Spirituality &
Social Change

 

Forrest Craver has been doing men’s work for more than 20 years. He was senior interviewer for Wingspan: Journal of the Male Spirit for many years. He has led or co-led more than 40 retreats or workshops for men including The Mankind Project, Men in Recovery, and regional clergy retreats for United Methodist and ELCA denominations. He is a lawyer and a nationally recognized fundraising consultant for nonprofit groups. He is the author of a short book of Spiritual Poetry entitled “This Well Has No Bottom” and is finishing a book about intergenerational breakthrough approaches for boys and men in American culture. His websites are cravercreativeservices.com/and transitioncolorado.ning.com/profile/forrestcraver or eMail.He lives and works in the Denver metro area.

Collective Action: A missing element in the green movement
Conflagration
Invocation
The Necessity of Collective Action in the Green Movement
The Power of One
Reflections on the transition movement: Confessions of an activist Elder Facing Up to the Fierce Urgency of the Now!
Robert Rodale - Pioneer Advocate of Organic Farming and Family Health
Ten Years After Columbine
A Tribute to Thomas Berry
Young Men Today – Looking for a Path Forward in the Long Emergency

The Necessity of Collective Action in the Green Movement


The power of the collective action: a missing element in the Greem Movement.


Amish farmers, working in Lancaster, Pa, are following a centuries old tradition of collective action going back to Western European roots. The good news is this was last year. The bad news is that 99% of the action of barn raising or home construction or any kind of neighborhood construction is done by “paid experts.” The individual owner of the building lacks emotional and spiritual ownership because he is excluded from the task. The larger problem is that we have turned over our health care, nutrition, child care and financial independence and our marriages to “the paid experts. The paradox here is that while cherishing our individuality, we have dis-empowered our selves by turning to experts to handle many domains of our personal existence.

Richard Niebuhr and his brother Reinhold Niebuhr, two of the most prominent Protestant theologians of the 20th century, wrote extensively about the problem of “individualist overemphasis.” They considered it in “the big four sins of Western culture—along with racism, militarism and economic imperialism. My experience as a writer on enviironmental causes for thirty years and two years in the Transition Movement is that “the greens” by and large are tone deaf and visually impaired when it comes to seeing the absolute for collective team action. More recently the books of Scott Peck, especially People of the Lie, address this issue in contemporary culture.

There is a huge briar patch out there which is thorny and hard to navigate. Four primary parts making up this briar patch of difficulty s are the following:

FIRST, the breakdown of inter-generational bonds within each gender line making cooperation between older and young males more difficult. The same is true to a lesser extent for women.

SECOND, is the tension and distrust between men and women which makes corporate team action by men and women working together on a team more difficult. This is the residual shadow of feminism and a still partially unresolved patriarchal culture.

THIRD, is racial distrust and vast cultural differences. Denver, for example has a vast Native American population. I am told there are 30,000 Navajo in the Denver metro and many Lakota people and other tribal groups. The engagement of these populations within the green movement is almost non-existent.

FOURTH is the fear driven quest for maintaining middle class life styles which cuts the nerve of volunteerism and financial giving to non profit causes.

Notwithstanding all of these briar patch issues, there is no way into the future without corporate action. I say this in light of the darkening clouds of our future rooted in depletion of oil and gas, climate change and accelerating economic instability.

What I mean by corporate action is a team of men and women showing up on the ground at a specific day and time. They are on the same page. They see the need and they do the deed. They share the same core values and they are friends in the best sense of the word. In past essays I have addressed the issue of movement building. See transitioncolaroado.ning.com/members/forrest craver for numerous blog essays on Building the Movement.

Not only the transition movement but many nonprofit and voluntary groups do the first stage of movement building –Awakenment –fairly well. New people come to an event and see a new paradigm image for sustainable community and they get excited.

But then the local green group fails to step into stage two of movement building –formation. FORMATION is about forming people into task forces, committees, pods and work teams formed through personal affinity – that is the people self select their specific mission for future engagement. People work together mainly because they enjoy and like the people they are working with. In the awakenment process, the standard wisdom is that “openings close.”

In other words, if awakened individuals are not followed up with, they turn away and find something else to engage their time. In the Gospels, Jesus alludes to this issue by saying if he casts out all the demons, and the person, previously possessed, does not step into the New, and embody the New Paradigm of transformed living – he then ends up worse off than before.

I often tell the story of Lifespring, a training group across the USA which did in depth consciousness trainings. Lifespring had 800, 000 grads of weekend, six month and other trainings. And two years ago they filed for bankruptcy. My wife, son and I did the entire Lifespring process. And my wife, Susan was on the national board of trustees of the Lifespring Foundation.

What happened with Lifespring is illuminating for the Green Movement and for the trainings on heart and soul the transition movement is now doing. The breakdown in Lifespring which led to its extinction, is that everything was always about Lifespring. Unlike Rotary International which turns outward and takes on eradicating polio and smallpox worldwide, Lifespring always made their mission about recruiting more people to take their trainings. They never got to the third stage of movement building – DEMONSTRATION.

Demonstration is about putting an inclusive model on the ground in a specific neighborhood where people can come and see the New. The majority of middle class folk in our country will not go “dark green” unless they can see the new model of human settlement, the new and better way of living, the new and healthier way of growing local and buying local. Your neighbors have to see your retrofitted house, your hoop greenhouse where you grow thousands of seedlings to plant with your neighbors.

They need to get a personal witness from you that you are saving money on your fuel bills, that you are eating better and healthier with your backyard organic garden, that your children are engaged with you and the entire family in planting and harvesting wonderful veggies, fruits and herbs. Nothing can ever replace the power of direct personal experience. This is the key learning from the field of accelerated learning, open space technology and leadership groups from the field of organizational development

So then what can we do about reclaiming corporate action in our time. I believe from forty years as a volunteer, participant and consultant to many social movement groups that the answer is already present is we are willing to heed the wisdom of the past. The four keys to building corporate action come from great social movements and from the fields of group social work, marketing and fundraising.

