ON THE ROAD WITH FIERCE LIGHT

Well it’s been an exciting year of travelling around the world, helping Fierce Light shine. The responses have been so tremendous, and moving. Every audience is different, but again and again people are deeply transformed by the film. Last weekend I was in Charleston, at the Sophia Institute. On Friday night the packed screening at the American Theater offered up a standing ovation. The next day, the SHINE YOUR FIERCE LIGHT workshop was charged with energy and compassion. The insitute has been host to many of the great spiritual wisdom keepers of this age, and it was an honour to form a fierce light circle there.

Sunday, I took the plane to Atlanta where a wonderful group called “Evolver” hosted my workshop in an intentional community. Appropriately, the space we were in was called “Soul Shine.” Again I was moved by the depth and openess of the participants, and the feeling that there truly is a zeitgeist of compassionate action spreading around the globe, that people are ready for this synthesis of spirituality and action. The time has come!

As I write this I’m in New York City, where the Village Zendo is hosting a Fierce Light screening on Saturday night, Oct 10 at 7pm. Then, on Sunday, Evolver NYC is hosting a SHINE YOUR FIERCE LIGHT workshop, from 1-5 pm.

Please join us or spread the word if you can!

Check out the facebook group for more info.

Defiantly Hopeful

merry-crisis

In the face of a world in crisis, I dare to care. In the face of materialism, consumerism, and me me me – ism, I recognize that I am because you are, that without you and you and you – plant animal mineral macro micro organism human- I would not exist. That we are all part of a brilliant multi hued tapestry, that we all add to the warp and weave and woof, that we all have a fierce light.

In the face of irony, cynicism, jadedness and despair, I choose hope. In the face of narrow empiricism, the confining corridors of quantification, of dogma of any stripe-rational, political, spiritual or religious, I choose to light a match to the fuse of possibility, and blow up all boxes, sending the church of reason, the church of ideology, the church of churchiness, into the air, with a deep and satisfying boooooom, so that emptied of their arrogance, these churches might offer us freedom, not more walls, love, not more hate, understanding, not more separation.

In the face of hatred, anger and fear, I choose love, compassion, and celebration. If I can’t party in your revolution, don’t put me on the guest list.

In the face of my own vulnerabilities and limitations, I choose to go easy on myself. I am not perfect, I am human, and that is a wonderful thing. My stumblings and fumblings make me real. I am simply doing my best.

In the face of my ego, which is always feeling either smalled or bigged, I smile gently and give it a little pat on the head, a kick in the butt, a nudge in the ribs and say,”hey we’re doing fine, we’re doing just fine. Get up off the ground, get down off of your pedestal and stand in the place of the real, neither inflated, nor deflated, just be yourself. That’s good enough.”

In the face of a sunny day, I cry out,”thank you! Thank you for this amazing world, thank you for 14 billion years of hard joyous miraculous work to get us to the point where we can really appreciate this magnificence. I’m going to stop pissing in my own pool and start truly loving this incredulous place, from the bottom of my toes to the tip of my tongue, gonna celebrate this one precious life, this next precious breath, this precious precious moment. To hell with the nay sayers and doomsdayers, the cynics and the pisspots, I will blow up the gates of the gatekeepers and storm the citadels of the power brokers with pure, unadulterated Love. Nothing-not anything- will stand in my way, not even myself. It’s the least I can do to say, thank you, thank you, thank you for the wondrous wonder of creative creation. And in case no one has told you this today, Universe: you rock!”

THE FIERCE LIGHT TRAILER

Please share this far and wide – click on the video, go to youtube and choose “share”. Help spread the Fierce Light.

IN THE THEATRES ACROSS CANADA STARTING MAY 15TH!!

