clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


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WTF is going on?!?

Clearly there is a whole lot of chaos happening in our world at the moment. For whatever reasons (you can come to your own conclusions), the shock and awe value of our current moment in history cannot be overestimated. But. Today I received an email that I simply must share with whoever might be reading this blog post (see https://popularresistance.org/blog/):

“As you know from what we have been writing and posting recently, the United States has been escalating its aggression towards North Korea. This week, President Trump has taken serious steps towards an attack on North Korea and we are very concerned that it will happen unless we intervene now. Today he had lunch with members of the United Nations Security Council where he urged stronger sanctions against North Korea. This Wednesday, he is bringing all one hundred senators, without their staff, to meet with generals at the White House. The USS Vinson, a nuclear-armed aircraft carrier, is on its way to North Korea with a strike force and two Japanese destroyers.
We urge you to take action now to tell your Senators to oppose an attack on North Korea:
Click here to sign an email petition to your senators.

  • Use the Capitol Switchboard at 202 224 3121 to call your senators today and tell them that we want peace with North Korea. Negotiate with President Kim Jong-un. Stop US military exercises on the North Korean border.
  • Join us to protest at the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 26 at 2 pm while the senators are there. Click here for more information. 3.
  • If you can’t make it to Washington, DC, please organize an action at your senate offices this week and let us know about it so we can share the details. Contact info@popularresistance.org.
  • President Trump has already demonstrated through the Tomahawk Missile attack on Syria and the bomb dropped in Afghanistan that he is more than willing to use force. His recent rhetoric towards North Korea has been very inflammatory, calling it a problem that has to be dealt with. And it is possible that the war hawks want to create instability in the Koreas prior to the May election in South Korea to replace the recently-impeached President who was a close ally of the US. The current front runner in South Korea is less supportive of the US’ missile defense system (THAAD) that we are building against the people’s will. The President of North Korea has been acting in response to US military exercises on its border that simulate nuclear attacks and assassination campaigns. President Kim Jong-un has said that he is willing to stop testing missiles if the US stops its military exercises. We urge the US and North Korea to negotiate, not escalate. Take action now. ”

Dear Readers, I am sure I am not alone in feeling the strain of the past months since the United States government changed leadership, that is proving more dangerous and disastrous than we could have imagined. The assaults on citizens’ rights, human services, the environment, science itself and ultimately Humanity worldwide, have left many of us dumbfounded and outraged. I seriously wonder if a greater lunatic has ever been unleashed upon the planet than is happening right now (although he has had some serious competition for the title, I will admit).

Another World

How far is too far? Will we collectively allow this lunatic-sociopath and his cohorts to commit nuclear war on our Earth, after we have already learned those horrific lessons 72 years ago? Are we so collectively brainwashed and amnesiafied that we cannot raise our voices loudly enough to get through to the power elite to STOP THIS MADNESS NOW?

I am trying, truly I am, to stay calm and to breathe through each day’s concerning, troubling, and increasingly worrisome news. I am doing everything in my power to add love and peace into the energy quotient of our sleepy and distracted world. But the news of the past couple of weeks, and now this imminent threat to not only the civilians of North Korea, but to the world itself, is simply too much. This lunatic must be stopped. Reason must be restored. Love and compassion must become the standards by which political action is judged. It is high time for some serious consciousness-raising, worldwide.

So please, everyone, speak up!! Call your senators and your congresspeople. Add your name to petitions, carry signs and march in the rain, talk about what is going on in the United States with your friends, your family, your neighbors, your co-workers. We can no longer afford the luxury of being uninvolved in creating peace on Earth. Yes, be loving, be kind, be joyful, meditate and hug trees. AND, speak up about the issues. Let your voice be loud and wide. If ever there was a time to take action, Now is it.

 


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The Revolution has begun

Saturday, January 22, heralded the beginning of a new era in the United States. Within 24 hours of a new figurehead ensconced in the White House, millions of citizens took to the streets of major cities and small towns in nearly every state, to show an incredible solidarity and strength in numbers as they marched, sang, shouted, carried signs, and gave impassioned speeches. Not since the era of Civil Rights and the Vietnam war have so many people joined together in the streets to protest their government’s abuses of power and rhetoric. Welcome to the era of Love.

The Women’s March on Washington, accompanied by hundreds of Sister Marches worldwide, brought out everyone who cares about humanity, equality and justice for all people, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, economic class, educational level, or any other factor by which the US government creates statistics. Although it was organized and focused on Women and in large part was created as a response to the disgusting, disrespectful attitude of the new president during the election cycle, the marches and rallies were much more. Combined, it was a major show of support for the vast majority of humans who live, work, raise families, receive education, and contribute in myriad ways to our society.

Here in Denver, Colorado, the march and rally brought together a hundred thousand people, according to organizers. Denver is not known as a protest town, and the sheer numbers of people who showed up was extraordinary. Only Broncos football games bring huge throngs of people out into downtown Denver, so I am extremely proud of this community, joined by many from all along the Front Range area, for showing up to be a part of this movement.

For indeed an authentic, organized and strong movement has now begun in earnest within the United States. The past years have seen the beginnings of it with the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, NoDAPL, the Keystone Pipeline protests, and the supporters of Bernie Sanders, among many other justice movements. All of these together have worked to raise our collective consciousness and awareness of the extreme injustices being carried out daily by the heads of our government system, backed by powerful corporate interests, for their own benefit at the expense of most of us. No more, folks. With Trump now in office, the movement for a complete renovation of the system is on the menu.

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Americans during the Women’s Protest March: The New Normal?
Actress America Ferrera told the Washington crowd, “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. … We are America, and we are here to stay.”

What changed it so dramatically to bring millions of Americans into the streets during Saturday’s march, is that people have begun to understand that it’s no longer about isolated groups, causes or incidents, but that it’s about ALL of us. The new “president” (he’s not my president, no es mi presidente was a popular slogan at the marches) has succeeded in angering, disrespecting and inciting the majority of people from all walks of life, before even entering the White House. We are in for an interesting time to come.