THE FIRST KEY IS RECENCY. This principle means that your activity and productivity on a team is a function of how recently you have been involved. People who are creating a community garden are most motivated if they are currently engaged in the work. As the weeks go by without their engagement they become much less motivated. I was part of a national men’s organization which studied attrition and fall off in hundreds of our groups. We found that groups meeting weekly had the very highest retention rates. The rates dropped for groups that met twice a month. And most groups that met only monthly went out of being within three years.

THE SECOND KEY IS FREQUENCY. This principle is highly correlated with recency. It means that the more frequent your engagement in a local green group, the more likely it is that you will deepen your engagement in on the ground action, in participation on task forces and in giving money to your local group.

THE THIRD KEY IS SEASONALITY. Earth Day USA got this right by picking April 22nd for its thousands of local earth day celebrations. People give the most money to causes between Thanksgiving and mid January due to Easter and other religious and cultural celebrations. People give the least money from June 15th to Labor Day when most of us kick back, put our nonprofit mailings aside and go on vacation. In the green movement with its focus on being outside growing food, retrofitting houses, the spring, summer and early fall are the very best times to advance the movement.

THE FOURTH KEY IS SEGMENTATION. Did you know when a new book arrives at Borders bookstore; there are two and sometimes three or four different and distinct book jackets. The publisher is using segmentation and testing of the marketplace to see which book jacket attracts the larges number of buyers. Within the green movement, segmentation could be used to build task forces based on affinity – for example middle school children and their teachers and parents creating a school garden. Or another example would be creating a task force of women on Preserving and Canning fruits and vegetables. Segmentation relies on affinity “birds of a feather flock together”. A good example of this is African American worship. Although racism has been significantly reduced in religious denominations, the reality is that even in highly integrated neighborhoods, most African Americans prefer to worship in black churches led by black pastors. Style and culture often seem to us to be invisible – but they are as hard as steel.

In conclusion, how is your local green group showing up in terms of attendance at meetings? formation of task forces? and sustained engagement? How are your team members doing in terms of enjoying working together? Are you retaining loyalty of volunteers and financial donors to your cause? Your comments and feedback are welcome. Send them to forrestecraver@gmail.com. And good luck as you move forward in building the movement for a better world.

A Tribute to Thomas Berry


Father Thomas Berry, a member of the Passionist order,
died June 1, 2009 at the age of 94.

The author of eight books and countless essays, Berry liked to be known as a cultural historian and “Earth scholar.”

The Dream of the Earth, published in 1998, fundamentally changed the entire conversation about environmentalism and eco-psychology.

One of the best-selling books in the entire history of the Sierra Club, The Dream of the Earth brought forward the core worldviews and understanding of indigenous cultures.

This book inspired an entire generation of new environmental activists with a more complex and heart-centered approach to the Earth and all creatures and energy systems of the universe.

His book stands with Silent Spring as a bright light and foundational legacy for the environmental movement and eco-psychologists.

Although he published later works, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future, published in 1999 provides “the other bookend” to the seminal vision of The Dream of the Earth.

In The Great Work, Berry lays out a clear challenge for current and future environmental activists and an overarching mandate for the next century. Our overall task, according to Berry, is to repair the wide-ranging damage to the Earth created by what world renowned mythology Mircae Eliade described as “the fall into the modernity.”

Berry clearly understood and amplified what Eliade meant when he said” The fall into modernity is the single most catastrophic event to ever afflict the human spirit.

In The Great Work Berry tells us that the four threads that will help us recover and heal ourselves and the Earth from the pervasive damage of the Industrial Revolution and come together to weave the fabric of our future are

First, indigenous worldview
Second, women’s consciousness and love of the earth
Third, the gifts and intellectual clarity provided by modern science and
Fourth, the wisdom of the classical religious and spiritual traditions.

Here is a memorial tribute from his niece, Ann Berry Somers:

“Thomas understood the great value of human reasoning as expressed in the scientific endeavor, but at the same time he also understood, and helped me understand, that reasoning alone does not reveal all that is real. The sacred nature of the universe is real, not something added on to the physical. Not only is it real, but it is the deepest aspect of reality.

Reasoning alone will not give us what is needed for finding our way into the future. For this, we need the knowledge only accessible to us through other means such as the direct human experience of love, passion, enchantment, joy and terror. It is the role of artists, poets, and musicians, not scientists, to help us explore this type of knowledge.

The Great Story

The moon was shining over the bay
And Thomas asked the moon “What should I say?”
The moon answered “Tell them my story”
He asked the wind “What should I say?”
The wind answered “Tell them my story”
He posed the question to the red oak, “What should I say” and
The answer was the same “Tell them my story. Tell them the mountain story, the human story, the river story, the sacred story. Tell them the Great Story.”

Thomas told The Great Story as the moon, wind, and oak entreated him to. It is the story of the Great Self and the small self. A story which bears telling and retelling as if life itself depend on it.

The Great Story weaves our lives into a fabric of a narrative larger and more important than ourselves. It is both an old story and a new story. It is new in that important details have been revealed by science, such as the depth of time, the nature the energy transformations, and how new forms emerge from other forms.

The story is old because the most fundamental part of the story emerged spontaneously as an original impulse of humanity, sung and danced by the earliest musicians and hunters and artists at the dawn of human consciousness, offering a way to apprehend and know our own being.

Thomas knew the story of the moon and the rivers and the earth and the humans were all the same story. And that the deep pathology of our time is to consider our story to be different from that of the others.

One of the consequences of such thinking is that we begin to think our future will be different from that of the old forest or the salamanders, wetlands and meadows. Such thinking dissolves into absurdity when one is conscious of The Great Story.

The Great Self

During our meetings, I enjoyed challenging Thomas and often tried being provocative, sometimes because I had a question and sometimes just to see what he would say. He seemed to enjoy this and greeted my questions with good humor. For example, when he would talk about a Universe full of meaning, I would ask: “Well, what does it mean?” He would laugh and say, ah, that is a good topic for us today!

He would go on to describe the universe as the Great Self and ourselves as the small self. “Every being has these two dimensions: its universal dimension and its individual dimension. Where the meaning or value is, is in the attraction between the Great Self and the small self.

