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Shift Happens

 

Saturday is National Cohousing Day in the U.S. A free tour in Oregon's Willamette Valley (click for details) starts at 10:30 AM at CoHo Ecovillage in Corvallis and continues at 3 PM at Oakleigh Meadow Cohousing in Eugene. The latter is still in process, here's a flyover rendering of their project. (At 5 PM back in Corvallis, CoHo Ecovillage will be showing the excellent documentary Within Reach at 5 PM, it's about a lengthy bike trek touring communities across the U.S.)

Cohousing hasn't (that I've seen) really cracked the hard nut of affordability, but they tend to have some very thoughtful takes on social & ecological design, and be hubs of interesting activity in their neighborhood/city/region. CoHo Ecovillage, as the name says, is on top of being cohousing an eco-village, another network of groups doing some interesting and often very well-grounded innovation. There are a number of other ecovillages in the area, including Maitreya in Eugene itself.

#   on: April 26, 2016       tagged: 

My general focus for many years has been on what I think of as Process Arts, or process activism. That is, rather than focusing on a particular issue, going for general improvement in all of the ways that we learn, make decisions, design our systems, etc. This is relevant at all scales - from personal growth, to group dynamics and facilitation, neighborhood organizing, on up to cities, regions, and globally. At the larger scales we're talking about things like economic, political, and legal systems, and even more generally culture (the second-most powerful leverage point according to systems theorist/activist Donella Meadows).

Progress on process makes progress on every issue much, much easier. My greatest thinking partner in this has been Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute. The most coherent/tangible thing that Tom has offered the world may still be pulling together the category of Citizen Deliberative Councils, which have been applied to a very limited degree in a number of countries and provinces/states, including Oregon's Citizens Initiative Review. Another of our favorite examples showing their huge potential is the 1990s Maclean's Experiment in Canada. (Also see The Tao of Democracy.)

While I myself have a vaguely lefty political perspective, process activism ultimately requires including everyone, certainly people with principled conservative views, and even (although this is far more challenging) those who espouse conservative views but are really just for whatever serves them personally. We include everyone both because it is the right thing to do, and because the more different perspectives we can effectively include, the more wise and broadly acceptable the solutions we come up with together will be. As another friend of mine Brandon WilliamsCraig puts it, "Peace is conflict done well."

The past few years I have unexpectedly found myself focusing on climate as an issue, after several different friends brought my attention to the fact that we may already have passed tipping points from which there is no return (the IPCC numbers tend to be middle of the road, which on such an existential issue seems unwise). So in 2014 I was part of the LA-to-DC Great March for Climate Action, which was a very powerful experience tapping most of my skills in service of this traveling community, on the move more than six days out of seven for eight months. I've had even more trouble than usual being focused since then, but have tried to support local climate action here in Oregon.

Most recently, I'm seeing immense possibilities in Sanders' frequent acknowledgement of the power of the grassroots, and just today found an ally in the national campaign. My intent is to build more bridges between the campaign and the activist networks I am currently well plugged into, hold phone conferences and maybe fact-to-face opportunities, to brainstorm and do some groundwork so that in January 2017 we can hit the ground running for the post-election part of what Bernie calls a "political revolution". (The two links in this paragraph go to the middle of two different Bernie Sanders town halls, and the relevant parts are just 2-3 minutes long.)

Whether Bernie wins or not, I see little hope for the needed scale of climate action, or political/economic/legal/etc. reform, without a giant leap in citizen activism/engagement. Bernie winning would of course be a "eug" plus, as it would give us an ally in one of the most powerful positions inside the system. Assuming of course he is for real, which as far as I can tell he is, and he has much more of a track record to support that vs. Obama who used some of the same rhetoric but never followed through.

I've been blogging again recently, just not here. Four pieces so far over at Daily Kos, on Bernie Sanders & his "political revolution" (next one should go up tomorrow morning), the second amendment, democracy, nonviolence, etc.

My tweets and public bookmarking are always available here in the sidebar.

#   on: January 9, 2016       tagged: 

Sometimes I let myself dialogue with deniers. Got some decent writing out of it this time:

 

Sounds like we don't agree.