In my view, the presence of Trump in the White House marks a turning point for America, from decades of apathy and ignorance, which only worsened and grew over the Obama administration, to this moment. People may still be addicted to their smartphones, but at least more and more are reading and watching stories about their new supposed leaders, and seeking out what is true, rather than continued reliance on corporate-controlled media outlets. They will continue to lose support and audiences as more people wake up to the lies being fed to them. The numbers of those protesting prove it: the People are waking up and they are finally paying attention.

The civil liberties and many laws designed to protect American freedoms are at greater risk of being lost than ever before. At this moment, it feels like there is smoke in the forest, and it could break out into massive fire. No one knows what will happen within the next hundred days, let alone the coming years. But it is clear from the protest marches across America and the world, that people are no longer content to let the status quo continue unabated. Many of the speechmakers spoke of the great need for continuous action on the part of all of us. That means Everyone, Every day, Doing Something. Putting our energy into thinking, talking, writing, and showing up to participate. Democracy is a verb, after all, as well as a noun. It is a living, breathing organism, made up of all of us. The only way to change a corrupt system is to clean it out, get rid of what has become diseased, and open it up to the clean air, water and life forces that will create a new, healthy system.

Dear Readers, if you attended a Women’s’ March and rally on Saturday, I applaud and thank you. If you supported them through your attention and prayers and energy, thank you. And if you weren’t there, weren’t aware of it, and would like to learn more, you have a great opportunity and journey ahead of you. These are the times we came here for. We are the ones we have been waiting for. The time is now: Step up. Show up. Speak up. Tell others. Together, we are changing our world.

 

 


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On Judgement and Gratitude

Here it is, Thanksgiving Day in America again. This holiday, more than any other, has the beautiful quality of going beyond all borders, ethnicities, polarization and ideology, if one embraces the core of what this day represents. Giving Thanks. Put another way, it is the epitome of Gratitude. What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful to? When do you feel gratitude? And, most importantly, why?

These are difficult, confusing times to be alive on Earth. At this moment, after all that has taken place over the past year in regards to world events, it is so tempting to fall into despair, anger, and judgement. Not many are feeling truly and deeply satisfied with Life-On-Earth at the moment. And for good reason, anyone who isn’t living in a cave must be aware of what a bloody mess we have created for ourselves.

And yet. What strikes me as the very most basic, important and useful thing that each of us can do, is to resist the strong temptation to judge, blame and shame another (or all the others) for our current state of the world. It is the easiest thing to do, and actually the most harmful. Blaming another, no matter WHO it is or how much you may dislike or revile them, only perpetuates the cycle of hatred, anger and fear that humanity has been living in for millennia. Judgement, like anger and all its associated mental and emotional states, stems from Fear. Fear is the Big Hook for us humans: it keeps us on an endlessly painful and imprisoned state of consciousness, from which we can be manipulated, coerced and otherwise made to follow others’ ideology and morally corrupt strategic plans. You who are reading this blog know what I am saying: the fascist regimes and authoritarian schemes created by small minded, even smaller hearted beings who rise to power do so through these tactics.

What can be done, you may ask? How can we turn this monstrous machine of human misery and suffering around? What will the next four years and beyond look like, for America and for the world? How can we cope? Who is to blame? What will happen?

Dear Readers, from where I stand, it seems obvious that the only way forward towards a world that is peaceful, healthy, joyful and abundant for all, is by moving from a state of judgement based on fear, to a state of grace based on gratitude. It is so easy, so ridiculously easy to scoff at these words and blow them off as some kind of airy fluff, to blow them off and instead hold onto skepticism, pessimism, the idea of separation, and moral indignation. That is what has been going on here on this planet for centuries. And we can see the effects of this kind of thinking all around us. Is it working for you? For your neighbors, including the ones without homes, who are taking up space in your alleys, sidewalks, and parks?  I ask each one of you to take a hard, long look inside of yourselves, and ask: Is your way of thinking, feeling and acting helping to further the goal of health, peace, and justice in the world, or helping to keep this old, ugly and worn-out paradigm in place?

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If you say it cannot be done, then get out of the way and let those who are changing the world’s paradigm do their work unencumbered. Do you really think one more human and his or her new administration is going to magically fix all that is broken in our country or in our world for the rest of us?

It is high time to stop believing that someone (anyone) else is going to save the world for us. No government anywhere can or will do that. What is needed now, and going forward, is “the kind of transformative social movement that has altered the course of history in the past.”(Wen Stephensen)  All huge, world-changing social movements throughout time worked because everyday people got so tired of what they were living in that they banded together and gained people power, then they went ahead and changed their cities, states, countries and yes, their world, for the better.

We are past the tipping point. We are now on course to change our world, the whole of humanity in the days ahead. This is no longer an isolated fight here or there, it is about ALL of Us Humans awakening to the realization that there is no savior, no ship coming down from the heavens, and no being great enough to save us all and our planet from ourselves. There is only us, each and all, every single day living and breathing upon this fragile and utterly strong planet that is our home. So what remains, on this day of Thanksgiving, is a choice: Will we continue to support fear and aggression towards each other? Or will we finally see ALL others as simply another small but powerful bit of the Whole, nothing to be afraid of, and find compassion, both for others and for ourselves?

Happy Thanksgiving to All.


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Why embracing idealism is being a realist now

It is the end of September, 2016. Here in the United States, the presidential elections loom before us in about six weeks. As I am sure you are aware, the ostensible choices for the next president (POTUS) are leaving the majority of us quite disgusted, to say the least. Never before have the American people had such absurdly unpopular humans running from the two main political parties. Never before have so many had the quandary of feeling they are not being represented by their political leaders. In short, this election is a fiasco.

But: We, The People, in fact DO have choices that many simply do not, or cannot yet see. The old and extremely tired argument that we MUST vote the lesser of two evils is simply one of the biggest lies ever fed to Americans by the power-elite. It is simply not true that we must vote for one or the other party, or else we throw our vote away. If only people would wake up to realize this, our votes would have infinitely more power than they do. There is no law stating that an American must vote for either the Republicans or the Democrats. It is not mandated by the laws. In other words, we have the ability to change our system by voting for a third, fourth or fifth party.

