Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000
Subject: Re: About despair, an Undaunted & Undeterred friend
Dear Jean Hudon,
In response to the deep and poignant interactive discussions your list has been having with regard to depression and despair, I offer you the introduction to my new book Jump Time that you are free to quote from if you wish. Here I offer another "take" on current social, spiritual and psychological events. Thank you for your magnificent contribution.
Whatever else you are doing Jean Hudon, you are not boring God!
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
It may be that some of you have opened this book because you are haunted by a specter, the grand finale of the world as we have known it. You know yourselves to be people of the parenthesis, living at the end of one era, but not quite at the beginning of the new one. You may have labored in your various fields to make things better, and you may have tried to understand the change of which you are a part. And yet I suspect you to be frustrated, baffled even, by what must seem the most implausible, improbable series of happenings ever.
The maps no longer fit the territories. The only expected is the unexpected. Everything that was, isn't anymore, and everything that isn't, is coming to be. Ours is a era of quantum change, the most radical deconstruction and reconstruction the world has seen. More and more history is happening faster and fasterfaster than we can make sense of it. Life paths that have contained and sustained us across the millennia are vanishing as we speak, like Gaias species that are hourly becoming extinct. We are guests at a wake for a way of being that has been ours for hundreds, even thousands of years. At the same time, we know that we are the ones who must go on. It is time for us to consider what is and what may be. Our agenda is nothing less than the future. Our challenge is to cultivate the vision and lay out the practical steps necessary to move through the opening times that follow upon closing times.
Unlike many others, you may be among those who refuse to believe that chaos leads to chaos, breakdown to catastrophe. You know that you have the power to direct the process along lines different from those that the prophets of gloom proclaim as inevitable. You know that the new millennium we have entered is the intersection between worlds, between species, between ourselves and forever. You know yourself to be its pilgrims and its parents. No old formulas or stop gap solutions will suit. For a new world to be born, we must bring a new mind to bear. Nothing less will do in Jump Time. In a Jump Time like the present, we as a species stand at a crossroads faced with radical choices, any of which promise to make tomorrow look nothing like yesterday. Personal Jump Times, moments when our life path reaches a fork and everything afterwards changes, are more familiar to us. How do we react? Do we sit at the end of the known and refuse to budge? Do we walk back up the path we have been following hoping to return to familiar territory? Or do we follow the old show business adage that, whatever happens, the show much go on?
I remember it plainly. I had been standing on the seat in the front of the train car singing a medley of "art" songs for the soldiers and sailors. I had just finished with an operatic rendition of "The Bluebird of Happiness" and "The Chocolate Soldier" and was moving into my bring-the-house-down number: "Ahhhhhh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found thee. . ." A top sergeant who had obviously been drinking interrupted. "Hey," he announced, "That ain't no five-year-old kid. That's a midget. No little kid's got a voice like that."
True, no little kid did--until this little kid came along. However it happened, by the time I was five years old, I had a ridiculously ripe mezzo soprano singing voice.
My mother encouraged the phenomenon by giving me operatic singing lessons from the time I could carry a tune and by teaching me only melodies a diva might sing. Instead of "Three Blind Mice," I was taught to trill the passionate cadenzas of Carmen's "Habanera." While other little girls were bouncing the ball and chanting "A, my name is Alice. . .", I was dutifully warbling "Mi Chiamo Mimi."
My voice and I were exhibited on every possible occasion--to visitors, cleaning ladies, door-to-door salesmen, the Chinese laundry man, on radio programs, in U.S.O. shows, and, of course, on the train as we criss-crossed the country.
While meteoric in its rise, my singing career was, nevertheless, short-lived. At the age of six, at the Hollywood Bowl, while singing for thousands of people, I lost my singing voice forever. Actually, I had lost it several days before that, but I never got the chance to explain to the impresario or to my father, who set me up for the job.
The catastrophe began one day when my father, a comedy writer with a good many show business connections, came home and said to me, "Jeanie-pot! I've got a great opportunity for you. A couple of days after Christmas, you're going to follow Kate Smith at the Hollywood Bowl and sing 'God Bless America' after she finishes. OK by you?" It certainly was. Kate Smith was my ideal, and so, though it was only October, I went into training like a prize-fighter with a crack at a title bout. For nearly two months, I had but one theme, one song, one set of words, one response to every question.
