Overgrow the Government

One of my favorite Green Party bumper stickers says “Vote Green: Overgrow the Government.” I may not be a member of the Green Party, but I’m certainly a supporter and an ally, so I don’t feel too bad about using part of their slogan as a focusing point for my latest thoughts on revolution. The difference, though, is that we’ll be doing more than just voting, and it’s more than just the government that needs overgrowing.

I’ve been reading Starhawk’s book Truth or Dare, and even though I’m only about halfway through, I’m already finding myself once again inspired and transformed by her writing. It’s a bit dated, and it’s not my favorite book of the series, but it’s still filled with the rich strands of radical analysis and powerful “mytho-poetic exploration” that make her writings always worth reading.

One of the most exciting aspects so far has been her exploration of the social evolution from the Goddess worshipers at the dawn of history to the patriarchal societies that supplanted them. Of course, I don’t believe that any of us know for certain what really happened back in those days… but based on the information available to her, Starhawk offers her telling and framing of the tale through a mix of ordinary text, fictionalized accounts of a day in the life of an ancient Goddess-worshiper, and poetry between the chapters.

It’s amazing to consider the possibility of societies that may have existed before patriarchy, and war, and the rule of kings and corporations. It’s amazing to experience what a living, breathing, personal moment from one of those societies may have been like. And yet, it’s equally devastating to continue forward through history and witness the descent into a war-mongering, life-annihilating, freedom-destroying, global madness.

Was it really necessary? Did we have to tumble headlong into several thousand years of violence and oppression just to learn how truly precious life, and love, and joy, and freedom, and equality really are? Or is there some way that we could have avoided it all?

Who knows. But whatever the case, the world is burning all around us, and I for one am in favor of doing everything that we can to heal and liberate ourselves, each other, and the planet,

One of the big steps that I haven’t talked about much in this blog lies in the difference between “power-over,” “power-with,” and “power-within.” Power-Over is when a person uses some form of coercion in order to achieve some supposed personal gain. Power-Within is when a person relies on their own inner strength, creativity, and personal resources to achieve some goal. Power-With is a balancing act where people choose to cooperate with one another in a free and egalitarian manner in order to achieve their common goals.

One of the biggest flaws in revolutions past is that they’ve often been stuck in the rut of Power-Over. The thinking goes something like this:

“The King is using his army to oppress us. We need to raise our own army/mob to attack and defeat his army. If we can hit them harder and faster and better than they hit us, we win.”

At times, there’s something to be said for this argument. In the short term, especially on a personal self-defense level, circumstances may leave you with little choice but to choose between using force or suffering dearly from the use of force against you. Therefore, I can’t really fault peasants for using force to overthrow their violent king, or people in occupied nations for using force to overthrow their violent occupiers. But in the long-term, all that the violent rebel has done is demonstrated to the king, to themselves, and to the world that the only sure way to solve problems is by using force to assert our power over others. If the rebels truly have freedom and justice in their hearts, then a brief period of freedom and justice may ensue. But eventually, the same logic that put them in power will destroy any good intentions, and the cycle will continue.

The only way off of this mad merry-go-round is to develop entire societies of people who think, feel, and act differently. The only way to create a socially just, ecologically viable, economically cooperative, and politically free society is to grow that society from the grassroots — in the heart and mind of each and every citizen.

To some, this may seem like an absurd, fantastic, wildly utopian notion. How can we truly hope to grow a new society from the ground up? How can we encourage people to live in a radically more free and cooperative way when the current organization of society is all that they know? But when you think about it, at some point in history, the societies that we all live in grew from the ground up. It may have taken years, or centuries, or even millennia, but their internal and external landscapes changed so dramatically that they wouldn’t be able to grasp the psychology or social-political dynamics of their great-great grandchildren.

Maybe if we do things right today, our great-great grandchildren will know a life so wonderful that it will be beyond our comprehension.

That’s my dream, my passion, the one great shining beacon on the horizon that fills my heart with hope. When I connect deeply with my heart, and the hearts of those around me, and the heart of the Earth, I see a vision of our potential for liberation and actualization that goes beyond anything I can articulate. My hope is that if we all pursue our own unique interpretation of this vision, then we really will grow a new society that is radically better than the old. With our aid, our descendants may one day find the power within themselves to co-create a world of such freedom, such joy, love, such beauty, such harmony, that our 21st century minds would scarcely be able to comprehend it all.

