DEAR DARKENING GROUND10/11/2010
From the original, written in 2010:
Woke up early, took the dogs, a cup of Earl Grey and my Rilke Book of Hours to the backyard and still peaceful morning. I opened the book and read, "there will be a book that includes these pages and she who take it in her hand will sit staring at it a long time, until she feels that she is being held and you are writing."
This is the end of poem whose German name escapes me. It goes like this:
"Dear darkening ground,
you've endured so patiently the walls we've built perhaps you'll give the cities one more hour
and grant the churches and cloisters two.
And those that labor - maybe you'll let their work grip them another five hours, or seven,
before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness
in that hour of inconceivable terror
when you take back your name from all things.
Just give me a little more time!
I want to love the things
as no one has thought to love them,
until they're real and ripe and worthy of you.
I want only seven days, seven
on which no one has ever written himself -
seven pages of solitude.
there will be a book that includes these pages,
and she who take it in her hands
will sit staring at it a long time,
until she feels that she is being held
and you are writing."
With early morning tears , I connected with my deep love of the world from a place that includes the rough bark of an ancient tree to a hawk that sits atop a light pole as its ancestors once sat atop a craggy promontory to the mysteries of the ocean deep.
As I look for my greater purpose, I think it has always been there: to love the Earth enough to save her beyond all reason; as I love those who are close to me; as I choose to be loved.
I was reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés Untie the Strong Woman the other night (thank you, Sharon Martinelli) and the chapter was about Our Lady of Guadalupe mural in North Denver. The beautiful mural was painted over; sheetrocked over with no clear explanation about why; just for "remodeling sake". There were peaceful protests and many, many inquires about why this happened, and so many pleas to, please, uncover the wall. Nothing. No answer.
But the people knew that the Lady was still there, even though they couldn't see her anymore. They knew she was there and they felt her. And here's the odd phenomenon, according to Estes. Great spiritual passion often arises from travesty. There were "rememberers" who came and touched the wall; who continue to come and touch the wall to let Our Lady know she is remembered; not forgotten and that her work continues in the world.
It became clear to those who covered the wall and the mural that to bury Our Lady, you had to dig deep; a lot deeper than sheetrock and paint.
I felt an analogy to where we are today. You are invited to your own perspective.
Today, I want to talk about the Reluctant Evolutionary. That’s me. That’s all of us, I make up. Even if you’re saying, “Hell no, that’s not me”, I believe it is. And it’s okay that we believe different things because in the end, believing doesn’t make something true or false. What’s true will always be true even if we don’t believe it.
Our reluctance lives in the things we talk about as a culture, as an age in all the ages of Human history. Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Age of Invention - the Agricultural Age, The Industrial Revolution Age, The Technology Age, the Information Age, and what I’ll call the Age of Enlightenment or Chaos, since both apply.
What DID we talk about over the ages? Actually, when did we first start talking?
According to my research, speech began anywhere from 2 million years ago to 50,000 years ago (you’d think we’d be better at it by now, wouldn’t you?). The Hominids or Hominins were our first talking ancestors.
Social groups increased the need for speech. Perhaps grunting and whining, like chimpanzees, at first. Or even sign language - let’s point at the wild boar before we run like hell. Let’s thumbs up a really delicious berry we found in the forest and thumbs down if that really delicious berry killed Bert, who was the first to taste it. Survival Conversation, if you will.
Research also tells us that our machinery – vocal cords, mouth, tongue and throat weren’t equipped for today’s sophisticated speech. So grunting and other noises were all we had at first.
I'll jump ahead to what we’d all recognize as human speech and talk about what we talked about in each era of Human evolution.
Let’s start with the Agricultural Age. (10, 000 BC) Think of conversations in the Agricultural Age. You’re a farmer. What do you talk about to your other farmer friends? How are your crops? Will it rain this week? Sure could use some rain. The plow needs a new … (who knows what a plow might need?) or the milking cow’s gone dry. Boy is she in trouble. Likely to be next Sunday’s dinner. Or maybe the price of seed went up, and the price of wheat went down due to overproduction. Basic things. Survival things.