Reclaimpower

Look, most of us realize by now that the American system is grossly corrupted, that there is no actual democracy (if there ever was) and that the power-elite are running this world. The United States is a major, though not the only, decider of what goes on in our world. Folks, when you look around you, what do you see? Obviously we are in a tremendous crisis moment here on Earth. However, within crisis is opportunity, as Taoism reminds us. And right now, this election, is one of those opportunities to actually change our trajectory from disaster towards a world that is healthy.

When I look around and listen to what others are saying and feeling, I observe great cynicism, denial, resignation, anger and fear. All of these are the tools of the power-elite, to keep us ‘in our place’. What is that place? One word sums it up: Powerlessness. The solution? Take our power back.

When Bernie Sanders ran his presidential campaign, millions of people in America, and also the world, heard him. Millions of people got behind him, because he was speaking Truth to power.

Speaking Truth to power.  Isn’t this what we really need to do? Where is your power, where does it live? We are a country made up of 320 million humans, and we are astoundingly diverse. And, we are simultaneously similar. I firmly believe that the vast majority of us desire to be free to live our lives and raise our kids in peaceful and healthy ways. We desperately want to save our planet from further destruction. And yet, we give our power away to idiots and blackhearts every single day. Why? Because we are living from a place of deeply rooted fear. Fear blocks us at every turn, and paralyzes us from standing up and speaking out for what we deeply believe in. As long as we do not raise our voices and our fists to the elite power structure (read: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and all of their supporters and money-backers) NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

Tragically, Bernie Sanders stepped down from his fight for the presidency. The real reasons for his decision are still unknown, but I can imagine he had good ones. But, Jill Stein is still in this race as the Green party candidate. If you haven’t yet heard her platform, please look her up and hear what she is standing up for: it is for the human beings, the animals, the land, for the Earth and for peace. These values are at the very heart of what the whole mess we call Life is about. If you don’t think so, then I implore you to look inside your heart and find out what is inside it. Where do you stand? Why are you taking up space on this planet, if you are not here to help the Earth, the animals, the land, and the people?

nodapl

The times of ‘it’s all about me’ are done. This is a new time and the time is now to stand up for what you truly believe in, to awaken to the realization that we are the ones we came here for. Our first nation tribes are fighting for the Earth, for the Water, Land, Animals and People in North Dakota. They are putting their bodies on the line, they are opening their mouths, they are shouting, dancing, singing, standing up and praying: Save our Earth. It’s really so simple. Save our Earth, save ourselves.

dapl5

Will you vote with your fear voice in November? Or will you finally allow your heart’s voice to sing out loud and clear across this country, across this world? Our future is being created now. What do you choose?


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Tell It Like It Is

At the start of this new year, 2016, the world is looking messier and more chaotic than ever before.

In nearly every arena, from political to economic to cultural to environmental, people are behaving badly, with cruel and barbaric actions the norm for far too many humans on Earth. How much longer will we collectively tolerate such inhumanity on this planet? Why do we keep allowing it to play out this way? What can we do to turn this boat around, if anything?

As I look around at the industrialized world (both in the larger world via various internet sites and my own small, personal world), a few things feel crystal clear. One, the vast majority of people remain committed first and foremost to their own small world of themselves, their families, friends, pets, and work. This accounts for (I am guessing) about 90% of their thoughts, feelings and actions in the world. The other 9% seems to be divided into leisure activities such as drinking and eating, sex, shopping, and entertainment. For those few humans who have 1% of their thoughts, feelings and time free, the ideas of charity, do-gooding and saving the world belong here. Hence the state of our planet currently.

Perhaps this completely unscientific analysis seems rather harsh or unfair to you, dear Readers. After all, the people who read this blog are those few and rare individuals who probably spend considerably more than the average person’s amount of time and resources on doing good in and for this world. For that, I can only simply say, Thank You. But tonight, after seeing too much news, mainstream television (about 5 minutes is too much for me), and listening to ‘regular folks’ talking during the past week at my new job (as cheesemonger for my local grocery store), this is what I have surmised: few, if any, care about anything other than themselves and their own lives.

This is not the first time I have felt discouraged about the state of humanity, obviously. But at this moment at the beginning of this new year, this knowledge saddens me more than I can express. Even the simplest actions, such as recycling metal cans or glass bottles, fails to register as even mildly possible to do for far, far too many people. Sometimes I feel pretty hopeful about the future of this planet and its humans, even contemplating the idea that one fine day we will wake up as a collective and realize that killing each other and destroying our home, Gaia, is senseless and an utter waste, and we will stop it. Then I remember. People can’t even figure out how to set a can in a recycle bin, how are they possibly going to find out how to live with each other and the planet in a non-harmful way?

My big fascination right now is following all the folks who are grassroots organizing for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In the past month, thousands of people across the United States have sprung into action to help get him the Democratic nomination. It has been very inspiring for me to see what seems like many people actually rally around this humble man, as he bravely and tirelessly tells us all where it is really at in this country, and why it seriously needs changing. The word he and his followers is using is one that is at the heart of what the United States was founded upon: REVOLUTION. It is a word that some people (the ones who have had an iron grip on this country for far too long) are deathly afraid of, and will probably stop at nothing to prevent from happening. And yet:

Stop it they cannot, for the time has come, things have coalesced to the point in time and space where The People (at least some of them) are standing up and shouting, with Bernie Sanders as their leader: NO MORE BULLSHIT. WE WANT CHANGE IN OUR GOVERNMENT THIS YEAR. EQUALITY. LIBERTY. JUSTICE. INTEGRITY. HONESTY. WE WANT OUR ELECTED GOVERNMENT TO WORK FOR US, HERE AND NOW. WE ARE MAD AS HELL AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.

SANDERS_Bostonrally

Americans are pinning their hopes on Bernie for president in this year’s election.