A better world will only come into being if we start growing it today. In our personal lives, we must choose freedom, cooperation, love, passion, joy, and hope. In our communities, we must choose connection, cooperation, and transformation of our social, economic, political ecological, and spiritual relationships. If we do this, then a new society will grow in the cracks of the crumbling blacktop parking lots of the old society. At first, they will use their power-over to spray weedkiller on us and drive us back beneath the pavement. But in the end, if we focus on power-with and power-within rather than trying to best them at the game of who can be the most powerful combatant, then we WILL be growing a world that our children, and our children’s children, will be truly happy to call home.

I’m excited about that possibility. I’m also excited about some of the possibilities on the horizon in my life and in Southern Illinois. I’ll have more news on these soon… in the meantime, I’m up in the suburbs of Chicago visiting family, so I’m going to go and actually visit with my family! This has been a good trip so far, but I’ll be happy to make it back home to Southern Illinois for many more adventures…

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The Question of Revolution

I had one helluva good time last Saturday at my early birthday party. It was a relatively small gathering by Carbondale party standards, but I like how smaller gatherings actually let me talk to people. It had a good mix of work friends, D&D friends, and political friends. And truth be told, most of these qualifiers are arbitrary since in most cases, our friendship runs deeper than the context we may have met in. With such good friends gathered together, a good time was almost inevitable. We talked, we joked, we made simple music, we ate yummy foods, we played games, and more. We laughed; we cried; we hurled; and a good time was had by all.

For one night, then, I found myself celebrating the joy that is life. In fact, I found myself feeling very happy and fulfilled well into the next day, despite the fact that I had to work. But somehow, some peculiar warp in my consciousness always seems to take blissful experiences and eventually convert them into fuel for my restless, relentless, infamous, almost manic revolutionary impulse. And so, less than 24 hours after the start of a party that gave me a renewed sense of joy and satisfaction in life, I found myself feeling a renewed and more fervent commitment to the question of revolution.

A lot of my less political friends — and even some of the more political ones — may wonder what manner of madness leads me to think such seemingly depressing thoughts after such a wonderful experience. Yes, there are all sorts of problems in the world — but can’t I just have fun for once in my life without worrying about all of that?

Well, that’s actually something I’m learning to do more and more these days. If I talked about politics or revolution that night, it was brief, and I don’t even remember it today. What I do remember — and what I experienced quite fully — is a carefree night of good fun with good friends and little if any concern about the problems of the outside world. even so, I think that there are two reasons why such fun and uncomplicated experiences inevitably end up driving me further and further in the direction of revolution.

First of all, on some level, I think they trigger in me the fear that I will forget about everything I’ve learned and everything that needs to be changed. In Matrix terms, they trigger the fear that I may one day take the blue pill and forget about the need to liberate ourselves and each other from the Matrix. I mean, I don’t seem to have much power in this system anyway… so why not just abandon my deeper aspirations and spend the rest of my life pursuing good food, good games, and other delights of earthly existence?

This is a reasonable fear, and a real temptation that sometimes rises within me. But really, I know myself well enough to realize that I can never really go back to that existence. That fear alone is not enough to explain what’s happening. However, there’s another, deeper reason why all of these moments of joy in my life drive me further in the direction of revolution.

They make the beauty of life itself feel more real to me.

When my consciousness first started awakening to the horrors of the world, I was still just a child. At the age of six, I can remember going to sleep one cold November night with a vague but overwhelming fear that Ronald Regan’s re-election was opening the door for a nuclear holocaust. And I didn’t understand any of it at the time, but no matter how my mother tried to shield me, growing up poor as the child of a single mother quickly exposed my emerging empathic senses to countless examples of a community, a society, and a world in crisis. As my capacity for perception and reflection matured, my understanding of the world’s problems deepened. By the time adolescence had come and gone, my short circuiting empathy had flipped a breaker switch in my heart, leaving me to identify more with the sentient robots and superhuman heroes of fiction than with any living, breathing human beings.

For years, that was the story of my life. For years, I kept my deepest human emotions at bay — always aware of them, always touched by them, never fully succeeding at cutting them off, but always so afraid of their intensity that the only thing I could really feel was a deep anxiety.

At first, this ability to keep my emotions at bay seemed like a blessing — or at least a necessary evil. After all, how could I possibly act against all of the suffering in the world if I found myself overwhelmed with grief and sorrow every time I bore witness to yet another atrocity? I felt as though my ability to disconnect emotionally were the only thing protecting me from going mad as I watched so many people — and an entire planet! — suffering and dying under the yoke of such unthinkable oppressions.

