soundbites there are many solutions and many answers for those who dare to dive into the mystery of creating a new world paradigm.  It is OUR life to live and OUR future to make!