The satisfaction we experience when we lay down in the forest, see a turtle nest on a beach, or become mesmerized watching the flow of the river – these are tangible encounters with the Great Self, the source of our inspiration, and the dimension where we experience fulfillment. It is the same with music, or building a house. The different components don’t make sense by themselves; the parts only make sense together.”

Thomas also understood death as integral to the process of life and existence. When asked about his views on death in an interview, Thomas responded “We are born of others; we survive through others; we die into others. It is part of a total process, a community process, which is what the universe is.

It is the world of the living - of birth, life, death. I think of it like a symphony,” he said: “There’s nothing that happens in time that does not have an eternal dimension. That is, like music, it is played through a sequence of notes or a sequence of time, but must be understood outside time. It must be understood simultaneously.”

“The first note and the last note have to be understood as the simultaneous experience of melody. And so the whole universe, in a certain sense, is played through in sequence but it also exists outside this sequence.”

“So we are as old as the universe and as big as the universe. That is our Great Self. We survive [death] in our Great Self.”

The future and our capacity to find our way: As regards the future, it may be useful to consider that recovering our awareness of the universe as a communion of subjects – not a collection of objects – is available to each one of us as our minds awaken to a world of wonder, our imaginations to a world of beauty, and our emotions to a world of intimacy.

We all have the capacity for acknowledging and working toward the larger fulfillment of the community which is the Great Self and fostering the relationship between the Great Self to the small self.

For within this awakening is a new spirituality – one that Thomas says “requires no prophet or priest or saint” though the teachings of the prophets, gurus, sages and philosophers - are immensely important --- and to that we would add the teachings of Thomas Berry. The new spirituality is guided by the Great Self.

So the symphony that was Thomas Berry has come to its natural end and today we commend him to The Great Self.”

Robert Rodale - Pioneer Advocate of Organic Farming and Family Health


Robert Rodale, an exponent of organic farming and the head of a publishing empire whose magazines offered the world the very best information in gardening, health and fitness, died in 1990 at the age of 60

“What can be more valuable now than a small garden, free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticide poisons, yielding food that tastes as good as the vegetables and fruits we were able to buy in markets years ago? Valuable not only to the body but to the spirit” –Bob Rodale

At the time of his death, Rodale was in the Soviet Union –working to establish a Russian-language edition of The New Farmer, one of several publications of Rodale Press devoted to an approach in farming that reduces reliance on chemicals.

A prolific thinker and writer, and activist, Robert Rodale wrote more than ten books including his classic work, Composting,,The Best Gardening Ideas I Know, Good Bug Bad Bug, Rodale Press Guide to Organic Living, Rodale’s Organic Gardening, The Prevention Guide to Better Health and Organic Way to Mulching.

The Rodale Press was founded in 1942 by J. I. Rodale, Mr. Rodale's father. The son joined the business in 1949 and built it into an internationally known publishing concern.

Their magazines included Prevention, Organic Gardening, Runner's World, Backpacker, Bicycling, Men's Health and American Woodworker.

Robert “Bob” Rodale was chairman and chief executive of Rodale Press. He devoted much of his time in recent years to the Rodale Institute, a nonprofit organization seeking to use existing resources to make agriculture more profitable and biologically sound. Few people know that Bob competed in the Olympics in rifle shooting and was inducted into the U.S, Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1991.

He formed a nonprofit – The Institute for Regenerative Agriculture -- I was privileged to work with Bob on the Institute’s membership development, direct marketing and fundraising.

A warm, light-hearted man, Bob’s enthusiasm was contagious. In private conversations with me, he would talk openly about the spirituality of gardening and the wonderment of seeing transformation from seed to plant to the fulfillment and Joy of Harvest Time!.

Decades before his time, Bob, the great visionary anticipated the the need for urban farming and considered spiritual communities and local congregations the ideal platforms for organic food production in large cities.

Rodale Press grew out of the ideas of J. I. Rodale, who grew up in New York City but became passionately devoted to the science of agriculture.

He was working as an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service in Pittsburgh in the late 1930's when he read about organic-farming research in Britain.

He bought an abandoned farm in Emmaus, Pa. to experiment with organic practices and soon he developed his doctrine of regenerative agriculture, which seeks to save and rebuild soil worn out by conventional farming.

The following year the elder Rodale began Organic Gardening & Farming, his first major publishing venture. Prevention magazine was started in 1950 and New Farm followed a few years later.

Sophisticated Marketing: Rodale Press became known for its sophisticated direct-marketing techniques that promote not only subscriptions to the magazines but the sale of books published by the company.

While most publishers seek out the young and affluent, Rodale had great success pursuing middle-aged and older readers. Although the company has sought in recent years to broaden its base among younger readers, the majority of Prevention's copies go to subscribers over 50 years of age.

Mr. Rodale traveled around the globe seeking ideas for his publications. In 1973, in China, he chanced upon a book on ear acupuncture. Against the advice of colleagues he had it translated and published in the United States. It went through several printings.

In recent years he returned to China seeking to persuade agriculture officials to reverse their quest for chemically aided farming and to return to ancient organic methods.

Bob also conceived the Prevention Index, an annual survey conducted by the Louis Harris polling organization that tracks changes in the preventive health behavior of Americans.

Although the Rodale family became wealthy from its publishing ventures, Bob who attended Lehigh University before joining his father in publishing, continued to live in a modest brick house surrounded by his beloved gardens.

At the Rodale Institute, a 305-acre experimental farm in Maxatawny, Pa., a staff of agronomists developed farming techniques that have attained worldwide use.

Robert Rodale, the son of J.I. Rodale-- founder of the organic movement in the United States -- grew up in a very exciting time. The organic pioneers worldwide were developing an idea they never knew would have such an impact on the world today.

In the United States especially, J.I. and Bob Rodale were key leaders in this pioneering group, helping to design the blueprint for today's burgeoning organic food acceptance and market expansion.

They were able to persevere and succeed during these challenging years because they found strength in each other -- strength came from an understanding, love, and respect for the soil and for nature it.

"I will always remember J.I. Rodale not only as my father, but as a man who taught me to think of myself as an organic person, trying to live in nature, striving always to improve the environment while working to improve myself, too. That was the message to me, and it will live on for a long time."