"Jeanie, what would you like for dinner tonight?" "Stand beside her, and guide her. . ." "Jeanie, look at you. Your knees are all scraped and your hands and face are filthy. Where have you been?"
"From the mountains. To the valleys. To the oceans, white with foam. . ." The rest of my repertoire abandoned, I pressed on, singing my one song--our song, Kate Smith's and mine--until I had acquired a kind of rare perfection--the ultimate in the singing of "God Bless America"--a Rembrandt of song, a Praxitiles of performance. And then one morning in mid-December, while standing next to me in the spelling bee, Cookie Collozzi coughed in my face. Shortly thereafter, I was coughing, and then I was whooping. I whooped and whooped and whooped out all of my high vocal chords. What was left was strictly in the basement.
My mother tried to assuage my bleats of grief by assuring me that the doctor had said that a few days of keeping as quiet as possible should bring back my normal voice. I tried to believe her, maintaining a strict silence throughout the train trip to Los Angeles, where my father would meet us. "Jack, I have something to tell you," my mother began as he whisked us from the train, which had arrived several hours late, to a limousine hearse he had borrowed from a friendly funeral parlor. "Later, Mary. We have exactly twenty-eight minutes to get Jeanie to the Hollywood Bowl.
With that, he slammed the back door of the ancient limo he had rented and jumped into the driver's seat. A glass partition kept him from hearing me croak a tearful reply, and all our knocking and grimacing went ignored. As we neared the Bowl, we could hear Kate Smith's magnificent contralto belting out the song over the amplifiers. The very hills shook in resonance, and there was no question that in this corner of southern California and for miles around, America knew that it was blessed. When the door flew open, my father dragged me out of the car, hoisted me to his shoulder, and started running toward the backstage area.
"Where have you been?" the stage manager shouted at us over the deafening applause, as Kate Smith took her bows. "We've been looking all over for you. OK, kid, you're next. Break a leg."
That sounded like a wonderful idea, but alas, there were no stairs in sight from which I might hurl myself. Instead, I was pushed on stage in time to hear the M.C. exclaim, "Now, I've got a special treat for you. Here, straight from New York City to sing the same magnificent song which has meant so much to so many during these times of war is the little, little girl with the big, big voice--Jeanie Houston!"
Big applause. Thousands of friendly faces peered up at me, freshly exhilarated by Miss Smith's rousing rendition. The orchestra played the introduction, and with no other options, I opened my mouth and began to sing. Needless to say, my performance was greeted by a combination of catcalls, booing, and people getting up to leave. I sang on, however, pushing my gravely basso through all the stanzas. At last, with a final growl of "My home sweet home," I zoomed off stage into the incredulous arms of my father. "Why didn't you tell me you had lost your voice?" he demanded.
The show must go on. If ever there were a single edict, a primary directive for the human race, from whatever gods there are, this is it. Shakespeare and other seers into the nature of reality speak of the theater of the world, wherein the plot moves inexorably, carrying in its wake the rise and fall of souls and cities. But occasionally, the plot quickens, and the play takes strange and deviant turns. Surreal surprises enter from the wings, the orchestra in the pit offers dissonance as well as sweet airs, and the gods, both in and out of the machines, offer more than we had bargained for. Such is the present drama that Mother Earth offers to her ticket holders--every last one of us.
How often in these days do we feel that our lives are like that old dream in which we are on stage in a play, dressed in a period costume, with no idea what our lines are supposed to be? Those arenas of our lives that used to hold solid expectationsprofessions, relationships, religionshave become capricious, the old verities lost, the anticipated outcome vanished or transformed into a mockery of itself. Our very identities seem to be shape shifting. We open our mouths expecting melody, and a crow flies out instead. Standing on the stage of your old certitudes, many of you, perhaps, have experienced such discomfiting surprises:
- The job or profession for which you trained and which you expected to follow for many years suddenly no longer exists.
- You fall love with an improbable person or idea and, in an eyeblink, everything you knew or believed is gone. In the light of this tremendous circumstance, who you were yesterday bears little resemblance to who you are becoming.
- ou wake up in the morning consumed by an urge to get on with it. What "it"is, you do not know, but it is barking at your heels like the hound of heaven. Something unknown is calling you, and you know you will cross continents, oceans, realities, even, to discover it.
