I woke up early this morning and it did not take long for the tears to come.
Four years ago, I was numb at this point. After almost fifteen straight months of daily and nightly work, of writing and editing and researching and arguing and convincing and listening, there was really no more to say. All I had to do was to monitor and moderate for two more days. The Kerry-Edwards Blog was coming to a close and I was more than ready for it to be over.
Richard's words of the day before had chilled me to the bone, however. As we were getting into the car that Sunday morning, he stopped. I said, "What's wrong?" He paused and then, in a very quiet voice, said "I just have a horrible feeling that all over the country people are hearing in church that they have to vote for George Bush."
We didn't speak much after that. I could see his point, but it was hard to believe that the picture in my head, of busloads of non-thinkers being driven to the polls and marched in to pull the levers to continue the horrors of illegal war, torture, and loss of human rights, would actually happen.
I spent election day, and election night, and the next day, and the next night, under an onslaught of people's hopes, wishes, dreams, stories, and ultimately, their sense of betrayal, crushing disappointment, and rage. From that was born the Democracy Cell Project, with our hope that by organizing small squads of well-researched and participatory conversations, online and off-, a change would come about.
I've spent the past four years writing, marching, organizing, listening, planning, choreographing, analyzing, creating, thinking, observing, and praying for what is right here, right now. I've argued, despaired, gritted my teeth, heard untold stories and written up some of those tales of courage, fear, yearnings, and losses.
But mostly, I've watched as each of you, dear readers, changed the world.
This morning, I blessed you all. I've blessed the Obama campaign as well, noting that they have created what we tried to promote: the most effective and empowering online/offline strategy in the history of politics.
And now for the tears of this morning:
I've thought a lot about change and hope recently. I watch Barack Obama, with his assured flow, outwardly generous and inwardly private, comprehensive, listening, taking his time, and I think: he's going to be just fine. He needs the grassroots and the grasstops, the Colin Powells and the single moms, but once elected, he will do what he needs to do.
And then what?
As hard as we have worked, as much as we have cared, as assuredly as we have spoken truth to power, as many neighbors and friends we have taken on and shared truth with, we stand now at the threshold, not at the end of the journey. We stand at the abyss. We are about to cross the river. And we have no idea of what awaits us.
All we know, all we CAN know, is that A Change is Gonna Come. It is not coming TO us, however. It is coming IN us. As much as we can celebrate our sense of hope, the light in the darkness, we also need to recognize the nature of the shifting we have yet to do.
IF Barack Obama wins this week, and the mandate for change and illumination is clear, we have a journey to commence. The journey has three stages, or levels, and we cannot overlook any aspect of these.
ZONE ZERO: First of all, each of us must commit to taking care of ourselves, our bodies, our immediate space. This means: deep exercise, paying off debt, eating local products (preferably organic), reducing personal garbage, completing tasks, meeting commitments, picking up trash, recycling, researching, writing, sharing information, learning, breathing, nurturing. Everything each of us does matters. Everything resonates. Everything affects the world. If we have not learned that in the last four years, we have missed the lesson.
COMMUNITY: We have evolved to the point where each of us belongs to many communities; so many, in fact, that a good part of our day is devoted to just paying attention to however many we can. Family, religion, neighborhood, work cohort, online groups, etc. all call us out, endlessly. We can easily feel pulled in too many directions at once, with little time and energy for self (see above). A tension exists at all times between the individual and the group, between ego and society, between person and other. We will need to figure out how to ride those tensions like a rope swing. I'm not, I hope, describing a mad careening in which each of us feels yanked in different directions, but an evolved ability to attend, attune, share, care, support, listen, respond, contribute and then shift back into taking care of self. Conscious practice required.
PLANET: I believe we are going to hear from the world, and the message is not going to be entirely positive. I believe that the two major issues that will be directly and effectively addressed to our immediate attention will be torture and climate change. We have, as a country, committed grievous crimes, and we owe the people of the world far more than an apology. We owe them change. They will see hope in this election, but hope is not enough. Hopes are easily dashed, by passivity, indifference, our own victimhood.
And so, the tears flow, because I am tired, I am afraid, I am overwhelmed with the tasks in front of us. I’ve been looking across that river for some time now; I am aware of others quietly watching nearby. We speak of it in whispers: Are you feeling OK? Are we ready? What about those who will turn against the tasks, blaming Obama for the necessity of change? What if they curse the darkness and refuse to notice the light ahead?
And the tears flow on, because what if we, and they, do?