“It must be said that the majority of humans ever to have lived, have existed in conditions of immiseration and servitude to a small minority of wealthy and powerful people…until the number of whole lives is greater than the number of shattered lives, we remain stuck in some kind of prehistory, unworthy of humanity’s great spirit. History as a story worth telling will only begin when the whole lives outnumber the wasted ones.” - The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson
History is divided into ages: the Dark or Middle Ages, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Age. These ages are marked by some grand commonality of human beings, a grand desire, or enlightenment, or misery. We have the false sense that we collectively move out of, or into, these ages. There are some people even now in the dark ages, some still in the industrial age. And throughout all these ages, there are moments we call renaissance.
renaissance: a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth; revival: “a moral renaissance.”
Sometimes a renaissance can become a new identity for a generation or an age, as in the Harlem Renaissance, the European Renaissance.
I have been feeling, over the past few years, that we are in the midst of an ideological renaissance, that there is a Grand Awakening afoot, amidst the politics, misery and socially-induced apathy. Joanna Macy has called this moment the Great Turning, the “shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization”.
I have been wanting to call out this renaissance for us, expose a new age that we can lean into. Not an age of perfection, or of total peace. But an age where we decide, in disconnected and deep action, with or without words, to shift our collective consciousness.The shift is towards each other, towards our communities, towards responsibility for ourselves and our space and our joy. For a better way of living that frees us from mindlessness, and demands us to be both present and practical.
I particularly want to call it out because I think it is in some way evidenced in our presidential choice last week.
While many are focusing on the Blackness of Obama, I think that a point as important, or more important, is his emphasis on the strategic and direct response to a call that has been growing in the hearts and minds of people around the world: Yes, We Can.
When we say we are the ones we have been waiting for, my mind always wanders over to the question, “To do what?” What are we waiting for us to do? Do we know? Can we figure it out? Can the answer be different for everyone and still have a meta impact?
Here’s my current conclusion: The Ones who I have been spending my time with are, in my opinion, the seeds of the Age of Yes, people who say yes to the demands of a fulfilling life, that we can do it ourselves.
For instance, we can communicate and be present with each other; we can have compassion for each other; we can have a joyful, celebratory and respectful experience of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, history and culture; we can be stewards of our home planet, we can garden and recycle - we don’t need to create one more new material good if we don’t want to, we have more than enough; and we can release yesterday’s mode of hording and domination into the past, we can inhabit the moral dream of ourselves, be revived, be interested again, be creators.
Obama did not tell us this, or lead us into it - he arrived in response to it, he exposed that we wanted to hear it. Tired of political platforms, which seem to only exist to be jumped off of into treacherous familiar waters, the small minority of the global population (all of whom are impacted by this election, many of whom are actually more directly impacted by the American election than American citizens are) that could vote in this election voted for the candidate whose message, energy, campaign strategy and belief system spoke to a deeper need, deeper than policy or race redemption.
We need to believe we have purpose, even if that belief is tucked down in the catacombs of our dreams. We need to believe we can survive and evolve, that we are not cogs in a wheel, not wasted lives; we need to know that we contribute to a wholeness greater than ourselves; that we, as individuals and communities, are whole.
Throughout history, we see the outcomes of belief. We have believed the world was flat, the universe revolved around us, that women were divine, that women were witches, that whiteness was superior, that money was more valuable than life, that some lives matter more than others. And we have left those beliefs behind us, kicking and screaming, when a new truth became evident. Then we have believed in the power of workers, the equality of all people, the round world and the greater universe. We have a hard time shifting our rituals and habits to reflect those beliefs, but nonetheless we believe.
Now, there are many of us who believe we are capable of self-determination and evolution, and I say why not call this The Age of Yes. This would be an age in which people believed in their own capability to say yes to the gifts of reason, humanity, planet and love - yes, we will apply these gifts in countless ways to the barriers we have created between ourselves and our survival, our evolution. Yes, we have or can acquire all the skills we need in order to protect, feed, clothe, unite and uplift our communities.
The reality is that each step Obama takes into the White House will be a step of compromise between vision and status quo. We watched this happen along the campaign trail, as the slender biracial community organizer had to toss certain ideals, identities and friends off the train if he wanted to reach his destination. He is not a basket to put eggs in, however; he is a representative. He held fast to the point he was representing - that he will not make the changes himself, he will just hold the space.