- You are seized by the disparities of the time, the widening gap between rich and poor, private affluence and public squalor. Moreover, you cant shake the conviction that you personally must do something to redress these wrongs.
- Words leap off the pages of books. Synchronicities abound. The universe is trying to tell you something, and you can no longer ignore its message.
- Your traditional religion no longer serves you, but one from an utterly foreign culture is speaking deeply to you.
Clearly you have come to the end of the road. An unknown future beckons. Way leads on to way, and only in retrospect do the turnings and returnings make any sense. Looking back on my aborted singing career, I see now that had I not lost the upper register of my vocal range, I would likely have ended up on the concert stage and never taken the fork that led to a very different though equally public sort of life. However, what goes around comes around, and my penchant for public mortification also moved to grander stages, the most recent being several years back when I ended up on the front page of most of the newspapers in the world as the so-called "guru"and trance medium for Hillary Clinton. To set the record straight, I did not download Eleanor Roosevelt from the cosmos in the solarium of the White House. I just helped Hillary conceptualize and then edit her book It Takes a Village to Raise a Child. The media, however, needed a more lucrative story, so they made up a character and a spooky plot and put my name to it. Again I lost the upper registers, not of my voice, but of my reputation. Nevertheless, the huge drama that is now unfolding on the world stage makes anyones particular humblings look like so much hummus. The urgency behind my work, my sense of the importance of present history and its fierce momentum, helps me rise out of the flatland of my various levelings, croakings, and pratfalls and get on with it. In what follows I hope to persuade you to do the same--to stride boldly forward, even though where you might be heading and what youll find there is not yet clear. Perhaps youll find as I have that lifes jumps move you in unexpected directions. Instead of the theatre of the performing arts, my work has taken me into the theatre of the mind, the drama of the soul, and the Broad Way of cultures as they recover and share their once and future genius. In conducting basic research into human capacities and applying its findings in human development programs over the past thirty years, I have seen that lost domains of consciousness can be recovered and put to practical use. When mind and body are reloomed, psychophysical abilities for healing and self-healing, for mastering an artistic or athletic skill, and for rapid learning are quickened. I have seen that it is possible to think in images as well as words, to learn with ones whole body, and to harvest riches of creativity from interior landscapes. I have seen people discover the secrets of time--time in the body and time out of mind, in which one experiences subjectively a very short period of time as being much longer. In that short time, the mind can select, synthesize, and create in minutes what might normally take months and gain the same benefit from rehearsing an activity as if one had practiced for hours or weeks.
I have helped people play on the spectrum of consciousness so as not to be stuck in a single bandwidth and gain instead the option of selecting states of consciousness most conducive to concentration, mindfulness, optimal physical performance, creativity, or spiritual exercise. I have marveled that the world within is as vast as the world without and as filled with story, myth, symbol, archetype, god and goddess. These adventures of the soul convince me that we humans have the innate equipment to be actors, directors, playwrights, and producers in the theatre of the world that is Jump Time. Beyond the laboratory and the seminar stage part of my calling has been to study, collect, and apply human capacities as they have developed in cultures around the world. Years ago, the anthropologist Margaret Mead sent me out with letters of introduction to the elders of various cultures so that I might bring back some of the unique ways of being that ancient and indigenous societies have developed. From this beginning, my work for international development agencies gave me the chance to study first-hand how Africans walk and think and celebrate spirit; how the Chinese teach and study and paint; how Eskimos experience vivid three-dimensional inner imagery; how the Balinese learn to perform any manner of artistic endeavor so rapidly and with such high craft; how a tribe along the Amazon raises emotionally healthy children; why certain children in India raised amidst traditional music develop extraordinary skill in mathematics. My work has taken me to many lands, where I treat cultures like persons and help them deepen and recover their genius, while they link with other cultures, including the emerging planetary civilization. And I treat people like cultures, helping them discover within themselves the rich strata of untapped potentials of mind and body.
