Grace and Intent – January 2015
“A standing ovation begins with one fool standing up!” Van Jones.
I want to tell you a personal story of intention, grace, clumsiness, near disaster and a return to grace.
In the last circle at the end of the December module of the current Apprenticeship the two elder women in that fine circle of people both said more or less the same thing: “The time is now, don’t wait, this is it”. It certainly feels like that to me, that what we do (or don’t do) this coming year may well have a particular potency.
My own heart feels particularly connected with the Pachamama Alliance and the tribal people the Achuar and Sapara of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and with climate change in general. In both these arenas, I am reminded of Galadriel’s words in Lord of the Rings, “the quest rests on a knife edge”.
In 2009, in the months of the run up to the Copenhagen Climate Change summit I felt as if my guiding spirits were knocking loud, saying that I had been asking to be useful to life on earth and that they had got a job for me. I was reluctant and afraid, and kept trying to convince my guidance system that they had got the wrong person.
On the human level I’d had several key inputs in 2009:
I’d heard Ed Milliband (then climate change spokesman for the opposition) on the radio begging the public to make a much bigger noise about the urgency of tackling global warming in-order to mandate and empower the politicians to do what they knew was necessary but didn’t believe there was public support for. I had Jake Chapman talking about people getting the politicians we deserve. And I had Van Jones and Lynn Twist in the Pachamama Awakening the Dreamer Symposium giving us their classic lines:
“A standing ovation begins with one fool standing up! Just one fool standing up doesn’t make a goddam bit of difference in the rational world, but if you stand up, you license others to stand up, and soon enough the whole stadium is standing up and it’s a different moment!” Van Jones
“You don’t have a big part to play, you don’t have a small part, you have your part”.
But I was still frozen. I didn’t have the digital skills or know how to do what I felt I was being asked to do: to play my part in creating a digital way for people all over the world to stand up together for life on earth.
I had no idea where to start. ‘They’ had got the wrong person. But the knockings from above (that is what it felt like, a knocking somewhere above my head) were not put off, and eventually, encouraged by my father quoting Gandhi’s lines about taking action without being attached to the results, I surrendered and did something. I contacted Nick Hart Williams, he put me in touch with Peter and Anuradha, and the rest is pretty well history.
A few days after this, I was in a healing ceremony in which I was asked to let go of my negativity about our species. I’d grown up with this terrible feeling of doom about who we are as humans, and the sense that the earth would breath a huge sigh of relief if our species came to an end. Letting go of this was really tough and I realised how deep the roots of this dark bitterness went into the underground of my psyche. Having let go, breathing in the light of possibility, I knew that this was probably going to be an ongoing challenge for me, and so it is. Within 24 hours of this ceremony I was given £10,000 for the project and off we went.
However, we were already in sticky waters. Without any of us knowing, we were working together under mistaken assumptions. I had been introduced to Peter and Anuradha as a funder. This was because Ya’Acov and I had been one of the many micro-funders of Franny Armstrong’s extra-ordinary climate change film “Age of Stupid”. (Franny is Peter and Anuradha’s daughter, and was introduced to Susannah by Boo, their other daughter.)
When I raised that first £10,000 within the blink of an eye, and then went to the Maldives and had dinner with the vice president, Peter and Anuradha naturally assumed I was a big shot funder. I, not knowing how I had been introduced, assumed that they knew I was a passionate individual with faith in their shared mission and some good luck. And I assumed they knew that when I said I was sure more funds would emerge; it was from a place of faith and shared sense of risk. Woops!
Peter and Anuradha had actually put their whole organisation into de-stabilizing debt in order to fund the development of 6 Billion Reasons assuming, from my first early success, that more funds would become available fast. However, despite all our good efforts, it proved impossible to find retrospective funding for work already done.
The whole project and relationship was on the verge of going badly wrong. It took ages to work out what had happened as Anuradha and I tiptoed politely around each other carefully trying to work out the strange vibes we were getting from each other. Once it became clear, it was a relief to understand, and a salutary lesson in not making assumptions especially where large sums of money are involved.
Peter and Anuradha managed to stabilise their ‘boat” and we made a commitment to make supporting the Mosaic an intrinsic part of our online shop business (www.movementmedicineshop.com) and promised to keep using this to “pay back” One Climate until One Climate’s investment was paid off.
Despite these difficulties we and Peter and Anuradha remained committed to our vision of the Mosaic. At this point it was hard to see how to move forward. I had a sense that something was happening which was bigger than my current ability to see it, and that I just had to hang in there and be patient.