And so, for years I supported revolutionary causes through some impersonal sense of duty, with all of my most personal human emotions held back for safekeeping. But then, a few years ago, I finally started to understand what I was missing. This disconnection and resultant anxiety and depression was not only eating me alive, but also distancing me from the very people and planet I loved so dearly. It left me personally disheartened; it left me ineffective at understanding and organizing with people who actually HAVE emotions; and ultimately, it was a great sacrilege against my deep-held belief that the human heart is a wonder of nature meant to be cherished and nourished.

And now, with the fullness of my humanity slowly returning, I’ve learned at least two important truths. The first is that yes, these human emotions really do bring me an incredible amount of pain when I stay with them in the presence of the world’s horrors. Yes, feeling a deeply personal human love in my heart while bearing witness to the world’s atrocities does drive me to the brink of madness, and I probably couldn’t have handled it as an adolescent.

But you know what? I’ve learned that this human heart of mine, and the love that it carries, is both my greatest treasure in my life and my greatest tool in seeking revolution.

Before, revolution was merely a duty. When I distanced myself from my own human emotions, I felt distant from humanity itself, and the Earth itself. Revolution, then, became some sort of abstract duty — all-consuming, yes, but devoid of real passion or power.

Now, revolution is a passion for me. I see my family, my friends, my fellow community members, my fellow beings on Planet Earth, and I feel a tremendous, deep, personal, human love for all of them. And in our moments of joy together, I have an ecstatic experience of our deepest potential to be happy, to be free, to live together in harmony and freedom and peace. And when the moment passes, I am sooner or later reminded of WHY the moment has passed — why the joy, the friendship, the excitement have all given way to the oppressive mix of boredom, frustration, and sorrow that fills so many of our lives. And I am reminded of the people who never find even a moment’s peace in this life, and the living planet that is slowly but surely being dismembered by the end results of our own inability to discover and stay connected to our deepest potentials for freedom, cooperation, and harmonious living.

Even when I felt like a robot, I felt a devout ideological commitment to helping others, and to making the world a better place. But now, as I reclaim more and more pieces of my broken human heart, that devotion is deepening beyond anything available to a robot. It’s becoming more personal, more passionate, more fierce than ever before. It’s the extreme intensity of a mother protecting her child, or a lover protecting their beloved. Every cell in my body has tasted this passion now, and every cell in my body burns with the deepest of desires to protect the people and the planet that I love.

In those precious moments when I experience true joy, whether it be with friends or alone, my love deepens. And when my love deepens, my passion for revolution deepens. Sometimes, the frustration and restlessness that this brings seems like a curse, because it’s really hard sometimes to see how one person living in Southern Illinois can hope to enact any sort of revolutionary change. But the truth is that I’m not alone, and that this deepening experience of human love is what life’s all about, regardless of how much pain it may sometimes bring me. It’s this love that makes life worth living, and this love that has the power to change the world. It’s the most precious thing I’ve ever experienced — and come what may, I am eternally grateful.

Next time, I’ll have some new and somewhat specific thoughts on how we can actually go about the whole task of revolution here in Southern Illinois and beyond. But in the meantime, I just wanted to set the details aside and express the experience, because these feelings of love and bonds of friendship are at the heart of the revolution I seek. If you do nothing else in this life, do everything in your power to deepen your experience of love and your bond of friendship with others. Do this, and your world will inevitably change for the better.

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Fighting the Frost

The weather lately has been a good metaphor for how I feel about life in general. It goes something like this:

“Here comes Spring! So much vitality rising up within to prepare for a new season of light and growth! It’s getting warmer, and warmer, and… oh, crap. Another frost? You CAN’T be serious!”

Yes, this is the story of my life lately — a slow, steady increase of inner warmth, inner light, inner fire, while the outside world remains just as cold and cruel as ever, if not more so.

It’s mostly a good thing, really. Feeling this fiery passion burning inside me reminds me of just how far I’ve come in reclaiming my emotions and releasing my pent-up vitality from the prisons of propriety and shame. The passion itself, and the associated appreciation of beauty and humanity and the Earth, is a blessing that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But the contrast between what I’m experiencing internally and externally leaves me feeling a very restless pressure to do something, ANYTHING, to change my outward circumstances for the better.

There are no words for what I feel… but all I have available to me at the moment is words, so let me try in vain to explain it all because I feel compelled to say something.

Loving non-attachment is so much more powerful than I would have ever believed possible! I’ve always had a great love in my heart… but for the longest time, my heart was ruled by fear. I wanted desperately to love, but I was afraid that love would lead to pain and suffering, so I held back, waiting for the right moment. Then I learned an important truth:

The right moment is now.

