Posts Tagged ‘transcendence’

Today, the third day of orientation for my new arrival at Warren Wilson College. They split us in to groups and asked us to say one word that exemplified the “issue most important to us.”

The list went: children. education. environment. homelessness. teens. love. environment, environment, environment, environment, environment. It came to me: Oppression. Because it seems obvious to me that all of the issues listed by others were essentially the same issue. They derived from oppression. Yes, it is important to reach out to children and teens so they can be taught skills against oppression in their formative years. It is obvious that homelessness is a direct result of oppression. And the environment? Surely the environmental problems and issues we face stem from the hierarchical position humans have mistakenly placed them in above nature. Humans wishing to subdue the environment, to use it and abuse it and push it to the corner as if it were nothing of importance. Oppression. Across the board, the issue most noted in the room was environment. Perhaps because the destruction seems so imminent? As in, say, the destruction of sexual violence and inequality between human beings does not seem to pose a threat that will destroy the human race (though it is, actively, destroying us). Nature, perhaps, does not allow us to ignore the abuses we’ve partaken in, whereas humans have become all too accepting. Even resigned. [Interestingly, none of the students in my group (all white) mentioned anything about race. I find it fascinating how eager so many are to believe that racism no longer exists and how uncomfortable people get when someone attempts to address it. Pretending it’s not there, ignoring racism does nothing to solve anything or move anyone forward.]

I reflected on my time at the Cambridge Women’s Center today. Boston and Cambridge continue to feel like an unfinished phantom leg of my life. Pleasant and realistic dream.

I volunteered at the Women’s Center about 3 hours a week for one year. In that time, I had experiences and conversations that I will never forget. They influenced my immediate life and worked to change my attitudes and beliefs longterm.

The center began in 1971 when a group of pissed off feminists commandeered an abandoned Harvard building, declaring that they needed a community space of their own. Donations flowed in and the women were able to purchase a house in Cambridge. The house became a vibrant flowing space. Completely volunteer run and absolutely free, the Women’s Center was a place for women to go where they could feel safe and celebrate themselves and each other. It was a place of honesty. A place of community. Over the years, however, attendance receded. The Center slowly became more of a service center than a community space. Now rather than a space for all women, it is a space for poor, homeless, struggling, mentally ill, and women who are victims to come for shelter or use of the kitchen or computer lab. There is little interaction between women and oftentimes it is angry or resentful. There is a separation between the women who use the center and those who volunteer there –

volunteers are placed in a role of authority over the women who are using the center. And I don’t mind noting that many of the volunteers are young women attending college or coming from a place of privilege. This isn’t true across the board, but by and large the women who use the center are not from privilege and those who volunteer are. The hierarchy thus remains enforced.

Reflecting today, I realized how important it was for me to have a regular time slot at the center every week. To see the same people and hear the same voices on the phone over the span of a year.

I realized today that this is how social change is made. Getting people together to interact in some space without hierarchy or structure. Getting two people who would normally never have a reason to speak or meet one another to bond, to form a connection. To learn to appreciate each other’s gifts and to see one another for who they are, rather than their race, economic class, religion, whatever.

This is revolutionary. This is how social change is made. I want to be a part of social change as made this way.

But how do we do this? How do we go about it. How do we get a group of unlikely people in a space together and melt them down until they realize the raw truth of their humanity, their oneness? Especially because what is so important is getting people who are most aversive to this kind of thing to participate. Old people, young people, black and brown and hindu and catholic and muslim and whatever people. People from all walks or wheels. People classified as mentally ill. People who only see their money. People who only see their kids. How do we collect folks together and break them down into the understanding that they are all living together in this life and essentially, everybody wants the same thing. How do we get people to realize that their interests, their true interests (not the false consumer-fed and individualist-bred) are everybody’s interests. And that if everyone stopped participating in oppression and all of its many omnipresent tools, many of the problems this world’s people experience would take care of themselves.

I want to be a part of the transcendence that occurs when two people overcome every obstacle and see one another. I want that in love. I want that in life. If ever I were to have any sort of “career,” this is the career I might choose.


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