Like many I am challenged to my core by the rapid shift of power and its implications for the United States and the world, with our new President. And yet, as I reflect back on this woodcut, created more than 30 years ago, the cultural paradigm is not new. Indeed the divisions are deeply embedded in our culture. What can be done and will have the best outcome? This is something we may feel compelled to answer. I suggest that creating, rather than reacting may hold the key to being effective.
In such a highly charged environment, as we have today, to create requires a conscious choice. A choice to acknowledge we don’t know a lot and that making it up with opinions and speculation can cause more harm than good. Not filling in the gap is hard. We want to know and be secure in our knowing. Whether it be through demonizing the other or theorizing about why things are happening, we feel a strong need to fill in the gap.
Yet in that empty space of not knowing is the power of creating something new and genuine to this time. We can choose to be the predominant creative force in our life and work to create what matters to us. This isn’t about denying reality just not allowing it to define the future. We open to things as they are and explore what powerful vision we long to create. This is new territory for many. We have been taught to problem solve, adapt, conform or rebel in response to our world.
For decades we have been fed daily doses of fear and speculation by pundits in the guise of 24 hour news. Whole generations have had this reality. Views are expressed in polarities that separate us into black/white, citizen/immigrant, gay/straight, male/female, left/right, Democrat/Republican, urban/rural, And the list goes on and on. Ultimately it is the duality of self and other. This duality when solidified is seen as a threat to our safety and the other becomes an enemy. Emotions run high and many react from fear, anger and anxiety.
As a child of the 60’s, I was raised in an era of protest. Many of the activists got stuck in reactive mode, always being against something (anti-war, anti-capitalism, anti-establishment). This ultimately is a no win situation, as there is always a need for an opponent to fight against. Even if the protester had solutions, it was framed as righting a wrong. The vision was not to create something, but a desire to eliminate a wrong/evil/unwanted condition.
The movements that were generative of positive change, however, came from a position of love and desire to create something, in spite of the relevant situation. Rather than coming from a limited problem solving view, there was a vision expressed that inspired action, in and of itself. Emotions were still felt, but people felt empowered by a larger vision of what they wanted to create. That is why, MLK, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is so enduring. It was not simply “anti”. Though he spoke of the bigotry and racism of our country, he drew a picture of what he wanted to see that was compelling.
When our motivation to act is in reaction to an unwanted situation, as we make progress (or even become accustomed to the situation) the discomfort lessens and we feel less motivated to act, particularly when obstacles arise. We can also insist on being righteously indignant, rejecting any input that conflicts with our view. We identify strongly with these views, making them more solid and creating endless suffering.
The creating orientation puts the attention first on identifying what we want to see, independent of the current circumstances. To have a vision so we would know it when we see it. Then we can take stock of current reality relative to the desired result and work towards bringing it into existence. In this orientation, our emotions, circumstances and that of others can be factored in as we work to make it real, but they are not definers of the vision or limit our effectiveness. Importantly, when creating out of love of the vision, how close or far from the result, we still are motivated to take action on our behalf. Indeed the closer we get, the more energy arises to bring it into reality. The need for an enemy is removed and we may find allies in unlikely places.
But how do we make the shift to creating? Art and meditation in action offer some tools to make it possible. Come to my Square One Saturday to meditate/contemplate/create – Felt Sense vs. Thought Sense. How do we work with intense emotions in a conscious way through our creative process? August 26 from 1-3 pm in Oakland, CA, by donation