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Did you see the new map of our neighborhood? Laniakea! Oh what a beautiful body! What a profound place to live! What a grand journey we’re all on together! Peeking across the cosmic scales within which we reside, we discover homes nestled within homes – body, place, and story all in one.

I work as a metamorphosis ecologist, artist, activist, and educator, and I often use body-place terminology interchangeably. It’s all about the ways our home is changing. In this article we’ll get to travel great distances without going anywhere – places astonishing in their beauty, familiar but strange, and we’ll see if any of these perspectives affect our relationships with our living Earth.

Our neighborhood is growing. Our address has a new line. Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Local Group, Virgo Cluster, Laniakea, Universe.

We started not so long ago with songs passed down singing the spots our ancestors emerged from the earth, and as we moved we made maps, tentatively tracing lines where shore met sea, where shared or stolen properties separated. Eventually as children we took our first bike ride around the block by ourselves. We re-discover our homescapes in widening circles, to use Rilke’s phrase. So, let’s widen. We’ll come back to Earth in a moment.

Our human bodies emerge from, are fed by, and return in our own time to a medium-sized blue-brown-green planet body, tucked among the warmer inner-most members of our solar siblings, our planetary family nestled near our Orion and Pleiades star cousins on an branch between the two main massive sparkling spiral arms of our galactic body, the Milky Way. Sounds cozy, but the distances are astonishing and the speeds seem worlds away from where we sit. The earth rotates at 800 mph (for California’s latitude), and circles the sun at 66,000 mph, while the sun moves through our section of spiral at 44,000 mph, and our extraterrestrial tendrils twirl at 483,000 mph. All that zooming is us.

So now that we behold Mama Milky Way in all our magnificence, where we at? Alone in an endless nothingness? Ha! We may just be one singular splash in a vast cosmic ocean, but we’ve got shipmates. Though we haven’t polled everyone, human scientists are calling our neck of the woods The Local Group, name subject to change. About 40 galaxies count as our nearby neighbors, mostly much smaller satellite galaxies, hangers on occasionally getting pulled into our orbit, swirled up and subsumed in great galactivoric swallowings.

And then there’s Andromeda. Oh my goddess. Can’t say Andromeda’s name without “drama”. What do We of the Way of the Milk see in Andromeda? Maybe our soul mate. We are the two biggest blokes in the barrio, similar in significance and shape, though Andromeda is larger, brighter, with more mass and more stars. What’s not to like? And so it turns out we are bound together, pulled, allured, attracted by, drawn to, rushing towards each other at 245,000 miles per hour and still it will take us another 4 billion years before we arrive at one another, brush cheeks once, then once more, and then finally merge – ooh it’s soo sexy! The cosmic coupling of many lifetimes. Earth, if it is not ejected in these stellar sexcapades, or singed as our late-stage expanding sun swallows her inner planets, will witness this dynamic display splashed across our ever shifting skies. And then the great unifying dance will settle into a diffusely different elliptical galaxy, one which closes its doors on birth and houses mostly old and ancient stars. This Milkdromeda Galaxy will likely be a calmer and wiser place. And then what? We’ll all float on forever?

Here’s where we begin to behold our larger light body Laniakea.

Our Local Group village, with all its exciting galaxies plunging into other galaxies, turns out to be just a neighborhood of a larger town. The Virgo Cluster of galaxies, about 1000 of us, huddled together for warmth against the great dark. As close as we can tell (my cosmology comes from my teacher Brian Swimme, who always reinforces the ways both our knowledge and our questions continue to grow) the Universe is held together by enormous structures – long filaments of light and heat, hubs of dense community and deep deserted voids, all expanding together immeshed in underlying dark matter and invisible flows behind the light. Our spot in the scheme isn’t all that jammed. In fact we’re much nearer our expanding Local Void than we are to our nearest Local Clusters. I imagine this must be significant. If our planet played over by the heart of the city of light, and our skies were filled with familiar friends, our sense of loneliness and isolation would evaporate as easily as the oceans from our earth when our sun expands. Given the spaces between the stars in our personal present slice of sky (what we can make out behind the light pollution we’ve generated in the 140 years since electricity transformed our evenings) our place in the cosmos can feel like an old back country road no one travels down anymore. But it turns out we’re part of a much stranger story.

Big Sur and the Milky Way, photo Daniel Peckham https://www.flickr.com/photos/davaodude/

Big Sur and the Milky Way, photo Daniel Peckham https://www.flickr.com/photos/davaodude/

Turns out that when you map the directions that 100,000 galaxies around us are headed, we all flow towards the same place. You, me, our star neighbors down the star street Alpha Centauri and Sirius, our spiral sisters Milky Way and Andromeda and every single star visible to our eyes and 100,000 galaxies beyond – all of us pour towards a point in the heavens (at a convincing 1.3 million mph) called “The Great Attractor.”

What is it that’s so great and attracting over there? We’re not sure. What does it feel like to you from where you are? See, the Great Attractor is hidden behind the “Zone of Avoidance” which is the area of the sky that is obscured by the dust and light the band of the Milky Way casts in our sky, obscuring details from those degrees of space. The significance of our choice of phrases – lining up our “great attractor” within a “zone of avoidance” – I’ll leave the analysis to the cosmopsychotherapists. If we’re patient, we’ll get a better view when our sun (at its leisurely 44,000 mph) clears the pancake of our galactic disc in 70 million years and we can gaze upon our gorgeous galactic body and appreciate it for what it is. A fingertip.

Our big body, our heavenly home ~ Laniakea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laniakea_Supercluster

Our body of light, our heavenly home ~ Laniakea. The red dot is the Milky Way. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laniakea_Supercluster

Because just this autumn, September 2014, when cosmologists mapped all the flows of every fellow Great Attractee around us what emerged resembled a brilliant body of light. And so they actually came up with a compelling name for it — The Laniakea Super Cluster! Laniakea means “immeasurable heavens” in Hawaiian, which honors the first Polynesian sea voyagers pushing that endless horizon, as well as the University of Hawaii where the research was produced. Laniakea is our big big body. With the Virgo Cluster as a hand and our little Local Group as just one fingertip. Us?! Just a fingertip?! Actually, we use our fingertips for some of the most important experiences of our lives. Touching our lover’s face, cooking and eating, blogging. Fingertips are filled with our most sensitive nerve endings, they are among our most crucial perceptive tools.

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A still from Laniakea video, two major superclusters, Milky Way in center. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=No0omeHIxwo

And they can be useful for dancing, which is what I understand to be happening if we widen out just one more level. Look at us now. Here‘s Laniakea on the left in black, and the Perseus Pisces Super Cluster on the right in red. The Milky Way is in the center.

WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE??? The tango? Maybe undergoing macro mitosis over millennia? This means that just across the local void from us, ever so close but pulling away, is an entirely separate watershed community (the cosmologists behind this study use watershed terminology) flowing towards their own great drain, pouring towards their own special central heart of light. What is held in those hearts to drive us all in such massive movements? How aware are these two enormous astronomical beings of one another or their interactions? How aware are they of the trillions upon trillions of lights and (I’m going to go out on a limb here) lifeforms sprinkled like galactic godly glitter all along their bodies?

Like most maps this new one is of course incomplete. Boundaries tend to become blurred or battled over. As we zoom out even more there are clues of an even Greater Attractor our whole local supercluster giant group is headed towards. But let’s allow this to be as big as we get for now. Seeing ourselves as a tiny part of a gigantic galactic body is quite a humbling idea to grok just as is. Does it help if we consider Laniakea a holobiont? This is a concept developed by Lynn Margollis which has been applied to coral reefs, referring to super-organisms made up of many smaller symbiotic organisms. Can we consider each of our bigger bodies nested inside one another a singularity made up of wholes? More than the sum of our parts? Can we locate ourselves as symbionts inside of great galactic holobionts, cultivating love and light for the cosmic collection that is our unique galaxy, the starshed of our supercluster? What would it mean to align ourselves in Laniakean kinship?

Maybe the answer lies close at hand. Pouring our bodies back into our near and dear world of flesh and blood, are there opportunities to be hospitable holobionts at our particular position as persons in the stellar scheme? Indeed we seem uniquely qualified to reach across scales in every direction, not least because we’ve created a global civilization designed around our size of hands and legs and butts. Forming the world in our human image turns out to be deadly for other ways of life, but it is at least relatively helpful to humans, not least because these human bodies with which we identify so sincerely are carrying some extra weight. I mean mostly extra weight.

The diverse and particularly unique ecosystems that make up your personal microbiome vastly outnumbers what you likely consider you. On the inside and all over your skin. The microbial cells in our intestines outnumber our human cells 10 to 1. The microbial genomic material we’re walking around with in aggregate outnumbers our human body’s gene count 100 to 1. According to the microbiome wiki, there are three ecological zones across our bodies – the wet, the dry, and the oily, with the greatest diversity within the oily zones. The desert butte of our elbow fosters entirely different communities from our armpit’s rainforest. There are 8o fungal species on the heel of our foot, 60 near our toenails, 40 kinds of critters between our toes. When our food finally finishes its journey, 60% of the dry mass of our poop is our banished bacterial bodies.

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Cordyceps fungus giving a tarantula antlers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordyceps

The majority of our stowaways live in harmony under our hosting, though harmony is relative. We do occasionally encounter parasitic visitors – from protozoan malaria to terrifying tapeworms – who have other intentions for us. There are even parasitoidic folks – like certain wasps, ticks, and fungi – who don’t require their host to keep living, and will kill or transform the host outright to suit their own ends. Sooze Waldock, a colleague at CIIS, finds the parasitoidic model potentially reveals a great deal about our human-earth relations as well.

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Central and peripheral nervous system from Body Worlds exhibit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peripheral_nervous_system

So how do we work in cahoots with our inner cast of characters? How can we be mutually beneficial bodymates? Who in there is helping me out? Who has other agendas? The gut is hooked directly into the brain via the vagus nerve, and affects huge sweeps of our experience, from nervousness to depression and anger, as several recent studies have shown. All of us have direct experience of the way the pull of the foods we prefer can tug on us, the dance we conduct with what we know versus what we want, how our relationship with satiation can affect our moods so quickly and overwhelmingly. However, just the act of gifting our attention to our processes around digestions can actually start to show a difference within days.

Purkinje cells in the cerebellum photo.mbl.edu/index.php/photos/196

Purkinje cells in the cerebellum photo.mbl.edu/index.php/photos/196

We can bring consciousness back to what we put in ourselves – the ways it all interacts with our different internal ecosystems, while also honoring the external ecosystems from whence we all come – the sun and rain and soil and toil that brought this life-continuing force to our fingertips. We can experiment with taking away and adding in our diet. We can educate ourselves on the relationships behind our meals. Fermenting our own kimchees and krauts is a fun one. Soon we may all be popping poop pills to adjust our internal flaura in healthier directions, a treatment that is showing undeniable palliative relief for a surprising number of distresses and diseases. But whether or not we’re scarfing down someone else’s dookie, we can learn to engage in conversations with our body, always coming back with curiosity and kindness – because the shadows of shame and rage and desperation also remain active in the places we hold or flow in our bodies, our personal clusters and voids, like the microbes that survive in the darkest and coldest places where you’d expect nothing could live.

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Kangaroo kidney cells undergoing mytosis: http://maggiesscienceconnection.weebly.com/mitosis.html

Our bodies begin at a point and become just we put in them (or what is put in them by others). We grow exclusively through relationship, taking on or letting go as we learn. Our emotional holdings – losses, traumas, regrets – often stay with us. They come along for the ride as devotedly as any toe fungus or colon aomeba. By the time we reach adulthood many of us have a whole cast of characters swirling inside our psyches with varying degrees of involvement in our intentional lives, and thankfully there are many therapeutic models these days for engaging with these transpersonal archetypes. I, to use an available example, have had to work most of my life to settle my stomach, and to attend to places of pain holding in my back body. I can attach many of them to chords of my childhood, or of my recent ancestors’ experiences. I can attach other pains to whether or not I eat cheese. I filter a good deal of the question “how are you doing?” through the lens of my stomach and my back. I have developed an entire spiritual cosmology within those bodyscapes.

So who counts as me? Who does I include? The moment I die all my trillions of microorganisms will begin to eat me. If my body is planted in the earth with the most symbiotic mycological friends nearby, these mushrooms can convert the toxins I will have accumulating over this lifetime into healthy replenished fertile soil for creating new life. Stephen Jenkinson the great death and hospice guide, asks us a fundamental question – what will your life feed?

If my life merely grows more love into the world and my body merely feeds some fungus, I could be satisfied in just that. That I’m alive among the generation on Earth that gets to co-create a planetary metamorphosis? All parts of it are a gift from the universe. To honor this gift I open to every bit of it, the glorious and the ghastly, all that grows and all that falls away, and I pass the gift along. What kind of life will what dies in our time feed?

As my teacher Joanna Macy has unveiled now for several decades, the more we turn and honestly face the crisis taking hold of our warm round home, the more we find ourselves falling in love with a body thrown out of balance. How do our internal lungs keep drawing their blessed back and forth while our essential external lungs – the forests – are in flames? How can our crimson blood continue circulating when we drain the final fluids from the channels of earth?