Meanwhile, Peter and Anuradha had something else on their minds and in their hearts. Their beloved daughter Boo Armstrong was very ill. To me, Boo was an incandescent human being of vision, humanity, deep intelligence and sense of service. I had met her through a “systems theory in practice” study group I went to led by Jake Chapman.
Boo was a passionate vegan who lived on a canal boat in London, and was commissioned by the government to do a study of the cost effectiveness of alternative medicine in GP practices in Northern Ireland. The results of her 2-year study showed that alternative practitioners and medicine both (hugely) reduced NHS bills and improved the quality of many patients’ lives. Despite its impressive results the government shelved her study. Boo discovered she was struggling with cancer. As she went back and forward between health and illness, trying different alternative therapies, her family supported her through an emotional roller coaster. One month they would be able to dare to hope. The next they would be plunged into devastating feeling that their beautiful, young daughter, with all her strength and spirit might not make it through.
Boo’s new partner and her children were fonts of strength and love. In the end, in October 2012 beloved Boo died.
One year later, Peter and Franny organised an event to celebrate her life. http://spannerfilms.net/Boo_Celebration
Those who knew and loved her will always feel her loss.
In January 2013 after the harrowing year in which they lost Boo, Peter and Anuradha retired from the organisations they had started many years before: One World and One Climate, passing on their international work of 18 years to a committed young team.
Peter and Anuradha decided to set up a charity in remembrance and honour of Boo, called the Hedgerley Wood Trust, dedicated to supporting the growth of worldwide empathy. One World and One Climate gave them 6 Billion Reasons with them as they retired, and said that they write off the “debt” as a retirement present. Ken agreed to do the work to re-do the digital platform for the Mosaic so that it can be supported on the Hedgerley Wood Trust website.
Where we are now
6 Billion Reasons has been renamed Mosaic Earth has a new focus involving subsidiary “daughter mosaics” of the “mother-ship” earth Mosaic.
The launch of the Movement Medicine Community Mosaic marks the beginning of the next step for the daughter Mosaic concept.
The Movement Medicine Community Mosaic is acting as a pilot to create the technology and user-friendly interface for daughter mosaics to be available for campaign and community groups who are working for sustainability, social justice and creative community worldwide.
A “daughter mosaic” can be commissioned by an organisation with a campaign or awareness raising focus on a particular environmental, climate change or social justice issue. As a pictogram is added to a “daughter mosaic” it can also automatically be added to the “mother-ship” which becomes an amalgamation of voices of global citizenship.
The interface between the Mosaic and other social media has been created so that when someone put up a pictogram, it can instantly be sent to their social network via facebook and/or twitter. This has already been achieved which you will see if you use the Movement Medicine Community Mosaic.
Another intention is that people could easily create their own “fave tours” of a mosaic, with their own choice of music, to share with their own networks. This is part of the next phase, as well as being able to upload videos.
The vision is for the Mosaics to become a means for people to make themselves visible to each other in standing up for life, as well as a way for people to speak to those in power in a creative, beautiful and potent way.
Paris December 2015
I am very aware that the initial impetus for 6 Billion Reasons was the then upcoming Copenhagen Climate Change summit. We did not, then, have the impact we had wanted. Now the Paris Climate Change summit is approaching, and the evidence is more compelling everyday that if we are to avoid extremely painful results of man made climate change, we, the people of the world need to act now, together, the vested interests in the status quo are too big to be overridden by politicians without a huge mandate from us, the people.
As Van Jones says: “A standing ovation starts with one fool standing up”. Citizens across the globe need to know they are not alone. We need the encouragement of being able to see and feel ourselves as a part of a tidal wave of emergent care for each other, the future and for all life on our only home, planet earth.
“It is possible to develop a sustainable future for this planet, but it needs all of us to get involved.” Dr Kumi Naidoo, director of GreenPeace.
I hope this project can inspire and support you in whatever you are doing and being, and thank you for hearing my story!
If you feel inspired to do something right now, you can:
a) Join the Movement medicine Community mosaic (which is free!)
b) Connect with the Pachamama Alliance. Make either a one off or a monthly donation. If you want you can respond to the ‘donation email receipt’ by saying you want your donation to go specifically to Ecuador.
For info and links to the Mosaic and how to upload please go to Susannah’s other article ‘An Invitation’. For more info on Pachamama and how to donate go to Lynne Twist’s Article.
Much love, and I hope to see you on a dance floor (or a mosaic!) sometime soon,
Susannah Darling Khan