Now is the time to let go of all of your fears and surrender yourself to the power of your own love. Tomorrow never comes; now is always with you; and the price of a life without the full presence of your love is more terrible than any pain and suffering that love may supposedly bring. And whether you can feel it right now or not, your love is a tremendous force longing to spring forth from the core of your being. Embrace it now, if only for a moment, in whatever ways you can, and your real life with start today.

It’s taken me years, but I’m going deep and deeper into the bottomless depths of loving non-attachment. The more I let go of my fears, doubts, and inhibitions, the more beauty I see in the world, and the more love I feel. As time goes on, my experience of the world is evolving into a prolonged ecstatic experience.

Pretty cool, eh?

Dullness to my surroundings is transformed into a glimpse of the sky. The sky is transformed into a sunrise. The sunrise is transformed into a breathtaking palette of colors and textures. Colors and textures evolve into a mystical poetic synesthesia, as I look up at the heavens and experience a profound kinesthetic sense of the divine beauty of earth and sky. And even then, the experience evolves further, with my appreciation of divine beauty triggered through conversations with friends, or a particularly colorful wall, or even a ridiculously mundane banner ad on MySpace.

On an intellectual and spiritual level, I’ve been certain for a long time now that we human beings have the potential to do so much more with our lives than we are currently doing. But as I let go of my barriers to love, this becomes more than a matter of impersonal understanding. Instead, it deepens into a profoundly personal experience — an emotional and physical sense of what life could be like, and would be like, if only we chose differently.

In these moments, I feel such tremendous clarity of purpose that I ought to be able to move mountains with the sheer power of my ecstatic energy. But there’s still something getting in the way… either the sheer force of 6 billion other humans is holding me back, or the particulars of the revolutionary path from today’s reality to a better reality are still not clear or correct enough yet in my mind to enact change effectively.

Really, I think it’s a combination of the two.

Either way, I’ve been feeling lately like I’m about to burst. I’ve had some exceptional times with my friends lately, and that’s helped to keep me sane… I love my friends dearly, and my time with them has been part of the inspiration for this deepening ecstatic experience of the world. But since none of it has really served to shift the overall circumstances of my life and community, I find a core of frustration building that no amount of directionless good times can release.

What I crave is a way to take all of this passion and channel it into some constructive means of creating positive change in my life and my community. My passion is a tremendous energy source… an inner sun that only grows in power with time. What I’m looking for is a way to focus this energy like a laser, and possibly combine it with the energies of other like-minded individuals in pursuit of some cooperative, revolutionary, community goals.

As usual, I’ve got a few ideas along these lines… but it’s going to take some serious conversations with good friends before I can figure out which of these ideas may actually be practical and effective at creating change.

In the meantime, this entry has helped… but I’m still feeling restless. So, I’m off in search of revolution…

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Spring Into Action

I’m feeling such an intensity of revolutionary passion right now that I really don’t want to be sitting in front of a computer. I want to be out in the woods, or out in the streets, or out dancing with all of my best friends, or making love out in the moonlight. But since none of those other options seem possible right now, I’m going to pick up where I left off last time and throw in a bit of Spring exuberance for good measure.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t come to this lovely planet of ours to sit idly by while the forces of destruction and domination tear everything to pieces. Life here is so beautiful! The earth and sky are a living sculpture of colors, and even the most conformist of the people who live here are such complex and fascinating souls that I could explore the depths of their lives forever. The more I let go of my lingering attachments, the more free I am to have an increasingly more profound, more personal, and more ecstatic experience of that beauty. Yet even as I feel this beauty in every cell of my body, I can also feel the steady march of a so-called progress that threatens to tear all of this to pieces.

Why, oh why, do so many of my fellow humans allow themselves to be swept up into systems of horrific destruction that threaten to extinguish life as we know it? Sure, we were born into it, and it’s hard to break out of it from within. There are so many paths to conformity, and so few paths to change. But if a few of us can see through the lies of consensus reality, then why can’t all of us break the spell? Why, instead, do so many fall in line behind our so-called leaders and the systems of domination that actively enact our own enslavement and mass destruction?

Forgive them, Earth Mother, they know not what they do…

Call me a radical if you like. Call me a fanatic, or a zealot, or an extremist. But whatever you do, don’t call me apathetic, because my passion is the bane of all apathy. I vow now, as I have vowed so many times, that I will not leave this lovely planet of ours until the Earth is whole again, and all people are free, and joy runs rampant through the four corners of every land.

Passion alone, however, is not enough. Only passion focused by discipline, channeled in the service of some collective strategy, will be enough to bring the Earth some measure of freedom, peace, and happiness.

