From Me to We
“The story can’t be about the heroism of one person any more, it has to be about the heroism of communities.” — Barry Lopez
I consider myself to be an independent person. Someone who has “followed their bliss,” as mythologist Joseph Campbell put it. “Done my own thing” as we used to say back in the 1960s. And in my adulthood, been self-employed. Yet, everywhere I have ever lived, I have lived as part of a community. I didn’t live in isolation.
At a very early age, my family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, across the then country road from Graceland. Then, the family moved again to the small mountain town of Robbinsville, very near to the Snowbird Cherokee Reservation. When the family moved yet again to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for my high school years, I was part of that community. When I graduated from high school and attended Furman University for four years in Greenville, South Carolina, I was part of the Furman community. I finished college and wanted to travel, so I went to live in France, and there I was part of the French community. When I returned back to the states, I lived and worked on a family farm in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and I was part of the midwestern farming community there. After my farming experience, I moved to California and was living and working in the Napa Valley for a new winery and was part of the Napa Valley community. When I moved down to the Bay Area to San Francisco, in North Beach, I was part of the North Beach community. My next move was back east to Polk County, where I lived off-the-grid for four years. During that time, I was part of a rural mountain community near Saluda. In the last 35 years I have lived here in Jackson County and in various ways I have interacted with and been part of the Jackson County community.
Yes, we are all individuals and have, if we are lucky, the freedom to roam and roam how and where we choose. But even so, we don’t live in a vacuum. We have lived amongst other people and wild critters and landscapes whether we acknowledge it or not. And each one of those landscapes, those environments, those places, influence and affect where we go, what we do and who we become. In my case, this is certainly true. That road will not be a solo journey seeking survival, but one that is built and traveled upon by whole communities, large and small.
In the Gospel of Thomas, there is a passage that reads: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” For the past several hundred years (or more) we humans have been following a paved path determined by nation states, corporate and authoritarian governments and the idea of “progress” to our own detriment. We have not been listening to the wisdom voice within, to the moral story within. And that ignoring, that ignorance is rising up, now, to destroy us.
Barry Lopez, the Oregon-based naturalist writer, says that we need to reinvent ourselves and our responsibilities to each other, our families, our communities, our countries and our planet. Lopez goes on to say: “If we’re going to survive and to thrive in whatever landscape the world offers us in the decades ahead, we must learn to speak respectfully to each other, to listen to each other, to take into consideration the fate of each other’s children and wake up to the salvation of a multicultural existence. We have cut ourselves off from the nonhuman world and have called this ‘progress.’ Such numinous encounters in nature are moments of reconnection, part of the human search for reciprocated love.”
Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning “the right, critical, or opportune moment.” It is now a term being widely used by social scientists and environmental physicists to address the conditions in which we find ourselves living today. In other words, now is the proper time for action — in this opportune moment when we are facing the triple threat of covid, climate change and cultural upheaval and when we are told by everyone in the know that if we are going to have a sustainable world in which to live we must make the necessary changes, both to ourselves and to everyone around us. In other words, we are going to need to, as the Beatles song implies, “Come Together.” A song that rings out today with its more than pertinent title and urgent message, “come together, right now” — come together with reciprocated love and “now” meaning today, when we no longer have any time to lose!