I agree that this use of pollution is a slight extension of the way that the word has been used in the past, but I think it's a perfectly reasonable extension. Humans have a hard time thinking in terms of systems dynamics, in part because most of the language used to talk about systems dynamics is so complicated (in large part because systems dynamics *are* complicated).

Pollution is a concept people at least think they understand - it's bad. I'm willing to pay the price of some people not perfectly understanding how the whole system works if they are at least properly alarmed about the situation. Most people who thought they understood the problem *before* this linguistic extension are just as confused about how things really work as those who thought they understood it when they first heard GHGs being labeled as pollution. Most will probably never have a really deep understanding of how systems work. But no human changes have ever waited for perfectly accurate knowledge to percolate through all of humanity. Change is messy.

One thing along these lines that drives me crazy is the nature-lovers who are shocked to discover that the vast majority of species that have ever existed have gone extinct. Nature did not develop a perfect balance in which all species have found the perfect niche in balance with one another. Nature is a constantly changing, often destroying dynamic, which at any given time manages to have an amazing array of beautiful but temporary balances in it. Do I wish everybody understood this? Yes. Am I okay with there being a lot of people who don't, but who nonetheless give their precious time and money toward preserving as much remaining biodiversity as we reasonably can? Yes. Messy, messy, messy.

Our climate system is being polluted by an excess of carbon dioxide.

(Original context: Republicans Speak Out in Support of Renewable Energy and Against Fossil Fuel-Funded Climate Deniers)

Update: This made some sense to the person I was conversing with, and they said they'd have to think about it now. It's important to allow space, both for ourselves and others, to change our minds and develop our thinking, especially on contentious subjects.

#   on: March 21, 2015       tagged: 

Erfworld has been one of my favorite webcomics for some years now. If you are a serious person, you might not give it a second thought. It is unrepentedly goofy, full of cute puns on pop and geek culture and set in a bizarre fantasy world that very explicitly follows wargaming physics. But if you are a serious person who enjoys that sort of thing, it also regularly rewards you with its characters' struggles with perennial dilemmas about love, identity, and war.

I'm glad that I am a goofy person who enjoys such things.

Here's the first page. (Yes, this world's Titans apparently all looked like Elvis.)

#   on: March 21, 2015       tagged: 

350 Oregon has just hired its first organizer, Zach Mulholland! He seems like a great guy and I look forward to working with him more as I dig into local and regional climate action. All donations to 350 Portland (link in the right sidebar) from outside the Portland area will go toward keeping him funded to put in the hours and amp up 350 Oregon's work. Current projects include supporting the state's shift to greener energy sources, public and private organizations' divestment from fossil fuel companies, putting a price on carbon in Oregon, and fighting expansion of natural gas infrastructure for export.

#   on: March 11, 2015       tagged: 

I'm on the Organizing for America mailing list, and just got a request from them for questions that Obama advisor David Simas may answer on a phone call on Monday. Here's what I wrote:

I'm sure there is more I would ask if we knew the actual text of the proposed agreement, but it is still secret! Please release it, now, and stop pushing for fast track - to be a government of We the People, the public ought to to have time to evaluate anything with such far-reaching consequences. Here are a couple of areas of concern that I have heard about via leaks:

  • Expansion of copyright, especially criminalization - just a few of the troubling provisions include revoking Internet access as a punishment for repeated copyright violations, disallowing people from breaking DRM for legal purposes, and infringements on fair use.
  • Corporate welfare and trumping of popular sovereignty - word is, the bill expands corporations' ability to sue governments for expected revenue of projects that is "lost" due to government regulation - and not even in courts, but in some kind of international tribunal run by conflict-of-interest lawyers who otherwise work for the kinds of corporations bringing these actions. ("Investor-State Dispute Settlement")


So my question is, are these provisions still in the TPP, and what will it take to remove them?