So what do we do? How do we channel our passion for a better world into some sort of concrete course of action that will effectively create the change that we desire?

This brings us back to magic. Magic is all about raising energy and directing it toward the creation of change within us and around us. Whether you see this as a poetic metaphor or an explanation of some very real but oft-unseen forces of nature, it’s still a good framework for action.

Your mission, then, should you choose to accept it, is to turn your entire life into one great big ongoing spell that will create the changes you desire.

Do you want to live in a more peaceful world? Then you must learn to eat peace, drink peace, awaken to peace, and dream of peace. In this way, your understanding of peace will deepen, and every action you take will be infused with that knowledge of peace. You will become an architect of peace, or a sculptor of peace, or a musician of peace, or a dancer of peace, creating works of beauty that establish a physical home for peace. Once you have created space for peace in the world, you can expand that space and connect it with other similar spaces, building a network of peace that envelopes the Earth and transforms it into a place of peace.

I realize that all of that may still sound too abstract and mystical for some people. But it’s a start — an overarching vision that can serve as a foundation for the particular actions we take toward peace, and justice, and freedom, and joy, and harmony with the Earth.

Each of us is a living, breathing spell. As we cast our personal spell each day, we are shaping the world around us, whether we like it or not. If our spell doesn’t actively seek to bring greater joy, and freedom, and justice, and peace into the world, then the energy we are raising each day is going to be sucked away from us to fuel the existing system of domination and destruction. If, on the other hand, we make a conscious effort to reorganize our lives in the service of our most benevolent and joyful visions of the world, then we have already succeeded in challenging the system from within, even if our actions have no immediately visible outward effect.

Let us turn every moment, then, of every day, into a spell for a better world.

How do we do it? How do we break the harmful spell of the existing system and cast a healing spell of our own?

There are no easy or universal answers. But if you ask me, it all starts with our experience of joy. When we feel a deep sense of joy, we are usually experiencing a degree of harmony between our innermost hopes and dreams and the circumstances of our external reality. Our joy, then, is one of our greatest guides in the pursuit of our dreams.

What brings you joy in life? I’m not just talking about idle entertainment, but true joy that runs deeper than any fleeting amusement. If you can find such joy, even for a moment, then you’ve discovered a clue about your own personal path to revolution.

Revolution, however, goes beyond the personal experience of joy. Revolution seeks to take this experience of personal empowerment and make it available to as many people as possible. Once you’ve found a piece of your own joy, look into the joys and sorrows of others around you and search for new understandings and experiences. Your joy is an end unto itself, but the true magic starts when the energy raised by your joy also becomes a means to supporting the joy of others. How can your own pursuit of happiness also help others to become more free and joyful?

As you experience this joy, and feel the flow of joy and sorrow through the lives of others, you will become more sensitive to the ebb and flow of energy in general. This awareness will increase your ability to enact revolutionary change in cooperation with those around you. What physical, emotional, mental, social, economic, and ecological structures are in place around you to control the flow of energy? What are some of the “bottlenecks” in these systems that cause the most harm and suffering? How can you and your loved ones reshape this “energy infrastructure” to support a smoother and deeper flow of joy and freedom?

There are people in this world with a detailed understanding of such energy systems who actively use their knowledge to do harm. They seek to gain power by creating and maintaining social, economic, and political systems that actively harm and oppress others. In essence, they are casting a spell — a spell that allows them to suck the joy out of other people’s lives in pursuit of ever-greater levels of power for themselves. They are the tyrants, the fascists, and the profiteers of the world — and on the surface, their spell seems quite powerful and successful.

But we can use our own understanding of these energy systems to serve in our own liberation and the liberation of the entire world. On an individual level, we can do everything in our power to break free of their oppressive systems and bring more joy and freedom into our lives. On a community and society level, we can channel energy — in the form of money, and time, and land, and other forms of tangible wealth — toward the creation and maintenance of our own cooperative, humanitarian, ecological, and liberatory systems of energy. The spell that the oppressors are casting is powerful — but the spell that we cast, individually and collectively, will be even more powerful than anyone can currently imagine. Through our love of life, our endless creativity, and our dedication to our visions for creating a better world, we will cast a spell so powerful that nothing will ever be the same again.

I know that all of the above may be a bit long-winded and non-linear. But the basic message that I hope you will take with you is that each of us carries an incredibly beautiful and powerful spark of creative magic within us. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone convince you to ignore or dismiss or doubt the presence of this power within. Instead, use your own joy, passion, and intuition as a guide in finding that spark of magic. Know that when you and your loved ones share this spark with each other, you will discover the power to change your lives — and the world — for the better.

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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