On the day of Naomi Klein's speech, I arrived two hours prior, planning to survey the scene before listening to one of my biggest heroes speak. Before I knew it, the echoing of the peoples' mic at the other end of the park jolted me from whatever conversation I was having at the time, to go and listen. Time at Occupy Wall Street moves in the way self-improvement books will tell you time moves when you've found your passion. It moves fluidly. I found myself going effortlessly from one engaging moment to the next.
There were three or more waves of the peoples' mic (people repeating the speaker's words, in waves so it spreads to the outside) awhen I walked up. I found a dead zone, where only every other word or so was audible. Everyone around me was straining to listen, so I felt compelled to find a spot where I could hear and project into that place where the words were being lost. Naomi Klein's words were so moving, so sweet. It was funny to watch her catch herself each time she forgot to wait for the waves of human voices to reach the outer circles. It was amazing, thrilling, beautiful to feel and internalize the truth in her words while repeating them in my own voice with hundreds of other voices. Her last words: "Treat this movement as if it's the most important thing in the world, because it is."
A General Assembly began soon after, and again I felt compelled to lend my voice where it felt necessary. It was my first assembly, and I was introduced to the hand symbols which everyone is free to use to participate in the dialogue.
The GA was just so cool. I don't know if I had ever seen true democracy in action before. People cling to the notion of the Great American Democracy, but I remember learning in 4th grade or so, this is a Republic. In a true democracy, every person's voice counts equally. There are not representatives whose voices take the place of their constituents. While it definitely makes the process of decision-making slow and meandering, it also educates the people as they participate and does take into account certain perspectives which would certainly be neglected or underrepresented if the conversation was limited to some elite circle. The assembly I took part in went very slowly when the subject of money was included. The specific issue was that the Comittee for Arts and Culture was asking permission to pay money for security at a gallery event. The gallery space at 23 Wall Street was offered up, but in order to maintain safety codes for the turnout expected, security guards would be necessary. Most of the crowd was easily in favor, as the money being asked was a negligible amount compared to the total budget. After much ado, the motion was passed. Before that could happen, many concerns were aired, but many digressions began as well. Attendees were not all paying attention to the code of conduct and tried to exploit the free platform of being able to get one's voice heard to talk about themselves or other off-topic concerns. No one was shamed, but these people were made aware by the crowd that this was not the time or place. So, in the process, those participants learned how to effectively participate by staying on topic and lending attention to the ideas at hand. The motion passed and the Occupy Wall Street art show, No Comment was beautiful. (some photos)I went with my parents, who came down on the day it opened. It was a 24-hour exhibit. My original intent to go was that there would be bathrooms! Using McDonald's and Pret a Manger gets old after awhile, and I sometimes feel a kind of debt if I use their resources and don't make a purchase. My parents and I walked towards Wall Street, and almost overlooked it, due to massive barricades and police presence. The gallery was right next to the stock exchange. We had to walk a full block extra to wind our way around the labyrinthine barricades.
I really enjoyed this image, appropriated from Alphonse Mucha by Libor Von Shonau
My visit to NYC was not solely for the movement, I was also meeting up with close friends who were visiting from Chicago, and I was visiting colleges to decide where I'm going. I didn't realize that once I became acquainted with Occupy Wall Street, I would have a hard time wanting to extricate myself. That first night, after the GA it was just past 10pm. An impromptu quiet jam session was happening and I couldnt help but sing and make joyful noise with others, especially when someone started playing Get Up, Stand Up. Who can resist?
Most people think,
Great God will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights.
A lot of people were already laid out in sleeping bags by the time the quiet music died out. Spontaneous conversation bubbled between me and the Irish girl who was sitting by me during the music. We talked about the adventures of our lives, the darkness and the brilliance, and how comfortable we both felt in this place. These connections came so easily in this occupied space. People were so PRESENT, so available, so willing to operate on a deeply honest, soul-baring level. It was refreshing.
I hadn't planned to sleep in the park, but after awhile I realized I couldn't kid myself anymore, I couldn't drag myself away. A sweet young traveler had just arrived to the movement and I was his first contact. We talked about the places we've seen and I told him what I knew about this place. He shared his blanket with me in a very kind gesture. We talked about our values and our perspectives about the world. He was young and angry at the world, which I found endearing, but could not let my truth remain unspoken. I countered his argument that "to love, one must also hate," as I do not believe that love and hate are opposites! Love and loneliness are opposites, in my opinion, and I reiterated that I do not hate the oppressors. I don't. I pity them.
