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Why are we here?

Sten Linnander delivered this opening talk at Winter Camp on February 24, 1996.

I want to seduce you into seeing the larger picture. Here we are at the end of the 20th century in a society that is rapidly destroying the Earth and its inhabitants. And it is pretty obvious that there is no captain on board--there is no individual or group or divine intervention that will change the direction we are going in. This time around human beings must find what is going wrong and take the responsibility for changing it. But when I look around I see very little happening--at least if I compare it with what needs to happen. It's like riding in the back seat of a car and talking to your friends, suddenly noticing that the car is accelerating; and you look up and say: "Oh shit! There's no one in the driver's seat."

Practically everybody is just trying to get by personally, or improve their lot a little bit, or is wrapped up in little jealousies that don't amount to a hill of beans. Some are doing their best to wake up and start little initiatives, but this too looks, as my father used to say, like a piss in the ocean.

Well, that wasn't much of a seduction, but it's pretty scary when you look around and see the way things are heading and that there is no one out there to fix things. Dad's not gonna take care of this one.

When I was growing up I wanted to see if I could find anything meaningful to do with my life, and for three weeks I became a Maoist. I knew that I was leading a very privileged life and thought that it would be a worthwhile cause to create a just and fair world, where everybody shares the riches of the world equally. I even planned to study Sinology, because I thought that the Chinese model was closer to equality than anything else on earth. But then, after three weeks, I realized that even if my life's work were to be totally successful, I would have contributed to making people as materially well off as I was. And I was a very unhappy person. So, at least in my case, the material wealth and education that I was privileged to have didn't make me one bit happier. As a matter of fact I had seen that people in Nepal, where I had spent three years growing up, were obviously much happier than I was, although they were living in what we would call extreme poverty.

I recognized that the qualitative differences in my own life (as with other people) revolved around my own inner issues, and I saw that I'd better start working on my own stuff if I wanted be of any service in this world. Actually, for a while, I even considered becoming a chauffeur, because I had no motivation to do anything, and yet I wanted to support those who were doing stuff that they really thought was meaningful.

I then saw that even the people doing committed, serious work to change the world were usually not happier than others, and that the basic qualities of their lives did not change. I also saw that no matter how successful they were, it would not change the overall direction in which we are heading.

To me there is no difference between the outer overall situation and the inner situation of humans; actually, I see the outer world as a reflection of the inner.

Have you ever walked around, for example in a department store looking down ahead of you, deep in thought, when you realize that you are trying to avoid running into a person coming at you. You turn slightly to the right, but so does he at the same moment; then you change over to the left and so does he. It's hexed, because you seem to have the same way of avoiding running into people, and you seem to be totally in sync. Then, finally, you look up and you realize that you're walking toward a mirror. Well, as the song goes: "We are the world." We are the impending apocalypse, but here we should be aware of the fact that the word apocalypse means both total disaster and "revelation" depending on how you want to see it.

So I went about trying to clear out my own life. By this time I was living in a pretty radical community that tried to turn everything upside down by throwing out bathwater, babies, individuality, relationships, and labeling it all "bourgeois." And, yes, I did clear out some debris, and it was a very dramatic place to be in for a while.

There I came to understand that creating true alternatives to the nuclear family is one of the most important tasks of our times, and that unless we accomplish it we'll only end up recreating old social patterns. At present, unfortunately, this task is only being undertaken by small numbers of people at the fringes of society.

What has most deeply formed, or rather de-formed, our lives, right from the start when we were most vulnerable, was the nuclear family structure.

What is so bad about the nuclear family structure? First of all, it is anti-sexual and anti-love, even though it was not intended to be so originally.It is the one institution that represses and controls sexuality and love, turning the fiery light of the sun into a run-down flashlight. It is a system that takes the two most powerful life forces--love and sex--and imprisons them in a closed system; and, as we know, closed systems die. We are dealing with energies and flows of energies; and stagnant pools start to stink after a while.

Nuclear family "morality" goes so far as to label a person who starts being faithful to his or her greatest attractions as "unfaithful." So, with traditional "morality," you have to choose between being unfaithful to yourself or to another.

And most people choose being truly unfaithful to themselves.

Imagine having someone who truly supports you in what you want, someone who knows your deepest desires and actively helps you to fulfill them out of the fullness of their heart. If you didn't do so to begin with, you will love them.

Let's look at the issue of relationships. Try to imagine the following: You love a person. This of course means that you want them to be happy, and you are glad to be of service to them. So you see, or know, or sense the wishes and desires that this person has and you gladly go about making those wishes come true in all areas. If you sense or know that your partner is sexually or emotionally attracted to another, then you go out of your way to make them come together, because you want that for her or him. Of course you do.

