Thursday, May 31, 2007

On becoming a butterfly

Originally posted at My Left Wing a couple days ago, and after posting about the school saga below, I thought I'd balance that out with something a bit more "uplifting".

I was reading some of the responses to Cindy Sheehan's essay at, and was pleasantly surprised when someone posted the text of a movie speech by Charlie Chaplin that I had never heard of before. It was from The Great Dictator in 1940, and you can read it as well as listen to the audio here. I've included an excerpt below, so that you can see what struck me about the words--which still ring very true today:

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me I say, "Do not despair." The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die; and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Do not despair. There is reason for hope. Here's some hopeful news:

The apparent political divisions notwithstanding, U.S. polling data reveal a startling degree of consensus on key issues. Eighty-three percent of Americans believe that as a society the United States is focused on the wrong priorities. Supermajorities want to see greater priority given to children, family, community, and a healthy environment. Americans also want a world that puts people ahead of profits, spiritual values ahead of financial values, and international cooperation ahead of international domination. These Earth Community values are in fact widely shared by both conservatives and liberals.
And finally, I'd like to round this out with a nice metaphor for you to ponder:

A more recent metaphor for starting in small groups and linking them for transformational change is supplied by evolution biologist, Elizabeth Sahtouris and found in David Korten’s book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community:

The caterpillar is a voracious consumer that devotes its life to gorging itself on nature’s bounty. When it has had its fill, it fastens itself to a convenient twig and encloses itself in a chrysalis. Once snug inside, crisis strikes as the structures of its cellular tissue begin to dissolve into an organic soup.

Yet guided by some deep inner wisdom, a number of organizer cells begin to rush around gathering other cells to form imaginal buds, new and initially independent multicellular structures that begin to give form to the organs of a new creature. Correctly perceiving a threat to the old order, but misdiagnosing the source, the caterpillar’s still intact immune system attributes the threat to the imaginal buds and attacks them as alien intruders.

The imaginal buds prevail by linking up with one another in a cooperative effort that brings forth a new being of great beauty, wondrous possibilities, and little identifiable resemblance to its progenitor. In its rebirth, the monarch butterfly lives lightly on the earth, serves the regeneration of life as a pollinator, and is capable of migrating for thousands of miles to experience life’s possibilities in ways the earthbound caterpillar could not imagine.

I really like that metaphor. I mean, sure, it's pretty, and gives me an excuse to post a nice picture of a butterfly. But it also gets at why what we're trying to do is *so hard*, and why we face so much opposition. And sometimes in the face of all that, it can be hard to stay hopeful.

But I really felt like we needed something hopeful and ('scuse the pun) "uplifting" tonight. Hopefully, some of you will find something worthwhile in one of the excerpts I've included here. And if not, maybe you can post something that *does* give you hope and lift your spirits.