Vision paralysis

“Where are we?

These grounds are the ancestral home of the Syilx people.

Just down the road from where we are gathered, was the site of a Japanese internment camp during the second world war.

The waters that run down from these mountains are part of a watershed that eventually joins the Pacific Ocean.

A hiking trail you can take from here, called the Pacific Crest Trail, will take you all the way to the bottom of America, to San Diego.

Though we might feel like we are isolated in a lodge in the woods, from where we stand, we are connected to history. Stories that include suffering and strength. From where we stand, we are connected to an entire ocean. From where we stand, we are connected to the entire world.”

I am giving opening remarks to our medium-size team at a lodge in Manning Park in 2016. It is our team’s first offsite, and it is also the launch of our newly-minted vision statement: To help create a more empathetic and connected world.

In that same lodge, I babble excitedly to a teammate about the power we have to change the world. Her earnest eyes can’t help but glaze over, and she says, “I’d love to know what books you’re reading, because these thoughts and ideas are not what I’ve been following, and I can see you care about them”

(The books were Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy, Micah White’s The End of Protest, and This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein)

During that offsite, an illness descends on many of our group. I feel it creeping up on me as I drive down in my rented car from the mountain.

I barely make it to the city that night. A colleague kindly lets me stay at their place for a couple hours, but I have commitments to keep the next day, and have to move on.

The first meeting the next day is with my coach, as one of the final meetings in my program with the THNK School of Creative Leadership. In a small room I tried to keep illness at bay as I answer her questions. I clutch my head and sway silently as I try to find words.

“I feel such an energy from you now,” she says.

“I can’t put it into words yet,” I say.

I want to express what is true and happening inside me, but the strange mix of illness and inspiration makes it hard to communicate.

That night, I am signed up to lead a session in a restaurant basement about facilitation. As I attempt to motivate people to work differently together in their workplaces, I am barely holding it together, working through fever sweats to finish this public speaking gig.

The next day, I drive home in that same rental car; a four hour drive over mountain passes. I have to pull over, forced to sleep from the pressure of sickness.

By the time I made it home, I have nothing left. I collapse on a mattress in our guest bedroom and stay there for days. I have no appetite, and Kendra, who is pregnant and at the time and taking care of our other 2 kids, has already been holding down the fort while I’ve travelled. She hadn’t expected to keep having to do so for a sick husband upon his return.

From that position, side-lying on the twin mattress in February of 2016, in the fog of neverending sleep-wake cycle, an image appears in my mind: it is of a toppled statue of Donald Trump. (At this time, Trump has not yet even won the primaries.) It lies face-to-face with me on the floor. The grinning bronze face is giving me the thumbs up. And in that same instant, this comes to me:

“This” will get exactly as bad as you think. The only way to topple this will be through grassroots participation. 

What occurs to me in that moment is the idea of a global jubilee. A radical sabbatical. A chance for global coordinated action to refrain from work, and to take care of each other. A year off from work during which all production, manufacturing, shipping ceases.

I’ve recovered from the sickness, but I still haven’t recovered from that vision. I still have no idea what to do with it.

Part 2 is here.