Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Summer of Love

Grow up repressed, uptight, depressed.

Summer 1962
Read the Beat classic,
Ferlinghetti’s “I am perpetually waiting for a rebirth of wonder.”

My first day in Berkeley,
Go to North Beach, hang out with the Beats.

the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Go to my first protest.

At my student co-op,
Two graduate students
Reinterpret the Christian myths I had rejected in high school.

Spring ‘63
James Baldwin speaks on campus.
Not caring who sees
Leave with tears streaming down my face.
First time I’ve cried since childhood.

Read everything Baldwin has written.

Christmas vacation,
Decide to get involved in the civil rights movement.
The Lucky Stores shop-in,
The Sheraton Palace sit-in,
The Auto Row demonstrations.
Protesting hiring discrimination.
All victorious.

A year in Dallas
Integrate the Piccadilly Cafeteria
Gather canned goods for Mississippi Freedom Summer
Go to the last leg of the march from Selma to Montgomery.
After we stop for gas,
Look over my shoulder

Northaven Methodist Church
Single Adults Group.
Produce “After the Fall” and “The American Dream.”
Take part in an Esalen-style workshop in Austin.
Still a virgin, the foot massage is pure ecstasy.

September ‘65
Return to my student co-op in Berkeley.
Drugs are everywhere.
Read Varieties of Religious Experience,
The Tibetan Book of the Dead,
Timothy Leary’s advice,
Go backpacking in Yosemite,
Drop LSD,
Feel as one with the universe,
Never the same again.

Become immersed in the human potential movement.
Study humanistic psychology.

On weekends hang out on Haight Street,
Make fun of folks on the Grey Line bus tour who gawk at us,
Listen to the San Francisco Sound.
My favorite scene is the Avalon Ballroom on Sunday night.
It seems more authentic.

The Counter Culture liberates me.
Learn how to have fun,
Go with the flow.

June ‘66
Four-day conference on LSD at UC Extension, San Francisco
With Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Huston Smith, and others.
Send my notes to Dr. Bob Beavers, my former boss,
Who uses them for a lecture at Southwestern Medical Center.

While walking across the Pacific School of Religion campus,
See a friend from Dallas.
He introduces his companion, the school’s Placement Officer,
Who tells me PSR has an existentialist psychologist on its faculty.

January 1967
The underground newspaper, the Oracle, calls for
"A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In"
In Golden Gate Park
To unify the political radicals and the hippies.
Already demonstrating against the Vietnam War,
I agree completely.

A wonderful event.
What I remember most
Allen Ginsberg chanting OM
As the sun sets.

That semester, as chair of the co-op’s Education Committee,
Invite Charles McCoy from the Pacific School of Religion to speak.
After the event, we chat.
When he learns of my history with the Church,
And my interest in “coffee house ministry,”
He suggests I apply to PSR.

In my application, I say I want to “organize communities of faith, love, and action,”
To integrate the personal, the spiritual, the social, and the political.
Which is what I’ve been trying to do ever since.

That summer,
Sign up for the University’s experimental Residence College.
200 students, no grades, no requirements.
Someone nominates me to serve as Co-coordinator.
I’m elected.

One event is unforgettable.
A panel discussion on civil rights features Ron Dellums,
Then a city councilman.
During the discussion
From the back of the audience
A young, charismatic black man from Oakland speaks.
He’s furious about police brutality.
His name is Huey Newton.
Less than six months before he and others had formed the
Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Read The Politics of Experience by R.D. Laing,
The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich,
Coming of Age in America by Edgar Friedenberg.
Write a paper on those books.

Judy Wheeler from New York comes to research us.
I welcome her.
She buys a case of wine.
Great discussion.
Take her to her hotel.
She invites me to her Greenwich Village apartment.

Hitchhike to New York.
Driving through the Holland Tunnel
Open the sunroof of the VW bus
Stand on the bed
Scream at the top of my lungs.

