JOSEPH TIEGER Hello, and welcome again, as we reach the conclusion of Reaching Out.
If you've been with us before, you've seen a thousand people find the deep connection that comes when we acknowledge the pain in the world around us and within our own selves, and when we talk together, in council, drawing forth the wisdom and compassion that are present in each one of us.
In a sense, this process of seeking truth together is an extension of what Joseph Campbell has spoken of as the individual hero journey, a new collaborative stage, appropriate to these times, when the biggest challenge we face is our separation from one another and our alienation from the circle of life that sustains us.
This final program gives us a glimpse of the boon that awaits us when we find the essential vision that we all share, and move together toward a future we can all embrace, with care for one another and for all generations to come. Thank you for Reaching Out.
JIM WALLIS 'Hope' can't be some kind of feeling or rhetoric or mood. It has to be rooted in what we really believe to be true.
To simply focus on our potential for good, is not to look history and its reality clearly straight in the eye--which I think we have to do, and avoid the kind of soft-headed religious utopianism that, I think, doesn't finally serve us.
At the same time, to think we are just utterly trapped in our worst selves takes away all of our hope, and the possibility of transformation. And the Gospel, ultimately, is a message of hope.
And so, I think what is at the heart of it, again, for me, is whether we are going to turn away from one another: from that child who's crying, from that family under the rain of bombardment, from that homeless person sleeping on the grate here in Washington, D.C.--that you literally have to walk over the homeless on the way into work in the heart of the nation's capitol. It's a very powerful parable of the issue confronting us all.
It means...these issues are...they're not simple. They're complicated. Whatever it is: homelessness or whatever. But at the heart of it is a spiritual question, which is: "Are we, in fact, related to one another--and to this earth--or are we not?"
ROBERTO VARGAS We are a community. We come to this school called Reaching Out. We come to this school as learners and as teachers, where we learn from the experiences of others and we teach from our own experience.
The reason I've come is because I have a vision. I'm a papi. I have two daughters, ten and nine. And I have a vision that they will live to have healthy children, and their children will live to have healthy children. I want to see a healing in this earth. I want to see healthy water, soil, skies. I want to see people loving, caring, supporting each other. I want to see Oakland a safe place for all people.
I believe we're all here because we share a vision.
RAM DASS One of the most interesting aspects of this course has been the fact that we all came together to do it. And that we recognize each other's existence here, a group of people who came together specifically with the intention of reaching out and serving and relieving suffering. This is a community of people who care.
In this culture, to take that delicate quality of the compassion of your heart and nurture it, it is useful to have other people around who share that journey. Part of 'Reaching Out', for me, is to find out how to open to my own limits of perception--my own prejudices--so that I can be with another human being and establish a sense of solidarity with that person.
LAKOTA HARDIN When I was a little girl, I used to take care of my great-great-grandmother. I was six years old, and she was ninety-six. And she used to tell me a lot of things about the world and the way we were supposed to live--which wasn't the way we were living. Luckily she kept reminding me that this was just temporary. And she used to say in our language, which kind of interprets to, "Well, the white man is only temporary." And so, for a long time, I thought, "OK, well they're just temporary. I'll just wait!"
And at the same time we would go into the border towns and we would be ridiculed and mocked and run out of places, and people would stare at us everywhere we went. And I remember asking another grandmother one time, "Why do they stare so much?" And she would say, "Well, they're like the cows in the field. They drink a lot of milk." And that was one way that I decided to survive. It worked. I just thought, like the cows in the pasture, it didn't matter.
That was a survival tactic that I used in a horrendously racist place. And I notice it kicks in every now and then when I get scared. When I feel unsafe, all of a sudden I don't notice people around me. That robs me from my own humanity. That robs me of you. Of being able to be close, and to be able to openly--as a two-year old, like I used to--come up and say "Hi!," and get in your face!
A lot of times I just don't want to come to a place like this. I don't want to be anywhere where there aren't only people of color. That's one of my survival mechanisms. Because I can breathe and relax with other people of color. Because white people have not learned how to be close to me. Not in the way that I feel comfortable with. And I don't know how to be close to you. Remember I thought you were all cows at one point in my life. And the best thing that we can do for each other is to say, "I don't know how to do this. I learned a lot of misinformation about you. And I'm really trying to do this."