#   on: March 11, 2015       tagged: 

Recently I've started plugging back into the climate action scene, including:

  • Attended a rally encouraging the University of Oregon to divest from fossil fuels. The effort is making progress, for example divestment advocates will now be meeting periodically with the University foundation.
  • Participated in the Economics of Happiness conference in Portland last weekend, tabling some for Community Rights Lane County (in particular gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution and give local communities the ability to assert rights beyond our federal and state articulated rights). Also tried out the New Economy deck with Tom Atlee.
  • Met and strategized with a couple of Eugene organizers who like me are interested and active in stitching together the many, often disconnected, people and groups working on climate action and more generally on creating a world that works for all.
  • Met with a 350 Eugene sub-group deciding which bill to support of the several that have been introduced in the Oregon legislature to put a price on carbon. (We went with HB 3470, I may write something later about why this one.)
  • Participated today in an action at the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, asking them to advocate for climate action, and disavow the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which actually opposes action on the climate crisis. (Many local chambers have disavowed the national chamber, it's a thing.) One organizer with the chamber invited us to write up a 15 minute presentation and will see if she can get us some time with their local government affairs council. Will post pictures/video when available.
  • This weekend (actually started today, Thursday), I'm participating in the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference here in Eugene, and will probably again table for Community Rights Lane County and spread the word about the New Economy deck.

Stay tuned for more on all of this, implementation progress of Eugene's unusually strong climate ordinance, permaculture, nonviolent direct action, strengthening my personal relationship with the natural world, and more...

#   on: March 5, 2015       tagged: 

I just became the second person to sign a ballot initiative to amend the Oregon constitution to establish The Right to Local, Community Self-Government. We expect to gather a lot more signatures for this here at the Economics of Happiness conference this weekend in Portland.

#   on: February 27, 2015       tagged: 

A friend recently assigned me as homework to read Wallace D. Wattles' The Science of Getting Rich. Normally such a title - and the very first sentence's assertion that "it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich" would completely put me off, but my trust in this friend is such that I toughed it out long enough for the book to draw me in.

I struggle with the idea that you have a "right" to be rich, that there is no problem with everyone getting all that they might imagine they need or want. From long before I spent most of last year walking across the country to inspire action on the climate crisis I have been well aware of the ecological and spiritual downsides to boundless consumption. But the attitude put forward isn't really about consumption but rather shifting from the sense of scarcity which pervades much of humanity to an assumption of abundance, and this is a shift I definitely resonate with. It helps that Wattles clarifies repeatedly that he is not talking about "competitive" wealth that comes at the expense of others, but rather wealth that is newly created by our cooperatively working together. He specifically calls out the "plutocrats, trust magnates, captains of industry, and politicians" of his time (the book was written in 1910). From page 65: "Commercial kings, like political kings, are inspired by the lust for power."

The focus is pragmatic rather than philosophical, although it is explicitly grounded in fairly deep philosophy. The central points of advice are few, and are repeated several times through the book. There is nothing novel to me in any of the advice or the philosophy it rests on, and, excepting the ambivalence noted above, they are things that I already believed in intellectually, and in my gut as much as I can manage. The power lies in the there being so few points and in his laying out how they work together to improve your life. I've read the book through once and gone back over it quite a bit in an attempt to pull together the gist of it:

  1. Believe that thinking about something with faith and purpose makes it likely to appear, through the interrelatedness - the all-oneness - of all things. This is not a matter of wishing for something and having it magically appear out of thin air, but rather that having your attention on something invites it to manifest, by some means through which such a thing would typically manifest.
  2. Be grateful for what you have, and also for what you envision (see below) as if it had already come to you. Experience gratitude to all things throughout the day, for their part in every good thing that comes to you, have gratitude pervade your life.
  3. Envision a clear, and regularly updated and further elaborated, mental picture of what you want - at home, at work, etc. Make this vision as specific as possible. Have faith that what you envision is as good as yours already, and hold as your purpose for it to manifest so that you can receive it (as a result of more having been cooperatively created in the world, rather than it being competitively taken from others).
  4. Act as efficiently as possible in your current environment on your current work, wherever you are right now. Do all that you can each day, without hurrying, and without worry or fear. Do your current work so well that you more than fill your place, always advancing yourself and everyone around you. Trust that acting in this way, while holding your vision of the things that you want, will bring you the opportunities to receive those things.
  5. Spend as much of your leisure time as possible in gratitude, in contemplating, clarifying, and detailing your vision, and with works (such as Wattles' book) that support this attitude and way of being/doing.