This philosophy was developed from the practical experience of working with the soil.

“My father lived on the original Organic Gardening Experimental Farm in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. He designed this diversified farm with the primary goal of growing enough organic food to feed his family.”

“A secondary goal was to conduct experiments that would help evolve and define organic gardening and farming techniques. And finally, J.I. wanted the farm to be a place where people of all ages could come and learn firsthand about the principles of gardening and farming organically.”

“But perhaps even more importantly, the original Organic Gardening Experimental Farm was the perfect training ground for what my father was to become: the world's greatest organic journalist. That farm experience -- living, working, and personally experiencing the connection between soil, human, and environmental health helped him develop his insight into the world around him."

“Through all of his practical experience -- whether making and applying compost on the farm or writing about the people he actually visited and learned from – this would remain the foundation of his work and vision. And I was privileged to continue his work and expand his vision throughout my life.”

The Power of One


In New Jersey, Alice Paul, a Quaker, saw the need to agitate first with women and wake them up. And then to agitate against the government. She knew the pain first hand of having her creativity and brilliance blocked over and over again. She became an officer and a leader in several national women’s organization –traveling through blistering heat, snow and rain. Driven by dauntless resolution, she rallied women from all over the land. One woman acted and through 12 years of persistent toil, she helped win passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and all women in America won the right to vote – launching a women’s rights movement that would change America forever.

In South Africa, a young man from India was working as a lawyer and traveling on business with a first class ticket. Although he was dressed in a three piece suit, white shirt and tie, he was thrown off the train for refusing to move to the colored section. The injustice of it burned in his heart and he resolved to fight “this terrible prejudice.”

One man acted and the liberation of the nation of India had begun.

In Chicago, more than a hundred women and girls were locked inside the garment factory to prevent them for leaving for smoke breaks and to get some fresh air and sunshine. One man acted recklessly, locking the doors day after day. A fire sparked from defective burst forth. A Chicago newspaper reporter told the story in all its tragic depth. His story chronicling the horror of innocent girls and women burned to death alive galvanized the heart of working people across the land – and the great American Labor Movement was born.

In Montgomery Alabama, Rosa Parks, a domestic worker was tired of being on her feet all day washing clothes, cooking and clean white folk’s houses. On a public bus home, her legs aching from her labors, she refused to relinquish her seat to a white person. Her courage galvanized an oppressed black community. One woman acted and the civil rights movement was born.

In Maryland a nature writer and biologist walked the beloved meadows near her home. She was alarmed that she saw no birds and ached to hear their blessed chirping. The silence troubled and angered her. As a professionally trained scientist, she thought she knew how this silence came about. She began work on the book. She called it Silent Spring.

Persevering through the latter stages of breast cancer, she knew she was dying.

She worked on despite her pain. The release of her book, Silent Spring, created a firestorm of outrage against the government and the manufactures of DDT. One woman acted on her pain and the American environmental movement was born. One individual acted in response to the pain and injustice of the people.

On the Pine Ridge Reservation, a Lakota medicine man, Frank Fools Crow, saw the need of the young men at Pine Ridge Reservation and trained them for years to overcome centuries of oppression of the people of the good red road. Warriors of the heart, these men knew the power of the sweat lodge and the sun dance through years of direct experience. Frank Fools Crow acted.

His pain was the massacre of more than two hundred starving Lakota women and children gunned down in cold blood by the U.S. Calvary in December 1890 One man acted and AIM – the American Indian Movement was born.

In New York City, on June 28, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a favorite bar for the gay community. Police oppression led to violent demonstrations which continued the next day. Gay men came together and organized for their rights – and the national gay liberation movement was born.

In the great American West, Mitch Snyder was hitch-hiking to California.He was arrested for auto theft and sentenced to two years in federal prison. He served time from 1971 to 1973. While in jail, he met fellow prisoners Father Daniel and Father Philip Berrigan who befriended and mentored him.

Their energies and radical faith had a profound impact on the future directions of his life. He became involved with the Community for Creative Non Violence and over time became its symbolic leader. He and others would stage mock funerals in front of the White House and Congress to dramatize how many homeless men and women were freezing to death on the streets of Washington D.C.

Arrested numerous times, Mitch once walked out of a court arraignment without permission, went to the White House, and was arrested again arrested for climbing the fence to talk to the President. He wrote a book—Homelessness in America, which served as a wake up call to the consciousness of America. During the Reagan era, he occupied a large unoccupied federal building less than a half mile from the Supreme Court and Congress. He was arrested, served time and was released. He then went on a prolonged fast approaching the point of death.The publicity around his fast and possible death forced Reagan’s hand and the building was turned over..One man acted and a national movement for the homeless was born!

In Washington, D.C, Marine platoon leader Bobby Muller came home to an angry and divided nation. In April 1969, while leading a marine platoon assault in Vietnam, a bullet entered his chest and severed his spinal cord, leaving him partially paralyzed from the neck down He was angry by what he had seen in Vietnam. The appalling human waste and the poisoning of innocent civilians with Agent Orange. He saw that he would face a protracted legal battle in coming years. After winning his law degree he gathered other wounded vets together. They worked tirelessly forming Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and won federal legislation banning the use of Agent Orange. One man acted on his pain, and the modern veterans’ rights movement was born.

In California Candy Lightner got a call that her 13 year old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver while walking to school by a drunk driver. In her grief,and anger, she moved to investigate the laws of her home state. She gathered other mothers from her state and around the country who had lost sons and daughters at the hands of drunk drivers.

One woman acted and persisted – and MADD, Mothers against Drunk Drivers was born.

In Apartheid ruled South Africa, a native one had lived with the shame of Apartheid for too many years. He gathered others together and formed the African National Congress. Imprisoned for 13 years, he was offered release by the government. He refused, even though he had already won over the hearts of the prison guards on Robson Island who would bring him candy, free fruit, books and newspapers. As the violence and terror on the streets grew in intensity he said “I will not leave this prison until my people have full bargaining rights at the table with the government to create a new, free South Africa.” He waited and waited. And finally the new president of South came outside for a brief press conference telling the dominant Afrikaner public that he was releasing Nelson Mandela and his movement the African National Congress would have full bargaining rights to meet with the government and create a free South Africa.