ROBERTO VARGAS In our culture it's called conocimiento. You begin by doing conocimiento, the process of sharing knowledge of each other, with each other. The more we share community, conocimiento, we begin to develop trust. The more trust, the more unity; the more unity, the more power.
And that is the power to learn, the power to grow, to make things happen as groups of people, and not as individuals. In our culture it's about group growth, group learning. It's about groups creating the evolutions and the changes we need in our society.
And it's going to take special work. It's going to take work in which we look within. Who am I? What am I? How have I related to other peoples--in good ways, and maybe in ways that weren't so good?
RAY I work with people who are living with AIDS. And I can be sitting at the bedside and just be with the person. Just be present, and not have any of the "Oh, what a good guy I am! Oh, what a great job I'm doing!" Any of that. And I want that feeling with me when I go out into the street and attempt to make a point to our government that their neglect of this crisis, to me as a gay man, is paramount to genocide. And that my brothers and sisters are out there dying and nobody seems to be giving a damn. But I want to be able to say it without that anger.
RAM DASS I experience a lot of pain in a great deal of social action in this society. I feel in the activists so much pain and so much anger. And I realize that they feel they are doing what is right. And I honor them. At the same moment there are certain kinds of anger that polarize. There are certain kinds of anger that just create waves out and out and out and out.
JOANNA MACY Where anger goes sour is when it denies its source in the pain. You began, bless you, with saying that the social activists, and I know many and I just love 'em. So many of them ready to risk their hide. Of course they get angry. And they're as full of faults as anybody else. But they're letting caring take hold of their lives. And each one, when you pick up one issue, whether it's oil spills--look at what happened at the Valdez oil spill or anywhere else--there are oil spills every day. Whether it's extinction of the species, whether it's the rainforest--the old growth forest up here in Northern California, the Pacific Northwest--whether it's hunger, homelessness, you know. The more you learn about it, you start taking a step and then you learn some more. So you find--and I find myself warning people about this--that it's much worse than you thought, when you begin to do your homework. When you take off the blinders and look. So the pain is huge.
JOHN SEED To me, it's a dangerous thing, because it's not the anger itself, it's the kind of suppressed anger, almost, that I feel. And it's also a lot of depression that's involved in it as well. In a sense, we feel guilty. We are destroying the earth. We beat ourselves. We have to feel bad because of this, you know, and it pushes people away. So when we see this, then we think, well, what has to happen is that everybody has to come to take part of the suffering into themselves, and feel it, so that we can allow our behavior to change. And we who are already doing this have to be so attractive that, in spite of the pain, people still want to do whatever it is that we're doing. So it becomes our duty in a way to be, you know, life-affirming and joyful.
Because we're now in the amazing position where the amounts of radioactive waste that exist on the earth are such that if we were to disappear, whether by suicide or some other way, then all of that radioactive waste would get loose. We now have no choice but to be the guardians of that radioactive waste for the next 250,000 years, and that's all that there is to it.
ROBERTO VARGAS To create the well-being that earth needs, we need allies. We need each other. We need to embrace each other with an understanding in which we can be there for each other.
In Chicano-Indio, in Indio/Native American tradition, in the tradition of Indios from Canada down to Chile, oftentimes we do a burning of sage. This is white sage. When we burn sage, for us it means, "Let's make time sacred. Let's make time special. Let's bring our courage to this moment--opening a window to our ancestors." Because the work that we do tonight is so important, we want all our ancestors here. We want all our grandfathers and grandmothers here. Picture them. Feel them. We want their presence.
We invite all the unborn children here. The work we do tonight is so important that we want all of the spirits to be with us--to laugh with us, to struggle with us, to help us with our courage, to help us with our truth.
JOANNA MACY There is nothing, perhaps, more awful to accept than that we have knowingly fabricated this plutonium that will go right into the DNA and that will devastate us and other beings for ten thousand generations. And we don't want to see it. We want to bury it. Put it under the ground, put it out of sight, out of mind.
And, of course, we're knowing, we're learning as a people, that it doesn't work to hide things. And that when you try put something, to hide it, it contaminates your whole life.
Our government wants to hide it, not because they don't have the technology to contain it--for a short while--but because they think they must contain it forever without human intervention, because they don't figure in the factor of mindfulness. If you factor in paying attention to it, keeping your eye on it, being present to it, then we have ample technology now.
RAM DASS Keeping it above ground and monitoring it.