I write about all of this publicly mainly to help me in putting this into practice. I knew that writing publicly would lead me to write it out - and thus think it out - more clearly and completely than I would have otherwise. Making it public also deepens my commitment to following this course. Secondarily, I put it out there in case it happens to be useful to anyone else. I am under no illusion that this is the One True Way, I long since stopped believing in any such thing. But it is useful to me, right now, and if it is similarly useful to anyone else who reads this, great. If my writing inspires anyone to comment here or contact me directly, then the resulting conversation is also likely to support me in carrying out this strategy.

#   on: February 25, 2015       tagged: 

We finished the Great March for Climate Action on schedule at the end of October and capped it off by joining Beyond Extreme Energy in a week of protests blockading the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (an agency which permits much of the USA's fossil fuel infrastructure). Marchers' activities afterward include continued involvement in direct action, education, writing, organizing, and more. I'm back in Eugene but haven't really figured out what I'm doing next.

Although the march fell short of many of my (and others') more ambitious imaginings, it was very powerful for the people on it, and many of the people we met in person or who followed us online. In the early part of the march especially it was easily the best-used I've ever felt, tapping all of the skills and capacities I bring to this world, from one-on-one listening to group facilitation, organizing, strategizing, online skills, and my general inclusiveness and can-do attitudes. The most common response people have to hearing about what we did is to express their gratitude, which always leaves me feeling somewhat uncomfortable, knowing how far short we are of the level of action needed to rise to the challenge. Like Sandra Steingraber, I want to say, "Don't thank me, join me."

More on the march later perhaps (you can also scan backwards at the march website, and Facebook page and group), but for now I wanted to at least mark the march's ending before blogging about other things.

#   on: February 24, 2015       tagged: 

My travels down the west coast have been very successful - personally, I got to see a lot of friends and family, some of whom I had not seen in many years. And "professionally" (I'm doing all of this on a volunteer basis) I enrolled many people as virtual marchers, mustering support on strategy, communications, surviving and thriving while walking and camping every day, and of course financially. Thanks to all of you - without your support, I would not be here.

Yesterday I recorded the first in what will become a series of calls with people interviewing me about what's happening on the march and how we are doing with our goal of inspiring action on the climate crisis. This week's call was with my good friend in Lorene Allen, who will be a regular interviewer. There will be a rotating cast of guests each week, bringing different perspectives out as they inquire into the march and its unrolling process. You can download the 45 minute conversation here, and it should show up as a podcast as well (more details on that as I play with the tech and make sure it works as a proper podcast).

I can't quite believe that the march begins little more than 48 hours from now! Today and tomorrow are full of trainings, and (at last) in-person conversations among us walking marchers as we prepare to actually take this thing on the road. See more about our two-day program here.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, come join us for the big rally and kickoff! And whether your are or not, time is running out to invite all of your LA friends and networks. Act now, before it's more too late than it is already: website / Facebook page.

A big thanks goes out to So Cal Climate Action 350 for organizing our first day as a huge rally and march through the streets of Wilmington and Los Angeles.

#   on: February 27, 2014       tagged: 

You are hereby invited to a dinner and benefit for the Great March for Climate Action to learn more about it, talk with others about the crisis & what we're all doing or could be, and see me off on my journey! All funds raised go towards my participation in the march. You can spread the word by pointing people here or to the benefit Facebook page.

at The Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, California

Friday, February 21, 6:30 dinner, 7:30-9pm program:

  • John presents briefly on the march, Q&A
  • Conversation with Bay Area climate action leaders
  • Small groups conversations
  • Ask and Closing

Official march website: http://climatemarch.org/
Other ways you can support the march: http://climatemarch.718.cldstr.com/wagn/How_you_can_support_the_march

Contact me if you would like to help out by bringing or making food (there is a kitchen at The Long Haul).

This event is offered with the support of - and John's thanks to - Raines Cohen and Betsy Morris of East Bay Cohousing, http://www.ebcoho.org/

Update: Small turnout, but a great success! A few people (two from Russia) who just happened to show up at the Long Haul stayed and were very interested, and we actually raised more money than either of the other two fundraisers I'd held. Much thanks to Raines for MCing, and everyone who came out for the evening.

