"Seeding the future when possible extinction stares us in the face; seeding freedom when the freedoms of all beings are being closed for the limitless freedom of the one percent to exploit the Earth and people, to manipulate life and our minds: this calls for a quantum leap in our imaginations, our intelligences, our capacity for compassion and love, as well as our courage for creative nonviolent resistance and noncooperation with a system that is driving us to extinction."
—Vandana Shiva, Oneness vs The 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom
Words, as Bruce Lee's character says in Enter the Dragon, are "the finger pointing to the moon," not the moon itself. The moon is the reference point, and I am too easily enthralled by the finger.
One such word is "presence." There is the ordinary meaning, as in the case of the teacher taking attendance. I hear my name and mechanically ejaculate "present!" indicating that my body is in the room, though my attention and whole inner life may be elsewhere.
At another depth of meaning, to be present means to be here with my attention, sensing my body, mindful, present in my heart. I experience something closer to presence when I am dwelling in all aspects of my nature together, moment by moment and breath by breath.
Inevitably, for me, this presence, which bears no compromise or departure to imagination, evokes the image of the crucifixion. The effort and determination of presence carries this sense of being affixed to the moment, at the intersection of time and eternity. I look to the past, and to the future and voluntarily commit to staying here, now, present with my attention.
What, you may be wondering, does all this talk about presence have to do with the quote from Vandana Shiva at the beginning of this missive?
First to say, she is, for me, one of a few living public heroes of today. She is a champion of nature, of the underprivileged, of tradition, and of mother nature. She battles ceaselessly against the destructive forces of capitalism and commodification that, I believe, can rightly be called evil.
The point of the quote is to suggest that we are living through a present moment that is rife with potential for the conception of a new world view. Under the stress of oppressive conditions we (which is to say you and I and even all of humanity) can become really present. In presence we can be impartial. From impartiality we can see that the dominant patriarchal worldview and its outgrowth in the structure and life of society are fundamentally deluded, misguided, and destructive in every detail and every respect. From this presence, and without reference to corruption and its engendering history of crimes, we can begin to conceive a different future. We can stop the world and imagine, or in the language of shamanism, dream the future of humanity.
Every aspect of our modern society rests on a false foundation. Education doesn't teach but indoctrinates. Healthcare doesn't make people well but causes chronic illness and dependence on technological intervention. The economic system converts real value in human and natural ecosystems to derivative commodity and abstract currency. Governments don't care for people but control them as resources and markets for corporate exploitation. The legal system doesn't bring justice but facilitates overt and subtle forms of segregation and slavery. Media doesn't provide reliable information but propagandizes and censors what its oligarchic owners want people to believe. The whole system is broken and so our preparation of the future cannot be an improvement, but must be something completely new.
The future is a question, an inquiry for each of us to ponder, on our own and together. Every deed, act, and manifestation begins with a creative image. What is the image of a humanity that is rooted in wholeness and the interconnectedness of life; that cares for natural and social ecosystems; that recognizes value in what is shared, in the commons; that feels awe in the face of the mystery of reality; that follows a common aim to love everything that breathes?
In allowing ourselves to receive a creative vision of future humanity, we are relieved of the need to reject what is and what has been. In this, our creative nonviolent resistance and noncooperation is not a reaction but a gentle letting go and an allowing of a new conception of the greater perfection we already are.