What about the Industrial Age? Lots more to talk about there. As the wealthy purchased land in Britain, for example, small scale farmers were pushed to the cities to look for work^. Now the conversation was about wages, poor working conditions, child labor, building factories, materials, trade to get the materials, travel by sea, storms and piracy, accidents with machinery, tenements, and immigrants, the idea of human rights starting to enter the conversation, political machines controlling a city’s politics and influencing government, competition for jobs among the poorer classes, wars. Now we’re talking, right? Our problems were getting bigger and more of them showed up every day. And that’s progress, isn’t it? It’s also survival. We are still in a struggle for survival even though we call it progress.
Now leaping forward to the Technology Age or the Age of Information. This was the shift from traditional industry to information computerization. We’ve become a knowledge-based society surrounded by a hi-tech global economy. Cities have expanded to become global cities; we are global citizens, many of us. Industry has become information-intense.
What do we talk about in the Age of Information? We talk about our devices: phones, smart or otherwise; our smart tvs, iPads, our pcs and our macs, gaming devices, the cloud, and even then, there are no clear boundaries anymore as we all seek to homogenize our technology into something more streamline and compact. We also talk about Personalization, as not to get lost in the sea of Humanity, all using the same devices to communicate and connect.
We also must talk about security. Phishing, hacking, identity theft now that so much of what we used to do in person is done through technology. We’ve connected, and not always with the right people. We even date online and not always with the right people there, by the way.
We talk about our cars and to a lesser degree, public transportation. How fast can we get somewhere and the tragedy of being “stranded” when our car breaks down or weather conditions delay our flights. Stranded. We are still worried about survival.
This brings me to The Age of Consequence. My term, not anyone else’s and an overlapping with the Information Age, as I’m sure all ages experienced in the past.
What are we talking about now? We’re still talking about security: the phishing and hacking. We’re still talking about politics and big business, and a greater divide between classes. Now we’re also talking about the environment, what we’ve done to the air, the water, the forests; our never ending production and consumption of plastic. We’re talking about the extinction of species and the sixth mass extinction on the planet. Yes, we talk about others things, too.
We’re celebrity obsessed and we love to see them fall and fail. We cry briefly when an icon dies and then go back to business as usual. We talk about videos and tweets going viral. We share photos of our most recent meal on Facebook.
In all of this, the most impactful and relevant conversations are those around how we are consciously facing a concern about our actions of the past and how they are impacting us today. No one worried about their impact on the next 7 generations in the agricultural age or the industrial age, except perhaps the Indigenous People of the World, who have lived one age in parallel with our many ages. Impact beyond personal within my family, was not in my wheelhouse growing up.
Now we are all this and more. Survival and safety are heightened senses with everything around us being called unsafe, our homes, our neighborhoods, who lives next to us – a murderer, a pedophile or a terrorist? We talk our employers, our banks, our business structures, who has the biggest guns and weapons of mass destruction. We’re told that it’s a rigged game to make someone rich, and it’s usually not us. We must be concerned about what we did in the past, before we were even born, bearing the guilt of our ancestors who came to most places as conquerors, takers, seeking freedom by taking it away from others.
We are in the Age of Consequence. What a guilt trip to lay on Humanity. Be afraid of everything and oh by the way, you’ve screwed up everything you’ve done so far, so good luck with sorting that out or the future will be pretty much screwed, too.
Life isn’t about living it – okay, a generalization, I know. Yes, of course, it’s about living it and it’s also about surviving it. I just got off the phone with someone who called her situation at work, “just trying to survive”. At the end of the call, she said, “Hang in there.” Where? Where am I hanging?
I’ve always just wanted to live my life and enjoy it. And yet, I’m in survival mode like the cave dwellers, the farmers, and the early industrial workers. Maybe we’ve always been in survival mode; maybe it’s just in our DNA. The fear gene. And maybe without it, we don’t know how to live. Our brains are wired to seek out the threats and pay little attention to the things that don’t appear to threaten us. The problem is the brain needs a bigger threat as we evolve to get activated. We are on threat overload.
Here’s where my Reluctant Evolutionary comes in. Maybe yours, too. I’m in the consequence mode and often feel that I’ve got to solve all the world’s problems by last Tuesday.