#   on: February 15, 2014       tagged: 

The Great March for Climate Action begins in Los Angeles on March 1, and I am spending some time before then traveling up & down the west coast, seeing friends & family, and mobilizing more support for the march. I will be in the Bay Area for about a week, February 13-20. If you are there and would like to see me, contact me and hopefully we can work something out. (I'm leaving Seattle today, weather permitting, and will be in Portland and northern California over the next few days, which are mostly scheduled, but feel free to check with me if you're in those areas and we'll see what's possible.)

Update: There is a dinner benefit for the climate march from 6:30-9pm on Friday, February 21, at The Long Haul (3124 Shattuck Ave) in Berkeley.

Update: I'll also be leading a taste of Nonviolent Communication workshop, Essenti­al Skills for Cooperative Living, 9am-1pm at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley. You can sign up here.

#   on: February 9, 2014       tagged: 

From this article on Occupy Sandy: "Even putting matters of ideology aside, Occupy Sandy was simply the easiest, fastest and most effective way for an ordinary, unaffiliated New Yorker to get involved with the relief effort." (from Hurricane Sandy) It goes on to map out lot of what made Occupy Sandy the best place to plug in to help out, and makes the case for permanent mutual aid infrastructure.

I've long been involved in learning and sharing processes that help people work together. Many are listed on the Process Arts website. The most recent related major effort I've been part of resulted in the Group Works deck, which is not about any one process but rather details 91 patterns which tend to show up across many different processes, and maps the relationships among those patterns.

More literal maps are another way to support the spread of mutual aid. Shareable is putting out the call for people to get together and create maps of their area showing all of the sharing and gifting yesterday afternoon night starting one up for Eugene, Oregon. (I'll update this with a link shortly.) This should help anyone who wants to get involved in mutual aid, or simply needs some help, to see what's available. One of the less obvious values of such maps is to make visible the immense amount of mutual aid that already exists! Even with our society being as skewed toward commerce as we all can see, there is still an incredible amount of generosity in action, and people working together to make this a world that works for all.

The first article points out the important distinction between charity and mutual aid. My understanding of this deepened during the occupations of Occupy Eugene. When I talked with homeless people about what was happening in our camp vs. the help they could get at a shelter or through government social services, they described the completely different feel of it - they got a lot more respect at camp, and instead of simply being recipients, they were participants in not only getting our basic needs met, but in working to change the system so that everyone's needs will be better met. As aboriginal activist Lila Watson says, "If you have come here to help me then you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine then let us work together."

I don't think that means our maps should exclude charity-minded resources. Rather, we should reach out and infect charities with our mutual aid spirit! Viva la participation!

#   on: October 26, 2013       tagged: 

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I have long sought a spiritual home. By home I mean both the impersonal aspects of spirituality - a set of understandings of the world along with the rituals and practices that go along with those, and the social aspects - the community, the particular local individuals with whom I would share this home and without which the understandings, practices and rituals would make far less if any sense.

"There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle." --Albert Einstein

I grew up in many ways living the first way that Einstein refers to, and by default often still operate as if there is nothing special going on, as if we human beings and everyone and everything else here are just atoms bouncing around in ways that happen to produce some interesting results. This seems to me to go very much hand in hand with the lack of basic trust with which I often approach the world. I don't mean the kind of trust that is about assessing a particular person or situation to see if I am willing to engage with them, the trust that is about whether I think things will work out well with this particular person or in this particular situation. What I mean is a more basic trust, a trust that lets me know that I will be okay whether or not things work out well. The kind of trust that, while it fully acknowledges that the floor sometimes will fall out from under me, knows that I will somehow find a new floor, or learn how to fly, or that if (when?!) in fact things do get bad enough that it is truly and actually the end of me, it will still be okay. This basic trust is in part about being okay with dying.

But the scarier part of this kind of trust is about being okay with living, with facing the consequences of things gone "wrong." This basic trust tells me that I am not only okay, but that I actually belong here, that I am a welcome and wanted part of the universe, here to enjoy life and play my part in making it as wonderful as possible for myself and for others. I have experienced this kind of trust many times in my life, but do not yet live in it nearly as much as I would like to, as much as I know is possible. Pretty much the definition of a good spiritual home is that it would support me in getting to that basic trust more often, and staying in it longer when I do.