The first night,
Judy leaves the door to her bedroom cracked open,
But I sleep on the couch.
The second night
She seduces me.

How fitting that I have my first sexual experience
During the Summer of Love
With a woman nine years older than me.
A great introduction to sex.
God bless you, Mrs. Robinson.
Just released, The Graduate nails it.

During the day Judy goes to work.
I write “An Evaluation of the Residence College”
For the student newspaper
As they requested.
It reads, in part:

By the end of the summer, a very large number of students had...come to reject... the dehumanizing, alienating world of higher education,..the emphasis...upon behavioral performance,... [and] the values, worldviews, and procedures undergirding most American institutions ... all woven one into the other….

The entire education experience...seems to be extremely well-designed to graduate reliable cogs in the marvelous machine of unparalleled material progress…. The essence of our critique is that America is spiritually decadent….
Creative expression of one’s true self, whether in art, thought, or personal relationships, is not nurtured…. Inner strength is seen as a threat; so the ground for a stable sense of autonomy is undercut…. Our educators demonstrate little concern for the souls of their students even though they are in the very process of inflicting enormous damage upon those souls….

So much is made of usefulness that man himself is reduced to a mere instrument….

What is needed is encouragement of integrity, rather than dishonesty; ... appreciation of the remarkable breadth of human creativity, rather than merely the powers of the intellect; illumination of the value of freedom, rather than the expediency of submission; nurturance of flexible autonomy, rather than brittle automatons; ... ecstasy, as well as rational self-understanding; education, rather than manipulation; love, rather than mistrust….

At the seminary that fall,
My only chapel service
Consists entirely of the words and music of Bob Dylan.
The school President is not happy.
I did not read from Scripture.

Later that semester,
For my Worship and the Arts class,
A 90-minute piece of total theater
In the sanctuary.
Inspired by Nietzsche.
We call it “A Sort of Modern-Day Dionysian Rite.”
Invite the Berkeley community.
Black out the windows
For the light show.
Two students from UC
Wearing bathing suits
Covered in fluorescent paint
Dance under a blacklight.
The School President thinks they’re naked.
We place mattresses on the floor
Bring out wine, fruit, cheese, and bread.
Invite everyone to get comfortable.

The next day the student body President
Proposes to the School President
A special service
To re-consecrate the sanctuary.
He declines.

1967 ends with great enthusiasm and hope.
1968 hits and reality bites back.

Personally, if I could, I’d go back to 67.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Direct Action by L.A. Kaufman: Forthcoming Review

After I finish reading Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism by L.A. Kaufman, I’ll post a review of it in a week or so. Despite some differences of opinion with the author, I consider it a valuable book. If you read it between now and then, we could compare notes. One option would be for you to write your comments before reading mine. Then we could share independent reactions.

The release of her book by Verso prompted Rolling Stone to publish an interview with her titled, “How to Take Action – and Stay Sane – in the Trump Era.” The sub-title was “'Direct Action' author L.A. Kauffman discusses how to get motivated and fight burnout, and why "protest works."

Five of the six customer reviews on Amazon give it five stars. NPR also reviewed the book.

Verso’s description of the book reads as follows:

A longtime movement insider's powerful account of the origins of today's protest movements and what they can achieve now
As Americans take to the streets in record numbers to resist the presidency of Donald Trump, L.A. Kauffman’s timely, trenchant history of protest offers unique insights into how past movements have won victories in times of crisis and backlash and how they can be most effective today.
This deeply researched account, twenty-five years in the making, traces the evolution of disruptive protest since the Sixties to tell a larger story about the reshaping of the American left. Kauffman, a longtime grassroots organizer, examines how movements from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used disruptive tactics to catalyze change despite long odds.
Kauffman's lively and elegant history is propelled by hundreds of candid interviews conducted over a span of decades. Direct Action showcases the voices of key players in an array of movements – environmentalist, anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, feminist, LGBTQ, anti-globalization, racial-justice, anti-war, and more – across an era when American politics shifted to the right, and a constellation of decentralized issue- and identity-based movements supplanted the older ideal of a single, unified left.
Now, as protest movements again take on a central and urgent political role, Kauffman’s history offers both striking lessons for the current moment and an unparalleled overview of the landscape of recent activism. Written with nuance and humor, Direct Action is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the protest movements of our time.