A great way to learn the bay ecology https://educationoutsideafy.wordpress.com/

A great way to learn the bay ecology https://educationoutsideafy.wordpress.com/

Change is arriving everywhere. The intimacy of our human scale presses close. What about where I live? Joanna and I reside a few minutes walk from each other. Today our neighborhood is flooding – only yesterday it burned. Outside my window this morning pounds the tap swish gush of a fierce and forceful “once in a decade” California rainstorm. The garden is glowing and lush, especially for December. The San Francisco Bay – where a million mountain streams, 40% of California’s water, finally escapes to the sea through the sliver of the Golden Gate – is heaving. Unfortunately, we would need almost a dozen more superstorms like this, or 150x our average rainfall, to make up for our current “once in a millennium” drought. The dryness is integral in the blessing of the rain.

Earlier this week these same streets, which now flow like rivers glowed in flames – as protesters against police brutality set trash fires at intersections and smashed the windows of nearby banks and cellphone stores. I understand the rage vented at these symbols of oppression as an appendage to the fury over the institutionalized power (imbedded in the founding of the country) to kill, torture, and forget our black and brown bodies. Way out on the hand of Laniakea, folks still have to throw their hands up and shout “Don’t Shoot!” Or maybe, instead of dancing, Laniakea is shooting Perseus-Pisces. Is that what we imagine?

Teargas deployed around the corner from my house 12/7/14, reuters photographer for time.com

Teargas deployed one minute walk from my house 12/7/14, Noah Berger reuters photographer http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/berkeley-protests-against-police-violence-escalate-after-deaths-michael-brown-eric-garner-1478517

Luckily no one’s given me any control over when our galaxies will collide, or when our aquifers will empty, or when our history of racial intolerance will heal. My history of lactose intolerance is healing ok. Individually and collectively we do have choices – some real, some distractions, some slipping away or just arriving – but control remains a fatal illusion. And still, each cycle brings another opportunity to move my local relationships towards compassion, justice, and healing. We can sow the seeds of solidarity around shared concerns. We can teach each other all that we know at the time and keep learning. The lines of our bodies and our homes identify us, but they are continually co-created in the midst of our visible and invisible neighbors. When we work in cahoots with all the delicious diversities and magical multiplicities that make up our special spot, we expand the places in the universe where we will be welcomed as ourselves.

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Body Microbes by Bruno Vergauwen http://brunovergauwen.com

Hi friends, here’s my contribution to all the ecological awareness blossoming this equinox weekend ~ a short, fun preview of the first four tours from my Home Howls Dance Video Series, filmed at gorgeous spots around the Bay Area where our local ecologies are undergoing rapid transformation. Opportunities for more place playing, learning, sharing, and ways you can contribute and support these creative educational projects coming soon!

#placeplaying

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Well, this sure is fun!

Every Friday in June, my music project Home Howls invited groups of 4 or 5 folks to co-create music videos in some of the most gorgeous locations around the Bay Area, places that also play crucial roles in the transformation ecology of the bay. Transformation Ecology locations are sites that reveal uniquely how our homescapes shift, how the vital relationships, the sources and flows of resilient resources, course through or are blocked across the region, including the political and psychological and spiritual histories and stories within which these communities are embedded.

In the bay these places are often outstandingly beautiful. More Photo Stills Here and Here.

So, we visited the gap in the old bay bridge, capturing a disappearing moment in time with two bridges before the old one is taken apart in the exact reverse order it was assembled. The old and new suspended, connecting hubs across great expanses. We swam in a little cove under the new bridge, and it was not as icky as we imagined.

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We built a rope swing and swung out over the Hayward Fault in North Oakland, sweeping out over an expansive view of the bay surrounding us, attached to a few branches of a 100 year old eucalyptus grove. Playing with that edge between ground and air, known and unknown. And then we climbed another 100 ft up the hill and joined an outdoor concert with eight or nine live bands, playing late into the night, serenading the city lights and the stars.

We journeyed to the far South Bay Salt Ponds, waters crimson red from billions of bacteria feeding on white crystalline salt beaches. Nearby the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct arrives in the bay between its emergence in Yosemite and its taps in San Francisco. We each tasted something that was sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. We were rock stars at a rock harvest.

Ahh, the ebbs and flows of estuaries. For our fourth Friday we toured four locations, wading out into North Bay marshes. Only 20,000 years ago the whole bay was a mere trickle of river, the water trapped in glacial ice, and as it flowed out and re-filled valleys, it took millennia to weave the verdant biodiverse web that sparkles at the intersection of salt and fresh water, and modern culture only two centuries to fill in 90% of it. Over this coming century, the waters will slowly swallow these blended border lowlands decisively. The wet will win out. We wanted to dance there before this happened.

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I’m deeply grateful to everyone for the ways they showed up. Each video shoot brought just the perfect number and combination of people to make the video happen, and the magic and creativity of the land and waters showed up powerfully present as well. Home Howls will have some fantastic videos to share once we complete production and editing, but the participatory potential for this kind of place-based participatory learning is what feels most thrilling.

Leaning in towards this buzzing curiosity, I’ve registered placeplaying.com

“Transformation Ecology” and “place playing” were two phrases that rose out of the experiences we shared around the bay this month. Transformation Ecology looks at how communities relate to their homes during major shifts. Place Playing is the cultivation of resilient relationships with shared homescapes through placed-based play, learning, and activism in seriously-fun forms like classes, tours, events, workshops, art, organizing, and direct actions.

marshcracks

So much fun, and so much more work to do. The places that are crucial to us may be healthy or hurt, beautiful or ugly or both, but they, like the life forms they sustain, probably need play to feel alive. May we all extend and expand our places and periods of play throughout our long full interconnected lives.

There’s a lot more place playing coming up this summer and beyond. Come join us!

 

 

We’ll Time This Too

notknowingWow, so last week Joanna Macy surprised me with the honor of placing my writing on the front page of her website. The two paragraphs, alliteration-heavy but hopefully gem-containing, are from my final paper of the Fullness of Time class she co-taught with Sean Kelly a year ago, and can be read here: http://workthatreconnects.org/the-aliveness-of-not-knowing-by-josh-halpern/

But I want to post the entire paper, which is actually pretty damn good. So here. And I’ll post the rest of my graduate degree writing soon. All in good timing…

 

We’ll Time This Too: Trust in Timing, Sensitivity Towards Scales,
and Other Modes of Soul Service Through the Great Turning

Joshua Halpern
Spring 2013

  It’s a strange question, “What will serve you in the Great Turning?” Ever since my conversation with Gaia at Ka Lae, the green sand beach in Hawaii, I have considered myself in service to the Earth. This pledge is the closing line of the film I made about my travels visiting sacred sites and volunteering on organic farms around the world. To frame the probing question of this essay around what serves me seems backwards, based in the atomistic ego-consciousness that got us into our current mighty mess. If, however, what serves me flows, everything at it’s own pace, back out into the greater whole, oriented through me towards love and understanding and justice and transformation, than perhaps alright, I can get behind this “What will serve me?” inquiry. It is in this spirit that I lay out here for the first time the most important gifts of the Great Turning from my particular vantage point of Josh – and by gifts I mean those experiences through which the Universe most fully and uniquely manifests within me and which when passed along (as gifts must be) most fully and uniquely lead to healing and growth for the Earth Community. My soul’s purposes. My sole’s porpoises. These are orientations and ways of participating with others (like drawing attention to homophones) which I have always and will always choose, circumstances allowing, and as it turns out these ways of life are in profound alliance with the Great Turning.