JOANNA MACY But you have to keep it where you can see it. And that's the one thing we don't want to do. We say, "Oh, no, anything else, please! Change the subject. No. Anything! Don't make us face what we've done!"
Just the image, just the vision, of guardianship is healing, because it heals us with the beings of the future. We have cut off our relationship to the future out of such deep guilt. And then the very people before whom we felt the deepest shame are there to help us.
So, those on whose behalf you think you're acting become those through whom the power comes. Now this is very good news, see. At least for me it's very good news. Because I don't have enough courage. I don't have enough smarts. I don't have enough love. Frankly, I don't even care enough, to do what must be done. But I don't need to. Because I am in that deep ecology of all beings. We are as interwoven as nerve cells. So we mustn't feel alone now in this time. We have many unseen companions.
RAM DASS What are the fundamental premises and values of contemporary civilization that are wrong, that are defeating this purpose?
JOHN SEED Well, I think that the first one is that chauvinism which sees human beings as being at the center of everything. It's the same spirit that had astronomers being executed a few centuries ago for refusing to acknowledge that the earth was the center of the universe, and it's that idea that we are special. Well, of course, we're special. But that we are more special than anything else, you know? And so that seems to me to be the fundamental error. And it seems to be an error of..., it's like we don't really feel superior. What we feel is, we feel inferior, we feel invalid. And, therefore, we puff ourselves up in this way, you know.
And that when we let go of that, and when we see that our role for the future of the earth is far less important than the role of, say, the decomposing bacteria--it's easy to imagine the earth going on without us, but without the decomposing bacteria, it's hard to see how anything could happen. And so once we let go of that and see that we are just a plain member of the biota--nothing special--then we can see that everything is incredibly special, including us, do you know? And then there can be real pride, but it's not a pride of superiority--of pushing against other things, and making other things be low in order to be high. It's just to realize how high everything is.
RAM DASS I love the image of miracle, that any moment the whole game can change.
JOHN SEED Well, it may be that it's one of those situations that if there are twelve honest men in Sodom, the Lord will spare the city. I mean, it could be one of those situations, you know, like the hundredth monkey or whatever it is, where if there are enough people who badly and seriously and earnestly and with their whole lives say, "We've been here for four thousand million years on this beautiful planet and we want to continue. We don't want to stop now." You know, most people just,... "It's too hard," you know. And so, they know that it's coming to an end, but somehow there's not enough perspective. But maybe if there's enough people who say, "It's not too hard, we'll do whatever we have to do," then, you know, it could be that that's the conditions for that miracle, who can say?
JOANNA MACY In my tradition, Christian tradition, in which I was born, grace was dispensed by God. God takes many forms, as you know. And so I am open, I'm aware of how much grace comes through each of us for each other.
And so you don't need to have to believe in a god. It's okay if you don't. Just be open to the grace that comes when you can embrace the suffering and embrace your fellow being. And that's all you need to know.
And then you venture. And each thing you risk leaves you open to get more of that.
RAM DASS Every breath becomes grace under those conditions. What isn't grace? What isn't grace? I mean you've taken nuclear waste. I mean, the most horrible thing that human beings can think of and you see it now as something that can bring us into grace. That's extraordinary.
ROBERTO VARGAS [burning sage] We give thanks. We give thanks for this school we have tonight. We give thanks that we can come together.
Grandfather, Grandmother, thank you for all that we have, for the wealth that we share, for our talents, for our abilities to see, for our abilities to hear. Grandfather, Grandmother, thank you for all that we have.
As we're here tonight, we acknowledge that our earth needs healing. Our earth needs healing. Our community needs healing. Much healing is necessary. Healing is to make more whole. Our path is to create greater wholeness--within ourselves, with each other, with this earth.
Tonight is about courage. It's about truth. It's about working with truth and courage, to look inside, to know more, to feel the pains, the hurts, the confusions. Because that is growing, that is learning.
Let us take in all of the experience that we have today. Help us to be open, Grandfather, Grandmother, because today is about becoming more community. Truly becoming more brother/sister, more allies.
Again, thank you for all that we have, all that we are, and help us to be all that we need to be to serve all around us.
OAKLAND INTERFAITH GOSPEL CHOIR
You are my All and All
And without you, Lord, I know
That I would fall
You pick me up
Turn me around
Place my feet on solid ground
And that is why, that's why you're my All and All.
©1998 Choice Point