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Why Transition

I know it has already been 2 weeks since I completed Wisconsin’s first Transition Town Training, and I had hoped to have posted a much fuller report by now.  But since the first question people often ask about my experierice is something along the lines of , “What is Transition,” why don’t I just start there.  The answer to that question is ever evolving.  Here’s the simplified answer I usually give.

Most of us were raised with a set os skills and assumptions that make a lot of sense in a society that has reliable access to energy that comes from coal, uranium, natural gas and especially oil e.g. shopping, computing, driving.  However, supplies of those fossil fuels are expected to diminsih in the near future.  The cheap energy that our food, transporation and economic systems ahve come to depend on is going to get  alot more expensive.  We need to develop differnet skills for the new era that is rapidly approaching.  Transition is all about moving our local communities into this new era as gently as possible.

What sorts of skills do you think would be applicable to such a future?  Think about it long enough or talk to some Transition activists and you might be surprised, but that is another story, one which I will tell later.  For now I encourage you to just stew on this definition for a while.

Transitioning

Tomorrow I leave town for a training about the peak oil crisis.  Why would I get up early on a Saturday morning to hear more about a topic that often evokes feelings of despair, fear, paralysis and even panic?  Because where there is crisis there is opportunity, and the facilitators of this training are keenly aware of that.  Check out the Transition Culture home page for a glimpse of what I’ll be learning and more about Transition Towns, one of the most compelling movements on the horizon.  I’ll send a full report on the training once I return.

There was a place where people mostly dreamed in nightmares. Every day the people woke up to a world that was looking more and more like those nightmares. They would step near the street and witness all these fast machines that rarely slowed down. When they did, one could see that there were people inside of them. Those people looked trapped, but the machines never slowed down long enough to reveal what the people inside were really feeling. It was hard to tell what anyone was really feeling. It was hard to be awake in this place, so a lot of folks tried to sleep as much as possible without dreaming. Others just wanted to stop breathing altogether, for the air itself felt so foul, especially near the fast machines, which were everywhere. Looking up to the sky, some wondered if the air was better up there, but their view was often blocked by smokestacks and the pretty white plumes of puffiness that they produced. The puff was hypnotic, but if you stared long enough, something in your lungs began to understand why the air felt felt so sinister. Suddenly, the plumes stopped looking so pretty. Some folks wondered if it might help in some way to talk to others about how they were feeling, but the 4 wheeled machines were so loud, and they tended to create separation rather than closeness. It was easier just to seek answers from books. People would look up words in the dictionary. Despair. Nightmare. It wasn’t really necessary to read the definitions. Other words has a nice feel to them. Vision. Imagination. But it was hard to tell exactly what they meant. One guy said that those words meant that not all dreams had to be nightmares, but no one really believed him. Nevertheless, a few people closed their eyes, just in case. It was impossible to tell whether they were asleep or awake, but inside of them, there were images of something different. Some folks saw all these plants where there should have been just one plant, grass. People were tending the plants and removing pieces of them and sticking them in their mouths, chewing and swallowing. It was taking some effort to digest these images that felt both strange and exciting. In some dreams, there were men of many different colors walking down the street, and they wearing colors other than just grey. Ruby reds. Topaz. Even Lavendar. Other dreamers saw lots of women exercising. Exercising their bodies. Exercising power. Exercising leadership. They kept dreaming, and some things started to happen in all the dreams. The air felt better, like something you would want to breath. The dreamers noticed that the roads were filled with a different type of machine, something that had just two wheels. It moved slower than the fast machines, but it was easier to tell how the riders were feeling. They had some kind of expression on their face that one of the dreamers remembered reading about in the dictionary. “They’re smiling,” she exclaimed. Everyone snapped their eyes open. The dream was gone, and their faces felt funny. Looking around and touching their cheeks, they all realized that they were smiling too. People started talking more about their dreams, their yearnings, their desires. They wanted to see if others in the community shared their visions. It felt good to speak and it felt good to listen to what was going on in the brains of others. Some people made plans. They decided to ride on their 2 wheeled machines to the city that made all the fast 4-wheeled machines. They heard that there would be other people there who also believed that dreams could be more than nightmares. The journey was big and breathtaking. They met lots of smiling, hardworking people in the city that was in many ways still a nightmare, but also different, because there were sweeter dreams growing up within the bitter, decaying shell. Now the cycling dreamers had a new desire, to take action that would craft a better world. But what sort of action would be right? What would bring another world into being? They sought answers from those who looked smart, possibly even wise. The answer they got was to appreciate the new world they had already brought into being, simply by riding to the big city in one determined mobile village of solidarity. The task now was to simply keep it going and keep it growing.

Feelings

The commitment to feel one’s feelings and name their origins takes a lot of, well, work.  Sometimes we act in ways that make it obvious to the rest of the world how little of this work we are actually doing.  More often than not, we neglect to appreciate those who quietly labor to be in touch with their feelings and discern when to express then or when to contain them.  I would count myself as a regular neglecter, someone failing to appreciate the emotional grunt work going on around and even within me.  All I can say in my defense is please see my natal chart.  Not a lot of emotional content there.  Nevertheless, there is some and it can be quite potent.  As I learn to recognize my own efforts at navigating emotional turbulence I learn to recognize them in others as well.

