Thursday, May 29, 2008

last night at the VBC

starhawk, unassuming and relaxed, perched on a stool on the stage and chatted amiably with the audience for about 45 minutes. she talked about the challenges of stepping outside of hierarchical structures to work together in small groups and share power. power imbalances are inevitable, a long-term member of a group ought to have more influence than a brand new member. but she pointed out that in order to make this work, we need to have clear paths for gaining power and influence; in a non-hierarchical group this path is created by taking on tasks and completing them. she talked about trusting each other to head up projects so that we don't always have to decide everything in a group, and about holding each other accountable through clear, kind and direct feedback.

then she led the room in a spiral dance. it was magical to watch from above--a room full of disconnected people milling about, first starting to chant tentatively

the water is deep
the rapids are strong
we're caught in the current
we don't have long

so pull for your lives
the change is near
pull together
love is stronger than fear

and like a long, slow ripple, the room transformed in a matter of minutes. order spread out from the center, slowly widening to encompass the whole room and everyone in it. and a roomful of disconnected strangers turned into a room full of people connecting with each other person in a winding, ordered way. wow!

at the end, everyone stood together in concentric circles, whooping and howling with hands raised high over head. as the whooping began to die down, a powerful OM grew out from the center, spreading and grounding the energy. then starhawk suggested that we take this energy that we'd raised and give it back to the earth, and everyone knelt to the floor to send this healing energy back to mama gaia.

it felt like such a metaphor for social change in the coming times. right now, looking around, the world feels overwhelming to me. the planet and its inhabitants are suffering so much on so many levels: the rapid destruction of precious wild places and diversity of plant and animal species, widespread hunger and homelessness, wars, famines, extreme weather disasters, and a deep alienation from the things that are most precious: family, community, cultural traditions, growing food....

there are so many people in varying levels of engagement with each other and with movements for social transformation, but there is a lack of cohesion between them. the forces of greed and violence still hold the reigns of power, and continue to charge ahead with breakneck speed.

but once we reach a tipping point or critical mass of inter-connection between groups and individual people who are working for change, the transformation will fall into place with shocking rapidity and organic beauty.

as starhawk said, in these times we can't afford the luxury of being merely realistic.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


the village building convergence (VBC) is an annual event hosted by city repair, "an all-volunteer grassroots organization helping people reclaim their urban spaces to create community-oriented places." the VBC is a 2 week long convergance and celebration of neighborhood and community in portland. there are about 20 different sites all over town that are hosting builiding projects, and each day folks come out to help each other "raise the barn".

the projects run the full gamut, and are truly inspirational.

one woman is transforming her garage into a community arts garage, providing tools and workshops for various mediums including pottery, silversmithing, and fabric arts. she plans to offer some free open studio time as well as some free classes.

some other folks are giving a workshop on how to create a free-box kiosk on your corner. various neighborhoods are painting or re-painting gigantic, beautiful murals in the middle of intersections.

the runaway circus puppet theater is laying a foundation for the old boggins garage, a neighborhood theatre where the runaway circus creates and rehearses shows for the surrounding community (and beyond). another woman is building a raven-shaped cob sauna in her back yard. one guy is building a permaculture garden on a median strip.

in addition to the projects, their are tons of free workshops during the day on topics such as permaculture, natural building, medicinal plants, etc.

each night there is an evening program starting at 5pm. first dinner, then a couple of speakers, then a boogy-down to some awesome bands.

its a pretty amazing event, to say the least! there's a palpable sense of community building and strengthening as folks come together to support each other.

Monday, May 26, 2008

in my head

there's a steady refrain that sounds like this:

you're inneffectual. you're not interesting, charismetic, intelligent enough. you're too socially awkward and bad at connecting with other people. you're not creative or hard working enough to create what you want in the world.

i'm tired of hearing this refrain, and of creating this reality by replaying it in my head.