22 February 2010

Awakening from the Dream of Modernity

Posted by jcloud under: Creation; Evolution; Future; Global; Resiliency; Science; Story; Sustainability .

Victoria and I attended the new “global” version of the Pachamama Symposium, “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream,” last Sunday. While none of the information was new to me, the presentation was compelling and visually stunning, and the Symposium continues to evolve and be more impactful.

There was also an important new addition to the event, which was a networking segment at the end designed to help the participants connect to each and get into action around the issues of most concern to them.

I’m not sure if this is in the global plan, or was just a liberty taken by the local organizers (who are close friends of ours), but it was a welcome recognition that those who attend events like this are not just there to absorb new information or even to get in touch with their deeper feelings and convictions, but are also coming in the hope of finding new ways of collaborating and of making a difference.

What we have heard over and over, in our own events and those we attend, is that what’s missing is not knowledge or information, but the opportunity for concerted action. All too often, seminars and workshops are designed purely to accomplish the presenters’ objectives, and the “connecting” is seen as purely informal networking that belongs outside the framework of the official program. In some cases, such as Landmark, any initiatives other than those sanctioned by the organizers are actively discouraged.

While it’s understandable that those who are offering the program have an implicit or explicit organizational agenda to expand their own membership and participation, it’s hypocritical and ultimately self-defeating to claim to be “empowering” people while simultaneously obstructing constructive action.

This is one of the most important reasons we had for creating the Sustainable Leadership Forum, to fill this void that we experienced in other venues, and to support people in furthering their own projects and engaging others. Ultimately, it is not sufficient to inform, to educate, or even “awaken” people; what’s then required is to support them to get into action, to help them discover and strengthen their own leadership skills, and to facilitate the emergence of meaningful collective action.

This having been said, it is clearly still important what the over-arching “message” is, and the message of the Pachamama Symposium is simple, elegant, and compelling. Its mission is to “bring forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet.” There may be some reason to add a fourth leg to this – economically sufficient – but in my view this is already implicit in the idea of social justice, and is also what has gotten us in the West into an enormous amount of trouble. We have elevated economic success and indeed excess above all other purposes, when in reality it is only a means to the other ends that we as humans are able to aspire to.

And the goal of the Symposium is not to dismiss the achievements of the West, but to bring them into alignment with the principles of nature, interconnection, and universal wisdom. It is, as they say, to have the eagle and the condor fly together, and open a new chapter of human existence that is not – as our current one clearly is – self-destructive and self-defeating.

There is an enormous amount of material presented during the course of the day-long event, much of it through stunningly beautiful videos, music, and poetry, even though much of it seems to go by too quickly and to be framed too self-consciously in a desire to be uplifting rather than discouraging.

It is of course important to leave people with hope, with possibility, and with the will and the energy to take action; but in the face of the absolute catastrophe we are confronting we are often in too much of a hurry to turn away from the ongoing and possibly irreversible destruction of our ecosystem in order to celebrate the early signs of the emergence of what Hawken calls “humanity’s immune response.” We need to be clear that we have not yet turned any significant kind of corner: there are indeed here and there a few hopeful signs, but the “arc of history” has not yet begun to turn toward environmental restoration and spiritual regeneration, let alone justice.

Still, the first step is to awaken ourselves from the “trance” of modernity – from the belief that money equals wealth, that stuff will bring us happiness, and we are somehow separate from nature and from each other – and then to help awaken others. Together we can then begin to fashion a new possibility, a world in which “growth” means the growth of the forest not of the toxic landfill, in which “success” means the achievement of community not of corporatism, and in which “equity” means the just distribution of what’s needed, and not the dead accumulation of capital.

This is what the Pachamama Symposium calls us to, and it’s what the Sustainable Leadership Forum is all about – “contributing to a movement of awake and aware persons in collaborative action,” as our friend Paul Nick puts it – to create a world that sustains and strengthens life, that celebrates diversity and interconnection, and that gives meaning to our struggles and a purpose to our continuing evolution as children of the universe.

You can find out more about the Pachamama Symposium here: http://awakeningthedreamer.org/, and about the organization behind it here: http://www.pachamama.org/; and find a local event here.  There’s a lot more to it, of course, but this is a good place – possibly even the best place – to start on this journey.

One Comment so far...

Ronald Bell Says:

18 April 2010 at 1:41 pm.

BEautifully stated Mr. Jonathan Cloud! Such initiatives help move us through the mystery of a “Cloud of Unknowing” to practical “down-to-earth” meaningful ways for continuing our evolutionary journey as conscious co-creative children of the universe — beyond words to meaningful collaborative, collective action.

I’m reminded of the words of a former US president: “An economist is someone who sees something happen, and then wonders if it would work in theory.” You are someone who sees theory and wonders if it would work in practice! May initiatives for the emergence of transformative action, sustainability, community and socio-economic justice continue! Hopefully folks will awaken from the cultural trance and our individual and collective actions will synergistically summate in such way as to head-off the catastrophe to which we are headed.

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