And course we all know that it’s not possible. We always know that, unlike planting a crop or building a widget, as reluctant evolutionaries, we may not even see the end result of our work in the world. We are doing legacy work that may take decades or centuries to evolve into a new age. We may not see the impact in our lifetime. And yet, we know what our purpose is here in the world and we must do what we are activated to do, even knowing that we may never know our impact on the future. It’s a reluctant evolutionary who is the hero in my eyes; the one who says yes to that kind of work because who doesn’t want the acknowledgment or pat on the back that says great job; thanks for saving Gotham, Batman.
The infamous Joseph Campbell’s famous phrase was “Follow Your Bliss”. Joseph Campbell is quoted as saying, “I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word "Sat" means being. "Chit" means consciousness. "Ananda" means bliss or rapture.”
Campbell’s focus was on Ananda, or Bliss. His reference to the Sanskrit terms in a movie called, Finding Joe, got me thinking entirely about Chit, or Consciousness.Chit, pronounced aloud, sounds very much like the word shit.
Now, I promise you that I say this with all due respect. No offense meant and I hope none taken. In the moment that I realized the similarity in pronunciation, I had a moment of Chit.One of our favorite American (perhaps universal) expressions is, “Holy shit”. Since watching Finding Joe, I am convinced that what we really mean is “Holy Chit” or “Holy Consciousness”.
Think about it. You just realized that you are on the wrong bus. Holy Chit. You just learned that your best friends are getting married. Holy Chit.I have to admit that if I liked the expression before, I am in love with it now. It is reverently designed for a moment of consciousness that requires an exclamation. It is not a vulgar, improper expression or expletive. Rather, it is a moment of Consciousness and we've honored it so by placing the word “Holy” in front of it. We've just been spelling it wrong all these years! (Holy Chit!)I’m sure I’m not the first person to consider this and I won’t be the last. I never could figure out why we would want to make shit holy and now I get it. I really get it. A moment of divine consciousness. So it can never be anything but Holy Chit from now on and spoken with the reverence it deserves.
The next time your teenager mispronounces it, feel free to correct him or her. The next time someone yells at you, “Holy shit, what do you think you’re doing?” realize that a moment of consciousness has been activated and actually start thinking about what you’re doing. It’s a moment of consciousness, a blessing.
Now, if I could only find the true meaning behind all the other expletives we use every day, I’d be a happy woman, and then again, maybe some expletives are just that, designed not to provoke any thought or consciousness and no further explanation is needed.
Everything I do – my entire purpose in this life - is about being seen … andbeing heard for who I really am.
As a little girl, it was best that I was seen and not heard. No, wait. It was best that I wasn’t seen AND wasn’t heard. If you grew up when I did in the early 50’s, parental punishment was still pretty much left up to the imagination of the parent, and not a contrived taking away of an electronic communication device, like a cell phone, or a gaming device, like an X-Box or PlayStation. Back then, punishment was real. Parents got angry, and there wasn’t anything to take away (television only had about 10 channels so what would have been the point?) There wasn’t anything to take away except perhaps our self-esteem, which, as it turns out, is a lot harder to give back than any X-Box or cell phone.
I remember being punished most often for the times that I was most like myself … not because I did horrid things … but because I was too exuberant; too loud; too excited … too afraid … and so, after a while, I stopped being most like myself. I learned to be quiet, be still, and be indifferent.
Did anyone else have that experience? And so, you know that what it does to our souls is force us to choose betweenbeing most like ourselves and being loved and accepted. What (No) child should have to make that choice.
As we grow older, that shell, or veneer we’ve built around ourselves starts to feel like the real deal. It grows thicker when we get to school, where the best shell wins, and my shell can beat the crap out of your shell, or my shell got invited to the prom, so you better work on yours. It begins to be you, and me,and all of us, until we can no longer differentiate between who we really are, and the veneer that we’ve built around ourselves for the sake of being loved and accepted.
One of the first awakenings that something is wrong happens when someone has the nerve to diss your veneer. Can you imagine? “Hey, I don’t like you.” And you’re thinking, “What do mean? Me? I’ve worked hard to create this person; this façade. How could you not like this image of moderation and mediocrity I’ve created?” Well, my veneer doesn’t like your veneer. So there.