Verso’s biography of the author is:

L.A. Kauffman has spent more than thirty years immersed in radical movements as a participant, strategist, journalist, and observer. She has been called a “virtuoso organizer” by journalist Scott Sherman for her role in saving community gardens and public libraries in New York City from development. Kauffman coordinated the grassroots mobilizing efforts for the huge protests against the Iraq war in 2003–04. Her writings on American radicalism and social movement history have been published in The Nation, n+1, The Baffler, and many other outlets.

Consider checking it out. I look forward to evaluating it, hopefully with some of you.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Words, Harm, Blame, and Splintering

by Wade Hudson Tikkun Daily
July 10, 2017

[Jesus] recognized with authentic realism that anyone who permits another to determine the quality of his inner life gives into the hands of the other the key to his destiny. If a man knows precisely what he can do to you or what epithet he can hurl against you in order to make you lose your temper, your equilibrium, then he can always keep you under subjection.
--Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman

Cruel words can trigger hurt feelings and anger. Individuals who speak those words need to be held accountable and we need to reduce their frequency. But a compassionate response avoids blaming only the speaker. Listeners share responsibility for their reactions, and social conditioning and other factors contribute as well.

The Dalai Lama said:

You have to think: Why did this happen? This person is not your enemy from birth…. You see that this person’s actions are due to their own destructive emotions. You can develop a sense of concern, compassion, even feel sorry for their pain and suffering.

Words do not directly cause harm like a hammer causes pain when it hits my thumb. Cause and effect is a linear dynamic; emotions are immersed in a holistic system. Words contribute to hurt feelings, but how I process what others say is another factor. I am partly responsible for how I respond. I can learn how to react differently.

So I no longer tell people, “You hurt me.” That phrase shifts all responsibility onto the speaker.

It can be more constructive to say, “When you said X, I felt Y.” In that case, the focus is on a single action. That makes it easier to acknowledge a mistake and resolve not to repeat it, which can help heal the relationship.

On the other hand, “You hurt me” focuses on the other. As such, it can be seen as a personal attack, a challenge to who you are at your core. That can make the exchange more heated and lead to a reciprocal, escalating blame game with each party accusing the other, which often degenerates into ad hominem name-calling.

One result is personal fragility. People become less likely to speak honestly, because they’re afraid they will cause harm or be accused of causing harm. That fear gives power to people who are prone to charge, “You hurt me.” Those accusers can then try to manipulate the speaker with guilt trips.

“You hurt me” is like charging a felony rather than an infraction. When “defendants” plead “not guilty” to that felony, “prosecutors” often punish, shun, or excommunicate them. As a result, former allies often splinter over disagreements about tactics.

Faced with that harshly judgmental dynamic, many potential allies withdraw from social engagement and operate in a safer environment with a small circle of friends, which reinforces the splintering.

America’s highly individualistic culture exaggerates the responsibility of individuals. But the primary problem is the System, which includes our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals. A kind response to mean words takes into account that reality.

I wish I were not so easily offended. I wish others were not so easily offended. I wish that like-minded people did not divide so easily into factions. After all, we need community, not fragmentation.

Blaming individuals diverts energy away from organizing to change institutions and policies. More compassion and less blaming could help nurture a broad-based movement to transform the United States into a supportive community that would enable you, me, and everyone to be all we can be.


Recent posts to WadesWire.org:

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Backfire Effect

Dear Subscriber: I very much appreciate the connection we’ve had via Wade’s Weekly. The interest, feedback, and support you’ve shown have been very helpful. I hope we stay in touch. To continue receiving my posts, please subscribe to Wade’s Wire on the homepage.

