New Year’s Day is a special mirror for me of what could be in the next year. This one was quite special. It began having my first South Beach Diet meal with Susan – two little onion, pepper, cucumber and egg quiches with tomato juice and three cherry tomatoes. I’m not the cook in the family, and this change is big for my wife, Susan, but we has plunged into it and both of us are learning about what our body does in response to all the highly processed carbohydrates, we like many others, have become accustomed to eating. It felt like the right thing to begin the New Year with. So what goes with right eating I wondered?
“Can we walk to the labyrinth this morning?” I asked. After a moment hesitation, for that hadn’t been part of Susan’s thinking, a smile came and she said, “YES!”
Before long we were hiking out the coastal trail at Land’s End at the northwest tip of San Francisco. It was a spectacular, crisp day. The trail is being extensively improved by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with wide walks and stone-ringed cutouts. This first day of the year there were more people than we have ever seen, of all ages and ethnic groups it seemed.
As we walked I remembered coming back from Africa and taking this walk with Susan, and telling her stories about my reconnecting with the land and that deep, Bishop-bred place in me that finds strength and hope in it.
The labyrinth is on an old gun site at the one-mile mark on the trail. There must have been a dozen people there, some walking, others just sitting, a few journaling, all thinking about the new year I suppose. A stiff, cold wind blew from the southeast, an unusual offshore direction that surfers love. But the sea was calm and at low tide.
I wondered what my question would be on the labyrinth. One finally came to me, and it was simply “what calls to me in this new year?” I wrote it on a small scrap of burned paper I found and began to walk. I had to concentrate on holding my hat on for half until I decided to wrap my scarf around it and my chin. Then I fell into the slow turns of the maze.
I realized that I have a strong commitment to bring The Grove tools forward in a way that many many people worldwide can benefit from the creativity and power of visual planning. That will be a key project this year, I know. Then another set of ideas began to come with my steps. It focused on the little greenhouse I’ve built in The Grove sim in Second Life, where I intend to plant new ideas that have hope and need amplification. I began to imagine using my experience visualizing to create maps of critical ideas that might benefit from visual expression. I thought of Paul Hawkins’s Blessed Unrest and his research on the hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions of NGOs that are spontaneously springing up around the globe in response to our environmental and indigenous people challenges. He’s come to think of it as the immune system of the planet responding to a great disease— the gross imbalances caused by our consumer economy. What would a poster look like of his findings?
I thought about the RE-AMP project in the upper Midwest, and the 50 NGOs and 8 foundations collaborating to clean up the energy system there, and now reaching out to Michigan and the transportation sector as well. How would visualization help people see what is possible here? And I thought about the Serious Play book I wrote about last post. Could people come to see the power of improvisation and simulation through a Storymap dedicated to Schrage’s research?
I sat on the west side of a rock outcropping that sheltered me from the wind and just sat, feeling this day, the vast Pacific, the energy of the many people coming to this little point, laughing as they saw the labyrinth, and all the ways they greeted it. I noticed most didn’t really slow down to take it in completely. A few did, but many more skipped around.
My attention was then caught be a huge container ship coming toward the Golden Gate. As it drew closer I could see the name, Yang Ming on the side. I thought at first it might have said Yang Yin, thinking, wouldn’t that be amazing? I then realized it would pass right by and I could take a picture of it and the labyrinth together, for that contrast symbolized for me this new year as much as anything I’d seen yet.
The writing in this picture is too small to read but to me it was clear as a billboard going by. And in the foreground was a young boy walking the labyrinth, maybe for the first time, taking a step toward his own spiritual life. All around me were people just taking in the day. They weren’t spending money. They were making anything. They were just being together, sitting there. I thought about the Wintus of Shasta, whose sacred ritual is just going and sitting in Panther Meadows for a day, just being together. I thought about the Hindus, for whom Satsang, or elevated conversation with good people, is a full third of their spiritual practice, or so I was told when I visited. I felt glad to be a San Franciscan, just taking a little walk out on Land’s End.
Then by contrast, moving silently down the wide channel leading to the Golden Gate Bridge, was this huge machine, the size of a 15 story building on its side, carrying tons of goods from China for our harbor. Several people commented. I wondered who would benefit from this commerce. Will it help support nouveau riche entrepreneur from Hong Kong, or find its way to the workers who created the goods? And what were these goods? Are they things we need, or plastics, and toys designed for obsolescence so we will buy more?
As the boy and the ship danced together in my field of vision I realized that holding this kind of question might be MY dance. I am immersed in the commercial culture, helping it, making my living from it, and at the same time I am called deeply to the spiritual path of a true elder, who becomes a container for his people in service of supporting the next generation and ways of life that will sustain and improve our lot rather than deplete it. These worlds do and need to connect.
Last night Susan and I were taking time to think about our own journey in the New Year as a couple. She read me an extraordinary interview from one of her poetry publications with a poet named Li Young Lee. He talked about how each thing we encounter is there from a “totality of causes,” the complexity and extensiveness of which defies understanding. For each thing we see and experience, including the words the poet writes, or the words I write now, come to be from a long line of causes and effects that lead to that one result. The poet’s intention is but one small strand. The lines are a gift from the cosmos.
I think Li Young Lee’s thoughts were behind my musing about Yang Ming and the boy on the labyrinth. Both here, now, why? What meaning? And what leads me to link those two and wonder where it will all lead? I’m not certain even now as I reflect on the day what it really means, except that that was what called to me, and holding both these together will be my question for a while.