We Can Change!
It is not important to read this preface. It’s a bit about me and where and how this writing came about. It’s not particularly significant. I’m a human being, like you. Raised in the U.S., I try my best at what I do, try to be good, know and help others, be aware and honest. I think, feel and dream and have a history. Pretty normal. I’m no more special than you are. This writing is not about me. Skip this if you want…
My grandmother was a beautiful being. Petite, soft-spoken, well-kept, busy and lovely well into her 90s, she was there for my Mom, Dad and us kids as we grew. She became hard of hearing, so it became difficult for her to catch our conversations, which likely seemed like verbal machine gun battles at times. We were a rowdy dogpile of all kinds of interactions. She would just be there with us, taking it in, smiling and watching, and only interfering when we were really about to harm some one or thing.
Her life was full, rich and diverse. One of thirteen children, with an older sister named Cleopatra, she’d fallen out a window as a girl and broken her back. As she convalesced, she became a voracious reader. She made it through the dustbowl and depression, dirt poor, and married a part-Cherokee who was literally born in a tornado. In his tempestuous, manic-depressive life, he became rich and went bust, many times. She lived in a DC hotel with him, as he worked with Presidents and leaders of government. He was, unfortunately, broke when he died. Bad timing. She had to reinvent and make her own way, late in life, a very difficult challenge she undertook with dignity and courage, almost matter-of-factly.
She never really tried to talk to me about any of that. I never once heard her complain, about anything. She was just there for us, watching, helping and smiling. She had nothing but love for any of us, ever.
In the decade before her death, I’d visit her at the charming Virginia retirement home where she lived. Only then did it occur to me to really ask for her stories, which she’d relate, also mostly matter-of-factly: of Colonel Goodnight moving longhorns to market on the Goodnight Trail, of Woodie Guthrie’s family, which she helped care for when he was off doing what he did, of their ranch, chock full of old wild west memorabilia, and of people making their lives work, together, in hard times.
One time, as a young parent visiting her, I opened up and, honestly, was complaining about life stress: trying to pay for a house we couldn’t quite afford in a city; daycare for two kids; home, health, car, and life insurance; other bills…, while complying with the relentless demands of an early corporate career. Love and compassion in her face and voice, she said, in her day, they didn’t do all that. It must be hard. That made me curious. So, I asked her, well, if she didn’t do all of that, how did they make it work?
She said something like, “We built our own homes, with each other, on land we could afford, when we got enough materials together to do that. We didn’t have insurance. If somebody’s barn burnt down, we got together and built ‘em another one. If somebody got sick, we took ‘em in and nursed ‘em back, with the doc’s help when necessary. We came together and took care of the children, all by ourselves. We didn’t rely on paying money to far away people that didn’t know us. We took care of our own.”
That sounded so alien to me then that it might have come from another planet. I tried to understand. “Well, how did all of that work? How did you know or figure out what to do, when, and for whom? How did you know how to do all the things that had to be done?”
She answered me with something like: “Well, we knew each other well. We were in each other’s lives. We cared about each other, and we just used common sense, figured it out and kept at it ‘til it worked.” Huh? I didn’t understand how there could be any one thing, like “common sense,” that enabled people to navigate the crazy complexities of life. It sounded so simple. It sounded impossible.
I was used to weeks of research, spreadsheets, regulations, meetings, forms, papers, technical drawings, and frenzied and never-ending politics, maneuvering and squabbling, before anything could be done, the whole time it was being done, and even long afterwards. Common sense sounded almost mythical, like whatever people wistfully allude to that got it done around King Arthur’s round table.
My grandmother died, I worked a career, raised kids, paid bills, cared for a home, trying to do my best. Then, when the kids were grown, for some reason or not, I got divorced, and sat with that huge change. I started meditating every day, finding peace and clarity, developing balance, sensitivity and feeling, and, the more of that I did, the more I discovered that things just didn’t feel right. Our ways, states of being, occupations, health, systems, rewards… There was something deeply “off” about much, or most of it.
As my last big contract was moving toward its end, my son, who’s more sensitive and wise than I, challenged me: “Do you realize what you have the chance to do now? Just don’t take other contracts! Take some time off! Travel! Be free and be you and see what that does for a while!” Brilliantly wise! So, I did. I wrapped up that last big contract, put what I didn’t sell in a storage locker, took my laptop out of my shoulder bag, put 3 changes of clothing and a toiletry bag in it and flew one way to Vietnam, thinking to make my way to India, without flying, avoiding cities where possible.
