Hello, I'm Joseph Tieger, and I'm delighted to welcome you to a very unusual seven-part television experience.

The programs you're about to see are presented not just to inform, or to entertain, but to provide a way for us to come together, in dialogue, as a community.

As we look around us, we know that our world is in real trouble. Many people are now experiencing great hardship. Our natural environment is imperiled. And we all find ourselves subject to social and economic forces that increasingly set us apart: from one another, from our own deepest selves, from this living earth, and from any vision of a future we might all embrace.

And yet, in the midst of all this, many of us still have within us a dream and a yearning for a different kind of world and a different way to be here with one another.

This series, Reaching Out, will introduce you to a thousand people, who share this dream, and who came together in town-hall gatherings and small-group dialogues in Oakland California. Their weekly sessions were hosted by Ram Dass, for many years a teacher and writer on the heart of compassion, and they addressed this basic question: "What keeps us so separate--and what can we do about it?"

In these programs you will see people who meet as strangers, and find their way toward each other in a learning and a healing process that is available to us all. The process begins, in this first program, by looking to see how things really are in the world around us, and listening within to our own thoughts and feelings in response to what we see--and then talking, with at least one other person, about what touches us most deeply. Welcome to Reaching Out.



RAM DASS I think we're here to see if we can grow in the way we respond to suffering. Elie Wiesel--who reminds us not to forget the holocaust--he said, "You can hold yourself back from the suffering. This is something you're free to do. But perhaps precisely this holding back is the only suffering you might be able to avoid." That often the way in which you and I are dealing with the suffering in the world is creating more suffering--for ourselves and for other people as well.

If you look around here, we are primarily a white, middle-class group. Now, most of us probably aren't busy thinking of ourselves as white. But we are, nevertheless, white. And if you and I are going to reach out to other human beings, we have to be open and comfortable and healthy in the way in which we reach across ethnic and racial lines.



ROBERTO VARGAS Sometimes you can pick up a leaflet, and say, "OK, it's another one of those workshops." But sometimes you pick up something, and you almost feel something's there. And it was, like, feeling that there's something special going to happen. Because, one is, this is the first group I know in a lot of years that actually did outreach into our community. They came to the Latino community and said, "OK, here, we're going to tell you what we're going to be about." I guess they also went to the Black community, the Native American community, and that's special, that's different. We know something special will happen--and now, you know, we've got to figure out how we're going to make it happen.


MARTIN CANO Maybe one of the things that we have to do to find this compassion is build some bridges between these communities, so that people can cross back and forth, working with one another. Where we can educate you, coming from these communities, and where you can do what you can--find techniques, find methods for working with us. Not as saviors. Not coming into our community thinking that "I have all the answers, and I'm superior to you, and I can save you, I can help you, you know, I can pull you out of this." But as allies. As allies.

And sometimes that means looking at our privilege. As a man I have to look at the privilege that I have as a man. That I can do things that women can't do. That I've been given opportunities that women won't be given. And yet, you know, as a Chicano, I've also had a lot of disadvantages, and I have to look at those things.

And there's a lot of anger. I mean, one of the things I was feeling out there with so many white people--I was feeling like a token. I was feeling real angry. I was feeling like those people hate me, that they're going to reject me. Because it's happened so many times before. And so crossing this bridge into the white community--because that's what I'm doing. I mean that's, one of the things I'm doing here is, I'm crossing a bridge into the white community. And it has been real dangerous and real hurtful to be in the white community as a Chicano.

So anger is something that's very, very rational. It's just, we have to recognize that it comes from the pain, and then eventually get past it, to learn how to love again. And that's what I'm trying to do. What you're going to find is that I have a lot of barriers, just as all of you have barriers. Because I've been hurt a lot. I think a lot of white people have been taught that they're superior. That people with money have been taught that money makes them superior. Those are some of the myths of our society. And those are the barriers that we have to get past.


ROBERTO VARGAS Yeah, it's it's really about a lot of healing. So, I think, you know, in a way, we've got to also just do some trust-building with each other, so we can go deep enough to share the multiple levels--of either hurt or fears.

Because if we're going to make this a little lab of learning, you know, we've got to hear what makes you afraid of working with us. But to get deep and stuff, and put it out, we can really make this a lab for learning about healing.


MARY BEATON There's so much pain that we all have. No matter what color you are. And just from humanity and having to deal with people. And breaking down the bridges that Nancy and I have. And you would look at us and say we're exactly the same. But I'm sure there are things there: that we all have that. We can all resonate with that. It's not just color.



RAM DASS What hurts most? What is the nature of the suffering that is moving you most deeply at this moment. Let's just get the mosaic of it all if we can. What is the suffering that calls to you--that hurts?


VOICES The suffering of children.


