Are we just tiny cells with an arrogant delusion that we can make a significant difference within massive Gaia being, or are we actually more powerful than we've allowed ourselves to imagine?
People who study complex systems like ecosystems, markets, etc. point out that systems often go through long periods of gradual change. Then at some point the characteristics of the system are such that profound change can happen seemingly overnight. The system essentially “flips” from one state to another.
One of the characteristics of those moments when these “perturbations” develop is that relatively small things that would normally not have much influence on anything can be decisive scale tippers.
This election season has left many of us discouraged about the choices we are presented with, and also resolved to make our choice and express it. We’re tired of the derision, disrespect and division, but it’s clear that there are choices (at the national, state and local levels), and the differences between the options matters.
If you care about one school or one community or one young black man or one stand of trees or one baby or one business or one woman or one veteran or one estuary or one community or one wolf or one beehive or one child or….. then the particular people who make decisions affecting all of these things matter.
There are plenty of reasons not to even talk politics. Wrestling with different perspectives ain‘t a walk in the park. The alternative, though, is to relinquish power to those who are more than happy to take it from our busy or bored hands.
Now, what if you had a credible reason to believe that YOUR actions over the course of the next two weeks could actually impact the balance of power in the United States Senate?
Would you be interested in considering what you might want to do given such a rare opportunity to make what could be a significant difference in the tone, decisions, laws, vision and possibilities of our society for the foreseeable future?
Check this out from fivethirtyeight.com. Especially if you’re in North Carolina.
The first graphic illustrates the potential influence of North Carolina in determining the balance of power in the US Senate, according to a meta-analysis of the most recent polling. We are the most likely of all the currently red-polling states to go blue in this Senate race.
The second graphic is a “voter-power index.” As Nate Silver describes it, this is the relative likelihood that an individual voter in a state will determine the majority party. As an NC voter, you have more potential influence on the balance of power in the Senate than a voter in any other state.
Take that in for a moment or two.
What might you do in the next two weeks given there is good reason to believe that YOU could well have a measureable impact on the US Senate? And I not talking about just your vote. We know of multiple national races in the last couple of decades that were decided by a few hundred votes.
What if you took the extra steps, maybe just a few hours over the next two weeks, to make some phone calls, do some door-to-door canvassing, offer rides to polling places, etc. What if you invited a few friends to play along?
What if you engaged your network, and they engaged theirs, and we all kicked it for a couple of weeks? How about if one of the people who heard from a friend of your friend decided to spend all weekend making phone calls to people across the state and ended up talking to several hundred people and single-handedly convincing many of them to go vote?
Imagine waking up after two weeks of voter turnout work/play along with several friends of yours, each of whom spoke on the phone or in person to 25, 50, 100, 200 people apiece, and you learned that Deborah Ross won by 639 votes…
Now imagine waking up after passing on this opportunity for whatever reason and learning that the Republican’s money machine paid off again around the country to “protect them from another Democratic President,” and she LOST to Richard Burr by 639 votes.
The Democrats wouldn’t take the Senate after all, Paul Ryan would chair the budget committee and we’d be looking at at least another 2 years of polarized and paralyzed governing.
Both of these are very real possibilities. And I’ve realized that I am now ready and willing to do whatever I can to encourage you, myself, and whoever we all know to pitch in over the next two weeks and get a whole bunch more people to the polls.
The payoff may indeed be one of those rare system flipping moments.
It is said by elders that your words are your prayers. I pray for this society to emerge into the light of its better angels. I pray for wisdom, compassion and creativity to prevail over rage, revenge and retribution. I have more prayers and I know you do, too.
I pray for leaders who are able to discern their own wisdom and also listen to the will of ALL the people regardless of their net worth or how much they contributed to their campaigns. I pray for leaders who will listen to the four-leggeds, the tall standing ones, the finned ones, the winged ones, the crawling ones, the water, the air, Earth for guidance on how we can ALL live together on this planet that seems to get smaller and smaller every year.