Another awakening is the sheer exhaustion from the God-awful strength it takes to keep up your veneer … even when you think you’ve got it on auto-pilot, it takes a tremendous amount of energy - maybe not to keep up the veneer, as much as repress your true soul; that gleeful, eager, sometimes too loud, being; that wild, untamed child that lives within you still, despite the fact that you haven’t fed or watered him; you haven’t kissed or tickled her, or traded hugely grotesque faces in the mirror that your mother or father promised you would get stuck that way if you kept it up.
It lives and waits, despite the neglect.
Our untamed soul, our wild child soul waits for us. If you’ve ever had a dog as a pet, you know their waiting, and their welcoming: it doesn’t matter if you’ve been gone 5 minutes or 5 months. The joy just flows from their very being, and they don’t apologize for being exuberant, loud, or oh so very excited that you’ve come back to them. Sometimes, they even pee they’re so excited – right in front of you.
So waits our soul, for the sound of the car pulling into the driveway, the sound of the door knob turning. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been – it waits ready to show its joy – unashamed, knowing that its pure love is your true self – exactly as it was when you were a child, before you learned you had to choose between it and love and acceptance.
And now that many of us have reached an age, where those who came before us may no longer be with us; or may no longer hold provenance over us; the veneer doesn’t feel quite as reassuring as it once did, like a support garment that rides up in all the wrong places (souncomfortable), and we wonder who the veneer is for anymore. As if suddenly, we are aware of a voice; a tiny voice calling our name. A voice inside us, asking us to come out and play. And we let that veneer drop, smashing into a million pieces on the floor (and no, we don’t have to clean it up); That voice is louder now. Come out and play! Take that first deep, clean breath and run, skip, and twirl to join it, all the while singing a made up song at the top of your lungs.
I was lucky enough to have someone really see me; hear my voice, and take the marksman shot that cracked the veneer wide open. Who will do that for you?
Will you? I hope for the day that each of you can say, “See me for who I really am; hear my voice. I am love and acceptance. I am me for the first time in a long time, and I’m here to stay.”
I'm currently enrolled in a Game Changer Intensive through the Pachamama Alliance. The question about privilege and repression was asked in the most recent discussion forum. I want to share my response here, because it feels very important at this moment in time.
It began with, "Are you ready?" Here is my response:
I'm not sure if I'm ready for this, and ... I'm going to write anyway. (with deep respect to Lynne Twist, who I heard say something similar at the Bigger Game Expo in 2013: "I don't know if I have the answer to that, and I'm going to speak anyway." So brilliant.)
I remember being about 8 or 9 years old, and making a trip with my parents to Mexico. Typical tourists, we had our photo taken in a cart with a gentleman dressed in a broad sombrero and a sarape. After the photo was taken, and I began to step down from the cart, a young boy approached me and held out his hand. I thought he was offering his hand to help me out of the cart, so I took it and stepped down. It was only years later that I realized he might have been the one looking for an offering. I had no idea that people, children, begged on the street to sustain and survive.
I was raised in a relatively upper middle class privilege, and never knew that others weren't living the same way. There was no spoken gratitude for what we had, or any instruction that others did not have the same privilege as we did; I grew up in such total naivete, that it still astonishes me, especially since my parents were first gen. Americans, lived through the "Great Depression" and two world wars. How could there not be gratitude??
I also remember being a few years older, pre-teen perhaps, watching television with my mother and my maternal grandmother, and my grandmother made a comment about the "number of Negroes (her word) on tv". Too many in her opinion. I still remember turning around to look at her, and at that moment, truly knew how narrow-minded she was, even hated her at the moment, not having the skills to understand that she just didn't know any better, as I wished desperately for another family.
This would have been mid 1960s. The representation of any minority on television was scarce at best.
How did I know that what she said was so morally and ethically wrong? I just did.I just did. My heart ached when she said it, and rejected it. I wasn't influenced by my family's prejudices and for that, I'm so grateful. They were all allies in me finding my voice, my own opinions; my own knowing about who we are to each other and how we can be connected.
I'm not sure I answered the question in the forum, and I know that this Game Changer Intensive is for me; to really explore my voice and how it shows up in leadership in the world. So, I express my gratitude to any one who reads this, and wants to reply. And if not, I know it's my journey, my work that shows up here, and that's really what matters in the end for any of us, isn't it?