FIERCE LIGHT: WHEN SPIRIT MEETS ACTION

From the Director of Scared Sacred & The Producer of The Corporation

A Feature Documentary award winning filmmaker Velcrow Ripper

“A SPIRITUAL KALEIDOSCOPE OF HOPE AND JOY. UPLIFTING!” ~ Green Muze Magazine

“HUGELY ENGAGING AND VISUALLY DELIGHTFUL.” ~ Toronto Sun

“A POETIC CALL TO HEARTFELT ACTION.” ~ Common Ground

IN THEATRES ACROSS CANADA MAY 15!!!

Please spread this trailer, along with this note, far and wide, and help us fill the theatres May 15!!!

At the Cumberland in Toronto, The AMC Forum in Montreal and Fifth Avenue Cinema’s in Vancouver, Canada.

FOR MORE INFO GO TO:

http://www.fiercelight.org

“ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL.” ~ NewCityFIlm, Chicago

“INTENSE AND INSPIRING.” ~ Examiner National

“RAW, HONEST AND COMPELLING.” ~ CJSF Radio

“Fierce Light” is a feature documentary that captures the exciting movement of Spiritual Activism that is exploding around the planet, and the powerful personalities that are igniting it.

Acclaimed filmmaker Velcrow Ripper (Scared Sacred) takes an insightful look at change motivated by love, featuring interviews with spiritual activists Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu, Daryl Hannah, Julia Butterfly Hill, and more.

“COURAGEOUS …. POTENT … AUTHENTIC.” ~ Enlightennext Magazine

“INCREDIBLY MOVING! A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE IN ITSELF!” ~Vancouver International Film Festival

“A TOUCHING PORTRAIT OF THE POWER OF
RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LOVE…” -New Orleans Times-Picayune
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Spirit In Action

“The whole human species is on trial now. These next few decades will determine whether or not our species is a locust species or a bumblebee species. We’ll either scour this planet to the bones and destroy our own civilization and most other species, or we will find a way to bring ourselves back into harmony with our mother, with the earth.” – Van Jones

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We live in a time when things are getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster. There are two graphs, building steam and momentum – the upward graph of the forces of life, and the downward graph, representing the forces of death and extinction. These are the two dominant trends that humanity, and our innocent blue planet, are facing: what visionary Matthew Fox calls the forces of biophilia, and the forces of necrophilia. This time of raging wars, financial collapse, environmental devastation and fear mongering is also a time of tremendous possibility, when we all have the opportunity to step into our true selves and become part of the tidal wave of change that is sweeping the globe.

For the last few years I have been traveling the planet, shooting a feature documentary called “Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action.” The film is now complete, and is starting to come out into the world right now! It’s about the rising power of “spiritual activism”, contemporary stories of what Gandhi called “Soul Force,” what Martin Luther King called “Love In Action,” what we’re calling “Fierce light.” It is the power of action, combined with the depth of Love. I have been seeking out those visionaries and every day heroes who are working to transform themselves and this world of crisis, and I have discovered enormous cause for hope.

Spiritual Activism is not about religion, it is not about any form of dogma, it is activism that comes from the heart, not just the head, activism that is compassionate, positive, kind, fierce and transformative. And fun! Being spiritual, and being an activist, can be a lot of fun – in fact, it should be a lot of fun. Being a spiritual activist means taking our part in creating change, with a spirit of positivity, and a balance of interdependence and self determination. Nothing could be more inspiring and more rewarding than being the change we want to see in the world, within and without.

For me, true spirituality is a fresh, living truth. Ideology is frozen spirituality, whereas I see spirituality as the evolutionary impulse itself– it is evolving and adapting along with the ever changing context of our lives. It is still rooted in timeless truths, but truth as inner knowing, not external imposition. Spirituality also involves that which is beyond the immediate senses – the unseen. This includes emotions, feelings, energy, and the openness to possibilities beyond the material.

Spirituality involves taking a ‘depth’ perspective, being willing to look under the surface, and beyond the narrow confines of the strictly rational mind, to a consideration of as many dimensions as possible. An integrated approach, which includes your own perspective, the perspective of the other person, the community, the planet, and the universal, divine perspective – weave all that together, and you have a spiritual perspective, a perspective that recognizes the interconnectedness of all that is. This is a naturally heart expanding perspective, which is why we can say that G~d is love – when we see ourselves as part of everything, the natural response is one of love.

