23 Apr “Please Mind The Gap” | Between the current reality and where you long to be
Giving my life in service to vision mobilisation, I offer myself in constant presence to witnessing the gap between the current reality and the world that resides within the vision of our organisms, and which I hear reflected in the words of so many people I work with; a world that works for all.
We do not live in a world that works for all. We live in a world that ostensibly works for some and that has been built on and continues to be created at a cost to others, including other life forms and other seen and unseen aspects of our world.
Imagine a landscape that water runs through. Plants grow around the water and out into the surrounding area. Animals and other lifeforms appear at the water’s edge to drink, bathe, and to feed on one another; there is flow of life. Imagine then that this water is stopped by a dam built upstream. The water dries up, plants die back, animals disappear and many die. The vibrancy fades, concentrated in areas where perhaps a small trickle of water still escapes, and the lack of ground cover and lower density of creatures makes for a much higher risk of being out in the open. The land becomes barren. Upstream, the land that was likewise vibrant and teeming with life quickly becomes saturated with more water than it needs to thrive, to the point that it swells, life is drowned, and form starts to dissolve, disintegrate and stagnate.
In this image, it is not possible, nor would it be desirable, for the whole landscape to become flooded, and yet this is what the structures we live within encourage and support; for us to move ever more towards having, being, and doing more than we need; for the barren land to be known as a scary and destitute place to be avoided and escaped; for us to crawl and drag our malnourished bodies towards the swollen reserves. From this perspective, it is easy to see that the difference between living in these realities makes us seem to one another so insurmountably “other” that we lose sight of ourselves and one another as part of an alive whole, that has been deeply displaced at our roots.
Breaking out of the metaphor, the impact of the systemic disparity of resource distribution is very real. As David Graeber says in Debt: the First 5000 Years, “…market economies, and especially their modern, capitalist version, concentrate wealth and resources more and more in the hands of fewer and fewer people, leaving larger and larger numbers of people in struggle.” It is a systemic reality in which “everybody loses, but some win and lose and others lose and lose” (this is a quote/concept I believe from Steve Wineman, however I am unable to find the reference).
This is the gap I am working to bridge and close, the vision towards which I am working and supporting our collective mobilisation, the vision of systemic win win win.
The more I connect to vision, the more I become aware of the gap between it and where we are and the systemic non-necessity of that gap. The struggle and grief we experience in not being able to realise life in the ways our organisms most deeply long for is because of the implicit systemic conditions in which we live and how we have been impacted and limited by them, not because of anything inherently “wrong” with any of us. Furthermore, the absence of real shifts is not because of any actual overall lack of material resources but a lack of access to collective relational resources. This looks like genuine care, trust in, and experience of implicit goodwill at the level of shared humanness; access to collective wisdom; and collective agency, the lack of which is brought about by the exploitative reality of the extraction and distribution of resources.
It makes sense to me that, by and large, people do not rally in an attempt to bring change. We are systemically blinded by individualisation living in a reality where either, in the case of living downstream, so much of the resources we do have available to us need to go towards keeping our head above ground, or, in the case of living upstream, looking at the impacts of what is normal to us in our daily lives would mean facing a seemingly impossible wall of horror while choked by immense depths of guilt and shame.
Seeing all of this is beyond heartbreaking. As I sit in the awareness of this gap, beholding how things are, and how unnecessary so much of this is, I feel my body and soul reaching for solace within the place of flow and trust in life that my heart and body tell me could be our systemic reality. From within that place, the waves of tears of mourning begin to fall for the different layers and experiences of devastating impacts. I connect to compassion for all of us; those known to me and those not, our overall entrenched stuckness within this system, and our attempts to come together to bring change within the limitations and associated reactions of our atrophied capacity for togetherness.
