Transformation… Week 11

a Moment for Wisdom…

a Moment for…


   “There’s a limit to how much we can change ourselves, unless we’re also changing our relationships and our neighborhood, our workplace, our community, at the same time.”

Paul Kivel



Chop wood…

Carry water…

Support dysfunctional system…


Sharif Abdullah


a Moment with Sharif…



This Moment is related to Wednesday’s… that working on yourself is indistinguishable from working to change society.  And, if you’re not working to change society, you’re not really working on yourself.

As I said, I know people who bounce from one “transformative” workshop to another, yet nothing really changes in their lives.  I know people who go out and buy the Prius, then stop.  I know “fatalists”, who assume there is nothing that can be done, people just going through the motions of living.

The Kivel quote tells us that the work on self and the work on society are really the same. This means work beyond gestures… which gets us to the troublesome second quote.

When the Zen masters talked about enlightenment centuries ago, the actions of the average person were simple and direct.  If you wanted to stay warm, you chopped wood.  If you wanted to drink, bathe or cook, you carried water.  You gathered, grew or traded for
your food.  You built the roof over your head.  Therefore, the notion of “After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water” meant that you would continue the same basically benign acts after you are enlightened as you did before.

Not so for us living in the 20th Century.  We are all (ALL) participants in Breaker Society.  Some greater than others, but all of us are culpable.  If you eat, drink and stay warm in the winter, you are engaged in the Breaker system.  We all use electricity from a system that is built on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.  (Yes, I use the “Blue Sky” electricity option, but I have no illusions about it.  If the coal and nuclear system disappeared overnight, Blue Sky would disappear with it.)  Unless you live in Portland, your water is delivered by electricity — turn off the power and the taps go dry.  (Portland has the largest gravity-fed water system in America, but it still only serves the flat parts of the city.)  The overwhelming majority of us eat industrialized, processed foods.(Yes, many industrialized foods are “organic”.)  Many of us have bank accounts, investments and retirement plans that are with transnational banking interests.  We are actively providing the glue that holds together the toxic economic system… that we then protest.

Those who piously point their fingers at “The Man” don’t understand how the world works.WE ARE “THE MAN”.  As I write this, the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations continue, and the “Occupy” movement is gaining ground around the country.  The fact that thousands of people are outraged enough to take direct action should come as no surprise.  I think that number is in the millions.

If we want to stop the dysfunctional Breaker system, it is relatively easy: stop supporting it.This was the true power behind the kind of activism and movements of Gandhi, King and Havel.This is the power that has been proven to change dysfunctional systems and structures, AND change group consciousness, AT THE SAME TIME!

Do the “Occupy” demonstrators have a clear vision of a positive future, one that works for ALL (including those who work on Wall St)?  If they do, I haven’t heard it yet.

Yes, I would rather have people engage in a gesture, however incomplete, than sit at home, do nothing, and watch television.  The fact that thousands of people are taking action, even frustrated action, shows that there is a movement, waiting to be truly born.
Waiting for visionary leadership.  Waiting for YOU. You’ve heard the Hopi quote: “We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for!”  So… why are we still waiting?

Rather than engage in fruitless, frustration-venting, I would rather engage those people in a powerful internal clearing of their consciousness (complete with releasing fears and angers/hatreds), coupled with a powerful group dialog, envisioning the positive, inclusive and healing society of the future.THEN act.  The actions that come from THAT process will be truly transformative, for both Self and Society.



Transformation Exercises:

This week’s “Transformation” exercise:



1.   Take a group of well-meaning people, acting from frustration and rage, acting without a clear vision of a positive, common future.  What do you predict to be the
results of their actions?  Can you cite any examples?

2.   Does it matter that their actions are nonviolent?

3.   Name (at least) four factors that distinguish adversarial activism from inclusive activism.

4.   Assume you are face to face with the “Occupy” demonstrators.  What is the
largest, highest, most inclusive vision that you would invite them to?  (Remember: your articulated vision has to address THEIR needs and frustrations, as THEY
currently understand them.)

a.   Write down your inclusive vision for “politics”, for “economics/money”, for “ecology”and for “social justice”.

b.   Write down 3 action steps for each vision.  (Think about Gandhi’s “Salt March”, King’s “sit-ins”, Havel’s “parallel polis”.)

c.   Have face to face conversations with at least 3 other people about your visions and your steps.


All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.


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One Response to Transformation… Week 11

  1. karen says:

    I respect Paul Kivel’s opinion..but I do not agree with it. I do not change the relationships, workplace, neighborhood, community….I change myself….and
    these entities respond in kind.
    minding the light
    friend of Peace Pilgrim

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