Leela Kumar, the Dalit human rights activist featured in Fierce Light, defines spirituality as community – recognizing that we are all part of a greater whole, a vast and interconnected system of interconnecting systems. There is a sense of awe that settles into your being when you consider this truth deeply. And out of this, emerges a sense of divine play – a joyous celebration of the miracle of creation.

I believe we are seeing a true Zeitgeist emerging, a new form of change making that begins in the human heart, and radiates outwards. I’ve seen it from New Zealand to Vietnam, from Africa to Washington, from Mexico to Sri Lanka to South Central Los Angeles. I saw it in the tremendous surge of grass roots support that brought Barack Obama into the Whitehouse, a “yes we can” spirit that captured that imagination of a nation tired of inauthenticity and spin. Tired of a politics of hate and division. The whole world celebrated Obama’s victory. The whole world is hungry for change.

Everywhere I travel, I have found people rising up with a series of shared values. Paul Hawkens, author of Blessed Unrest, calls it the largest undocumented mass movement in history – humanity’s immune response to a planet in crisis. He has set out to do the research, and has discovered that millions of individuals and organizations are answering the call to compassionate action, a call that is needed to transform planetary suicide into a time of rebirth and regeneration. It is what Alice Walker calls “The Human Sunrise,” the incredible power of human beings stepping into their authentic selves and stepping up to take responsibility for the change they want to see in the world.

What’s so wonderful about this movement is that it doesn’t have to require anything dramatic. Small changes are just as important. When billions of people make small changes, this results in enormous change. We don’t have to join anything to be part of this wave of transformation, we don’t have to sign up, pay dues, or get a funny name. We can if we so desire – there are many organizations that reflect these shared values – but if you’re not the joining type, if you’re someone like me, you still have an important part to play. This exciting transformation begins in our own hearts, when we dare to care. Each and every person has a role to play in this profound shift in consciousness, a shift from the small ‘me’ to the great ‘we.’ This is the evolution of activism, and the evolution of spirituality – a revolution of the heart.

Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban?

Sufis by Velcrow Ripper

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7896943.stm

By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Lahore

It’s one o’clock in the morning and the night is pounding with
hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense.

I’m squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of
Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming
sessions.

It’s packed with young men, swaying to the music, and working
themselves into a state of ecstasy.

This isn’t how most Westerners imagine Pakistan, which has a
reputation as a hotspot for Islamist extremism.

Now some in the West have begun asking whether Pakistan’s Sufism could
be mobilised to counter militant Islamist ideology and influence.

Lahore would be the place to start: it’s a city rich in Sufi tradition.

At the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri, musicians and singers from
across the country also gather weekly, to perform qawwali, or Islamic
devotional singing.

Qawwali is seen as a key part of the journey to the divine, what Sufis
call the continual remembrance of God.

“When you listen to other music, you will listen for a short time, but
the qawwali goes straight inside,” says Ali Raza, a fourth generation
Sufi singer.

“Even if you can’t understand the wording, you can feel the magic of
the qawwali, this is spiritual music which directly touches your soul
and mind as well.”

But Sufism is more than music. At a house in an affluent suburb of
Lahore a group of women gathers weekly to practise the Sufi
disciplines of chanting and meditation, meant to clear the mind and
open the heart to God.

One by one the devotees recount how the sessions have helped them deal
with problems and achieve greater peace and happiness. This more
orthodox Sufism isn’t as widespread as the popular variety, but both
are seen as native to South Asia.

‘Love and harmony’

“Islam came to this part of the world through Sufism,” says Ayeda
Naqvi, a teacher of Islamic mysticism who’s taking part in the
chanting.

“It was Sufis who came and spread the religious message of love and
harmony and beauty, there were no swords, it was very different from
the sharp edged Islam of the Middle East.

