Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Charles.
    I’ve been struggling with this. If I’m honest, when a call to create something beautiful comes at an individual level, I often hesitate to follow it, claiming justification in a system level focus. Likewise, when a call to create something beautiful comes at a system level, I often hesitate to follow it, claiming justification in an individual level focus.
    Recently I was in LA at a Marianne Williamson lecture. She spoke about how she had ran for political office because after many years of focusing on shifting humanity by working on enlightening the souls of individuals, she recognised it wasn’t enough. For her, Ghandi and MLK Jr were not political activists, they were spiritual activists – and their work was to enlighten the soul of society (directly). Her belief is that a focus on BOTH was necessary. This inspired me and brought my attention back to a systemic level where my heart is often called, but I typically ignore. However, there has been some still wriggling doubt as her decision struck me as inspired, but philosophically I couldn’t see how or why.
    This really nailed it down for me:
    “System and constituents form a unified whole. That means that disruption at any level is equally revolutionary.”
    I had considered the system as the whole that emerged FROM its constituents. I hadn’t considered the system and its constituents to be equal parts of the whole. Now that you point it out, it is clear and obvious for me.
    I think each of the arguments you laid out are likely often used as an excuse for inaction. (They are for me anyway.) They are false rationalisations for what really is fear to put my head above the habitual or social pulpit and follow my heart’s truth.
    With this new clarity, my fear will have less places to hide.
    Thank you.
    Love,
    John

  2. I see the problem better with your insights. In practice I think we have to be patient and not rush in with our outside solutions, especially where the poor feel part of he family. Hopefully the people there will come to see it better and solve it all.

  3. I’d like to add something here. The old story has been pretty consistently ignoring and underplaying the contribution of women. Of course it’s called HIStory. One of the reasons that I want to connect with Charles’ work is that he is the first man I have EVER heard saying that the unpaid work his ex-wife does (raising their child) is equal in value and importance to the paid work he does (touring, public speaking, writing). I am 52 years old. It’s been a long wait to hear a man acknowledge the truth of that, from his heart, as I saw Charles do. As more and more men feel the truth of that, new stories are bound to emerge and resonate. The small actions will begin to be acknowledged as vital and important.
    Women’s contributions to the story are overwhelmingly at that very local level. The focus has never been placed there. We don’t really have much understanding of the influence of those “small” actions. We are taught to focus on the Big Story, which is almost exclusively a male story.
    Even some amazing women’s stories soon become all about men. Myths like Eve’s defiance of authority in the garden of eden became a story about man’s exile from paradise; Mary’s miraculous conception became a story about her son. In a different kind of story, Ghandi said he learned everything from his wife. His name and face are known all over the world and she remains invisible. This has something to do with the higher value the old stories place on boys and men. And that our currenty patterns teach men not to listen to women.
    This is funny but true: when my son was a teenager, if I shouted his name (e.g. to call him for his dinner) he didn’t hear me. If I lowered my voice and shouted in a mock man’s voice, he heard every time!

  4. South Africa’s martyred “father of black consciousness” is Steve Biko who was killed in 1977 while being held without charge in police custody. He wrote about what he called a problem of black “inferiority complex” produced by hundreds of years of white subjugation. He also defined a certain “superiority complex” evident even among the best whites in his context: his would be allies in the struggle against apartheid. Although welcoming their resources, Steve argued that blacks should not rely on the leadership of white liberals and should instead pursue a self reliant path to free themselves. It reminds me of the feminist movement in the 1970s when women chose to caucus among themselves leaving some men feeling “left out” if otherwise supportive. In retrospective, it’s easy to see now how Biko was right and the white liberals were wrong. Its harder for us to accept how these principles might apply today to North Americans who want to lead the changes needed to address the problems we’ve generated. Biko’s writings are best collected in a book called I WRITE WHAT I LIKE (Univ of Chicago) where his thinking about ‘superiority complex’ is outlined in an essay called “Black Souls in White Skins?”

  5. I really liked this: “…any act that disrupts or contravenes the Story of Separation is also a political act. Any act of forgiveness, generosity, courageous service, or unconditional love violates the basic assumptions of the world-view that underpins our civilization.” Every act of ordinary human decency resonates somewhere in the universe whether anyone notices it or not. Also, there is no true contradiction between the systemic and the individual. The former specializes in processes seen from afar objectively, the latter how they are experienced internally. Each infers and requires the existence of the other to make any sense at all. I’ve seen people as diverse as Fredric Jameson and Ken Wilber make the same point and it works for me.

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