This holiday let’s #Occupy our heart and soul

It is Christmas Eve Day. The Occupy encampment in my hometown of Eugene has just been evicted from its park, shortly after the City Council had extended its permission to remain. After the shock, the process of reorganizing, of re-creating itself, is underway.

What does Occupy have to do with Christmas and all the other holidays that happen at this time of year? A lot, I think.

Below are excerpts from several essays (including a video talk) which focus on what seems to me the essence and power of the Occupy movement – love and soul. These essays call to us: “Occupy your soul. Occupy your heart. Occupy your connection to the world around you, to the world within you, to the greater world that holds us and nurtures us all.”

My friend and colleague John Abbe yesterday shared a very astute observation about the integration of systems understanding and love-in-action, notably modeled in the emerging Occupy strategy of helping people remain in or re-occupy their foreclosed homes:

What I see going on here:

1) Keep getting clearer on what the root issues are in general, and highlight them.
2) Help people who are being affected on the ground by these issues – first the homeless, now the unfairly foreclosed-upon.
3) Continually connect the dots between the root issues and the people we’re concretely helping. 

This is an updated, systems-conscious, activist version of the famous story of Mary and Joseph seeking a place to stay for Jesus’ birth, and being told “there was no room at the inn.” I think such updating is urgently needed to creatively meet our many emerging challenges. 

So this week let’s occupy the Spirit of Christmas (love, hope, generosity), the Spirit of Hannukah (resistance, liberation, culture), the Spirit of Kwanza (community, family, culture), the Spirit of Solstice (rebirth, return of light, the tipping point), and whatever other deep meaning speaks to each of us at this time of year – and consider how that Spirit might be occupied to shift whole systems towards greater, more sustainable, more compassionate, more abundant Life.

May we all offer our blessings on the Journey we share on this beautiful living blue planet spinning through space around our sun that makes it all possible…



I recommend this 8 minute video from a talk by Michael Meade

Occupy Your Soul

Summary from Michael’s website

The hidden meaning of Occupy may involve an instinctive response to the threat of nihilism and the rise of emptiness; it may be a collective attempt to find the heart and soul of America again. Not “occupy” as a single-minded political statement, but the soulful sense of occupying life in ways that return meaning and justice, truth and beauty to the lives of individuals and communities, to institutions and practices that are after all intended to serve the people. Occupy may be an instinctive vehicle for making life in its diverse and surprising forms more valuable and meaningful again.


Soul is the thing that connects everybody. Soul is the kind of glue of culture. It’s soul that’s been being lost all along. When people think that the suffering of others doesn’t affect them, they have lost their soul connection, they have lost their connection to the soul of everybody…. [Each] soul comes in [to life] aimed at something meaningful. The more people occupy their soul, the more people begin to live out their destiny… and they are a benefit not just to themselves but to all of their neighbors because they fulfill something meaningful that makes life meaningful… My new thing is “Occupy your soul”.

– – –….
Occupy vs. Nihilism: All or Nothing at All
by Michael Meade


The Occupy movement may be an instinctive response, not just to the greatest disparity of wealth and power in the history of America, but also to the emptying out of institutions and loss of meaning at all levels of life. An underlying instinct to inhabit life more fully may be arising and taking root in different places for different reasons. The message of Occupy may be “all over the place” because the underlying message is about “place,” about reclaiming and more fully inhabiting public places, about being more present to the critical issues in each place, and about taking one’s own place in life more fully.


Occupy Your Heart: Compassion is Our New Currency
Notes on 2011’s Preoccupied Hearts and Minds
By Rebecca Solnit
(note: The original source at the link above contains many live interesting links to explore.)


Usually at year’s end, we’re supposed to look back at events just passed — and forward, in prediction mode, to the year to come. But just look around you! This moment is so extraordinary that it has hardly registered. People in thousands of communities across the United States and elsewhere are living in public, experimenting with direct democracy, calling things by their true names, and obliging the media and politicians to do the same.