For the past 10 years or so I have been saying that I am Jewish by birth, Atheist by upbringing, Agnostic by reason, Christian by culture, Hindu by marriage, Buddhist by practice, and Credulist by experience. Going back even further, when I was about 20 and had my first real experience of community and opening up to people on more the rare occasion, I started talking about conversation as my church. Not just any conversation, but the kind in which we are fully open and honest, especially about anything we might feel ashamed of. And in which anyone hearing these things expresses their continued love, despite whatever has been done or said or thought. This love is often best expressed - for me - not in big words or actions, but simply in remaining fully present, and open, accepting that I have done whatever I have done and neither running away from it nor trying to fix it. Nothing that would imply there is anything wrong with me, and ideally even some support to help me see the humanity behind my actions. Even if I do wish now to do something different, I am left to myself to figure that out (unless I actually ask for help with it). Conversation that expresses trust in me, which supports me in trusting myself and the rest of the world.

I first found this kind of presence on a regular basis in the community I spoke of, and then starting in my thirties among people sharing and practicing Nonviolent Communication. If there were a critical mass of people into Nonviolent Communication near where I live that would serve as a spiritual home, which is why I have been putting some time and energy into nurturing the local network of people who practice it and share it. And for many years I have on and off reached - in my own ad hoc, idiosyncratic way - for the kind of spiritual home I'm looking for in the housing co-operative where I live.

Of course there are many well-established potential spiritual homes in town, including the local Quaker Friends meeting, a church of religious science with a minister whose sermons I enjoy, and a locally-developed self-development process. I reach out to each of these occasionally, but nothing has really clicked as yet.

The witch camp I recently attended raised my awareness of all of this, including of course the question about whether witches themselves might work as a spiritual home. Unfortunately there aren't a whole lot of people in this tradition who live around here. At least as importantly, the theory and practices aren't (yet at least) as good a fit for me as with Nonviolent Communication. But I very much appreciate witch camp bringing the whole inquiry so strongly to my attention, and in particular the roles of music and ritual in any spiritual home.

Do I sound like I'm being picky? I am. I have experienced a good fit and that is what I want. I believe that it can in time emerge in places where it is not instantly accessible, which is why I keep working on possible spiritual homes that aren't a good fit right away. But a big part of my pickiness is simply about what will work. Creating, finding, or even maintaining a spiritual home takes energy. Having a good spiritual home releases energy. So there's a dance between persisting in places where it's fuzzy but might emerge, and continuing to look for new opportunities where things might flow more immediately.

Still seeking...

#   on: September 12, 2013       tagged: 

In Friday's "Bill Moyers Essay: The End Game for Democracy", Bill Moyers speaks to what's going on in Washington, DC and imagines 'journalists' who refuse to report on it fearing that "if the system were exposed for what it is, outraged citizens would descend on this town, and tear it apart with their bare hands."

 

#   on: August 25, 2014       tagged: 

 

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Update: If you think this is a great idea, there are many ways you can support me in it.

 

I found out about the 2014 Great March for Climate Action from my long-time friend, colleague, and housemate Tom Atlee. He marched in the 1986 Great Peace March, which as I understand it is a substantial part of the inspiration for next year's march. I've heard many of his stories about it, and have always found such a journey very appealing, both for the potentially profound evolution among the participants - individually and collectively - and for the direct personal effects of walking for so long (eight months). I've visited with friends who were in the middle of similarly long walks and I really want some of the glow and groundedness I saw in each of them.

As for climate change, I remember playing with James Hansen's temperature rise data over 20 years ago when I worked at a math & science education research and development company. It was convincing enough then that I took it seriously. Even if the far clearer data available today was not, the social, economic, and other changes needed to reduce our carbon footprint have life-changing benefits. So even if it turned out that pumping carbon into the atmosphere wasn't a big mistake, I would still want us to pursue most if not all of the same solutions, to address issues such as pollution, land and water degradation, overly-centralized power (social and energy), and alienation from ourselves and from the rest of nature.

