” Awareness does not mean discovering and bringing up new parts of ourselves to make war….it is not change that is essential, but the awareness of change…understanding that what is opposing us is part of ourselves that we need.” – Arnold Mindell
After Dorothy is swept away by a tornado in The Wizard of Oz, she’s greeted by the good witch Glinda, who asks, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” “I’m not a witch at all,” says Dorothy – a response that reflects how many of us feel in today’s world: like an outsider, different.
Every day, we’re asked, “What are you?” In reply, we say, “a woman, a minority, a Democrat, an Italian- or African-American, gay or straight, a lawyer, professor or policeman.
What are you?
Here’s a better question: what compels people to define themselves according to superficial factors such as nationality, profession, sexual orientation, political persuasion, etc.? Obviously, no one label adequately defines a human being. Is it helpful to categorize and compartmentalize other people? Does this help us choose which ones to validate and which to ignore? Do we label others like soup cans on a supermarket shelf, so we can quickly determine whether to “buy” or “pass.” It certainly makes life easier – or does it?
Although Dorothy was fearful when she arrived in Oz, she didn’t allow fear to paralyze her. She explored her surroundings and pursued her quest to find the wizard. En route, she reached out to various creatures – all misfits – who needed her help as much as she needed theirs. In the process, her fears literally melted away, and she discovered that her grandest wishes could come true by looking deep within.
Yes, The Wizard of Oz is a movie. But like most fables, it offers a kernel of truth. It suggests that we follow a more sensible path to both worldly knowledge and self-knowledge. As Dorothy became more aware, she moved beyond fear to find her gift, her home and – most importantly – her voice.
We all have gifts, but it’s nearly impossible to take advantage of them without self-awareness. Too many people take comfort in labeling others, encouraging deep divisions that sometimes require centuries to heal. It’s easy to dismiss others in a few syllables – those “right-wing nutcases,” “Godless liberals” or “stupid foreigners.” The notion of “blue states” vs. “red states” is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget the simple truth – that everyone, everywhere, possesses qualities that should be respected and celebrated. It’s foolish to dismiss every inhabitant of a particular State because you don’t like how its electors voted in the last presidential contest.
Labels breed division, which breeds fear, which breeds violence. Nations with long histories of strife have learned this lesson. Europeans know this, but it took 2,000 years of continual conflict before they awakened. On my last trip to Europe, I was told, “Europeans are keeping their heads down when asked about the Iraq war, because they’ve suffered through too many wars, and aren’t interested in another.”
As the U.S. moves into its third year of occupying Iraq – an occupation that’s involved torture there and clandestine surveillance here – I wonder if we’ve forgotten our own founding principles. Maybe. And maybe it was just a temporary lapse. Many Americans are finally questioning our politicians and our policies. They are questioning BIG TIME the scandals involving lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. They want to know who bought our government, for how much, and why.
People are thirsting for more – more thought, more discussion and more creative ways to make positive change. I started Awaken the Senses because I, too, am thirsty for more. I started by asking, “What can I do to create a world in which I’d like to live – a holistic one? How can we change our direction? Currently, human beings are treading a circular path that always leads to the same destination. Sensing this, many people are frustrated and disconnected, believing their ideas, opinions and feelings are always ignored. People are losing confidence in the future and their ability to shape it.
This is a very dangerous reaction. An increasingly interdependent world cannot continue to deplete its resources, abuse its beings – human and non-human – and make war. We must consider and debate creative changes. Adopting the same failed tactics is the classic definition of insanity. This is why we see so much insanity around us, and so much religious and political extremism.
To achieve meaningful change, we must accept criticism and discuss alternatives. We must learn to compromise – for everyone’s sake. The “with me or against me” mentality is a dead-end philosophy. There’s no future in it (not a future that I care to contemplate).
After launching Awaken the Senses, I looked back on what brought me to this point. I realized that my travels had helped me discover a connected world – a world that’s politically, socially and economically interlinked … like it or not. I learned that if we’re going to get along, we must not only speak, but listen.
My younger days were spent trying to be like everyone else, because I wanted to fit in. Thanks to my fears, it took me years to start Awaken the Senses. I was afraid that others would consider me a freak – an angry freak. I worried they would dismiss my calls for change as partisanship.
Fear was my worst enemy. It always is.
Through Awaken the Senses, I hope to create a community where discussion and debate flow freely – a place that allows all participants to contribute toward lasting global decisions, especially those that eliminate war. Conflicts are solved neither with silence nor brute force, but with words and ears, tears and hugs.
Finally, I want to create a place where people will become aware. Awareness will help curb misunderstanding and fear, fear of “the other,” so that “the other” becomes “us” instead of “them.” Like Dorothy, I want to take us along a new path – one that starts with awareness and steers clear of self-defeating labels, and encourages us to find our individual voices. I want to celebrate our differences, and put them to work for the cause of a more enlightened future.
Humans are blessed with an unbelievable ability to advance. We have learned to build pyramids and skyscrapers. We have developed vaccines and treatments for deadly diseases. We have discovered alternative energy sources. We have moved beyond the need for kings and emperors to form democracies. So, let’s be more democratic. Let’s be more directly involved in creating our own future.
At the close of The Wizard of Oz, each character finds something – a heart, a brain, courage – that each already possessed, but hadn’t utilized or even recognized. Let’s all use our hearts, our brains and our courage to see the parts of ourselves that we oppose, that separate us and cause us harm, and block our awareness. Only then can we contribute something more positive to society.
On the site, I will address an important political issue at least once a month. I encourage all of you to share your opinions on these topics. Imagine a different place. Start the dialogue. Use your common senses, all of them, to become awake and aware!
Come on! What are you afraid of?