Anger.

Lately I’ve been angry.  Calmly angry, no rage-filled attacks of revenge for me, but angry.  Angry at the status quo, the dominant paradigm.  Angry that consumption and disposability are the norm.  Angry that nearly everything is determined by financial viability rather than the real deep-seated priorities of real people and real communities.  Angry that the marriage amendment is even a possibility.  Angry that Michele Bachmann was ever considered a legitimate presidential candidate.  Angry that the Occupy Movement is even necessary because corporate banks are so utterly disconnected from the well being of real people.  Angry at cancer, at natural disasters, at makeup, at cars and roads and balancing the budget.

Is my anger self-righteous?  Certainly.  Is it warranted?  Absolutely.

This makes me feel a bit better about the world.  As does this.  But I’m not sure I want to feel better.  Because so many of our systems are so inherently corrupt, inherently unsustainable.

Joss Whedon put it perfectly: “I can be very pessimistic on a broad scale. On a smaller scale, I love people and I’m interested in them.”

Moments and individuals are marvelous, intriguing, surprising and delightful.  But we might still be f***ed.  Anger feels like a reasonable response to this complete and utter incongruency.

Visions of sugarplums, or sugar beets more like.

Giving up is easy.  Becoming jaded, disillusioned, very nearly bored with the relentless march of our screwed up systems toward self-annihilation, it’s easy.  Persisting in change, however, is not.  Remaining optimistic, idealistic, dare I say HOPEFUL, is not so easy.  But to persist is to live, and those who provide a reason to persist, particularly without intending to do so, are valuable beyond recognition.

So you can imagine my heart’s gladness when I read my dear friend Caleb’s thoughts on Occupy and my being responded with a resounding YES.  YES I want to create.  YES I want to grow.  YES I want to be part of imagining and building a newbettermoresustainableandjoyful world.

His whole piece resonated with me, and many of the system criticisms, from food to politics to banks, are questions I myself have asked, wondering at how there is a person left on the planet that feels like things are going well.  Our systems aren’t working!  Capitalism is failing the majority of citizens!  We don’t have accountability, for corporations or politicians, and yet we give an inordinate amount of power to both of these sectors!  As Jess Zimmerman writes for Grist, “combating climate change will mean overhauling the free market economy and contracting the corporate sector, and people whose livelihoods depend on big business have a reason to be afraid.”  Those who have managed to suppress their conscience enough to make their way to the top of this inherently unstable and immoral food chain (an incredibly disproportionate number of straight white males, to boot) should expect to be challenged, and eventually to relinquish their stranglehold over the livelihood of the populace.

But it is not the criticisms that really got me going.  It was Caleb’s vision of the future, a co-created, human scale future.  A future of community and beauty, where work is play and we have not given up on our own lives.  Where the world is Our World, a place where we have stopped artificially segmenting our lives, our relationships, our homes from our workplaces from our parks from our play places.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Wonder is essential in this future vision, a wonder that manifests itself in curiosity, and eventually a drive to create something magnificent.  It is not duty or responsibility alone that will create the new.  It is through longing for a better world coupled with a sharp vision of how we might get there that we will persist, that we will truly live.

To not give up, that is the first challenge.  And to illumine our place in the vision, that is the second.  In the last few weeks Ben and I have committed to finding and purchasing a house without succumbing to the system, instead remaining true to our values of simplicity and human and earth sustainability.  We will find our home through building relationships, through moving into opportunity as it comes while practically examining our personal realities.  I have also personally committed to examine my work, my vocation, and to do the best where I am while honing in on where my passions meet the world’s need.

More concretely: we will have self-declared hours of creativity, to write or play music or paint or cook or whatever.  Once we have a house we will have a garden of food, medicinal herbs, and native plants to support bees; a bike building and maintenance area; monthly potlucks and intellectual salons; safe space for both conversation and quiet; a root cellar in the basement and crafting space in the attic.  Most importantly, we will invite others to join us.

I am idealistic, I know.  I have been berated for it at times, celebrated for it at others.  But what better way to live in the world than in hope, a critical hope that opts out of that which is failing and builds something better?

Words to Live By: Van Jones

I’m still spending a large amount of my time and energy keeping track of the Occupy movement, reading articles and trying to respond coherently to criticisms like this:

and reposting clever (and relevant) things like this:

But it is individuals and movements like Van Jones and the American Dream Movement that continue to hold my attention.  And Jones doesn’t let us off easy.

We talk collective. We talk Kumbaya. We talk solidarity forever. But we have enacted the most individualistic strategy in the republic. Me, myself, my group, my cause, my brand, my thing … If we can be as warm and sharing and kind as the Tea Party — which one might suspect is a relatively low barwe might be able to do something for our country. That’s the invitation to you.

Sitting around and talking isn’t enough anymore.  Neither is being critical and fragmentary, pitting one progressive issue against another to a resulting gain of nothing for no one.  Real unity and ACTION is a necessity, and anyone who cares about anything needs to be part of it.

But you have to ask yourself a question as a person, as a father, and as a movement: What happens when you have a big dream, and it gets crushed? … Do you just lay there forever, or do you get back up with a bigger dream? Were back now with an even bigger dream.

Read the whole article here.