For no longer are potentials limited by place and culture. In Jump Times developing hybrid world, capacities once nurtured in separate societies are available to the entire family of humankind. This is a stupendous happening, as important as the discovery of new continents during the time of the great sea journeys. For the first time in human history the genius of the human race is available for all to harvest. These rediscovered capacities may be evolutionary accelerators, now being gathered from many places, times, and cultures to awaken our species to who we are and what we yet may be and do. Often, however, it is not comfortable. We can for a time find ourselves to be strangers in a very strange land, wishing we could return to the comforts of a more insular and familiar worldview. And yet, when we get beyond the shutterings of our local cultural trance, we gain the courage to nurture the emerging forms of the possible human and the possible society. With the present move towards planetization and the entire spectrum of historical social development at hand, I believe that the world is set for the radical transformation that I call Jump Time. In this time of accelerating change, all cultures, regardless of their social or economic level, have something of supreme value to offer the whole. I have observed too many members of European-derived cultures reveling in technique and objective mastery but sadly lacking in the spiritual awareness and subjective complexity found in aboriginal cultures belonging to earlier stages of historical development. True, the tragic intervention of colonialism dimmed these cultures for a while, but more recently, Maoris, Australian aborigines, and Native Americans among others are restoring their cultural wisdom. As the genius of many cultures is brought together, as I believe is now happening, the current crisis of social breakdown and moral disorder can be transformed into the creative symbiosis of the coming world civilization, cultures seeding each other, while preserving and enhancing their individual style and differences.
So, what is Jump Time? It is the changing of the guard on every level, in which every given is quite literally up for grabs. It is the momentum behind the drama of the world, the breakdown and breakthrough of every old way of being, knowing, relating, governing, and believing. It shakes the foundations of all and everything. And it allows for another order of reality to come into time.
Jump Time is a whole system transition, a condition of interactive change that affects every aspect of life as we know it. The vision of change I am describing is generally optimistic. It focuses on the emergence of patterns of possibility never before available to the Earths people as a whole. However, this optimism is based on the hard-nosed recognition that virtually every known institution and way of being is currently in a state of deconstruction and breakdown. And yet, given the scientific, technological, cross-cultural, and social tools at hand, and given, too, that humanity is searching as never before to cooperate in so many areas, it seems feasible to me that we may be ready to integrate inner and outer dimensions of life in ways which infuse new depth into psychological and spiritual growth and new purpose and responsibility into social transformation.
As I see it, our current stage of collective growth is being propelled by five forces which, taken together, determine the direction of our jump into the future and where we may land:
1. The Evolutionary Pulse from Earth and Universe. Basic to Jump Time is the belief that we humans are not alone as we face the massive transition that is upon us. Rather, we are embedded in a larger ecology of being, its motive force arising simultaneously from the planet which is our birth place and the stars which are our destination. Pulsed by Earth and Universe toward a new stage of growth, we are waking up to the realization that we can become partners in creationstewards of the Earths well-being and conscious participants in the cosmic epic of evolution. As ancient peoples have always known, the story is bigger than all of us, and yet desires our engagement, our love, and our commitment. People everywhere are feeling a call, a quickening, an energy that brooks no whiny nay-saying, an invitation to the dance. Chapter 1 on individual and universal destiny explores the evolutionary impulse that drives our growth and suggests how we might learn to ride and direct its energy.
2. The Repatterning of Human Nature. The second force of Jump Time pushes us to discover and utilize our dormant or little used capacities and to come to a more comprehensive understanding of our place and responsibilities in this world and time. In Jump Time, I am convinced, capacities that belonged to the few must become the province and requirement of the many if we are to survive the next hundred years. We must each learn to tap into the creative workshops of the mind to solve problems and to bring forth art, poetry, invention. We must discover ways to feel at home with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Most people, given opportunity and training, can learn to think, feel, and know in new ways; function in their bodies with better use and awareness; become more creative, more imaginative, and aspire within realistic limits to a much larger awareness, one that is better equipped to deal with the complex challenges of life. The consciousness that solves a problem cannot be the same consciousness that created it. But the consciousness that can rise to this occasion needs models of its own matured possibilities, visions of what the possible human can be and do that go beyond the limitations of academic excellence or dogged persistence to attain certain goals. Chapter 2 on the psychology of the Jump Time self and Chapter 3 on educating our children and ourselves for the future look at what might inspire this repatterning.