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Trust in Timing

  Paradoxically, one of the reasons the ways of life I choose here are so in tune with our unique and special planetary moment, is how universally applicable they are to any situation throughout the course of time. If things are going well, if things are going badly, if you’re contending with a small affinity group or a major global planetary presence, all of these orientations can help. Those of us living in Northern California could bear the reminder, as we must be some of the absolute most comfortable people on the planet. A year round growing season, always temperate weather, liberal-leaning politics, and though queerer and weirder perhaps than most of our nation, we are indeed Americans, and so our disproportionately easy lifestyles have been built on the backs and blood of bodies unlucky enough to live near the extractive sources of our Earth raping economic system. As well, our comfort as we’ve grown used to it is based on that same system, set up to commodify so many of the basic needs and relationships we would have known how to provide for ourselves a generation ago. Perhaps finally, we forget it is a fragile system, prone to disruptions of a cascading nature, a supply chain break here, a contamination there. Food policy analyst Wayne Roberts (6) reminds us that civilization as we know it is “nine meals away from anarchy.”

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   Though I might wrap my mind and stomach around it, several of the knots in my back are still attempting to get a grip on the question of urgency. Based only on the persistence of pain that asserts itself again and again behind my heart – not even taking into consideration the abundance of science and analysis continuing to reveal the heartbreaking truths of our time – only the shortest pause of attention pulls the veil off that profound and resonant and recurring feeling: we are now living inside the most important moment of our species’ time on the planet. Just that. Vitally, critically, unfortunately, neither our most cutting edge scientists, nor our most well tuned oracular mystics can reveal how things will go. In the dark expansiveness of not knowing the hows and whens, trust patiently abides. Trust proved the main gift of my vision quest in the Four Points region of Utah after my trip around the world, and I struggle to return to it again and again. Trust doesn’t preclude devastations, nor is it passive or naive hope. Trust in this case is an active faith, welcoming whatever comes and trusting we’ll be up to the task. Which collapses or new creations, both occurring simultaneously, will prevail? It’s down to the wire. The number of beings swept up in our cascading waves of consciousness and crisis grows daily, nightly, and so does the entrenchment into fear and fury of great swaths of misinformed individuals and communities. Death overwhelms us all, asleep and awake alike.

P1010201Hospicing the Holocene

  While aware and active folks everywhere attempt to live into the Great Turning as fully as possible, there are so many beings on our planet experiencing the Great Unravelling, as illuminated in the work of eco-activist elder Joanna Macy. This global arising and falling away are of course inseparable and interwoven, or as Joanna put it in class, “…woven on the warp and woof of the tapestry of time.” (5) This generation could stand to learn some skillful loom work.

  Perhaps it’s the Saturn-Pluto conjunction in my natal chart, signifying an innate willingness to grapple whenever necessary with death and the dark side of life. Perhaps it can be found in the names of the first good guy and bad guy I ever invented for a story when I was 3 years old, named Light and Dark Dread, one of the few dichotomies still informing my worldview today. It’s significant that the most powerful and profound initiatory experience of my life was my father’s death the week after I turned 19, which set me on the path towards the most important moments of my life ever since. And it’s significant that I’m entering adulthood just as the real ramifications of the planetary death cycle currently underway roll into view.

 Neologian Andres Conteris (2) calls us cataclysoptimists. He says we are to be life affirming during the death cycle, pointing towards periods like ours in Earth’s great history characterized by spiking graphs of exponential population rise, waste product rise, resource use rise – rapid, unsustainable, and almost always a sign of the approaching end. It seems worth being present – while spreading compost on my blossoming Berkeley garden – to the great deal of our planet’s systems, communities, and individuals who are experiencing escalating collapses. Death will find us here as well, soon enough.

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  Of course we all have our own relationship with death, pain, and suffering. For me – throwing up every morning of my junior year of high school, the places in my back that want to hold the weights of the world with all of their gripping strength, all the parts of me that want to give to a partner in love without that person around – these continue to be my most important teachers, and they allow for deep solidarity with the suffering of all beings. The responses I’ve had to undertake in relationship with these personal pains, in order to move things around and thru and out and let new openness and expansiveness and space for love in, have been a commitment for half my lifetime now. My own shares of post (and pre) traumatic stress provide me empathy for all the struggles and breakthroughs, small and large, occurring around the globe. Suffering – indeed pervasive torture – surrounds us, through our factory farms, through our extractive economy, through our perpetual war machine. If any of us are able to be present with not only sweet potential but serious pain, not turning away when it arises, attempting to get out in front of it before it erupts, but welcoming every opportunity for growth that arrives including the hard ones, we might have some chance to get through this together.

 Joanna Macy was the first figure from PCC I encountered years ago in my work with grief, and she was responsible (via a Facebook photo with my old friend Lydia Harutoonian) for my arrival in the program. Her recognition that real psychological and spiritual responses to the ecological crisis included the most intense feelings known to humans – despair, rage, fury, paralyzing fear and doubt – and that it was only in going towards and through these emotions that we could arrive at healing and integrated strategy on the other side, struck an immense chord during my emergence from the period of mourning following my father’s death. This was the only way to create myself again after my world had been torn open. Not suppressing, not denying, neither holding onto false hope, but looking with honest and unwavering eyes at the difficult truths and including them in balance with the light. Also, having mercy for the times when our eyes do waver, as they must from time to time. This commitment to the work of our time, of hospicing what is dying and midwifing what is being born, was instilled in me through the crucible of sharing my father’s death so closely with him, before I knew the relationship with death that was unfolding across the rest of the planet. Now that I recognize the spectre hidden under that nauseous feeling creeping up into our collective psyche, I know that my comfort with the uncomfortable will come in handy. Hospicing the Holocene is something I was born to help with.

