I wrote this in response to a request that I be more out front as a leader, and be more transparent with my motives and goals.
I am not drawn to do this work, I am compelled to do it from the deepest stirrings of my heart and soul. I am propelled forward at times when I have lost courage, because I simply must do this work. I have no choice but to be obsessed by it. I have survived many forms of personal and systemic violence, I have become violent, I understand violence from the inside, and now I am a recovering violent person. As a teenager, I could see the parallels between the anger of my father that caused his violence and the anger between nations that causes war and the threat of nuclear annihilation. I could see the inability to communicate. My life has become an exploration of all the facets and meanings of our human need to communicate.
I am an explorer. When I was about 20 years old, I became a YMCA canoe-camp guide, leading groups of younger boys through the northern Minnesota wilderness lakes. The other guides nicknamed me "Blazin' Hazen" because I would sometimes diverge from the conventional routes by venturing off into the bush with a compass and a hatchet with which to mark trees, in search of a lake that had no trails to it on the map. I have taken the road less traveled many times in my life.
I am ever hopeful. I see that we, humanity, are entering an upward spiral of knowledge and abilities that will promote, worldwide, the healthy growth and development of children; prosperity and safety for adults; as well as cooperative learning and problem-solving. Such genius will flower that sometime in the future as we look back at the state of humanity that we are in now, it will seem as if we were like the dodo, and we will wonder why and how we were saved from extinction. I believe the homo sapiens who survive the mass extinction event now in progress will be the ones who develop the skills of cooperation, trust, and great courage.
Many of us are trapped, as I had been for the first 42-plus years of my life, in a spiral of self-dependence and lack of trust. Real progress will never be made until we reduce this level of fear. My experience has been that the fear of abandonment underlies our rules to not talk, not trust, and not feel, which are ways of keeping ourselves numb. Those rules, in turn, create the most violent forms of self-abuse and other-abuse we know. We are at war with ourselves, we are deathly ill with interpersonal and systemic violence inflicted on ourselves. We are a culture in need of recovery from dependency on violence. The time is ripe for genuine weeping, empathy for ourselves and others, and a radical shift in our strategies for achieving security, health, and growth. My definition of peacelearning is this: learning how to remain in the sometimes painful conversation about building a world that meets everyone's needs, instead of shutting down or attempting to be in control. The world will have long-lasting peace when we learn to listen to each other, deeply, listen to our own true inner selves, deeply, and when we listen to the deep nature of the Universe. When we are so busy talking, so attached to what we are saying, we block out what we are hearing.
After some anti-war activity in the late '60's and early '70's I became cynical for many years. I restarted my activism in 2004 because Dennis Kucinich was running for President, and I liked his idea for a Department of Peace. After 5 years of working with The Peace Alliance lobbying efforts at the Congressional level, I have begun to look for ways to build the political will for this initiative from the ground, from the grassroots. I have been inspired by Buckminster Fuller, who said "You never change anything by fighting the existing. To change something, build a new model and make the existing obsolete!" So in February of 2009 I initiated Eugene City of Peace as an experiment, to "act as if" we were the change we wished to see. I now believe we tried to do too much too soon by the end of the year and most volunteers lost sight of their goals. I am basically starting over with a more cautious approach, attempting this time to build strong, heart-to-heart connection. Do I know what I am doing? No! I am headed for a lake of Peace nobody has seen before, with a compass and a crude map, and I improvise around obstacles.
Part of my improvisation is to rely on you for amplified sensing and wisdom. I have learned that this is a journey, not a destination, and that it is not a solo trip. When we do this together, improving our interactive process becomes the intermediate goal. If we attend to and massage the process, making it sustainable, while still keeping the end result in mind, we may not ever arrive at an institutional City of Peace, or even a Department of Peace, yet we may create the impact and results as if there had been one in place.
Traveling across lakes, looking for new lakes, loving the canoes that take me there, has led me to building canoes and eventually to writing a book about how to build your own canoe. The words in the introduction that I wrote in 1976 still ring true in my search for the lake of Peace. Read the following with the word "peace" substituted for the word "boat," and discover if it rings true for you:
"The first thing I want to tell you is DO IT. This book is not the experience; you have to create that. It is not the whole truth; it is only a map containing symbols for the reality which is in the process and in you. Allow the boat (peace) to come out of you the way it wants to come out, not the way you think it is supposed to come out. The way things are supposed to be is not the way things ARE. The fantasy I have in my mind of the boat (peace) I might build does not, will not, look like the boat (peace) I will actually build. I guarantee you that. It will be pointed at both ends and it will float, all right, but all the events and contingencies that occur during the process of building are going to keep changing what the boat (peace) finally looks like. The finished boat (peace) is in you, in your body. You can't see it, visualize it, imagine, until it happens. OK? You cannot imagine the grain structure of the interior of a board or a tree; you can only see it after it has been cut open."
I begin my journey anew with people I already know, whom I call Peacebuilders, and my goal is to expand the circle of advisors to people who do not think of themselves as peacebuilders. In reality, everyone is a potential peacebuilder, because of their stake in sustainable relationships, a sustainable economy, or a sustainable energy/food system. All these issues are systemically interconnected.
My task today (October 2010) is to connect that long-term, sweeping vision to the current realities, and the most prominent obstacles that I see (you may see others) in our path today are poverty and covert racism. In my search for effective methods for leveling those barriers, I am fascinated by two proposals that may have the potential of engaging a broader demographic, (1) micro-lending and (2) removing the body armor of white privilege, underneath which is a generous empathy. I am in conversation with people who may be able to leverage these initiatives into place, and I invite your interest and support by first reading a few articles that sparked my interest.
Growing poverty rate has high costs for entire community by Steven Manela
Community Investment: It’s Classic --Ideas for sustainable investment by Jeff Golden
Articles by Vanissar Tarakali: Awakening Your Ally Body and Layers of White Racial Shame
I am eager to know how you respond to my story and my dream. This reminds me of a recent quote I heard about our possibility, "To coax the dream out of the drama." What is your dream, what is your drama?
Eugene City of Peace