The breadth of this movement is one thing, its depth another. It has rejected not just the particulars of our economic system, but the whole set of moral and emotional assumptions on which it’s based…. a denial of what that competitive entrepreneur Cain said to God after foreclosing on his brother Abel’s life. He was not, he claimed, his brother’s keeper; we are not, he insisted, beholden to each other, but separate, isolated, each of us for ourselves.

Think of Cain as the first Social Darwinist and this Occupier in Austin as his opposite, claiming, no, our operating system should be love; we are all connected; we must take care of each other…

If it’s a movement about love, it’s also about the money they so unjustly took, and continue to take, from us — and about the fact that, right now, money and love are at war with each other. After all, in the American heartland, people are beginning to be imprisoned for debt, while the Occupy movement is arguing for debt forgiveness, renegotiation, and debt jubilees….

“Not only does the occupation of abandoned foreclosed homes connect the dots between Wall Street and Main Street, it can also lead to swift and tangible victories, something movements desperately need for momentum to be maintained. The banks, it seems, are softer targets than one might expect because so many cases are rife with legal irregularities and outright criminality. With one in five homes facing foreclosure and filings showing no sign of slowing down in the next few years, the number of people touched by the mortgage crisis — whether because they have lost their homes or because their homes are now underwater — truly boggles the mind.”

….Occupy has some of the emotional resonance of a spiritual, as well as a political, movement…. it wants to ask basic questions: What matters? Who matters? Who decides? On what principles? “Compassion is our new currency,” was the message scrawled on a pizza-box lid at Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan — held by a pensive-looking young man in Jeremy Ayers’s great photo portrait. But what can you buy with compassion?

Quite a lot, it turns out, including a global movement…. Occupy has… created a space in which people of all kinds can coexist, from the homeless to the
tenured, from the inner city to the agrarian. Coexisting in public with likeminded strangers and acquaintances is one of the great foundations and experiences of democracy, which is why dictatorships ban gatherings and groups — and why our First Amendment guarantee of the right of the people peaceably to assemble is being tested more strongly today than in any recent moment in American history. Nearly every Occupy has at its center regular meetings of a General Assembly. These are experiments in direct democracy that have been messy, exasperating and miraculous: arenas in which everyone is invited to be heard, to have a voice, to be a member, to shape the future. Occupy is first of all a conversation among ourselves…. The ad hoc invention of the people’s mic by the occupiers of Zuccotti Park, which requires everyone to listen, repeat, and amplify what’s being said, has only strengthened this sense of presence…. You become the keeper of your brother’s or sister’s voice as you repeat their words….

Activism had long been in dire need of new modes of doing things, and this year it got them…. Occupy arrived and, as if swept by some strange pandemic, a contagious virus of truth-telling, everyone was suddenly obliged to call things by their real names and talk about actual problems. The blather about the deficit was replaced by acknowledgments of grotesque economic inequality. Greed was called greed, and once it had its true name, it became intolerable, as had racism when the Civil Rights Movement named it and made it evident to those who weren’t suffering from it directly. The vast scale of suffering around student debt and tuition hikes, foreclosures, unemployment, wage stagnation, medical costs, and the other afflictions of the normal American suddenly moved to the top of the news, and once exposed to the light, these, too, became intolerable….

Only a few years ago, hardly anyone knew what corporate personhood was. Now, signs denouncing it are common. Similarly, at Occupy events, people make it clear that they know about the New Deal-era financial reform measure known as the Glass-Steagall Act, which was partially repealed in 1999, removing the wall between commercial and investment banks; that they know about the proposed financial transfer tax, nicknamed the Robin Hood Tax, that would raise billions with a tiny levy on every financial transaction; that they understand many of the means by which the 1% were enriched and the rest of us robbed.

This represents a striking learning curve. A new language of truth, debate about what actually matters, an informed citizenry: that’s no small thing. But we need more.

It’s our nature to be more compelled by immediate human suffering than by remote systemic problems. Only [climate change] isn’t anywhere near as remote as many Americans imagine. It’s already creating human suffering on a large scale and will create far more. Many of the food crises of the past decade are tied to climate change, and in Africa thousands are dying of climate-related chaos. The floods, fires, storms, and heat waves of the past few years are climate change coming to call earlier than expected in the U.S…. If you think the eviction of elderly homeowners is brutal, think of it as a tiny foreshadowing of the displacement and disappearance of people, communities, nations, species, habitats. Climate change threatens to foreclose on all of us…. Occupy the Climate may need to come next….