Words and rants similar to these were used during the American Revolutionary War. Those were also some dark and painful days in the history of the United States, and hope seemed dim against huge, nearly insurmountable odds. Yet the Americans eventually won that war against the English king and government. Some of the most beautiful words ever written were used as the foundation of the new constitution. And now, 240 years later, it is time to declare them again, just as vehemently: Give Us Liberty or Give Us Death!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, Bernie-WEderiving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The United States Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

 


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The balance of paradox/ paradox of balance

 “To have come through it: to have joyfully survived even the happiness– quietly, completely. First the testings were mute, then verbal. Who could look back unamazed?

No one has been able, since life lasts because no one could. But the infiniteness of the attempts! The new greenness of birch trees is not so new as that which befalls us.

A wood dove coos. And again what you suffered seems, ah, as if yet unlived-through. The bird keeps calling. You are in the middle of the call. Awake and weakened.” –RM Rilke

In the middle of the call– awake and weakened. Rilke wrote those words nearly a century ago, during another age of huge upheaval and tumultuous changes. Here we are in the early 21st century, facing changes so extreme and unprecedented, it is very difficult to find balance or even remember to breathe at moments. Yet so absolutely necessary.

Nearing the vernal equinox here in the northern hemisphere, in the middle of a whirling, spinning soup of change we are. What to do, how to maintain balance in this storm? Virtually crocus_snoweveryone I speak with is experiencing some kind of change, whether minor or major, in their current life. These are tricky waters to negotiate, are they not, dear Readers? I read a phrase that is helping me recently, the idea of a “gyroscopic balance.” Many years ago I had a friend who was at university, studying physics. She showed me a gyroscope, and explained to me the basics of how it works. While it is in motion, it will spin continuously, thus never falling down or losing momentum. An apt metaphor for us humans these days: in constant motion, yet remaining in perfect balance. It doesn’t take much to throw one off balance, though. I am guessing that you are, like I am, getting plenty of practice in learning to recalibrate quickly so that you can become rebalanced again. This game is all about getting back into spinning balance as everything is in constant motion all around you. Every day is a new opportunity to practice.

The paradox of our times is to maintain calm and balance in the midst of every increasing upheaval and whirling change. Some days it seems as if the very ground under our feet is in motion, that literally nothing is stable or can be counted on to remain. Even the earth itself, with its billion-years old rocks and mountains that seem immoveable, is not as permanent as we’d like to believe. Unnerving at times, and downright frightening at others, all this massive impermanence is our current learning curve. After eons of living under the illusion of permanence and stability, humanity stands at a huge, Grand Canyonesque crossroads. What is next? What will we choose? Will we make it though this time intact? Or will our species crash and burn, taking many other species with us, leaving destruction, rubble and desolation behind? Will we miraculously choose to take the high road, the path of salvation for our human race and so many other precious, precarious living creatures? What will our world be like a hundred, five hundred years from now? A postapocalyptic world that no one wants to live in, or a world where humans finally got it together, came together and put an end to war, greed and destruction, to create a world where humans and nature live in harmony; the most amazing renaissance ever created in human history?

Who could look back at these times unamazed– only those who are truly asleep and refuse to be awakened to how our world is burning, crashing and slowly rising from the ashes of the old into something green and new and beautiful. Hope is a verb, after all. Hope is what we keep alive by our actions, words, and intentions. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant they might be: a smile goes a long way in this world, a handshake, an encouraging word. We are all in this mess together, dear Readers. You and I are not separate except in our thoughts. We are doing this, a little more each day. Keep up the good work, keep your chins up, keep looking up! The birds know the score; they fly all around, calling and singing, dancing up there in the sky, to remind us all that flight is possible, levity is imperative, and our eternal connection with our spirit selves is unbreakable. Rest when you need to, breathe deeply, go for walks in nature. Take heart, and courage! The lions of our souls are alive, as well as our angels.


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The courage to act on behalf of the truth

“I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made.” –Edward Snowden

It has been a few weeks now since Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s spying program hit the internet and news media. For many people, this information has been shocking; for others, simply a sad confirmation of what they had long suspected: The United States has indeed become the world’s largest corrupt government in the world. The main principles upon which it was founded, namely that of democracy, liberty, and freedom for the People, largely no longer apply. There is no more compelling evidence to this fact than the tremendous gift that Edward Snowden has given to the world; the truth.

As of this writing, Snowden remains in Moscow, waiting to hear from all the countries he has applied to for political asylum. So far, no country has come forward to help him, which I find extremely disappointing. It makes one wonder if there isn’t ONE free country left in our world who refuses to be intimidated by the United States’ bullying tactics. The EU, upon finding out that their closed door meetings have also (not surprisingly) been subjected to the NSA’s spying protocol, has declared that they are shocked and are demanding an explanation. Explanation? Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?

Big Brother’s watching All. Who can stop them? Snowden comments, “The greatest fear that I have, regarding the outcome, for America, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change. People will see in the media, all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to, to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society, and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and to fight to change things, to force their representatives to take a stand in their interests.”

Here then, is some of the transcript from his interview with Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian. I hope you will take 12 minutes out of your life to watch it, if you haven’t already. In my view, Snowden is a person of great courage and moral character. He chose the high moral ground in his actions, instead of simply leaking information anonymously, he deliberately decided to be open about who he is and what he has done. He is a rare and extraordinarily brave soul, and I have nothing but great admiration for him.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video

“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk because they are such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningfully oppose them. If they want to get you, they will get you in time. But, at the same time, you have to make a determination about what it is that is important to you. And if it is living unfreely, but comfortably, something you’re willing to accept, (and I think many of us are, it’s the human nature,) you can get up every day, you can go to work, you can collect your large paycheck, for relatively little work, against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching shows, but if you realize that that’s the world that you helped create, and it’s going to get worse with the next generation, and the next, who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is, so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied.”

“It’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody– even by a wrong call– and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to derive suspicion from an innocent life, and paint anyone in the context of a wrong-doer.”

“You have to think, you are living a privileged life, as you are living in paradise, in Hawaii, and making a ton of money, What would it take to make you leave everything behind? The greatest fear that I have, regarding the outcome, for America, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change. People will see in the media, all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to, to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society, and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and to fight to change things, to force their representatives to take a stand in their interests. In the months and years ahead, it’s only going to get worse, until eventually there will be a time, where policies will change. Because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy. Even our agreements with other sovereign governments, we consider that to be a stipulation of policy rather than a stipulation of law. And because of that, a new leader will be elected, they’ll flip the switch, say, because of the crisis, because of the dangers we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”

The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them.”