This is not the stuff that nuclear families are made of. This means that the long term solution is not a matter of personal therapy or effort; it can only be achieved through the creation of something entirely new.

So it is a formidable task--and in my 15 years of community experience I have consistently observed that we all bring our family structures with us wherever we go. We tend to play the same roles in a new social structure that we did in our families.

The more I worked with others on these issues, the more I came to realize that there was no solution for these problems, or for the other interpersonal or emotional problems that flow out of these issues, within our normal frame of reference. The creation of functioning new social structures that are a reflection also of new inner structures within the participants requires more than emotional work, more than honesty and transparency, more than good will and hard work--although these qualities can take us a certain distance down the road. But that distance is only a few inches of the miles that need to be travelled.

It seemed to me that there was a limit to our trusting, a limit to our honesty, beginning with our honesty toward ourselves, that was rooted in our frame of reference of who we are, a limit that lies deep in our image of ourselves as individuals and in our understanding of this world. Again, this is a structural question. How can we trust ourselves if we don't know ourselves?

Let us take a look at the larger picture. Just doing this is a turn-on. It's a turn-on because it connects us with a larger part of ourselves; we become more whole by doing it. The fact that we can and do take a great interest in the happiness and fate of our children and of the Earth as a whole is a sign of the timelessness of our core being and of our planetary connectedness.

Overlaid over the family structure is a whole history of a world view and a view of ourselves born out of fear and separation. We carry history in our cells, we carry memories of different lifetimes where we have dealt with similar issues again and again. And in between those lifetimes we saw the whole picture, and we saw that the fact that we as human beings believe that we are disconnected from each other and from nature and from the earth and from intimate spiritual communication, that this belief has made this a reality. This belief made us blind to what we know, to what our bodies and our hearts know, and to what our higher selves keep whispering to our minds. And this is a belief that we brutally lay on our children, perpetuating it from generation to generation. As Bob Dylan sings, "It's a wonder that we still know how to breathe." And many people would question even that. So reintegrating ourselves consciously into the networks of communication of which we are a natural part is one of the necessary steps toward any meaningful new culture.

Central to this work is what some Native Americans call working with the Shadow, the controlled opening of the dark and closed symbols in our lives, individually and collectively, bringing the murky, repressed, subterranean fluids back into the larger circulatory system. "Our shining lies hidden in our shadow." Here we are dealing with enormous nuclear energies that need to be set free--energies that we usually repress on the inside and cover up with polite facades on the outside. As an example, we cannot communicate with animals unless we overcome the fear of the animal within, accessing this raw power--and these are truly incredible forces.

So when dealing with creating new, functioning social structures--and I mean truly functioning, not marginally less dysfunctional (of course a little group living together can be nice, but it won't change all that much)--we are dealing with a number of very complex issues. What I am saying is that the creation of a new social system entails the creation of a whole new culture, a whole new world view, a new conscious role of the human being as a determiner in evolution. A new understanding of medicine, of ecology, of technology, of spiritual beings and communication with them, a new conscious relationship with the Earth as a living being. And all this can, of course, only be a joint effort between the individuals, the groups, the networks that are actively working on their pieces of the puzzle.

Finally I would like to provide some optimistic thoughts about why a viable solution might yet be in sight. First of all, when we work to clean up our inventory of beliefs we run into entirely new possibilities. Take the issue of change, for example. One of our ingrained programs about what we believe is possible and what is not possible, is that change takes time. This is not true. Change happens in an instant; resistance to it takes time. Reality is full of quantum leaps and opportunities for such leaps are ever present. We need to be open to them.

Another reason for optimism lies in the discovery of the operating principles of the universe and how new ideas and behaviors spread. Once a new set of information has been created and is being lived, it sets a field, a morphogenetic field as Rupert Sheldrake calls it, and this field is the vehicle of change for other systems. So the creation of new structures, new information in itself changes the world.

This means that real politics needs to be the politics of example. Establishing new fields that can spread rapidly. We are being helped by the accelerated process of disintegration, which reduces our present culture to its elements or building blocks that can then come together in a new way if a new way is available. We do not need to waste our time trying to dismantle the old; we must focus on creating the new.

This Winter Camp is not a project, such as a community, nor is it a workshop. It is a melting pot, an environment that is intended to provide new ideas, new experiences, new opportunities, new contacts and new friendships. I invite you to be open for where spirit takes you, to step out of your comfort zone, to follow your greatest attractions, to increasingly take responsibility for what you want to get out of your week here and to accept the feedback and reflections that might come your way as gifts. And don't forget that pleasure and knowledge are not means to an end, but are ends in themselves.

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