“And you can’t separate it from our culture, it’s in our music, it’s
in our folklore, it’s in our architecture. We are a Sufi country, and
yet there’s a struggle in Pakistan right now for the soul of Islam.”

That struggle is between Sufism and hard-line Wahhabism, the strict
form of Sunni Islam followed by members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

It has gained ground in the tribal north-west, encouraged initially in
the 1980s by the US and Saudi Arabia to help recruit Islamist warriors
to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

But it’s alien to Pakistan’s Sufi heartland in the Punjab and Sindh
provinces, says Sardar Aseff Ali, a cabinet minister and a Sufi.

“Wahhabism is a tribal form of Islam coming from the desert sands of
Saudi Arabia,” he says. “This may be very attractive to the tribes in
the frontier, but it will never find resonance in the established
societies of Pakistan.”

So could Pakistan’s mystic, non-violent Islam be used as a defence
against extremism?

An American think tank, the Rand Corporation, has advocated this,
suggesting support for Sufism as an “open, intellectual interpretation
of Islam”.

There is ample proof that Sufism remains a living tradition.

In the warren of Lahore’s back streets, a shrine is being built to a
modern saint, Hafiz Iqbal, and his mentor, a mystic called Baba Hassan
Din. They attract followers from all classes and walks of life.

‘Atrocities’

The architect is Kamil Khan Mumtaz. He describes in loving detail his
traditional construction techniques and the spiritual principles they
symbolise.

He shakes his head at stories of lovely old mosques and shrines pulled
down and replaced by structures of concrete and glass at the orders of
austere mullahs, and he’s horrified at atrocities committed in the
name of religion by militant Islamists.

But he doubts that Sufism can be marshalled to resist Wahhabi
radicalism, a phenomenon that he insists has political, not religious,
roots.

“The American think tanks should think again,” he says. “What you see
[in Islamic extremism] is a response to what has happened in the
modern world.

“There is a frustration, an anger, a rage against invaders, occupiers.
Muslims ask themselves, what happened?

“We once ruled the world and now we’re enslaved. This is a power
struggle, it is the oppressed who want to become the oppressors, this
has nothing to do with Islam, and least of all to do with Sufism.”

Ayeda Naqvi, on the other hand, believes Sufism could play a political
role to strengthen a tolerant Islamic identity in Pakistan. But she
warns of the dangers of Western support.
“I think if it’s done it has to be done very quietly because a lot of
people here are allergic to the West interfering,” she says.

“So even if it’s something good they’re doing, they need to be
discreet because you don’t want Sufism to be labelled as a movement
which is being pushed by the West to drown out the real puritanical
Islam.”

Back at the Shah Jamal shrine I couldn’t feel further from puritanical
Islam. The frenzied passion around me suggests that Pakistan’s Sufi
shrines won’t be taken over by the Taleban any time soon.

But whether Sufism can be used to actively resist the spread of
extremist Islam, or even whether it should be, is another question.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7896943.stm

Published: 2009/02/24 05:55:03 GMT

Fierce Light Talk (Part One)

Here’s part one of a talk I gave in Nelson a few weeks back, the day after a screening of my feature documentary on spiritual activism, “Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action”.

BYObama

BE YOUR OWN OBAMA!

arlyn

As we move closer to the date when Barack Obama steps into power, there is an enormous sense of anticipation.  There are those who are floating on cloud nine, and there are those who are down in the basement of cyncism.   Somewhere in the middle lies a place of hope, possibility, and realism.   Right in the midst, in that liminal zone between rose coloured glasses and dung coloured glasses is a pair of clear lenses that can help us stay the course.

Yes we can!  And yes we will.  It’s up to us, not anyone else, not Obama, not your mama, not Santa Claus.  Change begins first and foremost in your own heart.   This is one of the central principles of Spiritual Activism – one by one, drop by drop, we fill the bucket of change, with our sense of personal responsibility, of heart felt compassion, the kind that comes from a deep authentic impulse.   This means we don’t change because we feel we ought to, because our mother told us so, because it will impress someone (even ourselves), etc.  That kind of transformation is short lived and brittle.