This is my latest post there: "The Backfire Effect."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wade’s Journal - May 18, 2017

Now that I’m retired from cab driving, I’m more relaxed and look forward to a fruitful future.

My 50-year-old commitment to help organize “communities of faith, love, and action” remains intact. The language we’ve used to articulate the “faith” part has changed over time, but the spirit has not. For the first 20 years or so following that commitment, the spiritual values behind my work were implicit -- until I decided to make those beliefs explicit. Since then I’ve stumbled along: researching, going to workshops, convening workshops, writing, talking, planting seeds, and looking for an open-hearted, compassionate, holistic community to join.

Now I think I’ve found one: Thrive East Bay, a community that’s led primarily -- in a very non-hierarchical, “flat” fashion -- by young people. As is the case with so many young people these days, the members of that community amaze me. They seem far more advanced than my peers and I were at that age. It definitely gives me hope for the future. The Thrive East Bay people I’ve gotten to know a bit personally have been impressive and highly committed to social transformation.

More than a year ago, I met the Thrive East Bay organizer, Joshua Gorman, at a workshop that he and I attended which was convened by the Center for Spiritual and Social Transformation (now the Ignite Institute). He invited the participants to an event sponsored by Generation Waking Up, a project that provides training, mentoring, and support to young people to help “bring forth a thriving, just, and sustainable world.” That event, which was open to people of all ages and whose participants were a diverse mix, was remarkably inspiring. It included poetry, music, and personal sharing from the stage as well as among the audience, who at times milled about and paired up to interact.

When Thrive East Bay began not long afterwards, I went to their first public event, which was held in a Lake Merritt apartment with about 20 people squeezed in. A similar format was employed and I again found it to be invigorating. But my working full-time interfered with sustained involvement.

After returning to one of their events last week, I’m heartened by their growth. And now that I’m free, I plan to participate fully once I return from visiting folks in Seattle and on the East Coast during the next several weeks.

The Thrive East Bay website homepage identifies the group as “a new kind of community” dedicated to “connect, grow, transform.” The About page states:

Thrive East Bay is a purpose-driven community of people committed to creating a flourishing world for all.

We are a new kind of community offering a relevant space for diverse people seeking meaning and connection in our rapidly changing world. Informed by modern science and ancient wisdom, our culture is both secular and spiritual, infused with a deep sense of purpose and interconnectedness, inspired by the arts, and focused on social change.

We welcome people of all ages and backgrounds as we engage in personal growth, shared learning, and collective action.

We host regular Sunday events, small group circles, workshops, and training courses in the Oakland, Berkeley, and wider San Francisco Bay Area.

We are inspired by the following core principles that guide our community:
  1. Thriving Lives - We support each other in overcoming personal challenges and injustice, and creating healthy lives filled with purpose, joy, and expression.
  2. Love In Action - We let love guide us toward compassion, gratitude, empathy, and community amongst diverse groups of people.
  3. Shared Learning & Practice - We seek to deepen our understanding of the world through conversation and critical inquiry, and to grow together through transformative practices and action.
  4. Systemic Change - We unite to build equitable systems where we can flourish as individuals, as communities, and as a planet.

I particularly relate to the fact that they identify “support each other” at the head of their first core principle. I also respond to the fact that in that principle they affirm “overcoming personal challenges,” which suggests a commitment to self-examination. I anticipate exploring with them whether and how they believe that effort includes “modifying harmful social conditioning,” a key concern of mine recently.

I’m also eager to participate in the “Holistic Movement Building” workshop with Kazu Haga and Sonya Shah June 26-29, which aims to

harness the power to change policies and institutions while cultivating the love it will take to transform relationships…. How do we dismantle systems of oppression without replicating those same patterns in our own relationships? How do we heal our wounds while transforming the systems that perpetuate them? How do we better cultivate the relationship between inner and outer transformation?

Kazu and I have had some rich interaction concerning those issues. I’m very encouraged to see that he, Joshua, and others are keeping the holistic-change fire alive!