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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.”
 
 

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“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. 
manfred8
 
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.”
 
 

manfred14

“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.”
 

manfred4

 
“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.”
 

manfred11

 
 
  “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?

photo-42

Do you, do you, do you

think we’re fucked?

 

Knowing what you know

of storms the size of hemispheres

of whole 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 sandwich.

 

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?

Giving breath to lost locations, hearing hello’s across species, and naming our neighbors, are just some of the co-creative explorations of this workshop for the 2013 Grounding Terrestrial Wisdom Culture event.

Where will we locate love in the future? For the 2013 Cosmology of Love conference, we all get out of our seats and embed in some love across epic scales.

Personal Ecology

A multimedia telling of the stories of home, ecology, cosmology, politics, and magic as they wove through my last 3 years pursuing an MA in Integral Ecology in the Bay Area.

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