The kind of change that I call “Fierce Light”  comes from getting in touch with who you really are.  This takes some work, cause a lot of what we think we are,  is coming from the outside, from culture, from our history, from our fears and desires.   When you strip all that away, who are you really?

At last weekends Zen retreat with Roshi Enkyo , we did an amazing excercise, which she borrowed from Joanna Macy (who is featured in Fierce Light).   You can try it for yourself if you like.

With a partner, sit facing each other, in a comfortable, sacred space.  One partner begins by asking the question, and the other answers, then you switch.

Take a moment to get centered and calm.   Look into each others eyes.  Sometimes the hardest part!!!  If it’s easier, you can wear a pirate patch and just look into one eye.  Just kidding.  Try to keep your gaze soft and unintrusive, and try to maintain eye contact throughout the excercise.

Become aware of your breathing.  

Partner one asks: “Who are you?”

Partner two answers with whatever pops up.  Try to be spontaneous, loose, not premeditated, clever or right.  Simply speak whatever comes out.

Partner one responds, “Thank you.  Who are you?”

This continues for five minutes.  Then take a few moments to reflect on all the possible answers that emerged, before switching roles.

It’s a powerful, simple practice, that flipped my lid.  I was everything from a slug to the planet to the person in front of me, to a brother, son, soul, cell, spiral nebulae and so many other things.  Amazing all of who I am. Some of them not so pretty. Some of them incredibly beautiful.  Some of them just plain silly.

I asked another Zen master I met in Boulder recently, Junpo Roshi, what he thinks spirituality is.  He said, “Embodied Compassion.”    To him, that is the core of it all.   What are we here on this planet to do?  Embody compassion.  Who are we?  Compassion on two legs.

There’s a different answer to what that might look like for everyone. But if we all were to step up to the plate, and start moving through the world from a heart centered place, grounded in real compassionate action, we would begin to see the fruits of this massive spirit of possibility which the world is feeling right now.  Right in the midst of this spirit of crisis, enormous flowers of change are blooming.   And that’s an exciting place to be – in the midst.

So who are you?  And how do you embody compassion?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HOPE ON A TIGHTROPE

* Cornel West on the Election of Barack Obama: “I Hope He Is a Progressive Lincoln, I Aspire to Be the Frederick Douglass to Put Pressure on Him” *

Princeton University professor of religion and African American studies, Cornel West, speaks about the election of Barack Obama, his selection of Eric Holder to be Attorney General, the possible selection of Lawrence Summers to be Treasury Secretary and the role of the progressive left to push Obama. West is the author of the new book Hope on a Tightrope: Words and Wisdom.

Listen/Watch/Read
http://www.democracynow.org/2008/11/19/cornel_west_on_the_election_of

 

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 OBAMA’S UNYIELDING HOPE

“Unyielding hope” – Obama is a meliorist (even if he, knowledgeable as he is, may have to look that word up).  The meliorist is the one who holds dear the conviction that we can, through our own efforts, make better lives for our selves.  The meliorist is neither the pessimist who sees gloom nor the optimist who sees brightness as automatically given.  Betterment is our doing, our energy, our achievement: so says the meliorist.  That Obama is a meliorist makes him a pragmatist and an American of the best variety our history has to offer.” – REQIEUM FOR CERTAINTY BLOG 

The Fierce Fire of Radical Authenticity

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“All of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart—perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakable public example—but authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you.” – Ken Wilber

Radical authenticity – isn’t it time?   Last night at the Fierce Light workshop I led in Toronto, there was a buzzing in the air.  Change is afoot, magic is alive, in the midst of the tremendous uncertainty of this era, in the wake of the Obama phenomena, we are experiencing a downpour of possibility.   This is a time when things are getting better and better, and worse and worse, faster and faster. The change we need, as Obama repeatedly says, is not going to come from one leader. It’s going to come from us all. And it starts inside the human heart, not in the head.  We of course want to utilize these great weighty brains evolution has given us, but as an adjunct to our true source of wisdom, a soul level wisdom.  We stand on the threshold of a new era, an era in which each and everyone of us is called to our highest Self, our True Self.  Why settle for less?