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Sensitivity Towards Scales

  Sensitivity towards scales may prove one of our most salient saving graces, in at least two ways. Surrendering ourselves to the scale of the task at hand is huge. If changing the planet were up to me alone, I would fail. I am slow and soft and occasionally self absorbed. What needs to happen is so much more than I can do. On the one hand this lets me off the hook. Only in cahoots with community may I be able to affect change, so there’s no need to hold the whole of responsibility for healing Gaia all upon my own shoulders, broad though they may be. I’ll address community further on in this paper, but I draw attention here to this notion of responsibility because it holds an an implication about scales. If someone like myself – with the privileges into which I was born, the education for which I’ve indebted myself, and the wonder of celebrating Spring Equinox today in a place that’s felt like Spring since late January can come into knowledge of the scale of what’s happening on the planet today, than I bear a real responsibility for trying to do something about it. We are giving birth to a global consciousness. We are blasting past the 11th hour of runaway capitalism. These two situational realities both carry the implication that everything I do now does something about it. Every choice I make ripples out into the cosmos of continuous creation around me, most often in ways I will never know, nor even be alive to see. The equinox reminds us of balance, in this case balancing the desire to create great change with the necessity of making small changes every day.

  And this notion of every day is worth shining a light on here as well, because it is an understandable scale for a great many beings large and small, mobile and seemingly stationary on this planet. But the rotation of our planet may have less active significance if you scale up to the perspective of a grandmother tree or a mountain range, less significance if you scale down to a bacteria or an atom. Surely the planets in our solar system have some use for the concept of days, but our neighbors in the local galactic cluster probably worry little about how long our Earth day is. Likewise, quarks, constantly flashing in and out of minuscule existence don’t likely have time to enjoy sunrises and sunsets.

  It may appear to us that we are in the middle of the entire scale because we can measure so precisely in all directions. However it’s not so easy to pinpoint the middle among such unfathomable distances, even if we know the numbers. According to Dr. Richard Mushotzky (4) of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center “While there is, on average, only one supernova per galaxy per century, there is something on the order of 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe. Taking 10 billion years for the age of the Universe (actually 13.7 billion, but stars didn’t form for the first few hundred million years), we derived a figure of 1 billion supernovae per year, or 30 supernovae per second in the observable Universe!” Geneen Marie Haugen, (2) PCC PhD candidate and soul ecologist Bill Plotkin’s partner points out that a corollary on Earth would be a medium-sized hummingbird, whose wings flap at the same rate of 30 per second. Could there even be quantum entanglement between supernova explosions and hummingbird wings? Just imagine how many hummingbirds and supernovas there might be in the unobservable Universe!

Place Based Play

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  One scale that seems like it will be particularly relevant to our human experience of the Great Turning is the bioregion. The area around your home defined by the watershed that flows into or out of it, the arable land available to grow seasonal food, the local customs and identifications that cohere community, these were all part of my childhood consciousness before I believed they were part of a life path. What may to some seem like topographical, geo-historical research or what place-based scholar Craig Chalquist (1) would call a Terra-Psychological inquiry – learning the interplay of stories that weave together into the fabric of a place’s soul and psyche – feel to me akin to play. Growing up I learned the ebbs and flows of the hills and rivers around my hometown not via some scientific attempt to classify them, but by playing all over them. They linger in my cell memory, curious how each next encounter will further our long and committed relationship.

  It is useful to know the ecological and sociopolitical histories of where you live. Children today can identify hundreds of corporate brands and few if any of the plants and trees that grow in their neighborhood. The more solidarity you share with your region, the more resilience you and your neighbors will have if other structures collapse. If it can feel like play rather than disaster preparedness, that might be helpful. If it arrives as art instead of via property rights this might open space for creative use of the world around us. I have the river system I was born by tattooed on my back. I revealed it to everyone on my first day of PCC when integral philosopher Sean Kelly drew the river confluence where he was born on the board. Just today I’ve decided on my next tattoo. A map of the Bay Area with a spiral around it, in a globe, with the Milky Way behind it.

1504019_10102524152155649_575496167_n Our Bay Area lends itself easily to play. The way the largest estuary on the west coast of this continent, providing the only possible birthing grounds for the widest variety of species, continues to give birth to diverse new forms of unique culture and society. The way grand expressions of life – the old growth of Marin, the oak trees of Oakland, the grizzlies of Grizzly Peak – live on today in name only. The way the energies of the metropolis collect and circle around with only one portal into and out of the entire bay, namely the Golden Gate. The way the fog creeps into certain neighborhoods and not others, depending on the time of year. My first week in California I was able to arrive at the Berkeley marina in sunshine and stroll out onto the dock and into a thick bank of fog. I put it this way in my writing from that week:

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“The dense grey cloud engulfed the city, the golden gate, the highlands, but breezed past the east bay, just out of reach. As I moved into the cloud, the air becoming dark, the wind flapping my hoodie, the people more scary and scarce, it reminded me of our frightening future. First week of school, a nondescript building downtown. Integral Ecology. We start with the state of the world and the story of the universe. The state of the world is depletion – water tables, topsoils, mass extinctions. The edge of the pier. The story of the universe, however, is glorious – vast and moving and creative and fueled by love. The song that comes to my head as I walk back towards shore. This is our reckoning, holding both realities, every day, every night. Holding and giving away – it’s in the sharing that we grow communities.” (3)

Cultivating Community

  My mother keeps asking where I find hope. And I say that if you have community, a small group of friends who care about the same things and look out for one another, then you have resilience no matter what’s happening, how well or badly things are going from your perspective. 

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Because of what we’re facing together, and because of the unique blend we’re able to combine together in PCC, we are a community in more ways than most graduate programs could imagine. Especially in the ways we encourage each other’s unique magic to pour forth, our vulnerageousness as Andres calls it. We’re allowed to be as uniquely weird and diverse as our hearts and bodies can imagine. What an estuary in and of itself!

   The most epic way I’ve been able to participate with community embracing our unique moment and special place on the planet was on December 21st 2012, celebrating the end of the Mayan Calendar and the close alignment of the solstice sun with the center of the galaxy, by spiraling around the entire Bay Area. From a sunrise ceremony in a magical volcanic park in the Oakland Hills, capturing the first solstice light to hit the West Coast and bringing into being a rainbow over the Golden Gate, to cider at Joanna Macy’s house, then out to an Old Growth Redwood midday Mount Tamalpais council, then across the Golden Gate to a spectacular Ocean Beach sunset, then into the heart of the city for feasts and dancing through the night, we, as we always do, wove the most exquisite magic I could have imagined. I like to say I just held space as a guide, providing opportunity for magic and just allowing for trust and love to manifest the sacred into being. And yes, praise Gaia, this is what happened. Gorgeously. Perfectly. But I also had a blast and was nourished by all the work required in the months leading up to the change in B’a’ktuns. Running around scouting sacred sites all over the bay and orienting to how we could most effectively channel a major prayer between our interpenetrating local bodies and the deep time of the galaxy was so much fun! It perfectly incorporated so many of my sole’s porpoises. May I have an experience as auspicious again. I suspect it will be an event I will be proud of across incarnations.