He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

For Edward Snowden, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said. “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

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Change is coming fast

Dear Readers, Today I share with you an interview with several younger leaders of various activist groups in North America, by the good folk at Yes! magazine. Enjoy, and keep the faith in better days ahead for our planet. namaste, Leigh

“Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps—for example, facilitating the growth of the communities we want to live in or realizing that the most efficient tools against a system based on greed, fear, hurry, and violence, are generosity, courage, slowing-down, and loving-kindness.” – Pancho Ramos Stierle

Occupy-Oakland-protest-2011

(from Yes! Magazine june 2013 http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/for-young-leaders-it-s-personal

Change is coming fast. The brief window we have to turn around the climate crisis, the growing gap between rich and poor, the violence at home and abroad, debt and austerity politics—these are among the most pressing issues facing all of us, especially young people. We asked a group of leaders, all under 40, to talk to us about how they see their lives, their leadership, and their future.

Sarah van Gelder: How do the challenges facing your generation (people under 40) compare with those faced by leaders of the civil rights, women’s, and labor movements? What’s at stake now?

Adrienne Maree Brown: I would say the biggest difference is we’ve increased our exposure to all the suffering and struggle in the world without increasing our capacity to handle it.

The speed of knowledge has increased—now it’s a nearly instantaneous flow of crisis, tragedy, and need, sprinkled with glimpses of triumph, resilience, humanity. And we are supposed to have a coherent opinion on all of it and stay focused on those things we can impact. We need mindfulness practice to come with our smartphones!

Henia Belalia: We’re looking at the frequency and impact of climate-related “natural disasters,” and it’s daunting—how do we take our foot off the gas pedal when we have very few years before we hit a point of no return and it’s game over for the planet?

Clayton Thomas-Muller: I think of our aunties and uncles who were in the American Indian movement, the Black Panthers movement. Back in the day, there was a lot of responsibility on a very small group of leaders, and it was relatively easy for agents of oppression to target those individuals. Whereas today, through social media and digital technologies that can transfer popular education materials to vast audiences, we have a more level playing field.

Carlos Jimenez: Power is becoming more concentrated and more removed from our daily experience. I assume it never was cool to question capitalism or ask hard questions about systems of oppression. But these days, it feels like we have to stretch in ridiculous ways to question the structures of our society without being seen as radicals or crazy people.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle:
In fact, sister Sarah, we are not under 40, we are 13.7 billion years old, our cosmic age, and we are part of an unfolding story of love.

Our pioneer brothers, sisters, and kin of the civil rights movement during the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s didn’t have that gorgeous picture of ourselves, the Earth, from space. And now, we’re able to detect planets outside the solar system that might support life, which is bringing a new sense of our humanity. All of a sudden, all of the nonsense divisions based on the colors of our skin or culture or spiritual practice or religion just vanish, and we’re one sacred living organism that is the wonderful Earth.

van Gelder: How do you see where we’re headed as a human community? How does that shape your own choices?

Belalia: One has to believe that another world is possible, but we need to be very real about what that looks like and not just put on Band-Aids.

We’re going to have to make some big changes in how we live. We’re going to have to consume a lot less and give up luxuries. Living in the Global North, in the United States especially, we have a responsibility to the rest of the world to reassess how we live.

Brown: In the stories I hear of past generations, we weren’t just moving toward a better world, there was a sense of responsibility to maintain and/or create a better world for the next generations. Right now I think we need to move toward being better and better ancestors.

Thomas-Muller: We need to be talking about a new economic paradigm, not patching up the existing one like some crazed engineer obsessed with patching up the Titanic. For example, green jobs are not created by producing photovoltaic panels under indentured servitude in massive industrial wastelands in China, then shipped to California where young African Americans are hired at minimum wage to install these panels onto rich people’s houses.  If instead we look at the establishment of local economies, the 100-kilometer diet, urban farming, and radicalizing the conversation around the distribution of wealth and land—that’s the conversation that I’m interested in.

Ramos-Stierle: Seeing with the eyes of an astrobiologist has given me an appreciation for technology. Everything can scale up very quickly. Small decisions can have big impacts in all directions—exponentially more so than a few generations ago. Scalable new design principles—local, decentralized, open, non-linear, emergent, biomimetic—all can spread like wildfire today. We not only have the chance now to name a new story, but our generation has the means to live a new story into being.

van Gelder: Can you tell a story from your own experience about how social change is happening today?

Thomas-Muller: We’ve seen the rise of Idle No More, which is being led by the most marginalized group in Canada: First Nations women. Canada is going through a painful process of reconciliation, not unlike what South Africa continues to go through post-apartheid. Idle No More and the tar sands movement and other indigenous struggles have ripped away the scabs of racism. We’re seeing television, print, and radio airing the voices of the most extreme racists against indigenous peoples. What’s kind of beautiful about it, though—as ugly and as painful as it is—it’s driving people to our side of the movement who are sick of the hatred, bigotry, and overall nastiness. So it’s actually expanding our political base of allies and our overall resistance.

Brown: Recently I was involved in facilitating a gathering on black reproductive justice. The folks came into the room with a lot of painful history, and they committed to healing, whatever that took. And it took sitting in that room with each other and listening to each other in new ways, hearing each other’s ancestral stories and current stories. This meeting felt so different. Instead of: “Who’s got the best strategy and the most resources?” it was: “Who’s really committed to transforming inside themselves, how they show up in this movement, and then how we can be together?”

Ramos-Stierle: One of the most revolutionary direct actions I’ve been involved in was building a 20-by-30-foot greenhouse on a third of an acre in San Francisco. We had 100 volunteers show up at the Free Farm to help, and since then, we’ve given away close to 9,000 pounds of local, organic produce.