None of these movements is perfect, and individuals within them are not always the greatest keepers of their brothers and sisters. But one thing couldn’t be clearer: compassion is our new currency…. Nothing has been more moving to me than this desire, realized imperfectly but repeatedly, to connect across differences, to be a community, to make a better world, to embrace each other. This desire is what lies behind those messy camps, those raucous demonstrations, those cardboard signs and long conversations. Young activists have spoken to me about the extraordinary richness of their experiences at Occupy, and they call it love.

In the spirit of calling things by their true names, let me summon up the description that Ella Baker and Martin Luther King used for the great communities of activists who stood up for civil rights half a century ago: the beloved community. Many who were active then never forgot the deep bonds and deep meaning they found in that struggle. We — and the word “we” encompasses more of us than ever before — have found those things, too, and this year we have come close to something unprecedented, a beloved community that circles the globe.

_ _ _ _ _

PS from Tom Engelhardt, founder of TomDispatch, who published Rebecca Sonit’s essay

The other evening, I took the subway to the very bottom of Broadway, reputedly thelongest street in the world, for a rally of New York’s transit workers. Their contract expires in mid-January and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reportedly calling on them for draconian givebacks the next time around. It’s a tough moment for unions in negotiations everywhere. (Only executives never seem to be asked to give back anything of significance.) Still, it was a vigorous rally of perhaps 500 members of Local 100 of the Transit Workers Union, other supporters, and some Occupy Wall Street types. A string of union officials and local politicians addressed the crowd, penned in as usual by the police, before a representative of the Occupy movement, a young Verizon worker, rose to speak energetically about direct democracy and the union movement to shouts, cheers, and the shrill treble of whistles blown by the assembled transit workers who had offered early support to Occupy Wall Street.

That a labor rally even wanted the imprimatur of the Occupy movement was evidence that our world is in the process of rapid change, but what came next was more striking. As the last speaker put down the mic, the crowd, whistles blowing, signs bobbing, headed for Zuccotti Park, the former campground of the OWS movement, where, having filed into the now fenced in, well guarded “park”-cum-prison, they conducted another, more spontaneous rally. And this was just one night in New York.

Four months ago, when it came to rallies, protests, demonstrations, in any given week next to nothing was happening. Today, in my hometown, you would have to devote your life to nothing else simply to keep up with what’s going on just about every day. And New York is hardly unique. Something has distinctly come to life across the country, around the world. In mid-December, Muscovites took to the streets of the Russian capital, and now in southern China, thousands of villagers have been occupying their own village in the face of police and troops to protest a land grab by local officials.

Those villagers may or may not have heard of Occupy Wall Street or the Arab Spring or the European summer, but face it, something is in the air and it’s spreading. It’s the zeitgeist of this moment. If you want to avoid it, try the moon. Chinese villagers can feel it, and so can rattled Chinese officials, who gave in to key demands of those angry villagers. So, too, has TomDispatch regular Rebecca Solnit, author of “A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster”. Long before the rest of us, she sensed that something was indeed coming and, in that spirit, has been the voice of hope at this website. Now, she ends TomDispatch’s 2011 by considering what may be arising on this disaster planet.

– – –
Occupy Your Heart
by Banzaibozo


When they occupy their hearts with love fear falls away. And now I get it. It’s not bravery or courage that propels the success of OWS, it is love. When we occupy our hearts with love, fear flees a

nd cannot stand against the power that emanates from the heart. The occupiers have taken a word that has historically been associated with destruction, hate, anger and oppression [“occupy”] and have turned it into a word of hope. I believe that redefinition of the word Occupy happened from love.

Thank you Occupiers, for filling your hearts with love, and using that power to change the definition of a word and igniting the hope of change on a visceral level…. I now understand how the occupiers at OWS can be beaten, abused, sprayed and come back stronger and bigger each time. I now understand how non-violence can defeat very powerful forces.

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