Revel World

The Interconnectedness


This post was first published on January 30, 2013. I’ve had occasion to think a lot about these ideas in recent weeks, which prompted me to share this one again. 

We are at an interesting crossroads, having made the long march up from the scarcity of our hunter-gatherer days, up through the genius of agriculture and animal husbandry (and the miracle of settled human society they made possible); up through the game-changing Industrial Revolution which birthed to the middle class and brought a tenfold increase in wealth to the capitalist countries — though often at the expense of people and the planet. Now we’re in the grips of another great transformative moment in human history, which I call The Interconnectedness Revolution. It’s marked by our growing awareness of the interconnectedness of all life, and our growing recognition that every man is our brother and this planet is our home. It’s the culmination of man’s 11,000 year journey from scarcity to abundance, and a high-water mark in the evolution of the human race.

The Zen Master Bernie Glassman spoke poignantly about this idea of interconnectedness in a recent interview on Charlie Rose, where he appeared with the actor Jeff Bridges to promote their new book, The Dude and The Zen MasterThere, he asked that we imagine that our left hand, right hand and right leg are part of the same body but do not know it. He then asks us to imagine that this right leg is injured and that, instead of helping, the left hand and right hand say, “I’m not gonna help, it’s not my problem,” and, in the end, no one helps, and finally the body dies. For most of human history, we have been like the left hand and right hand that don’t know they belong to the same body as the leg. Now, we are waking up to the idea that everyone, and everything, on this planet is part of the same body, and that we will perish or continue as one.



The PR Battle For Equality



The battle for Marriage Equality is almost won. Later this year, The Supreme Court will decide a case that will settle the marriage equality issue for all 50 states. The question they will answer is whether The 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause requires marriage equality, as surely it does. For those of you who are not Constitutional nerds, The 14th Amendment provides, among other things, that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws(emphasis mine).

The equal protection clause was one of the Reconstruction Amendments. Passed on July 9, 1868, it was meant to lay the legal foundation for full equality for African-Americans, including former slaves who, at the time of its passage, were just three years removed from the institution of slavery. It’s worth noting that prior to the passage of The 13th Amendment, even free blacks were at risk of being enslaved, as Steve McQueen’s luminescent film 12 Years A Slave so painfully illustrated. The 14th Amendment was meant to ensure that those newly freed slaves would be granted full equality under the law. It would take a century for the descendants of former slaves to gain full equality under the law (again, emphasis mine).

While The 14th Amendment was passed in the context of slavery and racial justice, it’s language, like most constitutional language, is broad. This is not an accident. The Founding Fathers, too many of whom were slaveholders, ensconced, in The Declaration of Independence and in The Constitution, language that spoke of aspirations that they themselves did not attain. The Declaration of Independence, for example, holds “these truths self-evident that all men are created equal.” All men. These are the words they chose though they themselves owed their wealth, or a portion of it, to slavery, though they themselves had households and plantations that were run on slave labor, on the blood and sweet and tears of people who were not compensated for their labor and who, furthermore, suffered untold indignities to their bodies and their spirits, including the indignity of brutal and premature death.

So too does The 14th Amendment use inclusive language. It provides for equal protection of the laws for all persons within the jurisdiction of any of the United States. And so when The Supreme Court extends marriage equality to all couples, regardless of sex, a move that this New Yorker article predicts will happen this June, it will be acting in a manner that is consistent with the framers original intent and with the intent of those who drafted and passed into law The 14th Amendment equal protection clause that will make it legally possible.


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You Should Know About:
Edible Estates

Edible Estates Book Cover

Friday’s news that climate change is worse than we thought, has lit the fire under my feet, and gotten me to think anew about what it will take for us to make a sustainable world. With carbon dioxide in the environment now at levels not seen in 3 million years, a development that the scientist Maureen E. Raymo, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said “feels like the inevitable march toward disaster.” Of course, nothing is inevitable. We always have options, though at current rates of environmental degradation our options are rapidly narrowing, which is why it’s high time we all up our game — and by we, I mean me, because I’ve been twiddling my thumbs and making do with half-measures when nothing short of a fundamental shift in the way I live will do.

My commitment to myself, then, is to figure out a way to do better. It’s tied up with the project of trying to live better (by which I mean richer, deeper, and more profoundly fulfilled). I talk big, mind you. I have friends who uprooted their whole lives, sold their home and hit the road in an RV three weeks ago in order to work on farms around the country on their way to setting down more sustainable roots, perhaps in a retreat center cum sustainable community that they’re dreaming up. Compared to what they’re doing, my little inquiring is child’s play. But I am earnest. I want to continue a project I first started dabbling in twenty-four years ago when I explored vegetarianism, a ten year journey that brought me full circle back to being a (more enlightened form of) carnivore, and sunk bricks into my toilet tank to reduce the waste of excessive water flow. One avenue of exploration I’m excited about is Edible Estates, the brainchild of Los Angeles artist Fritz Haeg. Haeg’s idea is simple: turn lawns into edible gardens. A similar project, L.A. Green Grounds, founded by South Central Los Angeles-based “guerilla gardner” Ron Finley, who recently gave a rousing talk at TED — more about him soon — does for abandoned lots and the underused patches of land between sidewalks and streets what Haeg is doing for the venerable American lawn. 


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Transcendent G(Race)

Ramses Barden & Faye Arthurs

At Rick Owen

The images above offer one more reason (as if one were needed) to love Carine Roitfeld. From the helm of French Vogue, from which she departed in 2010, Roitfeld was irreverent, original, one of a kind. Now she helms her own CR Fashion Book, where she’s in rare form yet again, working her beautiful, conceptual magic in ways that, frankly, boggle my mind.

Roitfeld is up to some seriously intriguing, philosophical stuff. She’s talking fashion, mind you, but somehow she manages to upend our cultural assumptions and cause us to see anew.

Roitfeld reminds me that fashion is cultural iconography. It’s uniform, armor, away of engaging with, and breaking through the barriers of the world. It’s something the disenfranchised have always known. It’s why African-American women of my mother and grandmother and great grandmother’s generations dressed to the nines, never forgoing their slip or gloves or pantyhose. Dressing to the nines, in the normal course of business if you were middle or upper middle class, and on special occasions if you were working class or poor, was a way to stake a claim on their right to dignity and respect in a world too often blind to the fact of their basic humanity. Sadly, the inability to “see” the non-white among us as human persists, a point Anna Holmes drove home in a piece in The New Yorker about the extreme displeasure expressed by a few too many Hunger Games fans to the discovery that Thrash and Rue were (gasp, wait for it) black.

It’s in this context that I consider the images above, which appeared in two different spreads in Roitfeld’s CR. The first, of New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden and New York City Ballet dancer Faye Arthur is soaked in the history and iconography of black masculinity and white femininity as it plays itself out in the White American consciousness and, by extension, in the Black American consciousness as well. This image contains the image of Emmett Till, the 14 year old African-American child who was lynched in 1955 Mississippi for looking at a white woman. And it turns it on its head, rendering the strong, black, male body what it has always been, an object of beauty, intentionality and grace. 


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