3. The Regenesis of Society. As the self is repatterned, the ways we relate to each other are necessarily shifting as well, toward the discovery of new styles of interpersonal connection and new ways of being in community given a global society. The movement seems to be from the egocentric and the ethnocentric to the worldcentrica fundamental change in the nature of civilization, compelling a passage beyond the mindset and institutions of millennia. Critical to this reformation is a true partnership society, in which women join men in the full social agenda. Since women tend to emphasize process over product, being rather than doing, deepening rather than end-goaling, it is inevitable that as a result of this partnership, linear, sequential solutions will yield to the knowing that comes from seeing things in whole constellations rather than as discrete facts. The consciousness engendered by this comprehensive vision is well adapted to orchestrating the multiple variables and getting along with the multicultural realities of the modern world. It raises hope for forgiveness between and healing among nations and ethnic groups. Essential to this matured consciousness is moral and ethical growth toward an empathy between individuals and nations that honors the golden rule of human interchange.
The regenesis of social forms also asks that governments no longer engage in social engineering to fix specific problems but rather that they understand the world as an ecology, a complex adaptive system in which global awareness is applied to local concerns. Here we need models of a new order of relationships and their place in a possible society, one in which male and female, science and spirituality, economics and ecology, civic participation and personal growth come together in an integral and interdependent matrix for the benefit of all. Chapter 4 on new ways of seeing our interpersonal relationships and Chapter 5 on a revisioning the relationships between peoples and governments explore this agenda.
4. The Breakdown of the Membrane. In the interdependent world of Jump Time, old barriers are dissolving along with the phobias that sustained them. The new technologies of instant communication and exchange of information enable people to join minds and hearts in mutual discovery and creation. In the Interneted world, more and more people are coming to accept the benefits of cultural diversity and to adopt a more inclusive worldview, inspiring human nature with renewed hope and caring. What began in migrations and global economics is fast becoming a worldwide network of individuals and institutions quickened by the desire to create a new social paradigm, in which humanity and the Earth are each enhanced within the context of a collective destiny. As the membrane of old forms breaks down, a more complex and inclusive global organism comes into being. As living cells within this new organism, we are rescaled to earth-wide proportions in our responsiveness--and our responsibilities. Chapter 6 on the developing fusionary world culture and Chapter 7 on the Internet and its effect on the world mind address these issues.
5. The Breakthrough of the Depths. The depths are breaking through most apparently in the spiritual renaissance that is occurring everywhere in Jump Time. Not since the days of Plato and Buddha and Confucius, some 2500 years ago, has their been such an uprising of spiritual yearning. And what with the inevitable cross-fertilization of the wisdom and practices of world spiritual traditions, more and more people are gaining access to the Source of our being and becoming. As a new story begins, the mytho-poetic understandings of many cultures rise and converge. Archetypal ideas and symbols spring into consciousness or are consciously sought in the popular culture. Either the depths are rising because the time requires it, or we are being impelled by the times to explore those depths. However it is occurring, our spiritual preoccupations are essential given that we need a spiritual renaissance commensurate with our technological developments to give us a sufficiency of inner inspiration to guide our expanding outer forms. Chapter 8 on the spiritu ality of Jump Time reflects on this phenomenon.
All books involve a certain kind of conversation between the author and the reader. I am inviting you to go further and enter into an imaginal space where you will join me and the others reading this book in jumping onto the next path. I will be your guide to our present Jump Time and to the exploration of previous times of world transition which have much to teach us about how to cope creatively with what we face. For the world has known other Jump Times, but never so consciously or with so much to gain or to lose. The Earth is a hot house now. Six billion members of the human family and rising, congregated together on a spinning ball, in stress, in ferment, caught between what was and what is yet to be.
It is time to ask the great questions: How can we make a better world? What must we do to serve the larger story? These questions help us clarify and define. They prompt us to articulate goals lofty enough to lift us out of petty preoccupations and unite us in pursuit of objectives worthy of our best efforts.
The world is hungry for vision. At a time when whole systems are in transition and global forces challenge all authority, there is an insistence in the mud, contractions shiver through the earth womb, patterns of possibility strain to emerge from the rough clay of changing social structures.
It is a matter of kairos, the potent time for fortuitous happenings. In ancient Greek, kairos referred to that moment when the shuttle passes through the openings in the warp and woof threads. In the loaded time when such things happen, the new fabric can take form.
Right now is the right time to make things right. I invite you to join me on the stage of forever, where what we do may raise the curtain on the worlds next act.