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      But a community can’t be built merely on once in 27,000 year events. The day I before I began writing this paper was our latest gathering as a community that finds reasons to meet regularly, to join our varied and brilliant resonances into yet another morphic field of the kind illustrated by theoretical biologist Rupert Sheldrake, in this case a garden party at my house. Combining our energies to be more than the sum of our individual parts. We harvested Kale and Collards and Arugula and other Lettuces, saved Broccoli seeds, built a whole new raised bed, and planted all kinds of beautiful edible and pollinator attracting natives all around my house. Then we ate what we had pulled from the ground and shared music and dreams and laughter, our hearts. Fortunately, this sharing of abundance can be accomplished even during meager times, when precious little prevails. The origin of the word “companion” combines the Latin roots “con” (with) and “pan” (bread) meaning someone with whom you break bread. If all you have left in your hearth is one last loaf of gluten free bread, you can still break some off for your friends.

DSC_2056Sharing the Sacred

  Food is an exceptional example of a sacred relationship. Sharing life and nourishment with loved ones, the merging of bodies with the beautiful living beings surrounding us. Food is one of our most potent ways to exchange with spirit and life force directly, and we organize our schedules and lives around meals. If we also took the conscious time to rediscover gratitude for all the labor and powerful elemental forces of nature – water, sun, soil, human hands – that go into each complex bite of fresh food, we would feed more than our bellies. Indeed we share in sacred relationships, if not quite rituals, all the time, and though we may not name them as such, we could. Often sacred origins lie hidden in our language, as Sean Kelly pointed out in class with the word “orientation”, meaning to point towards the sacred capital, in the original case Jerusalem.

 In my Goal Statement for CIIS Admissions three years ago, I identified the focal point of sacred relationships at the core of my life. “A primary artery of all my work has been orienting people to our Earth. Every day humans come into new, sacred relationships with the natural world. I would like to facilitate more of these engagements. Art is only one delivery system for a larger purpose – preserving and creating sacred space and relationship.”

  My art has always shared certain themes – like sharing, and the sacred. These include my films about my family’s relationship with my father’s death (fertile ground for sacred relationship exploration), my films about organic farmers around the world (discovering the sacred through family and food once again) and the first film I made at PCC, Sacred Cycles, Grateful Grounds, touring sacred sites around the world, made with the intention not merely to preserve the sacred areas already in existence and often under threat, but to promote the creation of sacred space in all our towns and neighborhoods as we build alliances and orient towards a future together.248_589017851349_4892_n

  As I prepare to graduate, I accept a profound responsibility for sharing what I know now, and continually co-discovering the most effective and enchanted methods of education on an unexpectedly massive scale. I’ll keep doing little videos because it’s a language we’re all learning to speak now. I graduated from NYU film school in 2004. The first video upload to YouTube occurred in 2005. Now over an hour of video is uploaded to youtube every second, a decade’s worth of recording every day. Watching this explosion and trying to figure out how I could contribute became a process of winnowing down to the gems of what’s happening, moving from long-winded diatribes into short stories and then into poetry. This is part of a particularly Great Turningish poem I wrote in 2012 called

 

Waiting For Things To Get Worse

shatterers, scatter your fragments.

i see through wholes.

i merge the holy abyss.

when our lights fail

we’ll count stars.

when our aquifers empty

we’ll drink love.

it’ll probably be tomorrow morning.

i would wake up early just in case.

swallowed by the superstorms of gas giants

sea and sky coming at the same moment

moving from taupe to mauve to maroon

over eons.

seeking sexual encounters

with similarly experienced

storm eyes.

we’ll time this too.

doesn’t it feel good to grow peaceful?

responsibility slides

like oil in a pipe.

 

  Blending intensity and fun, seriousness and silliness, I’ve recently found our ecological and cosmological moment most wonderfully and directly relayed through music. Same ideas, but you can sing along and dance. As soon as I had all the instruments in place, the most enchanting music came erupting forth. My plans for post graduation now include an album’s worth of despair-work dance songs, a book of photographs and poetry, and a comedy show that takes place on a farm in the near future. As Joanna encouraged us during our weekends together, “Do not be afraid to speak for the future beings. People love it.”

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Presence to Potential

 Infinity as she opens before us encircles arms around us in a delicious deadly dance – we look for her everywhere, always in anticipation, temptation, the tease of end times. If you just watch flocks of birds land on tingling tree branches or lines of cars snake across overpasses and see into what stays and what goes and where you belong in between, this kind of observational landscape contains rich fertile soil for synchronicities and synkaironicities (our last neologism from Andres), which might push you just the next step further along your story, our story, the climax or the conclusion gratefully left unwritten.

  Joanna related a story of prophecy passed to her by Choegyal Rinpoche about the Shambala Warriors, who move across the terrain of our time and space with the two “weapons” of compassion and awareness of interconnectedness, trying to heal all beings. Joanna recounted that when she first told this prophecy to her son Jack, he wanted to know why Rinpoche didn’t tell her how it all turned out. Joanna said that if Rinpoche had tried to tell her she wouldn’t have believed it. Joanna went on to encourage the class “So don’t believe anyone who tells you how it’ll turn out. It’s in our not knowing that we are most in touch with our compassion and our interconnectedness. Isn’t that so?”

 It is so. It is in the profound unknowing of our time that unfathomable transformative power awaits. But it will wait no more for us. We will know soon enough what we’ve wrought. My guess is our knowledge of tipping points will be sufficient by 2020 to anticipate definitively what the centuries ahead will hold as a result of our hubris. Overlapping systems of omnicidal oppression are stacked devastatingly high against the life-affirming forces fighting for the planet. It ain’t looking good.

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  And so we commit ourselves to grief work, engaging beings from all available times in mutual aid. Confronting our own death and the death of whole species. There was more crying in this class, on my own part and others, than any class in my lifetime. Joanna, in her ability to shine a steady light to pierce the darkest dread helps frame what we’re feeling. “You can be committed and pessimistic. You don’t need optimism and hope. You can see the coming darkness and it doesn’t diminish the energy of your work. Being hopeful has more to do with what you had for breakfast or what someone just said to you. It comes and goes. Just keep living.”