Besides the conversation, I was too distracted to sleep. The place we were in was right at the foot of the steps as one enters the park. I was cold, I was not feeling completely safe, and I had a lot to think about. Knowing that police were keeping watch over the park overnight was actually a comfort. I had waited too long to ask for blankets, and there were none left when I inquired. Next time, I will most definitely bring my own gear. We slept on cardboard appropriated from the sign-making station, and a layer of clothing, with the blanket on top. The wind blew right through, and I regretted not taking a crinkly, metallic, heat-conducting, space blanket. (side note: any industrious seamstresses/ tailors/ garment contructors out there, see what you can come up with for heat-conductor clothing?! space blankets could be a good material to keep people warm AND shiny all winter!)
After an apple and some tangerines for breakfast, brushing my teeth and peeing at McDonald's, I was pretty exhausted. News of a massive clean-up prevented me from seeking deep rest, so I sat by the Tree of Life and meditated for awhile. The Tree of Life is a tree at one corner of the park with a ring of marble benches around it, that occupiers have designated as a sacred space. There is a beautiful altar of offerings like chocolate, money, jewelry, flowers, words like "the heart wants what the heart wants" and multi-faith religious objects. At this space is also where one can find news and ways to participate in the Consciousness Committee. My involvement with the consciousness committee happened as spontaneously as so many other beautiful, magical things did during my attendance at ground zero of this revolution (which is RIGHT next to 9/11 Ground Zero, btw.)
Early in the day, I attended a theater games workshop with a dear new friend. I can't recall if it was under the title Theater of the Opressed, or Liberation Theater, something to an effect like that, led by a dynamic woman named Jenn. We played roles such as Opressor/Opressed and explored aspects of that relationship through games. We spontaneously created human sculptures expressing themes such as War, A Better Life, and Racism. A fun game we played was exploring a previously unknown partner's hands with eyes closed in silent physical dialogue, and then linking up with them again, blindly, amidst a mass of everyones' hands. Playing these games really dared me to challenge my own perspectives and see very simply, with no pretensions, where other people were coming from.
Walking back from Battery Park from this workshop which was held in the green space there, my friend and I, having our own sacred moment, were passed by the Consciousness Committee, about to hold a meeting about Sacred Space and planning. They went to the same green space we had just occupied to hold the meeting and I caught up with them at the tail end after taking care of some more mundane details I needed to see to. The part I got to tune in for was incredible. After finishing the meeting with assignments for sub-committees, like signs, writing, internet communications, etc, the 22 attendees formed a big circle, which we turned inside out while still linked by the hands. As one big circle of linked human beings, we sincerely shouted out into the public of Battery Park, "WE LOVE YOU!" and proceeded to form a nebula of bodies in group-hug formation, reaching out through our intentions and our voices, making tonal sounds to radiate metta loving kindness. I cannot express the feeling of being in the middle of this group. What a feeling!
One of the participants here was drawn to the group serendipitously, from his meanderings in Battery Park. He was a very kind-looking young man wearing white, and he said he knew he had just found his people. For years, he had carried with him these buffalo teeth, given to him by the granddaughter of a Native American Tribal Chief, Lakota if I remember correctly, but I'm not positive. In dispersing them amongst us, he told me there was exactly the right number for everyone present to get one. Besides being a symbolic object of connection between us all, this object has come to symbolize, for me, also my connection to a timeless movement where people have stood for Love and Compassion. The reighteous path in which one lives an honest life in accordance to natural law, HARMING NONE and honoring one's deepest truths.
That is what this movement is. Occupy Wall Street is an organism. The growing movements around the country and the world are proof of the way it can work when people come together for the common good. When you speak the truth, it comes out effortlessly, and people LOVE to listen to it!!! Since that first day, I have been interviewed multiple times by all kinds of media, including salon.com where I was interviewed alongside a very intelligent professor and architect, John Lowe. (I haven't been able to find any article where either of us is quoted, though.) Its amazing how communication flows so easily when the truth is behind it. A lot of people seem to want short answers to their questions, and I came to my short answer to the question, "why are you here?"
I am here to support a radical, progressive shift in the operating paradigm. I am here because the system into which I was born is NOT the world I want to live in, and I know there is a better way.
You can quote me on that if you like.
Besides food, blankets, friendships, vitamins, information, healing energy work, and so much more, I was also given an opportunity to express myself creatively and passionately in support of a truth I fully, whole-heartedly believe in. What empowerment! This is a moment in time that I have been gearing up for for my entire life. What beautiful soul-rebels adorn this square in downtown Manhattan, and I am positive are also occupying all the other sites around the country and the world. I want to yell it from the rooftops, I want to sing it everywhere I go, The Revolution is Beautiful and it belongs to YOU!