One man acted and a nation was liberated. And the liberator became the new president of a free South Africa.

In the fullness of time, one woman in Denver decided......one graduate student in Boulder decided..Others were drawn to their energy and their vision. They were fed spiritually by digging in the earth and seeing the emerging birth of the New.

And the rest, you will find in the history books in some far distant future. It is all about the power of one – one powerful seed, one powerful, loving man or woman who sees the need and does the deed.This is why all great stories begin with “One upon a time, in a magical place.”

Collective Action: A missing element in the green movement


Amish farmers, working in Lancaster, Pa, follow a centuries old tradition of corporation action going back to Western European roots. The good news is this picture was taken last year. The bad news is that 99% of the action of barn raising or home construction or any kind of neighborhood construction is done by “paid experts.” The individual owner of the building lacks emotional and spiritual ownership because the owner is excluded from the task. The larger problem is that we have turned over our health care, nutrition, child care and financial independence and our marriages to “the paid experts. The paradox here is that while cherishing our individuality, we have disempowered our selves by turning to experts to handle many domains of our personal existence.

Richard Niebuhr and his brother Reinhold Niebuhr, two of the most prominent Protestant theologians of the 20th century, wrote extensively about the problem of “individualist overemphasis.” They considered it in “the big four sins of Western culture—along with racism, militarism and economic imperialism. My experience as a writer on environmental causes for thirty years and two years in the Transition Movement is that “the greens” by and large are tone deaf and visually impaired when it comes to seeing the absolute for corporateness and team action. More recently the books of Scott Peck address this issue in contemporary culture.

There is a huge briar patch out there which is thorny and hard to navigate. Four primary parts making up this briar patch of difficulty s are the following:

FIRST, the breakdown of intergenerational bonds within each gender line making cooperation between older and young males more difficult. The same is true to a lesser extent for women.

SECOND, is the tension and distrust between men and women which makes corporate team action by men and women working together on a team more difficult. This is the residual shadow of feminism and a still partially unresolved patriarchal culture.

THIRD, is racial distrust and vast cultural differences. Denver, for example has a vast Native American population. I am told there are 30,000 Navajo in the Denver metro and many Lakota people and other tribal groups. The engagement of these populations within the green movement is almost non-existent.

FOURTH is the fear driven quest for maintaining middle class life styles which cuts the nerve of volunteerism and financial giving to non profit causes.

Notwithstanding all of these briar patch issues, there is no way into the future without corporate action. I say this in light of the darkening clouds of our future rooted in depletion of oil and gas, climate change and accelerating economic instability.

What I mean by corporate action is a team of men and women showing up on the ground at a specific day and time. They are on the same page. They see the need and they do the deed. They share the same core values and they are friends in the best sense of the word. In past essays I have addressed the issue of movement building. See transitioncolorado.ning.com/members/forrest craver for numerous bog essays on Building the Movement.

Not only the transition movement but many nonprofit and voluntary groups do the first stage of movement building –Awakenment –fairly well. New people come to an event and see a new paradigm image for sustainable community and they get excited.

But then the local green group fails to step into stage two of movement building –formation. FORMATION is about forming people into task forces, committees, pods and work teams formed through personal affinity – that is the people self select their specific mission for future engagement. People work together mainly because they enjoy and like the people they are working with. In the awakenment process, the standard wisdom is that “openings close.”

In other words, if awakened individuals are not followed up with, they turn away and find something else to engage their time. In the Gospels, Jesus alludes to this issue by saying if he casts out all the demons, and the person, previously possessed, does not step into the New, and embody the New Paradigm of transformed living – he then ends up worse off than before.

I often tell the story of Lifespring, a training group across the USA which did in depth consciousness trainings. Lifespring had 800, 000 grads of weekend, six month and other trainings. And two years ago they filed for bankruptcy. My wife, son and I did the entire Lifespring process. And my wife, Susan was on the national board of trustees of the Lifespring Foundation.

What happened with Lifespring is illuminating for the Green Movement and for the trainings on heart and soul the transition movement is now doing. The breakdown in Lifespring which led to its extinction is that everything was always about Lifespring. Unlike Rotary International which turns outward and takes on eradicating polio and smallpox worldwide, Lifespring always made their mission about recruiting more people to take their trainings. They never got to the third stage of movement building – DEMONSTRATION.

Demonstration is about putting an inclusive model on the ground in a specific neighborhood where people can come and see the New. The majority of middle class folk in our country will not go “dark green” unless they can see the new model of human settlement, the new and better way of living, the new and healthier way of growing local and buying local. Your neighbors have to see your retrofitted house, your hoop greenhouse where you grow thousands of seedlings to plant with your neighbors.

They need to get a personal witness from you that you are saving money on your fuel bills, that you are eating better and healthier with your backyard organic garden, that your children are engaged with you and the entire family in planting and harvesting wonderful veggies, fruits and herbs. Nothing can ever replace the power of direct personal experience. This is the key learning from the field of accelerated learning, open space technology and leadership groups from the field of organizational development.

So then what can we do about reclaiming corporate action in our time? I believe from forty years as a volunteer, participant and consultant to many social movement groups that the answer is already present is we are willing to heed the wisdom of the past. The four keys to building corporate action come from great social movements and from the fields of group social work, marketing and fundraising.

THE FIRST KEY IS RECENCY. This principle means that your activity and productivity on a team is a function of how recently you have been involved. People who are creating a community garden are most motivated if they are currently engaged in the work. As the weeks go by without their engagement they become much less motivated. I was part of a national men’s organization which studied attrition and fall off in hundreds of our groups. We found that groups meeting weekly had the very highest retention rates. The rates dropped for groups that met twice a month. And most groups that met only monthly went out of being within three years.

THE SECOND KEY IS FREQUENCY. This principle is highly correlated with recency. It means that the more frequent your engagement in a local green group, the more likely it is that you will deepen your engagement in on the ground action, in participation on task forces and in giving money to your local group.