 And through my personal experiences of our powerful weekend workings with future beings, I received knowledge that confirms the possibility of continual caring choices. According to the future beings I encountered in class, we share the same potential of time, the same opportunity to do our best every single day, the same available scales as relatives from our past and those in our future. We share the intimacy of skin and hair and feeling. We may understand and access radically different kinds of connections at different times, but the opportunities for connection remain available across time. As my mother said while reviewing options with my father the first time he got cancer when I was 12, “As long as you’re alive, you have choices.”

  It’s become bizarre, moving between this reckoning of the end and the seemingly mundane questions of everyone else’s everyday life, as though what people do with their time now is all already ashes, only dwindling heat from a fire extinguished while they weren’t looking. How are we all to handle ourselves in the death cycle? Joanna says clearly, her voice trembling with only the normal amount of Joanna tremble, “If we are to die together let’s do it well. Let’s not claw at each other. Let’s do it beautifully. We come from a great species. Let’s envision a world beyond and live like it’s already here.”

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 So it’s in the simple steps that we celebrate. Sowing seeds of soul service. We heed Joanna’s call to be continually astonished – by tastes and touches, in laughter and in love, through creativity and cosmogenesis. And we share gratitude for the greatness of our harvest and the imaginations of our home.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

1. Chalquist, Craig, Terrapsychology: Re-engaging the Soul of Place, Spring Journal Books, New Orleans, LA, 2007.

2. Conteris, Andres, Personal Conversations. Spring 2013

3. Halpern, Joshua

Goal Statement for CIIS Admissions

http://outsidejosh.com/2010/06/21/goal-statement-for-ciis-admissions/

First Begintegration Blog

http://outsidejosh.com/2010/09/04/begininintegration/

Waiting for Things to Get Worse

http://outsidejosh.com/2011/03/08/waiting-for-things-to-get-worse/

4. Kazan, Casey “Thirty Supernovas per Second in the Observable Universe! Is the Red Giant Betelgeuse Next?” published 5/12/11 at http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2011/05/30-suoernova-per-second-in-the-observable-universe-is-the-red-giant-betelgeuse-next.html

5. Kelly, Sean and Macy, Joanna, Notes from Class. The Great Turning – The Fullness of Time. CIIS, Spring 2013

6. Roberts, Wayne, “Nine Meals Away From Anarchy”, UTNE Reader, January/February 2013: http://www.utne.com/environment/nine-meals-away-from-anarchy-zm0z13jfzros.aspx

7. Sheldrake, Rupert, “Society, Spirit & Ritual: Morphic Resonance and the Collective Unconscious – Part II” Psychological Perspectives, (Fall 1987) 18(2), 320-331

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My father, Manfred Halpern was born 90 years ago today, on Feb 1, 1924. He died on Jan 14, 2001, leaving a legacy of his work as a professor of transformation.

In honor of this guide, who has so much to offer the rapid changes of our time, I posted quotes and images from his theory all week on Facebook (several were shared multiple times, which he would have thought was neat) and taught a 90 minute session on his life and work this afternoon after the farmers market. A small handful of us spread out on the green space near the columns on the shore of Lake Merritt in Oakland, and got into some fascinating explorations of transformational relationships.

 

It was a profoundly heart opening experience to see the work come to life again amongst my cohort, and to see myself able to hold the balance between the shadows and complexities of the man as a husband and father with the insight and light that his work continues to bring. I welcome all ripples of understanding, justice, healing and transformation my father inspires.

I’ve included the quotes, photos, and a brief bio below. I don’t normally teach him directly, I just kinda live his teachings into my life and art. But I suppose you only get one posthumous 90th birthday celebration, and I think he would have appreciated this.

A brief dad bio runs like this: Manfred Halpern was born on Feb 1, 1924 in Mittweida, Germany, to Athiest Jewish parents with whom he escaped to New York in 1937, the same year a concentration camp opened in his hometown. He went back back to Germany as a US Battalion Scout in WWII, and ran all over the Middle East for the US State Dept in the ’50s trying to prevent the CIA from supporting coups. He escaped Washington for Princeton University and raised four kids, but by the late ’60s began birthing and teaching an overarching theory of transformation with which he wrangled the rest of his life. The ’70s brought the love of one of his grad students (my mother) and the ’80s brought me! He died in Jan 2001, surrounded by his family and his garden, but with his manuscript unpublished. The book, “Transforming the Personal, Political, Historical and Sacred in Theory and Practice” finally arrived in physical form in 2009.

 

manfred13“Transformation is a process of participating in creation so that we may give birth to something fundamentally new that is also fundamentally better. However committed we may be to preserving what we have inherited from the past, trying to solidify and preserve any particular human situation becomes always an ever more costly fantasy. Instead, we can nourish any experience which is already fruitful, loving, and just by asking and learning what is needed for its persistent renewal. We live in a cosmos of continuous creation.” 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“No grand strategy is relevant now. As we build affinity groups and new political networks, each unique person who hopes to become a full participant in transformation counts, and so do those who are simply baffled. We need to face each other as actual, unique persons and to help each other see ourselves also as manifestations of limiting stories which we still uncritically accept and enact. 
manfred5Even as our understanding of the nature and power of the underlying stories that move us grows, we need to respond to all where we are here and now. There is no other place or time to begin.”
 
 

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“In transformative love we tune in to each other’s creative work, deeply caring about what emerges from each of us and keen to discover how we can – each in our unique way – support one another both critically and constructively. In transforming love we can discover the constraints of our present culture (or within each of the different cultures in which each of us grew up) and explore together how we can transform – and thus free and enrich – all four faces of our being. We also help each other discover and freely, creatively practice both the masculine and feminine in all the archetypal dramas which our current culture – under masculine domination – has shaped one-sidedly. Our bodily containers and personal uniqueness will continue to shape our performances, but we do not accept barriers to experience imposed by others or our own past.”
 
 

manfred2

 
“Belief molds our practice and secures it against any fundamental questioning. Faith, by contrast, means freeing ourselves to risk trust in an experience during which, with care and compassion, we keep testing our hope, and understanding that we can participate in turning it into an experience of transformation. It is not a question of just taking a chance, or of converting and being saved, or of a revolution finally consolidated.”
 
 
 
 

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“It is vital for each of us to contribute especially what our talent and need and understanding awaken and energize in us to do. We may well concentrate on creating new photographs or poems that open us to new visions and insights, composing a newly liberating musical rhythm, freeing ourselves of a relationship we discover had enchained us, tuning in more deeply on the sacred, or becoming a political activist on a particular issue. The question is not how big a change, but how fundamental a change. In the service of transformation we also need to understand and attend to our interconnections (or our still crucially missing gaps) with the stories of others. Otherwise our own contribution cannot make much of a difference to the quality of our shared lives.”
 
