This is a guest post by Jonathan Merritt from Sacred Fire magazine, an initiative of the Sacred Fire Foundation which seeks to help all people re-discover and celebrate the sacred, interconnected nature of life.
Here it is, 2012. We’re headed toward another dismal presidential election where the Republican candidates try to top each other in advocating ignorance, heartlessness and greed. And the Democratic president, despite his beautiful words, sits securely in the pocket of the financial industry. It’s business as usual in the good old USA.
Meanwhile, people are buzzing with fear, ramping up consumption, acting in purely irrational ways as the culture collapses around them. Global warming: Let’s turn up the air conditioner. Peak oil: Buy a new SUV. Food shortages: Bite that Big Mac. Water scarcity: Pop another Bud. Financial collapse: Oh crap!
At the same time, according to the Mayan calendar, this year ends with the Dawn of the Sixth Sun, the beginning of a new age, a time of great growth and connection, a time of balancing. And look what is rising with that new sun: A vast movement of people working toward changing the basis on which the culture operates.
While this movement is flowering in ten thousand ways, it is most visible in the street theater and real passion of the Occupy movement. On the surface the movement primarily addresses the need for economic equity. But what lies beneath that concern, what’s moving in the hearts of the people, is the real desire for community, the recognition of the need to band together, to work for the good of all.
One thing that has been completely unreported in the news media—with its cynical eye focused on the protestors’ lack of agenda, which mostly indicates the media’s inability to listen and the largely exaggerated squalor of the camps—is the joy that people feel as they gather, as they share not only complaints but also dreams. As they eat and drink, drum and dance together, they experience real connection not as faceless members of an inchoate mass, but as unique, vibrant and valuable individuals united in a common cause.
The brilliance of this “leaderless” movement is that it allows many voices to be heard, many perspectives to be considered. While this is a cumbersome process, especially when countered by the very reactive and direct forces of authority, it has the potential for great strength and endurance. When people are seen and heard, when they listen and see, when they lose their invisibility, their sense of worthlessness and incapacity, they begin to forget their fear. They become able to act from their hearts with great courage, selflessness and fortitude.
This heart action was apparent when police pepper sprayed sitting students at UC Davis as if they were bugs. The pain was real. The manhandling of those young women and men after they had been sprayed was horrific to watch. But other than righteous chants of indignation, no one lashed out at the cops. Nothing was more eloquent than the silence of the student protestors as they stood in a mass three blocks long while the UC Davis chancellor walked from a press conference to her car.
This movement will spread and grow and take many forms as people recognize and experience the strength of community connected by heart. That strength will be needed not just for shifting the values of our culture. As the environmental scientists’ worst-case scenarios are being proven on a daily basis with cataclysmic storms, devastating droughts, melting ice-caps and inexorably rising seas, the signs of imminent catastrophe are clear. our only chance for survival will lie in our capacity to work together in community. If we are to thrive, we will need to learn how to embrace the community of plants and animals, the weather beings, the spirits of the land and the precious waters.
No doubt there will be many difficulties ahead. But life is full of difficulty. It is our fear, our need to control life, to avoid the uncontrollable that has brought us to this point.
The Mayan prophecy of the Sixth Sun says that the People of the Corn will give way to the People of the Honey. The Honey People will recognize their intimate connection with each other and the living earth. They will nourish and heal the damaged world. They will find their purpose and place in community. They will celebrate the richness and sweetness of life.
It’s a beautiful vision. The path to achieving it is hard to imagine, yet we are moving down that path. The question is whether we can embrace it together. Perhaps the occupiers have poured the first drops of honey in the human heart.
Jonathan Merritt is editor emeritus of Sacred Fire. He is a poet, an initiated Huichol shaman (marakame) and a firekeeper in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.