Death of loved ones.


My dad is an alcoholic.


The rape of the earth.


Learning of our slavery that was a long time ago.


Hunger in a world of plenty.


The way we lash out at each other because we're suffering ourselves.



JOANNA MACY Beyond the mask of business as usual, there's like a silent scream. So, absolutely essential with the discomfort is communication. We are called upon to find community and to build it, even if it's with one other person. To find a place where truth can happen. To find the place where the truth of our experience can get expressed.



BHARAT LINDEMOOD I myself am HIV positive, and the issue of AIDS became really relevant to me. I work on a hospital ward for the Shanti Project counselling people with AIDS, and I've been doing that about a year-and-a-half.

You know, a lot of it is my own over-identification sometimes, as a person that's HIV positive, my mind saying, you know, "That could easily be me in that bed."




BHARAT LINDEMOOD [enters hospital room] Hi, Tony.


TONY Hey, how you doing?




TONY All right.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD Yeah? What's new with you today?


TONY Haven't seen you for a couple days.




TONY I'm real sick.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD Are you? What's going on?


TONY I feel like I'm going to die.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD You feel like you're going to die?


TONY [nods]




TONY [nods] Yeah. I didn't sleep last night.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD Uh huh. How does it feel, knowing, or feeling, like you're going to die pretty soon?


TONY Scared.




TONY Scared to death.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD Scared of anything in particular?


TONY Dying.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD Uhm hmh. Like, what's going to happen?


TONY [nods]




TONY Yeah.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD What do you think might happen?


TONY Well, I don't want to die painfully.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD Um hmh. So, you're afraid of the pain before dying?


TONY Yeah.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD Have the doctors told you what it might be like, in terms of the pain . . .




BHARAT LINDEMOOD . . . or what you might go through . . .




BHARAT LINDEMOOD . . . with this KS?


TONY Told me two months.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD Two months? Uh huh.


TONY But that doesn't tell me nothing.


BHARAT LINDEMOOD They didn't tell you what to expect, though, huh?




BHARAT LINDEMOOD Must be scary when you have a hard time breathing.


TONY It is.



JOANNA MACY If we simply attend, and open to those painful contradictions, and speak the pain, we discover--and you can discover it just like that [snaps her finger]--that we are able, if we are true to our experience, to say, "Yes, I suffer with my world."

And then comes the extraordinary recognition; and that is that we are capable of suffering with our world, that we are compassionate beings. Out of our interdependence, compassion arises. And so, a lot of, we look around at what we're doing to stifle the voices of, and cries of, compassion within us. And we turn to this addiction and that addiction, into manic consumption of one form or another. We go crazy trying not to hear our compassionate hearts.



RAM DASS What would you say to an Israeli Jew about how to see a Palestinian at this moment?


ZALMAN SCHACHTER My sense is that we won't be able to overcome the distance and the differences between us if we can't grieve for each other.

You know, the experience I had when I came to Hebron, came there to the grave of the Ancestors--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. I walked in to the office of the Imam of the Mosque, and I said to him, "Sir, I've come to ask your permission to visit the grave of my ancestors." He pointed at the guys with the Uzis outside, and said, "What are you asking me permission. Come on. You know, it's like..." I said, "You and your family have been keeping this holy site for many years, and it's only right that I should ask your permission." He got up from behind his desk, embraced me, walked with me, and showed me the nooks and crannies in the place.

It has something to do with respect. And with understanding that the other one hurts.



GEORGE STEFFNER I think the reason I fear suffering is because I have the privilege of being a member of a very privileged generation in a very privileged country, and I'm unaccustomed to suffering. My adolescent years were spent in what almost everyone here would probably call poverty. But I can remember only one meal where I almost didn't have enough to eat. And I know there's countries all over the world where every meal means they have not enough to eat. So I try to keep that in mind, and understanding that a reality of life is that there is a lot of suffering around. I can't tell you I've done a lot to relieve that suffering, but I'm starting. That's why I'm here. Thank you.


RAM DASS Many of us in this room could say exactly that same thing. And we've got to listen to hear where we feel guilty and that makes us feel better. Or where we say, "Well, I've got a lot of work to do." Or where we say, "The cost of my being part of a socio-economic group and protecting my space--it's costing me more than it's worth."



AMY KAMINER Change comes about by, somewhere, examining inside yourself, and out in the world. And, if enough people go through that change, you create a force that's large enough to create a change that's beyond one. You know, that it almost takes on a life of its own. And what I would ask is, how, within this small group of ten, we can work together to listen and to respond, and to be able to go through the process, where we can create change as a group--and then kind of work at the various levels of taking it out of this group of ten?


