Sunday, February 22, 2009

Did You Get the Invitation?

The only way I can explain my obsession is to take you to the scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind where Richard Dreyfuss is eating dinner with his family and he begins to sculpt Devil’s Tower in his mashed potatoes.

His family watches his antics, mouths agape as they begin to think he has just slipped over the edge of sanity.

The central theme in the movie is that everyone receives a message and it’s the same message but for each person, the form the message comes in is different.

The message is actually an invitation. The movie is about an invitation that the characters receive through their intuition. It’s an invitation from an unknown intelligence in the cosmos to be at a site near Devil’s Tower, Wyoming on a certain date and after dark. The movie’s characters don’t know each other, they don’t understand their own obsession with the image of the well-known landscape feature, and they certainly don’t understand what the message means. All they know is they are magnetically drawn to a place and share a compulsion to be there… at Devil’s Tower, one night in time, and at the same time.

My obsession, fixation and artistic compulsion with an image began in 1972 and it too, came right out of the cosmos—actually, from NASA. It was one of those moments that many people tend to remember vividly by recalling where they were in the first instant they witnessed something significant. It’s a memory trigger like… “Do you remember where you were when… “the planes hit the towers? ... “Kennedy was shot?” …”the Challenger exploded?” In a moment like that, in a brief second the breath involuntarily and violently sucks itself in, the belly tightens, and perhaps the eyes even began to water. The initial strike of awe from that first encounter may have since waned, but I argue that it was one of the most significant moments in modern history and a turning point for humanity. I also argue that this intuitive message was received by everyone on Earth the moment they first saw it. And it is still transmitting its invitation to this day.

The iconic image captured by the crew of Apollo 17 on December 17, 1972 held a message for the whole world. It said without words… “We are one.” The image showed no delineations called “countries,” no dividing lines, no geological survey boundaries that distinguish “territory” or “place” belonging to only one peoples, one tribe. It looked at once both beautiful and vulnerable. It was the first time in history we, meaning humanity, saw the reality of our puny existence. From the perspective the photograph was taken, a human thumb could erase the entire planet from the camera’s frame and blot it out of existence. For the first time, humanity found itself looking back at itself, and on itself. The clear hues of brilliant blue and the cotton candy wispy white clouds conveyed something that caused all who viewed it for the first time, an instantaneous sucking in of air... the spontaneous in-breath of awe and epiphany.

The image began to appear everywhere at once. The “Blue Marble” as photograph # AS17-148-22726 is known, appeared on the cover of most of the newspapers in the world on that first weekend following NASA's release of Apollo 17 mission photos. It graced the Whole Earth Catalogue and Time Magazine’s cover where a story appeared about the flight, the pictures taken and credits for the photos. To this day, it is unclear which member of the crew actually took the photo. It was that view of the Earth that Edgar Mitchell witnessed from the face of the Moon that inspired him to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Mitchell had a mystical experience on his way back to the earth from its moon where he “knew” with as much scientific certainty as any standard mathematic equation that the whole earth comprised a living system, a kind of manifestation of consciousness in a conscious Universe. That view of earth and viewpoint gave rise to the Gaia Hypothesis and the evolution of consciousness on the planet, skillfully articulated by Peter Russell in his books The Global Brain and From Science to God.

When I first saw the image, a feeling shot through me that I am not able to describe to this day. The impact held an electric kind of charge, yet it wasn’t electricity that ran through me. And not only did my breath do involuntary things but so did my hands. I began impulsively to create the image everywhere, like the character in Close Encounters, in order to capture and convey its iconic and astounding message for the world. The Blue Marble photograph changed the rules of the game. It changed the world. It changed humanity. It changed life as we know it. It defines something diaphanous and gossamer that we haven’t come to know even yet.

That image inspired so many people to contribute to changing the paradigm on this planet. The way we do it will never be the same since the appearance of that image-- the icon for the new century. The message has been received. It has motivated many humans via its non-verbal and non-vocal message, whether they realize it or not—and some don’t. But many do. And those have stepped up to speak for, and give voice to a planet who cannot speak in words but who clearly, through the evolutionary gyrations and explorations of its own race of humans, can now speak for herself via that haunting image that says in an inherently loud and clear way that things have, and must, change. It is not only a message. Just like in Close Encounters, it is a direct and singular invitation. The invitation is… “Come change the world.” Tell me, do you hear it? Do you feel the spirit of Gaia? Did you get the invitation? Can you find your way to the meeting? To the place where we all meet up? Will you RSVP? How?

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A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...