Ahh, data, statistical measures, and country names are the means of comparison when it comes to change, but there are also intangibles.
One very important mystic is that those who seek change do so in common and tap something unspoken and hidden. Change isn’t created from poverty statistics or job prospects (if it were so, the South would still be in revolt rather than fighting to cut the health care that will pay for their tarred lungs, clogged arteries, and overweight souls). Nor is change tied to the experience of poverty or scourges. Change’s most important measure is an uncountable quality that the US intelligent forces spent much of the week acknowledging they couldn’t identify.
As the eminence Frank Rich writes in his NYT column, it will take “months, even years, for us to learn the hard way that in truth we really had no idea what was going on.” When something big happens, we miss the small, and the fault lies within ourselves: We miss the new beginning.
Coptic priests stand shoulder to shoulder with Muslim imams on a platform, calling for togetherness.
The natural mystic of change is sparked by a collective voice. It occurs when an individual voice realizes it can only achieve its purpose if it is spoken in concert with other voices; in what one dreamscribe and NYT commenter Amelia calls “an epiphany of collective action.” These voices when raised bring the world to attention and invite the mighty to test their mettle. Heads buried in the data don’t hear the signs or see the challenge beyond. They can’t identify the moment when the sky catches fire. When the blood burns. When the collective passions unite. As Dreamscribe Amelia says, “though miles divide us, dreams unite us; the blood dripping in your fight / falls through my hands. .”
In Tahrir Square: An old couple shuffle along through the crush, hand in hand, smiling the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen.
Change requires one other propellant–courage. To bring about change, the collective voices must stand for something and be supported by something. They must willing to confront the hardships and trials that attempt to silence their voices. They must enter that special zone of living where each breath is hammered with peril and the breath which is life brings and breathes the specter of death.
In the myths and realities of change around the globe, from the mythic appeals to India’s Shiva to the songs of civil rights (“ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round”) the courage of change must have the steadfast character of peace. (Think Mandela, Gandhi, Lincoln; others.) Dire predictions of political abysses, of chaos, of unsettled unrest ignore the basics and beg the question: change is always steadfast when based on peace which flourishes as progress.
Finally, change requires conditions that activate its substance. Corruption, injustice, violence really set the stage for change more than poverty, and never fear. These dark forces are the spark but never the source. The source, as poet Robert Hayden said, is “the immortal human wish, the timeless will.”
Yet limitation is an important part of peace. As the world watches change along the banks of the Nile, the I Ching recalls the image: “Waters difficult to keep within the Lake’s banks: The Superior Person examines the nature of virtue and makes himself a standard that can be followed. Self-discipline brings success; but restraints too binding bring self-defeat.”
So that brings us to the big question: after Egypt, will America change? Lots of comments I’ve read lately draw parallels and offer analogies and suggest we are on the cusp, ripe and ready. The key differences are the founding fathers had a greater vision than stopping conspiracies of caliphs or fighting against imaginary death panels while real people are dying through the indifference of those who fight imaginary struggles. The founding fathers had a clear vision lined up and stood together in courage and spoke with one voice. They faced peril but knew nothing of fear. The slaves followed in their foot steps, showing that courage was universal and change could alter any human condition. From Haiti’s maroons to China’s long march, under many banners, some alien, others detested, change marks and reveals elements within. It can be sparked from conditions outside, but it must flow from an inner source.
The founding fathers and old slaves would have laughed at those joining the present fight here at home. After their fight, they would have chortled at the idea that their cherished ideals of defense protected the right to sell guns to killers. They knew courage and fear couldn’t occupy the same place and the two didn’t operate in the same plane. Or achieve the same ends. They knew: fear, you fix it. Or maybe you didn’t. But courage leaves fear behind for a change that is transcendent and soars. It fixes you.
It’s not sparked by data. And it’s never on the radio or television, daily, dosed at the same time.
An enormous crowd of ordinary Egyptians. And they sing, and chant, and pray, and the children wave flags and the men openly weep.