The year that followed, going all the way around the world, was transformational, shucking emotional and psychological baggage I’d left with, opening, trusting, allowing, experiencing new cultures and ways, meditating every day, experiencing love and forgiveness of people the U.S. badly wronged in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, being in simple and real people’s homes and lives in small communities, being free, having no keys, observing how much more happy and fulfilled many poor people I’d been taught to pity were than so many at home, going deep with Vipassana meditation in Myanmar, free-soloing 3 months via local busses through small villages in India, riding camels in Morocco, deeply experiencing spirit…
When I got back, I moved into a simple, beat-up, 1940s hunting cabin way deep in nature to integrate. There was no Internet or phone. I drank water from the creek, swam in the pond, got cold in the winter, and hot in the summer. At times, there was total silence; at times, lavish bird choirs or frog symphonies. I could see a distant city from nearby mountaintops, but it was unable to get to me, unless I invited it. Wild deer and turkey came to the stoop. Hummingbirds hummed at me, hawks soared above, and mountain lions hunted in the hills. Moon and stars were the night lights. For more than 5 years now, I’ve meditated at least an hour per day. There, I went into it easily and often, by day or night. Each day, I experienced more with it. It went deeper. I felt more. I thought less. I resonated. Ego released.
I thought maybe I’d join or start an intentional community, where people could live, be and thrive with each other in other ways, like my grandmother, like I had seen so many lovely examples of in my travels. I looked at land and became convinced I could find it when I knew what I wanted. I wondered what had happened to hippie communes after the 1960s. Why had so many fallen apart? I looked into it. Mostly, it was because people couldn’t figure out how to agree and work things out together for the long haul. That was the hard really part. They didn’t seem to have my grandmother’s mystical “common sense.” What is it that makes things work or not work between people over the long term? What’s the glue?
One morning, after meditating in the garden, I sat down to write out a dream I’d had the night before. Without thinking about it too much, that became a daily pattern. Wake up, enjoy coffee, meditate into higher zones, sit with a laptop, write while it flowed naturally and easily, and, when that faded, get up, do chores or go be active, all of it in beautiful, balanced, harmonious and thriving nature.
Six months later, what was then the biggest wildfire in California history took it all. (In the time since, there have been four larger ones.) I got out with two changes of clothes and a start on these words.
I holed up with friends in town, for a few months. With use of the Internet, the first time in a long time, I researched some U.S. social systems and issues I’d been exploring, looking for facts. Facts can be surprisingly hard to find. So much today is opinions, marketing and arguments. With facts, we can do our own analyses and reach our own conclusions, rather than have those spoon-fed to us, selectively, based on manipulative agendas. I folded some of those facts into this and worked with them.
I tried sharing this writing with a few people, and observed it really did not go down easily. It’s difficult to confront brokenness, look closely at something ugly. It’s hard to dig deep into our own worldviews, programming, beliefs and faults. It’s hard to change. Our egos and habits tend to fight that.
Sometimes, messages from the Universe aren’t very clear. After the fire, it was very clearly time for me to do something different, so I flew one-way to Ecuador, lived on the beach, learned Spanish and got fit. I went adventuring in South America, a vast, beautiful and diverse continent. That included scuba diving with hammerheads in the Galapagos, hiking with my kids in the Andes, going deep with spirit plants and shamanic experiences, meditating in cloud forests above the Amazon, trekking into and marveling at lost stone cities, sailing from Columbia to Panama… I came back to help my mother move, as she called it, “into The Home,” drove from California to Alaska and back, through vast, pristine nature of Canada. Then, I came back to this, in a rented cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and in Central America.
In my travels, it is possible to connect and relate to people very different from me. We share humor, experiences, values and dreams. Deep down, we are one. Our differences do not have to divide us. This writing tries to find deeper ways we are connected and in agreement, as human beings on Earth.
I’m not a member of any political party or religion. I try to maintain an open mind and heart and evaluate things as they come. I’m a human being in the U.S., trying to be awake, honest and real, independent of political, race, gender, age, religious or other bias. I try to approach complex and hard things simply, like my grandmother would, using common sense, seeking facts and what we agree on.
Fair and square, some of this stuff is very hard to take in and process. Things are badly broken. We’re headed for big trouble on our current course. That’s very difficult, if also extremely important to face. But, this is ultimately hopeful. Change is a universal, in all places, and at all times. Things are changing, as usual, whether we like it or not. We can go along as we are on current trajectories and experience hard and painful changes, and associated harms, or we can wake up, acknowledge what is, and choose to create the positive changes we want to have in our worlds. If so, the future is bright and beautiful!
That’s where I’m going. I hope you will too! Wake up, get informed, get up and create positive change!
Read the introduction! Put this down afterwards if you then don’t want to do the harder work of looking behind the curtain at what is, digging into our conditioning and beliefs for why, and looking for ways to come together and exercise our god-like powers to make it all better. Best wishes, regardless!