But I am not much of an issues activist, I'm more of a process activist, aiming to improve how we make decisions and generally work together. I share this with Tom, the friend who told me about the march. He made that shift because of his experience on the 1986 march, which fell apart when the sponsoring organization went bankrupt two weeks after leaving Los Angeles. One third (400) of the marchers refused to give up and self-organized their way across the rest of the country, wrestling with hundreds of challenging issues and finding their way through, over, or around each one. He was blown away by the persistence, creativity, and group processes that made this possible, and became convinced that the same sort of approaches were perhaps the only way for us to handle the most challenging issues that face us - war, ecological disaster, and other systemic failures of our current way of life.

I share this perspective. If I think about issues, I care about dozens of them, and see that we address all of them far better when we put substantial attention on how we think about them, how we talk about them, and how we work on them with our allies and with those who are not yet part of the solution. Process to me includes everything from personal development, interpersonal communication, and group dynamics/facilitation, and good dynamics at every level up from there - families, neighborhoods, communities, networks, bioregions, nations, and globally. Together Tom and I have invested over 25 years in the Co-Intelligence Institute, which focuses on good process at some of the largest scales.

So if I'm not an issues activist, why go on this march, focused on this single issue of climate change?

Because it is an issue which, if not addressed adequately in the next few years, promises to end our very existence or at the very least, kill off the vast majority of us and our entire way of life - the bad and the good.

And I care. I care about people not only surviving, but actually having the chance to thrive, to make the most of our lives, and benefit from everyone around us thriving, and from the many beautiful complexities we have developed (while hopefully learning to adapt away from the many negative complexities we've also developed).


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In the last few years several friends I respect deeply have researched heavily into what scientists are telling us about climate change, and have become convinced that we are already guaranteed to face substantial challenges to humanity, even if we stopped burning carbon today. Since we are instead continuing to look for more and more carbon to burn, we seem locked into even more severe suffering and dislocation, and potential extinction.

Quite simply, we are not even close to taking climate change seriously. If we were, we would undertake some fundamental shifts in how we think of ourselves and our relationship with the rest of the natural world. We would stop tearing down perfectly good buildings to build new ones, we would focus on reduce and reuse far more than on recycle, we would eat far less meat and see more bicycles on the road than cars, we would not be talking about natural gas or clean coal as solutions, and we would not easily dismiss nuclear or geoengineering solutions despite their serious risks. This is an all-hands-on-deck emergency!

The march is a powerful opportunity to Wake People Up to this, to raise the ruckus and organize the power necessary to either make the powers that be change course, or simply make the changes ourselves if they won't.

I am proud to be taking the first steps on this journey with you, and look forward to our conversations about all of this and more as we make our way across the continent, a travelling alarm clock of love.

#   on: August 23, 2013       tagged: 

I recently came home from Free Cascadia Witch Camp (a recent renaming/rebirth from "Free Activist Witch Camp") and friends online are asking me to write about it. It was a week long and very intense and multi-dimensional, so it's difficult to know where to start. But within about a minute of my talking about it with one housemate, she said, "So, life-changing hunh?" I hadn't thought about it in those terms, but it was among the most impactful events I've participated in - and I've had quite a number of formal and informal experiences which have affected me dramatically. What I told her is that it is potentially life changing, if I follow through on any/all of several avenues which opened up to me as a result of going.

The three biggest opportunities that I see have to do with music, having a spiritual "home" practice and community, and my quest to more solidly establish my basic trust in the world. Today I will write about music. If in the future I feel moved to write more I may dig into the other two, or any of a dozen or more other stories I could tell.

I have loved music as long as I can remember. I'm the kind of person who will hum along or start making harmonies with music I'm hearing, even when it's my first listen. In the school I went to from 5th to 8th grade, everyone in the class was in chorus together once a week, and I played piano and other instruments a bit, and was in musicals and choral groups on and off through high school, into college and a bit after. In the 20+ years since, I have done almost nothing formally with making music and very little even informally, despite the occasional fantasy about ditching everything else and diving into it fully.

