The Rising

Something happened suddenly. Or so it seems.

There is revolution through much of the Arab world. Young people, brought up on the Internet and opened to world consciousness, have arrived. They want lives of dignity, respect, and creative possibility—for themselves and for their families, communities, and countries.

For quite some time, there’s been conjecture and deep thinking about the impact of a worldwide medium of consciousness exchange, i.e. the Net. Commentators have noted the trends and considered what might emerge. Meanwhile, through the decade following 9/11, there’s been much cogitation and agitation about Islam, medieval versions of fundamentalism, and terrorism. And there’s been an accompanying dreary descent through war and fear, which becomes the expected background that obscures possibilities.

How surprising then, that before our eyes, something new has emerged on the planet. This appearance of the new can remind us of hopes and questions that fall away from consciousness, especially in the privileged places of life. Will I really let in the many crises? Is it possible that we’ll find our way through? Does something not quite seen want to be born onto the planet. Do I feel some reflection of it right here where I live? What might that mean for how I look at life and the coming years? What might there be for me to do?

A GTC graduate described an experience earlier this winter that may provide a useful metaphor to help reflect on these questions. She witnessed a complete transformation of a meadow landscape within a few hours. There had been rain and a rise in temperature, releasing winter snow from the mountains into the watershed below. A nearby river ran high and fast, and in a normally lazy tributary abutting the meadow, water began to breach its banks. At the same time, small pools appeared elsewhere in the meadow, showing that ground water was also rising. Within a few short hours, the entire field was flooded – the result of coalescing pools connecting from disparate parts of the property. In that confluence, the landscape was completely transformed.

What was remarkable was that the rapid occurrence of the change was not all due to the force of the ‘mainstream’. Much of the transformation took place below the surface—in the saturation of remote and disconnected parts of the land. The impact gradually and quietly showed on the surface until, at some critical moment, the process accelerated and it all came together in a single, large and seemingly unified flow.

As with the events in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere, this dramatic and curious phenomenon of sudden arising opens to a set of questions for those interested in transformational change. How does widespread social movement happen? How do we begin to influence the social landscape toward change, toward the creation of a saturation point in which possibility flows into new reality? How do each of us as individuals make ourselves available to participate in collective action on behalf of positive change?

If we begin with ourselves, regardless of where we consider ourselves in the “grand scheme,” we all have some part to play that relates to the larger whole.  It starts with the part we occupy, our particular place in the social and economic landscape. Each one of us occupies a unique pocket of concern, perspective, skill set, a particular gladness, expression, or network of connection. One aspect, then, of our participation in the larger current of change is to identify what brings us alive individually and to engage it wholeheartedly. To saturate the field around us with the vitality of our purpose, consciously chosen and expressed.

We can also be aware of the interconnected life that surrounds us—our relationship to people, earth and her inhabitants, as well as the consciousness awakening in the culture at large. Whatever any one of us may care about represents an idea or an impulse that is present and already moving in the field of life. Like hidden ground water in a landscape open to initially remote influences, our ideas and actions come from sources and can generate synergies that only become known when the process has ripened and the confluence begins. This can show up in synchronicities in time and space or in strikingly similar expressions and insights that crop up in unrelated domains or disparate parts of the globe.

Unlike the change transpiring in a single day in a geologic floodplain, social cycles occur over lifetimes, decades, generations, regimes, dynasties. The adage ‘think globally act locally’ has a corollary in relation to time: we can act in the present moment on behalf of a future that unfolds at its own pace. The scope of social or cultural change requires a surrender to uncertainty—about the timing of things, the forms that emerge, or the roles we may be called to play. We can know, though, that we are more interconnected than we think, that the larger movement that has touched us is at work elsewhere and can be revealed to and through us as “the future that wants to emerge.”

There is a mystery as to how and when confluence happens that we can’t control or foretell, but we can open and make ourselves available for participation. The work we do now prepares for a current of change to come and prepares us to join with it when it does.

Photo credit: Egyptians celebrating a new freedom–Alexandria, Egypt–February 15, 2011, by Mohamed Adel.

Russ Graham and Julia Smith contributed to this post.