As I sit here and write all of this I see, too, my own downstream working class conditioning (albeit “downstream” in the context of growing up in the “upstream” of the global north), creeping in and the ways in which that acts to stymie my capacity. The thoughts say: “does this make sense? Who am I to be writing about such big things? Maybe what I write, that which comes directly from the experience of this gap within my body, gained and internalised from all the work I have been pouring myself into these last years, is not true. Maybe I’m making it up and it is actually me that just wasn’t able to make the leap, and all this is simply hyperbole employed by my conscience, that is so desperate to clamber out of the malaise of self-depreciation which formed part of the landscape in which I grew up. Maybe it’s true that, as my parents often referred to themselves when something complex was presented, I too am just a bit “thick”, “stupid”…” and then I feel shame for asking myself these questions and having these doubts, when those around me when I was growing up worked so hard to tell me often that I’m “smart” and “cleverer than them, which is why I understand things and they don’t get what I’m talking about,” and supported me, as much as they were able, not to internalise these disabling thoughts. I sit here and write with gratitude for the perhaps chance conditions of both my own constitution and the unique support I received from people and the land around me, that meant I was able to hold onto enough of my truth, self-knowing and trust to have an intuitive guiding star bringing me to where I am now. At the same time, I sit and write with awareness that what I write is from my own perspective and experience and that within that, there are likely huge blind spots as to my own privilege and global north “upstream” living.
Venturing into the gap: Faith and Support
In recent months, the call for the Vision Mobilisation work (previously “PurposeWork”) has grown louder. The centrality it has taken within the Nonviolent Global Liberation community as the organising principle of the entire framework, and the apprentice calls I have been holding, mean that capacity to deliver and facilitate this work is gradually expanding. At the same time, with my centrality to this work, my presence to the gap has grown and the necessity for increased capacity in me has also grown. I found myself at my edge. For a while I was struggling, to the point of being unable to even remember why I am doing this and what I bring to it, thinking that I had “lost it”. A lot of support from those around me helped me to see that I had not “lost it”, I was simply in a different place in the process; hanging out in the gap, engulfed in the grief and without what I needed either in agreements with myself about how to care for myself in such times, or in connection with those around me to be able to access the depth of support I needed.
I am aware that as I venture into the gap, I have no idea what I will actually encounter, from where I will need to draw capacity in an attempt to respond, and even if I will be able to find that capacity. What I am aware of is that what resides in the gap are the myriad manifestations of scarcity, separation, and powerlessness.
The work of vision mobilisation is ultimately about moving towards restoration of flow by activating our capacity for togetherness and choice. Working to restore choice, togetherness and flow within a field of scarcity, separation, and powerlessness is intense work and ultimately requires me, and anyone doing this work, to lean internally on firm grounding in the vision of a reality of restored choice, togetherness and flow.
With the extent of reality that is contrary to this, leaning on vision is to lean on faith. For me this means drawing on my fundamental trust that beneath the layers of entrenched individualisation and separation, we are all human; that we were all children once without the internalisation of patriarchy, longing for love and truth and making choices that made sense based on the information that was available and that ensured our survival. When I am able to stand firmly on this foundation, I am able to reach through the patriarchal trance and attempt to call us back to our shared humanness, to the extent that I have capacity to do so. Within the Vision Mobilisation Framework, this looks like finding pieces of vision and building bridges to it in various forms of agreement. Stacey Martino Riviera, who I have worked with for the last year or so, has offered a “snapshot in time” of her Vision Mobilisation Structure as a contribution to the spread of this work in the world, you can see it here. For an “unpacked” example of where I have leaned on faith in action, outside of Vision Mobilisation, you can read my post “Disrupting The Trance | Reaching through to our shared humanness”.
While leaning on faith is a strength of mine, it is vital that I do so from within a field of togetherness, otherwise I can lose that strength. Togetherness is the glue of human capacity and creating it through specific support structures where there is enough vision, enough systemic awareness, and enough compassion is an imperative to the Vision Mobilisation work.
For me this looks like having support in place to keep me up-to-date with my own Vision Mobilisation structure, a community of people around me who are likewise dedicated to shared vision, and regular and specific support to be with the grief of the gap. It is only recently, through experiencing a growth in capacity around me, finding my own new edges and applying my values to the limitations within myself that the importance of the above has come clear. Walking out on a limb towards vision requires more of us embedded in fields of togetherness in order to be able to access the collective wisdom within it, and generate a collective holding of the vision to find enough capacity to metabolise the grief of the gap. For those of us who are vision workers, support then becomes not about one person’s “healing” but about the collective’s capacity to mobilise its resources towards vision. My wish is for this blog post to be received as encouragement to follow and question what life brings you, to view your self-depreciations as pointers to places where you simply do not have capacity right now, and put in place with others what you need to be able to serve on the path towards full restoration of our humanness.