That greenhouse became one of the main providers of Occupy the Farm a year ago on land administered by the University of California. We planted close to 15,000 seedlings in one day with 300 people, and it was such a celebration to be there disobeying with great love. Children and all the generations stood up for life and beauty.

So how can we create alternatives that are so beautiful that they just naturally are in conflict with a collapsing, broken system?

van Gelder: Sometimes people working for change get separated into silos. My impression is that those silos are getting less rigid—that people are more open to each other’s perspectives and issues. I’m wondering if you think we’re getting better at working together?

Jimenez: Yeah, I feel like there’s less time spent trying to tell each other what to do and more collaboration, both among members and leaders.

Belalia: For me it’s a systemic change. The corporate powers that are running the world today are all-pervasive, involved in everything from our food to our education to our elections. So for me the systemic is what feels the most authentic.

In our movement, we’re pushing for a paradigm shift that will require connecting migrant rights, economic justice, housing justice, and other social justice issues with the work on runaway climate change.

Ramos-Stierle: I’ve heard a lot of people say, “How can you bring peace if you’re not peaceful with yourself?” And then I think, “That’s over!” We need to have both. We need the inner revolution connected with the outer revolution. It’s time for activist people to become spiritual, and for spiritual people to become active.

We need to focus on our means. It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing if you’re making a more violent and resentful world with your brothers and sisters and kin through your work. There’s no reason why we have to wait; we can be making the world more harmonious right now!

Belalia: Part of my own personal philosophy is learning to just be in this moment. What we envision in our minds is part of what we create in the world, so we need to take care of soul and heart, and create a much more tranquil and sane inside to be able to carry out our work on the outside.

Thomas-Muller: Yeah. I share that perspective. Coming from an indigenous perspective, that’s one area where we actually have a bit of privilege: We have only been separated from our relationship to the sacred for a few decades, whereas for other groups, it’s been millennia. The connection we have to the sacredness of Mother Earth has been damaged by the psychotic Western industrial experiment called capitalism. Through re-evaluating our relationship to the sacred and embracing our place in the sacred circle of life, we can fill the gap left by hyper­individualism and consumption.

Activism has to be grounded in something bigger than yourself. However you perceive God, whether that’s through the smile of your child, or by connecting with the sacredness of Mother Earth through hiking in the forest, or going to church, or practicing Buddhism, or being a sun dancer, it’s important to have those elements in your activism so as not to get overwhelmed and to fall. And even with those elements you still fall, because we are facing unimaginable foes in our struggle.

van Gelder: We chose this issue theme now because there’s such urgency around the climate crisis, extreme inequality, and the growing power of the 1 percent. A lot of our change strategies don’t seem to be working in terms of these critical questions. How do you think we can get the real change that we need?

Belalia: Building networks of resistance and resilience is a really powerful way to look at change. From Occupy grew a kind of sustained resistance—the idea that “We’re going to be in a space, and we’re not going to leave until we get something done.”

But Occupy also has done a lot to build sustained resilience. I just spent time in New York with friends who are part of the Occupy Sandy networks, which set up distribution centers after Hurricane Sandy and are still working with those communities. One group I met with is creating workers’ cooperatives.

Jimenez: I’m becoming a big fan of assemblies. Occupy was a space for assembly, but I’m also talking about people’s assemblies like those the social forums tried doing. I can’t emphasize enough how powerful it is when people come together from different walks of life, different traditions, and see that we can work together. I’m thinking a lot about how we can extend invitations and bring in more people so that it’s a bigger assembly every time.

Ramos-Stierle: As brother Carlos was speaking, I was having this vision. Wendell Berry said that if you eat, you are involved in agriculture. I say, if you eat, you’re involved in the movement, like Occupy the Farm, which some of us call Occupy 2.0. Our elder Wendell Berry says, “An economy genuinely local and neighborly offers to localities a measure of security that they cannot derive from a national or a global economy controlled by people who, by principle, have no local commitment.”

Brown: I’m writing and collaborating around speculative and science fiction, which involves strengthening our capacity for vision and for imagining ourselves in a future where we’re experiencing abundance. I’ve been reading a lot of Octavia Butler and trying to get more people to read her work and to write their own work.

And I’m a facilitation evangelist! Facilitation means to make things easy—facil—to make sure that the time we spend in each other’s presence is authentic, invigorating, and healing, and that it leads to real impact.

van Gelder: My last question: When you think about what you’re doing now and when you look to the future, what do you find most daunting, and what is most hopeful?

Brown: The most daunting thing to me is the scale of change that’s needed.
What makes me the most hopeful is that so many people are asking “How do I live my life? How do I spend my money? How do I care for my babies and care for the loved ones in my life?”
People are realizing the front line is within us, and we have to practice. And that makes me hopeful because I can feel that change in myself and see it in the people I love.

Jimenez: It’s the little things that give me hope, like that I’m starting to see people leading meetings and conferences who look like the people I grew up with—who look like my family.
In terms of fears, the scale, as Adrienne said, is really freakin’ scary. The world could literally collapse. It’s daunting that people don’t even realize how grave the crises are.

Thomas-Muller: What overwhelms me the most is patriarchy. Speaking as a Cree man, I fight internally all the time with patriarchy as it plays out in my life. We come from a matrilineal society. In our traditional way, it was the women who made decisions, and the men were told what to say. We were the spokespersons for some really tough old Cree ladies!

The most daunting question for me is, “How are we going to take out this system of predominantly white male patriarchy that’s driving the destruction across Mother Earth?”
And what is most empowering is seeing the rise of strong First Nations women all across Mother Earth who are rising up and leading the movement, teaching all of us what the sacred feminine creative principle is about and what it means to think seven generations ahead.

Belalia: One of the things that’s the most daunting is how closely politicians are working with corporations, and how blind a lot of people are to their own power.

I was recently invited to work on the next U.S. Social Forum, and it’s really inspiring to me that low-income folk, people of color, women, and LGBTQ are at the core of the process.

Jimenez:
Thank you for providing a space for us to creatively weave this thread. Even though we’re coming from diverse backgrounds, it’s amazing that we’re saying similar things, and I’m grateful for the space and definitely think that was cool.