We all have to ride the waves of our very unpredictable feelings sometimes.  It’s an awesome conversation, really, like what a surfer shares with the ocean.  I salute those who continue with the discourse.

Resolutions

Ahhh.  My first blog entry for 2010.  My hope is that this will be the first of many entries, as I expect to have a lot to report in the near future.  I had a lot to report in 2009, but between all the living, organizing, adventuring, and savoring, I rarely got around to the actual recording of my experience.  2010 is going to be different.  That’s my resolution for the new year.    

Already it’s shaping up to be a busy year.  I’ve taken lots of responsibilities for an upcoming Grassroutes Caravan to Detroit, MI.  I’m committed to doing the Groundwork of building accountable relationships in the service of racial justice.  There’s soil to build, communities to maintain and movements that want all the heart, soul and grunt work that I have to offer.   It sounds like an ambitious year, but when you’re coming from a place of passion, to be anything less than ambitious feels unnatural.

Because so many of today’s problem’s are rooted in the fossil  fuel economy (empire?), I know that I’m going to spend a lot 2010 on the lookout for effective ways to shift power away from the coal, oil, and nuclear industries.  As with so many issues in life, it all comes back to the home.  My house mates have begun discussion about fasting from the electricity that comes from our local dirty coal plant.  One little conversation brought up a lot of questions, the first being, how do we deal with our dependence on an energy source that is killing communities and cooking the planet.  Can we abstain from electricity usage, even for a little while?  What would we learn from this experience?  How would it bring us closer to a world of renewable energy and justice for fossil fuel impacted communities?  

Is your house talking about an electricity fast?  

As I engage in these very down to Earth conversation about energy, I’m reminded that having ambitious goals for the year also means planning for one’s personal storehouse of energy.  I wish I could say I had the perfect plan for staying healthy, staying motivated, staying financially secure, and staying aware of what will burn me out and what will keep me fired up.   The truth is, I’m still working a lot of that out.  Life is a process

Love & Divinity

I believe it was Alice Walker who first warned us not to worship a god who doesn’t love us in return.  This presents an interesting challenge to people like me who see all beings as manifestations of God Herself.  Believe it or not, this includes human beings.  Imagine, every person you encounter every day is a precious piece of the Divine.  

Does this mean I recommend worshipping any and every person who crosses your path?  No.  I do not even recommend relating to every person who cross your path.  Jehovah had his off days and so do we.

Reserve some love for those gods who will love you back, whether they be gods of flesh and blood or other substances.   Getting down to the earthbound questions – Are you spending time with loving people?  Or are you one those types who gives their love to the unloving?   Is your love repaid with neglect, contempt or outright denunciations?  

Not every act of love will be reciprocated.  I accept that there are many good reasons to demonstrate love without expectation of getting any in return.   Unfortunately, a lot of us demonstrate that kind of love for the wrong reasons.  We forget the maxim, “All love begins with self-love, it just shouldn’t end there.”  

Does your gift of love reinforce self-love?

Anniversary

Sept 1st, 2009

One year ago Republican delegates and their anarchist foes were amassing in Minneapolis St. Paul.  One year ago, the world was a different place.  

I was there in the streets, working in partnership with activists who hold party politics in contempt.  Afterwards, I spent a lot of time arguing with those same activists, trying to convince then not to dismiss the potential of the Obama campaign.  Here’s a paraphrase of a typical discussion I would have with my room mate.

Room mate:  If Obama is elected things will probably get a lot worse.  At least with Bush people rose up to resist his policies.  If he’s not in office, people will get really complacent.  An Obama presidency would be basically the same as Bush, just not quite as bad, but at least Bush’s tyranny motivated people to get out there and  do something.

Me:  But isn’t that exciting.   If Obama got elected, things would be a little less bad than they are under Bush.  Isn’t that something to get excited about.

In a world that experiences so much suffering every day, I still find value in recognizing that things could be a lot worse.  So last year, as I was getting ready to occupy the streets of St. Paul, I wrote something about how even the imminent nomination of John McCain was a small victory to celebrate, an indicator of how much worse things could be.  (I don’t believe Sarah Palin had become his running mate.  Nevertheless, I offer it now for some perspective.)

Aug – 2008   I know a lot of people are excited by the prospect of this year’s presidential race, and a lot of other folks are pessimistic, seeing little of value in any of the candidates or even the electoral process itself.  I choose to celebrate the victories that are real today.  Remember that not long ago, Rudolph Guilliani was  serious contender for the office of President of the United States.  Let us all be thankful that whoever is elected in November it will NOT be him.  The man clearly hates gardens.  At least that is the logical conclusion to draw form his record.  His mayoral administration facilitated the destruction of dozens of community gardens throughout the city of New York.  He personally justified the onslaught.  

As I behold the splendor of m own back yard garden, I think to myself that someone willing to bulldoze such a resource cannot be trusted with the country’s highest office, and I am thankful that some folks agree.

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