THE THIRD KEY IS SEASONALITY. Earth Day USA got this right by picking April 22nd for its thousands of local earth day celebrations. People give the most money to causes between Thanksgiving and mid January due to Easter and other religious and cultural celebrations. People give the least money from June 15th to Labor Day when most of us kick back, put our nonprofit mailings aside and go on vacation. In the green movement with its focus on being outside growing food, retrofitting houses, the spring, summer and early fall are the very best times to advance the movement.

THE FOURTH KEY IS SEGMENTATION. Did you know when a new book arrives at Borders bookstore; there are two and sometimes three or four different and distinct book jackets. The publisher is using segmentation and testing of the marketplace to see which book jacket attracts the larges number of buyers. Within the green movement, segmentation could be used to build task forces based on affinity – for example middle school children and their teachers and parents creating a school garden. Or another example would be creating a task force of women on Preserving and Canning fruits and vegetables. Segmentation relies on affinity “birds of a feather flock together”. A good example of this is African American worship. Although racism has been significantly reduced in religious denominations, the reality is that even in highly integrated neighborhoods, most African Americans prefer to worship in black churches led by black pastors. Style and culture often seem to us to be invisible – but they are as hard as steel.

In conclusion, how is your local green group showing up in terms of attendance at meetings? Formation of task forces? Sustained engagement? How are your team members doing in terms of enjoying working together? Are you retaining loyalty of volunteers and financial donors to your cause? Your comments and feedback are welcome. Send them to eMail And good luck as you move forward in building the movement for a better world.

Conflagration


For the Dream of the Earth held by Thomas Berry.

Tree people roots in mother Amazon, burned alive
crucified with whirling blades of steel
whipped with chains

Blood sap oozes onto the face
of the crying mother of us all.
Tree people dragged by massive caterpillars
shamed with no explanation

Caterpillars crawl across sacred ground, hungry,
relentless, bright electric eyes burn through the night
devouring, addicted to wood
their steel scoops could eat your entire house
in a single bite!

"Why is mother earth being burned alive?" The tree people ask
each other, weeping.

Deer people huddle in council with raccoon and squirrel.
Bird people forget their ancient prejudices and circle up,
crow with eagle and owl.
Now earth mother is burning...conflagration
Conflagration! Have the two legged ones gone mad? 
Messages coming to us from the other world.
Messages of earth and heart. Shift the letters. Same word.
Earth. Heart. Heart-Earth.
As heart dies, mother earth dies.

Wake up sisters and brothers.
Go the the lodge of the heart.
Ten thousand ancestors stand in a circle of hearts on fire. 

Drumming, chanting, invoking.
The ancient ones call us back to full heart.
Back to loving our mother

Spirit and blood of sun dancers mingles with grief of pipe carriers.
Grandfathers and grandmothers in lodges across the stomach
of Mother Earth pour spirit water into the flesh and bones
on ancestors soon to be.

The sun rises. Water pourers open the door to the East,
to the creator.
Ten thousand shaman light their sage, cedar and sweet grass.
Invoking, praying, doing give away.
A spiritual war is coming.
Fire must yield to water.
Tears of the grandfathers. Sweat of the creator.
Soul waters come pouring in.
A mighty storm is coming to heal the conflagration.

From This Well Has No Bottom: A little book of spiritual poetry

Invocation


A miracle is the wholehearted invocation
of the Divine, combined with suspension
of all disbelief
Allowing the Other World to
Shatter and reconstitute this world.

Through Invocation, the dead are raised
and the blind see again.
Invocation is how the multitudes of the hungry are fed
and all good deeds come to full fruit.

Brothers and sisters, let us not be like little children
and invoke our puny ego self
or that of our colleagues
when so much more is waiting to be called forth.
Let us resort instead to the full power of our Creator

Invocation is surrender to the Divine Will
allowing your flesh to be the Altar on which
The Will of the Holy One Reigns

This is why the Ancients say the Holy Ones
are Hollow Bones.

Forrest Craver from This Well Has No Bottom, a little book of spiritual poetry

Young Men Today – Looking for a Path Forward in the Long Emergency


“By Time and Age many things are taught. Time growing old, Teaches all things.”--Aeschylus

I get to know a lot of people in Denver and Boulder at meetings and community events. Although I am clueless about women, I am a 65 year old man and have learned a few things about manhood.

I’ve been around men of all classes, races and ages –at retreats, in personal friendships, business relationships, and various spiritual communities, men’s groups, and 12 Step groups. Over the course of six and a half decades, as a son and a father of two sons, I’ve learned a few things about how men think, how they smell, what they like to eat. and what their unfulfilled emotional and spiritual yearnings are all about.

My sense is that something has profoundly changed for young males in the 20-25 age range. Robert Bly says in his book, “The Sibling Society”, that adolescent males don’t really come into their own until they are thirty years old.

And Bly’s book was written twelve years before the global economic meltdown. What is missing for young men according to Bly is mentorship by older men. I am speaking here not of technical or professional mentorship, like dental, medical, legal, corporate or scientific mentorship.

Rather I am talking about psychic or spiritual mentorship. Only older men can provide the organic nutrients younger men yearn for – whether those young men realize it or not. It’s hard to go looking for what you need-- if you are clueless about what you really and truly need.

Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly, James Hillman, Michael Meade, Robert Moore and others who have studied masculine psychological structure and the male archetypes point out that the biological father can play a significant role. And yet, in the final analysis, far more is needed by the young man than a good Dad. The reason is that the father-son relationship is too intensely rooted in biological connections and family dynamics. “Psychic contamination” is the phrase Carl Jung used.

In the last two years, I’ve encountered many young men who are adrift. Or at least they sure seem that way to me. I could be wrong. And yet, I have a deep feeling that they know at some level of consciousness why they are drifting.

In their gut they are aware that the Long Emergency is descending upon them in a very up close and personal kind of way. “In your face” is the feel of it for a young man today. For the context and implications of the Long Emergency, see the author of the book with that title, James Howard Kunstler.

With 70 percent of Americans fearful of losing their jobs, according to recent polls, what is a young man to make out of the future that is coming his way at ever-accelerating rate and intensity?

