Here at the foot of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, the desert is promising winter. The sagebrush mesa is dotted yellow with autumn flowering shrubs. Soon, the aspens high on the sides of the peaks will turn shocking gold with the bite of cold air. Our field of winter squash ripens orange, red, and yellow. The late season corn is thickening.
I have always been a rural American. Even during my sojourns in mid-sized cities, I sought out the ocean and the redwoods, the local farms and markets. My youth was spent among pine trees and fields of snow, barrels of potatoes and baskets of fresh-picked raspberries. Today, I find myself pondering social movements in terms of evolutions of forests from meadowlands or the emergence of spring wildflowers from the snowy ground. We are growing change . . . planting seeds and cultivating fields of possibilities. For many of our efforts, harvest is a long way off. We have planted orchards of hope from which we may never taste the fruit, yet we persevere in tending the sapling trees, believing in the promise of sweetness for the generations yet to come.
Violence and destruction has proven to be a terrible farming practice . . . and an even worse approach to resolving our political and social problems. Yet, in so many spheres of our lives, violence has been normalized. From prisons to police to systemic poverty to environmental destruction to unending war to movies, books, and music, our culture is addicted to violence. And, just as an alcoholic thinks that one more drink might ease the very pain caused by alcoholism, so does our culture believe that more violence will end the agony of our abusive cycles.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King
Even within our movements towards social and political change, the culture of violence poisons us. We are plagued with the continuous debate around the “diversity of tactics” and demands from violent flanks to engage in property destruction or physical harm of our “opponents”. Where is the courage to believe that our world – and our social movements – can liberate themselves from the perversions of violence and destruction? Aside even from these discussions, our efforts are often steeped in the emotional violence of fear and anger. At times, the rhetoric of outreach efforts boils down to the fear-provoking question, what will happen if we don’t take action to stop this problem?!
Today, I invite us all to consider the visionary question, what might happen if we do take action?
In the spring, when I prepare a field and plant seeds, I am not thinking of starvation or disaster. My mind exalts in the resplendent vision of the harvest! Each seed contains the image of the shared table of neighbors, friends, and all my human family. I plant for the smile on a child’s face and the delighted sigh of old women. I plant for the aroma of soup and herbs rising from the stewpot on a cold winter’s night. I plant for these times, and for the vision of humanity’s future. These are the images that call me to the field to labor and sweat. I bend my back to cultivation because I believe in the beauty of tomorrow. In our movements for change, let us sing the praises of the world we are striving towards! Let us loose the tongues of courage, those that dare to herald the dawning future on our horizon. Let us not be harbingers of the apocalypse, nor soothsayers of gloom and doom. Let us be the trumpeters of humanity’s highest aspirations! Let us be the prophets of a better world!
Sing to me of your emboldened, audacious vision and I will strive for it! I will come to meetings, take to the streets, confront the dying systems of destruction and ask them to stand aside. I will clear the way for the new world coming. I will swear loyalty to the ever-lasting ideals of humankind: honesty, truth, justice, equality, compassion, courage, peace, opportunity, and life!
There are seasons to our efforts. We can feel the changes on the air. Here, on this desert mesa where I live, the hints of winter have arrived. The daylight shortens by the hour. The time of reflection nears. Soon, we will gather in the fields and harvest the squash, corn, basil, and beans. We will store up the fruits of the summer’s laboring and savor them as the cold creeps across the land.
When the time comes, gather in all your experiments in this laboratory called Life. Gather in everything you have experienced and tried this year. Ponder these lessons and grow from them. Nourish your body, mind, heart and soul. The summer has been glorious, full of adventures and unfoldings, but the time approaches to contemplate, reconsider, and prepare to emerge again. As you take a moment to examine deeply, I encourage you to peer into the assumptions of violence our culture tends to make. Consider the alternatives. Dare to articulate another vision. Time is ever turning, and it will not be long before we need your voice. Already, our hearts long to hear the anthem of our future . . . will you dare to sing it?