Andrew Cohen teaches that if we can get to a place where we operate from what he calls the “Authentic Self” for 51% of the time, we no longer need to apply will power. It will just maintain itself, without continual effort.  Awakening is tangible, real and possible. Not a pie in sky ideal.  It happens right now, this very moment.  You don’t need to wait until you have succeeded in annihalating the ego.  For most of us, that ain’t gonna happen anyways.  So more realistically, all you have to do is choose to align yourself with your highest impulses, and disobey the cavetching fear mongering smalling of the ego.   Not that this is an easy thing to do – in fact, it’s nothing less than heroic.  But I believe we can do it – we can all become what Redvolution co-director Sera Beak calls a  “Spiritual Super Hero.”

I asked the room last night if people were familiar with the difference between the ego and the true self, if they noticed a distinction, if they were aware of this fracture.  Most said yes.  Then I asked, what percentage of the time are you operating from that True Self.  100 % of the time?  No one raised their hands.  70%?  50%?  40%?  20%? 5%?   The numbers were pretty low.  Not surprsing, given our enculturation, the teachings that the media and society instill in us of  fear, contraction, and a sense of lack.   We’re always lacking something.  The answers the corporations offer is – fill that lack with stuff.   

In the wake of economic uncertainty, those materialistic solutions are less and less appealing.  So where to do you turn?  Where do you find meaning?   What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Obama’s Fierce Light

Here’s a moving video clip with Congressman John Lewis, speaking on election night.  Congressman Lewis is featured in my new feature documentary on spiritual activism, Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action.  He is the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington, during the American Civil Rights movement, and lead the historic march across the Selma bridge.  Today, that dream of Martin Luther King Jr, of Congressman John Lewis, of millions and millions of compassionate souls, has taken a great leap forward.

From the perspective of spiritual activism, of the stories behind Fierce Light, the election of Barack Obama is a powerful, powerful affirmation that the zeitgeist we set out to capture in the film, is very very real, one that is being felt around the world, and one that is reflected on this historic occasion.   A man who stands for authenticity, internationalism, equality, compassion, hope and integrity, has been chosen by the american people, over the old paradigm of spin, manipulation and a politics that speaks to fear and hatred.  It is a huge step forward, and a show of true democracy.  In the midst of so much crisis, ecological, financial, and humanitarian, a new source of hope has emerged.

The Urge to Manifest

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It goes something like this…

First, I just was.  A void of pure potential.  Shunyata. Emptiness – but pregnant with possibility.  I had this deep, unspoken urge to manifest…you know the feeling. One thing lead to another, which lead to another and before you know it, I was over the edge: it was the Big Bang, the Big “Ohhhh” , the Divine Orgasm…and I let out a moan that was long and low and deeeeeeep – way below the range of human ears – this Kosmik boooooooming sound wave that slowed and thickened and transformed slowly – oh you don’t know nothin’ bout how slow I can go – slowly into matter. Slow – like a few billion years slow – a time  of birthing galaxies, exploding stars, spiral nebulae, black holes, fiery intensity, and burgeoning solar systems.  Me became We, a multiple orgasm of complexification and diversification that keeps on coming and coming with no end in sight. 

Recently, this little blue planet called earth popped out of the Kosmik womb. This I of the great Me was a quiet baby, for a long long time.  But finally, I caught my breath, found some air molecules, then  some of My H’s found an 0 and voila – I had my blood.  The first oceans were a sexy soup.  Slowly rock turned to flesh.

