“We are told by those who have studied the processes of nature that creativity happens at the border between chaos and order. Chaos is a prelude to creativity. We need to learn, as every artist needs to learn, to live with chaos and indeed to dance with it as we listen to it and attempt some ordering. Artists wrestle with chaos, take it apart, deconstruct and reconstruct from it. Accept the challenge to convert chaos into some kind of order, respecting the timing of it all, not pushing beyond what is possible—combining holy patience with holy impatience–that is the role of the artist. It is each of our roles as we launch the twenty-first century because we are all called to be artists in our own way.”
~from Creativity by Matthew Fox
This is the call to create.
I belong to an artisans’ guild. At our last gathering one of the members announced the date of a protest that was in response to the aggressive gentrification in an African American community in Philadelphia. Further discussion about the people in the community, and the gentrification of the area, revealed that this was not the first protest. For the past 5 years, the community has launched protests and filed complaints about being uprooted and lacking the resources to secure adequate housing in a city where the average rent for a one bedroom, 798 sq. ft. apartment is about $1400.00/month (Rent Café, April 2019). Letters have been written to city council members and congressional district leaders, but all to no avail.
Now this essay is not about gentrification or the relationship between politicians and developers. It’s about the nature of our reactions to continued and systemic injustices that are perpetuated upon those who have little or no political clout (money to contribute to campaigns), those who have been historically marginalized, or most often ignored, because of race and gender. At least that is the official version for why gentrification continues; then, there is the unofficial version: protests and protesting are a part of the same system that permits systemic injustices to occur. They are completely within the framework of the system, and are welcomed and easily accommodated.
The world never witnessed mass protest like the one that occurred after George Bush Jr. announced that the U.S. and its allies would go to war with Iraq. According to BBC News, between 6 and 11 million (other estimates suggest between 8 and 30 million) people from 60 countries took to the streets denouncing the U.S., and suggesting that Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, was the political creation of the U.S. But the point here is the war went according to U.S. plans and there remains, as of March, 2019, five thousand, two hundred U.S. troops in Iraq.
Now I am going out on a limb here, but it’s okay because I don’t have any sponsors for my blog. It is essentially what I do as a result of my “calling.” But protesting, in my opinion, is part and parcel of the pathology of the belief in separation. It is this unexamined and unchallenged assumption that some people (mostly rich white men) have the power to make changes, mostly because they have all the money, and the rest of us, women, people of color, poor folk, must persuade them, or prove to them, through means they have established, that suffering is occurring on their watch. We’re talking a few white men, and the suffering of millions of humans and non-humans. What a mind job!
Let’s look at Ron Finley, an artist, designer and urban gardener in South Central L.A. Living in a food desert, Finley said that one day he decided that he was tired of getting in his car, driving forty-five minutes round trip to get an organic apple. He looked out his front window and decided to plant a garden on the curb in front of his house. Now, Finley didn’t make a call. He didn’t ask his neighbors to get together and protest the lack of healthy food or the overabundance of fast foods in their neighborhood. He didn’t write one letter to any politician asking for permission to grow a garden. The gardening spaces that Finley eventually occupied remains, today, “illegal” under L.A. city code. But the project has gotten world-wide attention. Finally, Finley “created” the “Ron Finley Project,” teaching the South Central Community about nutrition and benefits of growing their own food. End of one food desert.
This is the call to create.
There are thousands of people, all over the world, like Ron Finley. And it could be any challenge or any chaos, to use Fox’s words, that awakens us, such as living day in and day out in a food desert, the pain of living with dis-ease in the body, the pain of observing suffering. But in the end it is always the eternal awareness that we are, that will call to us, amidst the voices of chaos or nestled in the routine tasks we perform or often grapple with, day to day, simply to stay afloat during these challenging times.
Buckminster Fuller was correct when he said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
But I would also add that you cannot change things with the consciousness that produced the existing reality along with the need to change it. And that is what we do when we protest and ask “them” to change how this planet operates. Creating the New Earth is our creative response to the way that this planet is being managed.
This is the call to create.