And I pray that we will have the courage to speak, shout and sing our prayers. Finally, I pray to remember that my prayers are amplified a thousand-fold when I play them out with my actions.
Maybe we are cells of Gaia. But I think it’s probably safe to say that we matter more than we think. Let’s do this…. J
you've always known
I saw a video on Facebook this morning of someone on a snowcapped ridge top that looked about four–five feet wide at the most with drop-offs on both sides that would have had wing-suit jumpers howling in delighted anticipation. The only thing that kept my heart from crawling right out of my body was the very existence of the footage.
For 20 years or so, my family had a place in Summit County, CO and I got into skiing enough to navigate most any slope, including some nice bowls, some time-trial runs and some pretty scary-looking triple diamonds. (More than once when I got up there I thought, Holy ______, the only way out of here is THAT?!?!?! The only real decision to make, at that point, was which moment to lean forward and go.
I heard Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert album when I was a social work student at UT Austin in the late 70's. It was the most stunningly beautiful piano music I have ever heard, And it was mind boggling to me that it was just coming through him in the moment. For years the dream of learning to do that was both blessing and curse, and I was paralyzed both by the desire to do it and the immensity of the gulf between people like Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson and ... me! I occasionally come back around, though, to wondering what it must feel like to play such exquisitely beautiful music freely, fiercely, masterfully... and spontaneously!
After all these years I actually find myself teaching people how to improvise on the piano. I've got a kind of trick for helping people learn all 12 keys of the keyboard without ANY of the things most people assume are prerequisites that (e.g. music reading, learning chords or scales, at least note names!!).
So I'm all about encouraging us all to step beyond our perceived boundaries and try new stuff, even (especially?) when scary. So, okay Daniel, you gonna practice what you preach here?!!?
Thinking about my business can sound like I'm up on a ridge-top with skis and a GoPro (except now with maybe a loin cloth). I mean, what if I get going a little too fast, overestimate my capability and miscalculate in a way that could cost me dearly? I've certainly done plenty of that in my time.
What makes me so sure it's okay to put this video up? What if people watch and listen and think "what the heck can THIS guy teach about improvising, I don't want to sound like THAT!!! He's clearly not prepared for this." (or... what's he doing playing in a loin cloth?)
The aspects in me that are afraid to reveal the flaws in my playing, any uninteresting or boring harmonic or melodic lines, or anything else that's not "delightfully inventive and impressively executed" get very uncomfortable and reticent to step up and expose myself to humiliation, derision or, worst of all, a general collective yawn...
And it's not just the improvising itself, mind you. I've been doing that in one form or fashion for about 15 years now with the Jubilee! Community, Asheville Playback Theatre, with my wedding and event band, Current Invention, various side gigs, and on my own at home.
It's the RECORDING of it! You know, so someone can listen to the mistakes over and over and share them with tens of thousands of their closest friends on Facebook.
I know, I know, nobody cares. But telling that to the far-too-grandiose-for-his-whiskers perfecto-cat part in here has proven a good deal more challenging than my Leonine pride is inclined to admit.
Well, I'm getting loud and clear lately that it's about the music. Listening, feeling, playing and sharing. Sharing what I have to share. just as it is. right now. under-developed and not-ready-for-prime-time. warts and all.
Who knows, maybe that's what the world needs, or maybe at least what somebody needs. If so, it would be pretty nice if you're out there and seeing this. Goddess knows I hope SOMEBODY gets some value from this ridge-top leap!
So here's my flawed and imperfect encouragement to YOU to share your love and your gifts. I'm no Keith Jarrett or Bruce Hornsby or Jean Claude Killy, but those folks have already got those parts taken care of. Maybe it's time for me just to be me, and you to be you.
Okay, skis strapped on and secured. Helmet on, GoPro mounted in place and.... Recording. Ready to head downhill.... Deep breath... NOW!!!