Way late in the game, those early twinkling splashes of stardust turned into human beings. I began to awaken into consciousness.   I disovered spirit. I discovered matter.  The two went hand in hand like lovers, and I revelled in this manifest realm, I worshipped Her as a Goddess, as a Lover.  Good times!!!

Then a new kid on the block arrived, a part of Me named Christ, and at first everything He said jived with what I knew.      But a short blink of an eye later I lost Him to dogma and digression, and I was severely dissapointed.   Huh, we’re original sinners? What, pleasure is bad? Wait – you’re saying I can’t talk to God by Myself any more? And you’ll kill me if I beg to differ?  Weird.   Scary. Disturbing.

Tired of the churchy hyporcrisy,  my ancestors became Mennonites, a pacifistic utopianistic tightly knit religious community that was trying to live by the true core tenets of Christ’s teachings, rejecting the excesses of what they saw as a corrupted Christian faith and a violent culture at large, refusing to take part in war and bloodshed.  

When the Dutch government asked them to go to war they refused, and to avoid forced service they moved to the shores of the Caspian Sea. They lived in peace for several hundred years, maintaining their isolation and their ideals, until again they were told that they would have to kill. This time they moved, en masse, to the New World: Canada.

My grandmother was raised in Alberta in the strict Mennonite fashion. And as usual with my peeps, she was a trouble maker.  She didn’t like the patriachal structure of the religion. She especially resented the fact that as a girl she was not allowed to ice skate. She left as soon as she could, on the arms of a ne’er do well from down south named Missouri Jack.   She raised her eight children without any religion.

In the late fifties the religious void was filled when, one by one, my family became Bahai’s. Baha’u’ll’ah, the founder of the faith, taught that humanity is undergoing a process of spiritual evolution, similar to the growth of an individual. We are in a state of adolescence, albeit a stormy one, but Bahai’s possess an unshakable belief that we will make it through to global maturity, to a time of global peace. They believe we are on the verge of a great leap in consciousness that will bring humanity to a future where, ‘world peace is not only possible, but inevitable.’

As a child I was deeply committed and pious, a little holy roller, which culminated in a pilgrimage to the Baha’i holy city of Haifa, Israel, when I was nine. But as a teenager I found that I was unable to embrace a single wholesale program. One tenet of the faith is ‘the independent investigation of truth.’ You need to come to your own understanding of truth, instead of just following the path of least resistance, succumbing to the pressures of family or culture. So I left, to ‘independently investigate truth.’

Today, I realize that I will never belong to a single belief system. What I look for are the universal truths,the mystic heart, and I do my very best to live by these truths. I believe the true heart of the sacred is accessible to us all,not just for the experts.  We can all be “mystics without monasteries” if we so desire.

Alongside my spiritual investigation, from a very young age I had a strong sense of social responsibility, and all my life have been an active agent of change, on the front lines of the planet, working as a media activist.

But like many people, my two sides – political and spiritual – have been deeply divided. In progressive circles, there has long been a deep distrust of religion, that opiate of the masses, which has been used and abused in the name of power and domination. It takes tremendous courage to ‘come out of the closet as a spiritual person’ in the activist world.

On the spiritual side, there has long been a distrust of politics, with it’s biting cynicism and tendency to focus on the negative. In the extreme, there is a belief that this world is an illusion, a place of sin and temptation, and the best we can do is get the hell out, as fast as we can, to that pie in the sky when we die, however you might envision it. I have to wonder: 14 billion years of evolution, so we can simply transcend it all? Hmmm….

Today, I feel that the need to merge the power of action with the depth of spirit is urgent, crucial, in fact, the direction we need to go if we want to have any hope of coming through the “Great Turning” with our precious small blue planet intact. But I dream of much more than survival – I dream of utter transformation.

I try my best to live my truth, to build true power from within, so that all my actions come from a place of deep, deep authenticity. The means are the ends. Transformation begins this very moment, not in some distant future. It is personal, it is political, it is spiritual, it is global. The journey begins with this very breath.

– Velcrow Ripper
Toronto Island, Canada
www.fiercelight.org

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