Ramos-Stierle: We’re kind of orphans in this generation. We better pay attention to the elders and listen to the re-generativity of cultures that have been living here for millennia and be a little less arrogant. We need to listen to many examples of selfless service and to everyday Gandhis and everyday Emma Goldmans and everyday Dolores Huertas, everyday Martin Luther King Jrs., and everyday Cesar Chavezes. One little star at a time forms a galaxy, and one little drop creates an ocean. And we see these shifts happening everywhere—like the shifts from scarcity to abundance, from consumption to contribution, from transaction to trust, from isolation to community, from perfection to wholeness.

We are overwhelmed by the ways that we put in danger the magnificent biodiversity of our planet. At the same time, we are recognizing that there are small things that we could be doing on a daily basis.

Like, after this call, I just feel that I love you. That’s what I think is happening. I don’t know you physically, and I feel that you are my sisters for real and my brothers, and we’re connecting with this technology that wasn’t there before. And so if this is the last time that we talk, I’d like you to know that I am going to keep this for the rest of my days in my heart to continue this great journey.

Brown: I love you back!

Jimenez: Much love!

[Sarah van Gelder facilitated this panel for Love and the Apocalypse, the Summer 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is executive editor of YES!]

Henia Belalia is director of Peaceful Uprising, the organization co-founded by Tim DeChristopher, who just completed his prison term for disrupting an auction of oil and gas leases of Utah’s pristine canyon lands.

Adrienne Maree Brown was national co-coordinator of the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit and head of the Ruckus Society, but today focuses on her practice as a doula and facilitator.

Carlos Jimenez is Midwest regional organizer for Jobs with Justice and before that, with the United States Student Association and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle is a full-time ServiceSpace volunteer who lives now in Casa de Paz at the Canticle Farm in East Oakland. His nonviolent activism centers today on meditating—including in public spaces like Occupy Oakland—as well as disobeying with great love through guerrilla farming.

Clayton Thomas-Muller heads up several First Nations’ campaigns to stop the tar sands.

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Breakthrough News for Real Food in Europe

Dear Readers, this is fantastic news!!  Monsanto has backed down from lobbying for GMO food in Europe. What a victory for The People!!  Now, Americans and all their friends around the world have to keep the pressure going strong……  Take the food supply back!!!

from http://www.care2.com/causes/monsanto-surrenders-ends-all-gmo-lobbying-in-europe.html#ixzz2VMYW5OfK

It’s almost surreal, but it’s true. Monsanto has officially give up its fight to spread genetically modified seeds and plants throughout Europe.

In a time when the power and political influence of Monsanto Co. seems nearly insurmountable, this is a huge victory for opponents of genetic engineering. For those in the U.S. and other countries where Monsanto’s stranglehold is palpable, it serves as a rally cry to keep up the good fight.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that this has no broad acceptance at the moment,” Monsanto Germany spokeswoman, Ursula Lüttmer-Ouazane, told Taz, a Geman newspaper. According to Reuters, European officials for Monsanto also told Taz “that they were no longer doing any lobby work for cultivation in Europe and not seeking any new approvals for genetically modified plants.”

Just as in the United States, millions of European citizens have spoken out against Monsanto’s unchecked control of agriculture through the use of patented, genetically-modified seeds and plants.

A recent poll in Europe found that 60% of respondents considered “Frankencrops” a threat to public health. In 2007, the United States launched a planned retaliation against European countries for refusing to take GMOs into their food chains. In 2009 Monsanto sued Germany because it banned these products, reported FarmtoConsumer.org in late 2012.

Unlike U.S. leaders, those in Germany and elsewhere were not impressed by Monsanto’s well-known intimidation tactics. By January 2013, eight European nations had publicly banned the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Earlier this month, these and other European countries joined the massive March Against Monsanto, a global event that saw millions take to the streets in protest.

For Monsanto, this latest action was apparently the last straw.

“We’re going to sell the GM seeds only where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system,” corporate spokesman Thomas Helscher told Reuters. “As far as we’re convinced this only applies to a few countries in Europe today, primarily Spain and Portugal.”

Despite Europe’s strong stand against Monsanto’s GE crops, there are plenty of countries still under its financial and political control, namely, the United States. Here’s hoping that Europe’s victory will be only the first chink in Monsanto’s armor — one that can be exploited by the relentless voices of the millions of Americans who don’t enjoy a corporation deciding what they can and cannot eat.


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Spilled out on paper, carved through the fingernails (and a history lesson)

A very dear friend of mine wrote a comment of encouragement to me after my last blog post. In it he wrote, ‘may you discover the raw meat, the deepest bloodline of your soul, spilled out on paper, carved through your fingernails, the bone flint in clay and mud with all that is, made whole.” (http://mokalightpoetry.wordpress.com) I wish to thank him for his wonderfully gritty and evocative poetic verse, and for the reminder that no matter how low and uninspired I may become, it is through artistic works that I can rise again, and carry on.

How easy it is to forget this! To forget that there are other precious humans in the world who are also struggling with life’s burdens, with burn-out, exhaustion, dismay, disappointment, disillusionment. That not everyone is blissed out 24-7, including those who claim they are. That now, like in times of old, humans everywhere are overwhelmed, overworked, overburdened, underpaid, underestimated, under others’ thumbs. We may well have entered the fifth dimension and begun a new world in the past little while, but as a whole we are still utterly mired in third dimensional muck, and it is a long road toward salvation, methinks.

Just to put a broader perspective on human cultural life on planet Earth, I would like to share with you some excerpts from the wonderful and enlightening book The Renaissance in Europe, by Margaret King. First, she introduces the reader to various conceptions of what the Renaissance actually was, and then goes on to explain her own concept of it:

“The Renaissance emerges because of the very special circumstances present in Italy from the twelfth century. Those circumstances encouraged a large number of artists and thinkers to integrate into the medieval culture they inherited, grounded in Christian values (themselves rooted in ancient Judaism), the values of classical antiquity. This was the second and final moment in the history of the West when the Judeo-Christian and classical traditions would coalesce. The first was in late antiquity, as Christianity spread and became integrated with classical civilization before the collapse of the western zone of the Roman empire.

