Spirituality &
Social Change

Reflections on the transition movement: Confessions of an activist Elder Facing Up to the Fierce Urgency of the Now!

I was sitting in a first of its kind meeting in the Louisville, Colorado library about six months ago when Michael Brownlee, the presenter, from Transition Boulder, began to talk about “The Long Emergency” and “The Energy Descent Plan.” He definitely got my attention and I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair. What I had felt intuitively for a couple of years was now being confirmed by hard science and irrefutable data. There’s a big hole in our lifeboat, and the whole planet is in that one lifeboat!

Getting it right today has a fierce urgency in virtually every aspect of our lives. Nowadays, the margin for error and the cost of our individual and collective errors carries a heavy price. Well now I’m 65 and when I started driving, gasoline in my home town of Gettysburg, Pa. was 28 cents a gallon. I could go to a Saturday matinee for 50 cents and have enough money to buy a bag of popcorn and a soft drink too! Talk about living in a fantasy world of “more is better” and unlimited industrial growth!

Throughout my adult life, my professional challenge has been to cut through denial and motivate people to give money to save lives –like getting people to give money to six million starving Ethiopians when it is the tenth or so time we have had this issue to confront as a moral and humanitarian issue.

I’m writing this to you to beckon you forth. I’m impressed by the transition movement –as the most hopeful and rapidly growing social movement in the world. I say this as an activist who was deeply involved in the peace movement, the women’s rights movement, the nuclear weapons freeze and peace movement and the environment movement. I’ve also written about these movements professionally for 30 years as a fundraising copywriter. I say all this to you so I cannot be accused of suffering from naïve bliss and enchantment. Brothers and sisters, this is the real thing! Check it out!

Other movements wax and wane over time. But not this time. Not with transitions. How come? Because history is breathing down our backs at every moment. Here’s my gut truth -- If we are to have life, we will be in transition as far as we can read our collective future. As the comics like to say: De-nial ain’t just a river in Egypt. Americans in cities and small town are getting blasted –like inhaling ammonia accidentally! It shocks you, it penetrates your body, and it is very unpleasant, and if you’d done it, like me, you don’t do it again!! We need to get over and get beyond our small ego selves!

Remember Small is Beautiful from the 1970’s and the mantra “Live Simply So Others May Simply Live”? Smallness and living simply have shifted from theoretical values and principles into hard, practical necessities. History, rather than our personal whims, is clearly calling the agenda and will do so for coming generations after us.

So what I know from being involved with the transition movement in Colorado is that the social and economic context of this movement is right on. And the grassroots, from the bottom up, open-ended approach to change and constantly adapting the movement are also right. Transition is post-partisan, trans-religious, local/global, inclusive and inter-generational – and fun! Refreshingly, for once, it is clearly not an American thing. But it is a very local thing and it is also a movement built on volunteer time, vision, money and energy. But most importantly, it is built and runs on heart.

Because I’m a “Curious George” type of guy, I went to the internet and did a key word search of “peak oil” “climate change” and “economic collapse”, the three pillars of the transition movement. Each of these phrases has tens of millions of listings on the web. So it’s clear to me knowledge is not our issue.

I lived in Detroit just 12 blocks from where the riots erupted. I had just left the U.S. Army and Fort Bragg, North Carolina and settled into an apartment. Shortly thereafter, I saw my own 82nd Airborne Division on West Chicago Boulevard in front of my home in armed personnel carriers with machine guns and all the rest. Talk about a wake up call! As bad as that experience was, I believe what we experience today is much more complex, troubling, insidious and pervasive.

James Baldwin in his book The Fire Next Time quotes scripture: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water but the fire next time.” Then Baldwin, being a poet, coins a new term –“historical vengeance”. Sometimes we reach a point of no return. This is where all of humanity stands today – literally on the brink of historical vengeance. We act – and act boldly – or history will solve the problem brought on by our stiff-necked denial and refusal to act.

In his noted “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King, Jr. first used the now historic and compelling words “the fierce urgency of the now.” And so, my brothers and sisters, we come full circle. I am an elder confessing to you it took me a long while to wake up from the trance of industrial growth culture and my addiction to affluence. Now I humbly bow my knee before the cosmic realities of peak oil, climate change and economic collapse. History has a claim on me – and on you too.

My life is different because of the wonderful men, women and children I’ve met on the journey of transition. I’ve been cared for by witnessing the truth-speaking and simple living of my transition comrades in arms. I invite you to come along. Have fun with us, learn, and serve with us and your neighbors near and far. The prophet tells us “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Now, most certainly is the season. A season of being in this world that never ends! Ours is a Journey of Endlessness. And so, I bless you on your journey. Until we meet in person, I take my leave from you with these inspiring words adapted from the English poet, Christopher Fry:

“Dark and cold we may be. But this is no winter now. The frozen misery of centuries -- cracks, breaks, begins to move. The thunder is the thunder of the floes! The thaw! The flood! The upstart spring! Thank God, our time is now. When Wrong comes up to meet us everywhere, never to leave us until we take the longest stride of soul folk ever took. Affairs are now soul-size. Our enterprise is exploration into the human heart. Where are you making for? It takes so many thousand years to wake. But will you wake for pity’s sake? But will you wake for pity’s sake?”

©2009, Forrest Craver

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Man becomes great exactly in the degree to which he works for the welfare
of his fellow man. - Mahatma Gandhi

Forrest Craver has been doing men’s work for more than 20 years. He was senior interviewer for Wingspan: Journal of the Male Spirit for many years. He has led or co-led more than 40 retreats or workshops for men including The Mankind Project, Men in Recovery, and regional clergy retreats for United Methodist and ELCA denominations. He is a lawyer and a nationally recognized fundraising consultant for nonprofit groups. He is the author of a short book of Spiritual Poetry entitled “This Well Has No Bottom” and is finishing a book about intergenerational breakthrough approaches for boys and men in American culture. His websites are cravercreativeservices.com/and transitioncolorado.ning.com/profile/forrestcraver or eMail.He lives and works in the Denver metro area.

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