MARTIN CANO We want everything to be nice and smooth in this group, you know, and for everybody to come away loving and caring and together. But you go into any community that's suffering, and serve them, and you're going to find anger about their suffering. That there's inequality. That some people are suffering and some people aren't. That some people can go and give their lives to people that are suffering--and other people give their lives to suffering. And that inequality in itself creates the 'us/them.'

And how do we deal with that? How do we deal with the anger? How do we deal with the us/them? How do we not go in there thinking, "I'm superior to you"? Somehow, we have to build the bridges, and unite. Somehow. But I don't think we can do it on a basis of inequality and superiority/inferiority. We have to all be struggling for equality. And it can't be my issue. It's got to be all of our issues.



RAM DASS From your vantage point, what's going to happen at this moment in our world? Where are we? I mean, we have nuclear waste piling up everywhere. We have such a breakdown of urban life. Economic polarization that is getting more and more extreme, and which it seems set on a course of chaos or revolution or cataclysm of some sort. Thirty to forty thousand people dying a day from starvation, from health problems that can be easily taken care of. We seem to be obsessed with security--and the more we do, the less secure we feel--with military might. I mean, it's kind of a gloomy picture.


CAROLYN COTTOM Well, I have two, I'm of two, minds about it, I guess. One is where I am personally with it, which is that I'm feeling very good and feeling like that I'm making the decisions that are right for me in relation to all of it.

On the other side of that, trying to step back and look at the whole, and trying to take a really big picture, a really big look at what our ancient history was like and where we are now in the whole history of humankind--and a lot of people are saying this--we're at this crossing, we're at this point, where we will either destroy ourselves or we will go forward and be able to transform into a partnership society and a partnership world where we work cooperatively. And that's where I think we are. I think we are at, we are very close to, the fork in the road.


RAM DASS You don't think we're beyond the fork?


CAROLYN COTTOM I don't think we're beyond the fork.


RAM DASS You think there's still choice. There's still space.


CAROLYN COTTOM Yeah. Yeah. What do you think?


RAM DASS I don't know. I really don't know.



RAM DASS You're somebody thinking about these issues probably most of the time you're awake and we ask your counsel now.


CARL ANTHONY As a person of color whose ancestors for 12, 14 generations have been taught to believe that people from Europe really know the answer, it's refreshing to find out [audience laughter] . . .


RAM DASS A little scary, isn't it?


CARL ANTHONY . . . that we actually have some responsibility here. And the responsibility that we have is to assume, let's say, a shared effort in guiding us toward where we have to go. One of the wonderful things about ecological diversity is that it's beginning to teach us the importance of human diversity. There are secrets that are known by those people who have not been in the council. And we need to discover those secrets and we need to see what they have to teach us.


RAM DASS Talk a moment about the relation between urban ecology and things like rainforests.


CARL ANTHONY Well, the urban environment is the place where the most dense collection of human beings is. So, when we talk about a forest, a forest is a community of plants and animals of which maybe--some people say--the dominant species are trees. One could argue that the city is a place where the dominant species is human beings. I doubt if that's true: there are probably more rats and roaches. [laughter] But it is a place where we are together. And it seems to me that we have...if we care about the rainforest, if we really want to do something about those regions in which human beings are maybe not so present, that we should go about healing those places where we are present. [applause] And as I look at Oakland, I see really wonderful opportunities for healing. We have opportunities for healing between people--of diverse cultures. We can also bring wilderness back into the city. We can open up the creeks. We can stop eating up the farmland around a place--around Oakland.

What I see, is that there's really a window of opportunity here--to actually improve the quality of life, to improve the communication between people. And I think we should embrace this window of opportunity. I don't feel pessimistic about this. I feel really optimistic. The wonderful thing about necessity is that it forces you to do what you really should be doing. And part of it really means getting rid of, or getting away from, or not relying on, so much of what we have assumed as part of our consumer culture.

So I feel really pretty optimistic that, as the signals begin to come to us, that we will be able to make the adjustments--rapidly. I hear it, I see it every day. I do think we have the time. I think, if we listen to those small voices in us, we do have the time.




Don't let the midnight oil burn low

No, don't let it burn out

Let's see how things turn out

In the end, don't let the midnight oil burn low

No, don't let it burn out

Let's see how things turn out

In the end, you know you need a friend

A friend until the end

I know you've heard it said before

In the end, you know it all comes down to love

Down like water from above

That's what it's all about

Don't you think it's so, what else are we here for

Oh, I know why you're here for a war

But the war is here and so are you and I

It makes me want to fly away

But something makes me stay

And try it anyway

Hey, you and I

Keep the fire burning high

Don't let the midnight oil burn low

No, don't let it burn out

Let's see how things turn out

In the end, don't let the midnight oil burn low

No, don't let it burn out

Let's see how things turn out

In the end.

©1998 Choice Point