 
“I am not a believer in any religious dogma. I find it equally impossible to bring myself to believe that human beings and their bodies have come into being as a result of random changes tested solely by the survival of the fittest. The human species has the capacity not only to choose between radically different ways of life, but also to participate in bringing new archetypal stories into being and others to their end, creating or destroying their concrete manifestations as well as their underlying structures. 
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Bodily vessels, however, can create or destroy only according to already established structures and dynamics. Our body can reform itself in various modes, but like the butterfly, only according to already established stages. Yet, there are evolutionary exceptions. Whales decided to leave the land and live in the sea. Certain apes, but not others, decided to walk straight on their legs, as part of a new beginning. How can we – how did we – participate in fundamentally altering the interaction between the faces of our being and the archetypal structures and dynamics that shape our bodies? Our being’s greatest freedom and capacity stems from its ability to transform. We’d do well to tune into the experience of our body as a face of the sacred – as is our biosphere, as is everything that exists in the cosmos. The sacred is incomplete without such manifestations.
 
Our biosphere, reaching from the depths of the earth and oceans to the outer reaches of the atmosphere, is the physical environment and interaction we share with all other living and inert entities on the earth. We can ignore it, or relate to only fragments of it, or try to dominate it. But our very capacity to breathe, to eat, to have room for being – to live – depends more and more upon our recognizing our responsibilities as partners within this ecology.”
 
 

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“I have had this experience many times. My mind goes blank whenever I wait for the arrival of what moves on its own time beyond my control, for that is, symbolically, what slow elevators, municipal bus lines, and creative new visions have in common. Yet, though I have emptied myself, I am not nothing. Our conscious and conscientious breaking into emptiness – our capacity to say no, to understand why we say no, to turn our negation into actual practice, to be still – possesses an essential form. It exists as the middle passage between two stories. What is crucial is our arrival at the point where we know that we do not know. When we empty ourselves we need not lose the loving desire to transform. When Socrates says again and again “I am ignorant of everything except love” he knows that even at the moment when we and the sacred are silent, our being’s essential capacity for transformation remains.”
 

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“Our task is not to capture the state, but to build linked communities that can substitute for the bureaucratic, hierarchic powers that be. That will take time, but surely not as many centuries as it took to develop the nation-state. Affinity groups constitute the most basic and most pervasive social tissue of a transforming society. People in small groups help each other most concretely, face to face, with sympathy and understanding to go through the experience of breaking and recreating to enrich each other’s lives. They interconnect with other such groups to constitute the nuclei of what we can and need to do together.
 
These are the people we feel closest to, with whom we live every day, with whom we share our lives. We experience affinity in part for reasons we cannot put entirely into words, in part because all of us in the group care deeply about a particular aspect or cross-section of life – feminism, art, ecology, racism, education, the poor. Many people are likely to belong to several, sharing different deep concerns with others. Springing from these affinity groups are various larger networks – crucially among them task forces which gather experts in a problem and those effected by the problem to work together toward solutions, as well as radically transformative political parties supported by membership dues and not by money from already powerful elites.”

manfred3

 
 
“The most powerful authoritarian constraint in a democratic liberal society is the drama of capitalism. The reduction of all relationships to the struggle for power, the concern with competence over capacity, capitalism produces ever increasing fragmentations and inequalities, yet people in the service of incoherence seldom discuss justice. All power and all victories are temporary, competition for power and success constantly reopens. But when the powerful worry about risks and experience losses, they do not discuss the costs of this way of life or who bears the costs, and certainly never it’s archetypal dynamics. Not to discuss the underside in every sense of that term reflects more than prudence. To live in an emanational relationship to this drama, to treat this way of life as the only possibility, prevents us from analyzing its deepest shaping powers and diminishes our capacity to see as human beings those whom we have succeeded in pushing into the shadows of our stage.”
 
 

manfred6

 
 
“Many of us may come to feel that all we know and cherish is being attacked when we start to see that the ways of life in which most of us have lived for almost all of history are by their very nature fragile (however successful our controls appear to work at the moment) and anxiety-generating (hence the continual emphasis on power and control). These ways constitute only arrested fragments of the core creative drama of life, they are fundamentally unstable, and from our present perspective what may have a fruitful capacity looks like a dire threat. A fruitful and reassuring new framework would be one that allows for increasing agency and attunement to the availabilities of wholeness at each moment. Luckily, every single reader has already lived long enough to be able to test this theory against their own experiences, generating the possibility of confidence and clarity with each attempt. It is this way we generate faith in an unknown future.”
 

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  “This work is addressed to the pregnant, to those wondering about the risks and joys of pregnancy, and to those in the process of giving birth. Anyone who reserves theory for the ears of the impregnators or midwives is not a true guide of transformation, but is likely striving to create a new elite. If we tell people exactly how to collaborate in new ways (or worse, coerce them) so that they strive for new forms of justice, love, and compassion without opening space together that yields links to their own deepest unique source of creative generative being, we deny them full participation in a transforming society. We cannot manufacture transformation. We can learn to tune into this nonlinear process at work as the pregnancy is still developing in the womb and to move caringly in the midst of each hope and pain even before there is any glimmer of an outcome. Outcomes may flutter forever in the future. Births emerge as an expression of the present.”
 

Solastalgia Soul Train: Take Your Eco-Fears and Make ‘Em Funky

Fukushima radiation takes only a few days’ journey by air over the ocean before it splashes down in the Esalen hot tubs. Solastalgia describes the homesickness felt as your home disappears. Josh will open up a seriously fun dance space for fears of these changes to move through our cells and release back to the cosmos.

Workshop conducted at Esalen Oct 2013

WARNING: Video below contains some serious dancing.

Hey, an actual music video! The first of many to come.

Just in case you don’t want to watch all of Josh’s graduation presentation (tho it’s great), here’s the song “Until” which rounded out the day with a choreographed dance routine by the graduating class. Song starts at :44

Joshua Halpern confronts the end of the world with humor and honesty in his final graduate school presentation “At the End: Celebrating Cycles of Change” and includes some of his own photography, video, poetry, live music, and a choreographed dance number.

Do You Think We’re Fucked?

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Do you? Do you? Do you

think we’re fucked?

 

Knowing what you know

of storms the size of hemispheres.

of entire forests on fire.

of right here ruin

wrought from

deluge

dry outs

die offs

do you know who’ll be included?

 

What systems are so stable they will save us?

What ways are you imagining endure?

 

Knowing what you knew once

of money

death

I forget what else.

Supplies of tortured creatures

slaughtered

shipped

and salted

for your sandwiches.

 

Showing all the faces of your

arms amassing neighbors

who prefer to die in fear

before they give up any freedoms.

 

Glowing still the sun that’s sure to swallow you.

And you. And you. And you.

If not today, then soon!

 

When will you think we’re fucked?

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