On the first day of camp, several "paths" were offered - these are generally led by two facilitators for a few hours each day, and are for most people the core of their camp experience, at least as far as what they are there to learn or deepen into as a witch. I certainly didn't consider myself a witch before camp, and even now it seems a pretty unlikely term to apply to myself. My spiritual path has been long and twisted, and remains strongly influenced by an atheist upbringing and a great respect for science. I am often turned off by stuff that seems too new-agey or woo-woo to me, and this was one reason I was hesitant about going to camp (I've known about it for four years, and pointed close friends to it and only just went myself for the first time). But I definitely wanted to give it a chance, and now that I was there the question was which path to take?

An obvious possibility was an Elementals path, which would have given me a grounding in how rituals work, the five directions/elements (these witches are primarily in the Reclaiming tradition, which adds center/mystery to the more usual north/south/east/west included in many pagan and indigenous spiritual traditions). This year they were combining it with a focus on self-care, without which it wouldn't have had much of a draw for me, but the last few years have been a painful process of the universe repeatedly informing me that I need to attend to myself more fully, and that gave it a real gut pull.

Then a Music Path was announced and the pull to that was immediate and clear, which is probably unsurprising given what I wrote above. After learning some more details about these two options I ended up going with music. One of the plusses with that was that I imagined - correctly as it turned out - that it would be a good way for me to sidle up to the ritual and magic at camp, without triggering the parts of me that might judge all this as nonsense. Music is central to many if not most rituals, and I have no problem acknowledging the power in making music with people, especially the sort that can emerge in improvisation or in building to a crescendo together, which were both common at camp. Further, the Music Path seemed like an opportunity to deepen my relationship with my birth mother, who died when I was two years old. I have been tending this relationship in recent months, and music was a very significant part of her life.

Every day we began with an exercise to ground ourselves, followed by a meditation and a deep listening exercise. I especially loved a deep listening one morning to an instrument - in my case a pair of wooden blocks. I rubbed them together and listened to the soft sound they made, hit them together, etc. It surprised me that it took me so long to notice that they made two separate tones (they were different lengths), and delighted me to discover that these tones were also present in the quiet rubbing. Everything has a natural music to it.

One thing we did several times was what the facilitators called a "round robin," going around the circle and adding one person after another, each adding a simple sound with an instrument or their voice. Once the fifteen or so of us had built this multi-layered sound system we would usually slide into improvisation, changing our sound, choosing a new instrument, playing with the volume, sometimes coming to a very natural-feeling crescendo and/or a quiet close.

The first day we were split into five groups to come up with a ritual to invoke one of the five elements for the evening ritual. My group was to bring in fire. One person had a song, we came up with striking rocks against each other to evoke fire-starting - and of course add a percussive element to the music - and again it was as I expected a great low-key way for me to enter into the witchy stuff :-). Every evening at camp after dinner there was a ritual, usually of the whole camp together. Some nights I didn't connect with it so much, but others I joined fully in the musical aspect and felt very much a part of it.

Mostly now I am appreciating the daily musical practice at camp, and the opportunity to keep this going in my life. On the last full day, the facilitators invited us to make a pledge about how we would deepen our connection to music after camp. Out loud, I made a to-my-mind milquetoast pledge to share songs from camp with my more musical housemates, and invite them at least once a week to make music with me. What I had in mind, and finally shared during goodbyes with a couple of people from my path, was a pledge to sing to my mother each morning first thing when I wake up. So far I have kept this up. It enlivens and affects me, both in keeping her in my consciousness, and in putting me in the musical groove - I find myself singing throughout the day much more than I usually do.

So, thanks witch camp, and witch campers! If all I get out of the past week is to continue with music in this way it will be more than worth the time and energy I have put into it. And as I've said there are several other major invitations from camp which I may take up.

#   on: August 21, 2013       tagged: 

I know someone's working on a documentary about Aaron Swartz. I hope it does a good job of highlighting the visions he had of our world as it could be, and his work toward those visions. And the tragedy that the world not being that way yet is what killed him.

Update: I finally saw the documentary, The Internet's Own Boy. Cried like a baby. Amazing job by Brian Knappenberger and everyone else involved.

#   on: August 2, 2013       tagged: 

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