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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/3/10

Year of the Butterfly

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Every year we get this opportunity to pick ourselves up and start over. The new year is just a tick on a calendar, a day when the sun rises exactly like every other day since the earth began rotating around the sun. But we humans like to think of life in linear terms, with precise beginnings and endings to everything, so we have the beginning of the year and the end of the year; the beginning of life and the end of life; the beginning of a civilization and the end of it. For me, December 31st is particularly significant because it marks the beginning of my life--I was born at 10PM on New Year's Eve. I endure the agony of acknowledging my aging and making resolutions all in one shot! This year, my birthday also falls on a Blue Moon, something that has no more significance than any other aspect of the day; it merely means that this is the second full moon in the month. If you live on the opposite side of the planet, you can also watch a partial lunar eclipse as you welcome in this New Year. So there you have it, lots of silly reasons to celebrate when it seems that we really have very little to celebrate as we watch the clock tick into 2010.

But the universe is not linear. It is a continuum of cycles meshing and recycling. Cycles have no starting or finish line. You can't pinpoint any particular point in the circle as the end. When we talk about life cycles, we are acknowledging that life itself is circular. We can't agree when life begins, hence the unending abortion debate. Even your age is variable, depending on where you were born - babies born in China just before the Chinese New Year will be 2 years old by the time Chinese New Year comes round. When you die in China, they add 3 more years to your actual age: 1 year for heaven, 1 for earth and 1 for yourself!

Not only are years different in different cultures, but the start of the solar year is culturally arbitrary. As a student of the ancient Maya (I wrote an historical novel about Pakal of Palenque) I am amused by the recent hoopla about the upcoming date, Dec. 21, 2012. The Maya had segmented time into many cycles, from 13 days to 5,128 years! These cycles all interlock, like an amazing set of gears running the clock of the universe. Some folks determined that the Maya's longest cycle will end in two years and are conveniently equating this date with Judeo-Christian biblical predictions of Armageddon and apocalyptic disaster. While I agree that the human race is facing an unprecedented convergence of catastrophes (the consequence of unmitigated greed and arrogance of an elite few), I have a different "take" on the significance of 2012. It is no more the beginning or ending of anything than it is when the clock strikes 12 on New Year's Eve; it is simply the marking of a tick in time on a gigantic clock. That's not to say that studying this clock doesn't offer the potential for some prophetic insight into the future. Cycles are repetitive, though not exactly. It's like music, a recurring theme with variations.

Take for example the life cycle of the caterpillar and butterfly. I was recently doing some research on this because I decorated a wooden box for my grandson with pictures of the process of metamorphosis. I really liked the way Tom Greco, in his latest book, "The End of Money, The Future of Civilization" used the analogy of the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly to illustrate where he sees humanity at this time. He explains that within the chrysalis, the caterpillar's body completely breaks down. The butterfly's DNA is entirely different from the caterpillar, but it was carried within the caterpillar. The butterfly is nourished by the soupy remains of the caterpillar and when he emerges in about two weeks from the transparent casing of the chrysalis, nothing remains of his predecessor. Greco believes that, like the caterpillar, our current system is going to break down completely and we will emerge from the mess with an entirely new way of being. He compares the caterpillar's voracious appetite, that can destroy the plants it devours, to the butterfly, that has a symbiotic relationship with the plants, sipping nectar from flowers while aiding in pollination.

So, if we were to look at our current situation as a phase in a cycle, rather than the end of the line, we could anticipate what's coming and put our energy into preparing for a metamorphosis, rather than frantically trying to shore up a failed system. If caterpillars were able to prevent moving on to their chrysalis stage, they would soon consume everything until there was nothing left, causing their own extinction. That's exactly what happens with the gypsy moth. I remember living on Long Island in 1986 when we had a horrendous infestation of gypsy moth caterpillars. There were so many of them that you could actually hear them munching the leaves in the oak trees in front of our house. Their waste coated our sidewalk and driveway like millions of teeny roller bearings. I remember carrying in bags of groceries from the car when it had been raining. All of that caterpillar poop had turned into slime. I slipped and not only was I covered in that disgusting slime, so were all the groceries that fell out of the bags!

I recount this awful experience because the interesting thing was that the following year there wasn't a single gypsy moth to be seen. I learned that the gypsy moth goes through cycles where each year there are more and more until they reach a breaking point where they simply eat themselves into extinction. If we somehow manage to keep our current consumptive system going, we too will consume ourselves to extinction. Instead, it is time to let this system go and to begin our own metamorphosis. This is what my plan for Amikas is all about. Instead of trying to solve problems like homelessness by using the same systems that cause homelessness, we have the opportunity to try something entirely different on every level, from how we trade, to how we live and organize ourselves.

I see this metamorphosis happening all around us. I've talked to the mayor of National City who wants to make the park in the center of town into a community garden, a veteran and his wife who have a garden in North County where other veterans dealing with PTSD can learn to grow food with hydroponics, a friend who is converting a part of his parent's ranch in Baja into a permaculture model, another who is developing sustainable building alternatives. There are many people working to find food and shelter for those living on the streets. And many towns are now adopting transitional standards.

I'm excited about the changes we are going to see in the coming year. I see the fact that I'm going to be laid off this January as the opportunity to put my energy into getting Amikas off the ground. Last Sunday, Juan and I took our bikes to Tecolote Canyon Golf Course and had a little picnic on the back end (I kept my helmet on to protect me from wayward golf balls). In the tradition of the Maya, we sprinkled a little of an alcoholic beverage on the ground and consecrated the land, claiming it for the people. Now we have the hard work ahead of us, starting with collecting signatures to get on the ballot to change the designation from park land, so the people can build, not just shelter, but a community. We've begun to build the system for our Common Cents digital currency, so we can trade goods and services without debt-based money. We are bringing together experts in sustainable living, farming and building. We are discussing new ways of cooperating and organizing ourselves so everyone has a voice and a chance.

But first, we need to create a non-profit organization. Thanks to the internet, I will be able to do most of the work on this, although I would appreciate advice from anyone who has done this before. And we're going to need about $1,000 for fees etc. As someone facing being unemployed in two weeks, I'm going to have to ask for help here. I don't think your contribution will be deductible, but if 100 people would send me $10, it won't hurt too much and we'd be off and running. Until we establish our account, I can only take your donation as a gift to me, Jeeni Criscenzo. Consider it a birthday present! I will send out an email as soon as we have reached the $1,000, so you can hold off further donations until we set up the non-profit for Amikas. Thank you in advance for believing in this vision. Send a check for $10 to Jeeni Criscenzo, 6675 Linda Vista Rd., Apt. 2, San Diego, CA 92111.

If you'd like to know more about Amikas, and live in the San Diego area, please attend my presentation to the PDA of North County on Sunday, January 10th at 1:30 PM at Palomar Unitarian Universalist Church, 1600 Buena Vista Drive, Vista, CA. Or, if you belong to an organization in the San Diego area that would like me to come talk about Amikas, I would be delighted to do so! If this email was forwarded to you, be sure to go to to sign up to get your own. And check out all the additions we've made to the website. And if you are interested in helping us to plan and build Amikas, send me an email we need you! One last thing, we could use some help from someone who knows how to write PHP code.

Happy New Year and Happy Metamorphosis!

Jeeni Criscenzo


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Jeeni Criscenzo is an entrepreneur, peace activist and author. She was 2006 Democratic candidate for Congress - 49th District. In 2003 she traveled around the country in an RV, writing her daily blog: CPR4Democracy. She is also a founder of (more...)
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