My observation and reflection from experience with some of these young men is that the deeper the consciousness of the young man, the more disorientation he experiences. In the 60’s, many young men said a profound “NO!” to the corporate America way of life. They dropped out, tuned out mainstream culture and turned on with drugs.

For young men today, it often comes out as “holy shit” or “what’s going on?” Being overwhelmed by economic meltdown, the response may be to turn off the economic realities of life and drift. And yet, it is a subtle kind of drift. Not a full blown depression -- but a deflation, likes “someone burst my balloon and I never saw it coming. What happened?”

It’s like waking up and for a few moments not knowing where you are. Young men who are well educated and awake,” get it” that the foundations are shaking. And what I see is that “the best and the brightest” young males are getting pounded by their own depth consciousness.

Whatever “the American dream” has been – it is clearly in the process of foundational deconstruction. I would hasten to add that all of us are at risk. Therefore, we fervently hope and pray that reconstruction and transformation are coming some place down the road.

But the facts are troubling indeed. In one month, 57 people die in mass murders here in the USA, all committed by men.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health statistics, males are four times more likely than women to take their own lives. And males 20-24 are six times more likely to commit suicide.

If you read Bly’s “The Sibling Society”, you understand the double bind all men are in. He characterizes the majority of men in their thirties and forties as adolescent males in older bodies-- lacking the full capacities of mature manhood.

Therefore, our problem is that you can’t give a younger man what he needs if you don’t have it yourself. And the lack of capacity within older men is compounded by the economic meltdown that Kunstler characterizes as “The Long Emergency.”

This combination of factors is our “double bind” and our dilemma.

What then is our way out and our way forward as men? How do we practically retool emotionally and spiritually?

One solution I propose is to form small groups of 8-10 men who live in the same neighborhood or community. These small men’s groups would meet at least twice a month. The conveners would be a man in his 20’s and a man in his 60’s.

The wisdom of the older man borne out of standing near to death’s doorway cannot be overemphasized. At the age of 60, most men wake up to the fact that they are standing in the sunset time of their lives.

Simple chronology dawns on a man with a rude awareness when he reaches 60. More of his life has been lived than is yet to be lived. Some of his intellectual and physical powers begin to wane. This can be an epiphany for an older man.

As Robert Kennedy said, quoting The Greek poet Aeschylus: “And even in our sleep, Pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the human heart. And in our own despair, against our will, Wisdom comes to us by the awful grace of God.”

The role of the older man is to cool things down, reassure, and bless the younger man. The role of the younger man is to fire things up. This is the alchemy of male soul work and restoring the inter-generational bond among men that was cut asunder with the rise of the Industrial Revolution.

As the famed mythologist and historian of religion, Marcie Eliade said:

“The fall into modernity has been the single most catastrophic event to ever afflict the human spirit.”

What he means is that when we moved off the land and into urban areas, we lost our sacred connection to the Earth, animals, plants, and our own consciousness of being one with the Earth.

The second solution I propose is for national, regional and local mentorship groups to get gender specific. The elephant in the room is “political correctness.”

Yet the biological and psychic facts are that men and women are hard-wired in fundamentally different ways. And if we are to strengthen and deepen mentorship programs across the United States, we need to own up to and implement a gender specific context which will have salience and impact.

There is a fierce urgency to the Now -- for communities across our country struggling to retool and realign economic structures and public services. And there is a fierce urgency for older men to mentor young men who are seeking a path forward in The Long Emergency.

Ten Years After Columbine


Sunday, April 19, 2009 marked the tenth anniversary of the school shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. Shortly after the shootings, I wrote an essay about the incident which is attached with this update perspective.

What have we learned as a result of the innocent loss of thirteen lives and numerous serious injuries in Colorado ten years ago? Well, we’ve tightened school security nationwide and made it more difficult to get guns into schools.

But what have we really learned about why young men go off the deep end with terrifying violence. My sense is that as a nation we still have not addressed in any meaningful and sustained way what is happening today. See Young Men document attached.

Rather than decreasing, homicide and suicide among young men are on the rise. It is rising for white, Native American, Hispanic and African American males. But I don’t see or hear about the national education and psychological associations addressing this issue in any kind of focused and sustained way.

The facts themselves are alarming. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for males ages 16-24. Males are four times more likely than females to take their own lives. Today in the United States, we have twice as many deaths from suicide than from HIV/AIDS.

A sign that all is not well with young men is this shocking fact—in the last decade there has been a dramatic rise in suicides by males aged 10-14. The male nature of both suicide and homicide is evident in the following statistics.

Native American males aged 15-24 account for 64% of all suicides by Native Americans. Of all homicide victims in the United States, 86% are males. In Pennsylvania in a recent year, with a total of 490 African American homicides, 441 were African American males.

The conclusion from the data is clear. Young men are killing themselves with increasing frequency and the problem has now spiked sharply with the 10-14 year old males.

The other conclusion is that young men are killing other young men with increasing frequency.

Where do we go from here? We have the Violence Policy Center which keeps good statistics on suicide and homicide. But its main focus is gun control and more regulation of guns.

But I believe we as a nation must face up to the truth that the breakdown among young men cannot be explained away by the availability of guns in the culture.

Why are young men killing themselves and killing each other with increasing frequency. And why is suicide steadily rising in the pre-teen male?

It can’t be explained away by social class arguments. The Columbine shooters were upper middle class suburban youth. And many of the recent mass shootings by men against the innocents were done not by poor men but by middle class men with education and conventional life styles.

Perhaps the answer is to be found in the paralysis of feeling among young males. The inability to open their hearts to the pain of life in their own family and their community. Men are taught not to feel. Men don’t cry. Suck it up! Act like a man!

Models of vibrant and healthy masculine behavior seem to be in short supply in American culture. Urbanization and the disconnectedness of life in suburban America create a sense of emptiness and aloneness. Loneliness. “What do I have to live for” seems to be the question more and more boys and young men are asking themselves these days.

My experience is that young males feel disconnected and alienated from older males. Rather than seeing mid-life and older men as “wisdom keepers” and mentors, young men tend to view older males with suspicion, indifference or scorn. Our dilemma as a society is that boys and young men can’t fix their own problem – nor is it realistic to expect them to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps.”