This second and definitive reintegration of two ancient cultural traditions permitted European civilization to develop into its modern form. That civilization remained dominant until, in the 20th century, it was challenged by modernism, and then post-modernism, which called for the repudiation of both its classical and Christian pasts. Before that denouement, it was the civilization of the Renaissance, extending and evolving through the Enlightenment and into the 19th century, with its ancient past unforgotten, which characterized Western civilization at its height– the civilization that yielded the liberal ideals of the democratic West.” (pp. Xiii, introduction)

King describes the decline of Rome from its height (around 200 c.e.) until its decline over the following centuries as follows:

“As successor to the empires of the ancient Mediterranean world, Rome was the hub of a great commercial network. Grains, oil and wine wer the most basic commodities and these, together with the ceramics that held them, passed through all the ancient centers. Rome herself was at the time a huge city of between one to two million inhabitants, and fed by the peasant farmers of Sicily, Egypt and the Black Sea. From the edges of the empire came slaves from Africa and Europe, metals from Britain and Spain, and from further east, exotic goods– gems, perfumes, spices and especially silks carried along central Asia’s Silk Road. From the ports to the inland towns and cities, goods and money circulated, spreading and creating wealth.

This commercial system began to suffer disruption during the 3rd century, especially from reforms that the emperor Diocletian (284-305 c.e.) instituted during his critically important reign. He raised taxes, attempting to derive the maximum possible profit from the agricultural sector, but the result was the resentment of a peasant population already pressed to the limit.

Certainly, the Roman economy in the Western Empire descended into chaos during the next two centuries, as the empire languished and failed. Invasion and war contributed to already serious difficulties, commerce stagnated and withered, and the standard of living plummeted with it. The material conditions of life sank to those of a much earlier, pre-imperial ear. Many people fled the cities. Coins, especially the valuable gold coins, fled the west for the east. In the west, people either used small denominations of silver coins or else bartered for goods and services. Italy, which had known a flourishing city life during the empire, deurbanized. Many of the cities withered and nearly ceased to be urban. Rome itself shrank from between one and two million occupants to about 90,000 during the 7th century, down to its low of 35,000 by the start of the 12th century. “ (pp. 18-19)

12centItaly

Italy’s Northern republics gained power by the twelfth century.

As Rome declined, Italy’s more northern lands became more prosperous, and by the 11th and 12th centuries had created “a new social stratum: a citizen elite, composed of wealthy merchants and urbanized nobles, bound together by bonds of mutual self-interest and marriage alliances. This new group launched a “communal revolution’ which transformed the political map of Italy and had huge implications for the later development of Europe. Nowhere else in Europe did this hybrid phenomenon emerge. The nobles were not great landowners but the vassals of vassals. Their profession was violence and their aspirations were as great as their status was low. They moved into the cities, and within a generation or two, they had built fortified urban palaces for themselves. They came to be known as the ‘magnates,’ or great men of the city.” (pp. 22-23)

“From the late 1000s until the 1130s, these magnates joined together as a sworn brotherhood to seize power and jointly rule what they now called their ‘communes.’ These communes were governed as a kind of republic, with an elected council, assemblies of the people, councils and committees, secretaries, minor bureaucrats, notaries and servants. Power was decentralized, no longer in the hands of an emperor or Pope. The communal revolution attempted to replace the rule of bishops and their imperial overlords by self-rule by self-appointed leading citizens. Within a century of the first stirrings of dissident communes, there emerged another social group which launched a second, even more radical revolution. The merchants and artisans who had become enriched by the communal system wanted to have a voice in the political system as well. They called themselves the “Popolo” meaning The People. It suggests a humbler social group, the ordinary people, as opposed to a group of the rich and powerful. This group, the Popolo, was the first truly revolutionary class in modern history.” (pp. 24-25)

Of course we are only up to the earliest chapters in the story of the Renaissance by now. But I present it to you today, dear Readers, as background for what happens next: over the course of the next few centuries, these communes in northern Italy (and eventually Rome, of course) will flourish in all the arts and humanities, experiencing a rebirth of culture never experienced before or after. This rebirth and  consequently creation of the greatest works of architecture, art and writing, music, leading thoughts and discoveries of science, and philosophies concerning being a human being, all happened in a highly concentrated style during the next three centuries, giving rise to the modern western world as we know it today.

For those of you who already know all of this, (and most likely got A’s in European history class in high school) excuse my extremely concise snapshot of this era. Why is it important to know about and understand how the Renaissance came about, and even more, what the Renaissance actually was?

This is a complicated question, without a satisfying answer that says it all. In my opinion, knowing about and understanding where our common ancestors came from, what life was like during those times, and how humans developed their capacity for creativity, artistic vision, genius, and the value of being human itself (known as humanism) is invaluable for those of us who wish to understand these qualities in ourselves in our times. “Know thyself” is one of the basic requisites for developing as a human being, and one cannot truly know oneself if one is unaware of one’s history.

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” –Leonardo da Vinci
“The true work of art is but a shadow of the Divine perfection.” –Michelangelo
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” –Galileo Galilei

Not only that, but when we study the works of the artists who created the masterpieces of Renaissance Italy during the 14th through 16th centuries, it is impossible not to be astounded. How did he do it, I asked myself as I stared at the paintings on the walls of the Uffizi gallery in Florence. Their faces, their expressions, their hands, the gold paint employed to create an unmistakable magic on the surface of Lippi’s paintings, down to the minutest detail, the ornate carvings in marble, in wood… the imagination of these human beings was utterly astounding. What would it take to have another renaissance of humanity of the sort that would allow that degree of genius to flourish once again on Earth, I wonder. I know I would really love to live in that world, as opposed to the one currently available. Perhaps, as my friend wrote, it could happen through digging to find the profoundly deepest blood of ones’ soul, carved through the fingernails, and through using the finest,sharpest instruments at one’s disposal and bleeding more than one ever thought they possibly could.

[footnote: all excerpts taken from The Renaissance in Europe, Margaret L. King, Laurence King Publishing 2003]

Related articles:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Renaissance