Perhaps it is time for Rotary International to make this their number one national priority. Maybe the bishops and clergy of the Catholic and Protestant church in America need to step up and make this their priority.

I would personally like to see the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Education Association or the National

Association of Social Workers make this their priority.

Why not have the Obama administration create a czar for the “survival of the young American male.”

We have an excellent national mentorship program called “America’s Promise” -- headed by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Maybe saving the young American male could be their priority? Will anyone step up? When Betty Freidan wrote the ground-breaking book The Feminine Mystique which ignited the women’s movement in the United States in the 1960’s, she described the plight of middle class women as “the problem that has no name.”

Today, we again have “a problem that has no name.” It is all about boys and young men and our failure as adults to give them what they need.

Reflections on the transition movement: Confessions of an activist Elder Facing Up to the Fierce Urgency of the Now!


I was sitting in a first of its kind meeting in the Louisville, Colorado library about six months ago when Michael Brownlee, the presenter, from Transition Boulder, began to talk about “The Long Emergency” and “The Energy Descent Plan.” He definitely got my attention and I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair. What I had felt intuitively for a couple of years was now being confirmed by hard science and irrefutable data. There’s a big hole in our lifeboat, and the whole planet is in that one lifeboat!

Getting it right today has a fierce urgency in virtually every aspect of our lives. Nowadays, the margin for error and the cost of our individual and collective errors carries a heavy price. Well now I’m 65 and when I started driving, gasoline in my home town of Gettysburg, Pa. was 28 cents a gallon. I could go to a Saturday matinee for 50 cents and have enough money to buy a bag of popcorn and a soft drink too! Talk about living in a fantasy world of “more is better” and unlimited industrial growth!

Throughout my adult life, my professional challenge has been to cut through denial and motivate people to give money to save lives –like getting people to give money to six million starving Ethiopians when it is the tenth or so time we have had this issue to confront as a moral and humanitarian issue.

I’m writing this to you to beckon you forth. I’m impressed by the transition movement –as the most hopeful and rapidly growing social movement in the world. I say this as an activist who was deeply involved in the peace movement, the women’s rights movement, the nuclear weapons freeze and peace movement and the environment movement. I’ve also written about these movements professionally for 30 years as a fundraising copywriter. I say all this to you so I cannot be accused of suffering from naïve bliss and enchantment. Brothers and sisters, this is the real thing! Check it out!

Other movements wax and wane over time. But not this time. Not with transitions. How come? Because history is breathing down our backs at every moment. Here’s my gut truth -- If we are to have life, we will be in transition as far as we can read our collective future. As the comics like to say: De-nial ain’t just a river in Egypt. Americans in cities and small town are getting blasted –like inhaling ammonia accidentally! It shocks you, it penetrates your body, and it is very unpleasant, and if you’d done it, like me, you don’t do it again!! We need to get over and get beyond our small ego selves!

Remember Small is Beautiful from the 1970’s and the mantra “Live Simply So Others May Simply Live”? Smallness and living simply have shifted from theoretical values and principles into hard, practical necessities. History, rather than our personal whims, is clearly calling the agenda and will do so for coming generations after us.

So what I know from being involved with the transition movement in Colorado is that the social and economic context of this movement is right on. And the grassroots, from the bottom up, open-ended approach to change and constantly adapting the movement are also right. Transition is post-partisan, trans-religious, local/global, inclusive and inter-generational – and fun! Refreshingly, for once, it is clearly not an American thing. But it is a very local thing and it is also a movement built on volunteer time, vision, money and energy. But most importantly, it is built and runs on heart.

Because I’m a “Curious George” type of guy, I went to the internet and did a key word search of “peak oil” “climate change” and “economic collapse”, the three pillars of the transition movement. Each of these phrases has tens of millions of listings on the web. So it’s clear to me knowledge is not our issue.

I lived in Detroit just 12 blocks from where the riots erupted. I had just left the U.S. Army and Fort Bragg, North Carolina and settled into an apartment. Shortly thereafter, I saw my own 82nd Airborne Division on West Chicago Boulevard in front of my home in armed personnel carriers with machine guns and all the rest. Talk about a wake up call! As bad as that experience was, I believe what we experience today is much more complex, troubling, insidious and pervasive.

James Baldwin in his book The Fire Next Time quotes scripture: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water but the fire next time.” Then Baldwin, being a poet, coins a new term –“historical vengeance”. Sometimes we reach a point of no return. This is where all of humanity stands today – literally on the brink of historical vengeance. We act – and act boldly – or history will solve the problem brought on by our stiff-necked denial and refusal to act.

In his noted “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King, Jr. first used the now historic and compelling words “the fierce urgency of the now.” And so, my brothers and sisters, we come full circle. I am an elder confessing to you it took me a long while to wake up from the trance of industrial growth culture and my addiction to affluence. Now I humbly bow my knee before the cosmic realities of peak oil, climate change and economic collapse. History has a claim on me – and on you too.

My life is different because of the wonderful men, women and children I’ve met on the journey of transition. I’ve been cared for by witnessing the truth-speaking and simple living of my transition comrades in arms. I invite you to come along. Have fun with us, learn, and serve with us and your neighbors near and far. The prophet tells us “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Now, most certainly is the season. A season of being in this world that never ends! Ours is a Journey of Endlessness. And so, I bless you on your journey. Until we meet in person, I take my leave from you with these inspiring words adapted from the English poet, Christopher Fry:

“Dark and cold we may be. But this is no winter now. The frozen misery of centuries -- cracks, breaks, begins to move. The thunder is the thunder of the floes! The thaw! The flood! The upstart spring! Thank God, our time is now. When Wrong comes up to meet us everywhere, never to leave us until we take the longest stride of soul folk ever took. Affairs are now soul-size. Our enterprise is exploration into the human heart. Where are you making for? It takes so many thousand years to wake. But will you wake for pity’s sake? But will you wake for pity’s sake?”

©2009, Forrest Craver

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Man becomes great exactly in the degree to which he works for the welfare
of his fellow man. - Mahatma Gandhi



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