Jul 2, 2012/05:05 PM

My Journey To Generation Waking Up

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Pachamama Office

I am sitting in the Pachamama Alliance and Generation Waking Up shared office drinking green tea, totally fired up from my bike ride to work where I was treated to stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the vast, cold Pacific ocean.  My name is Dan Jubelirer, and I am from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and a college student in Boston. I’m in San Francisco as a summer fellow with Generation Waking Up, spending my summer working with driven, passionate and inspiring people on a mission.  We are here to cultivate a generational movement, to ignite young people to create a just, sustainable, thriving world.  I come to this work because I want to leave behind a much different world than the one I was born in. I want to be part of a movement and a global effort to shift our planet away from an unsustainable and unjust existance and marked by domination, violence and scarcity to a new paradigm of sustainability, happiness, equality, and connection.

A large part of this shift that I want to see revolves around expanding our awareness. Human beings face the enigmatic problem of being unaware that we are unaware, or unconscious of our unconsciousness.  We are so wrapped up in day-to-day stresses and the struggle just to get through our lives that we rarely get a chance to lift our heads up from the daily grind and see something larger. We are slaves to our habits, routines and ingrained ways of thinking. Although there are some exceptions, most of us are not woken up to the larger picture. What makes this so insidious is that we are rarely even aware of how unaware we are. We don’t even know that there is the possibility of moving our attention beyond day-to-day struggles to something larger. We are like the hiker on a difficult trail in the woods, looking down at his feet focusing on putting each foot on solid ground, without ever looking up and seeing that the path leads to something beautiful.  We have blinders on and we don’t even know it.

I am no exception to this phenomenon, and I find it a problem that is challenging and important to deal with. I am drawn to Generation Waking Up because we understand that we need to wake up to the realities that we are ignoring or are simply not aware of.  This gift of awareness, of temporarily lifting our heads up and seeing our lives from a larger perspective, zooming out and seeing our interconnectedness and  larger existence, is so rare. This is something I am working on personally, and something I hope to support others in doing with the work of Generation Waking Up.

I attended a small Quaker high school in Durham, North Carolina, and was steeped in a robust social justice tradition. In classes we discussed income inequality, education achievement gaps, Western domination and colonization of indigenous cultures, and structural racism. We used the power of group silence to reflect on our values, our community, and, sometimes, our vision for the future. The mission of the school states that “we teach our children that it is possible to change the world,” and I left this community eager and ready to lead a life of meaning and purpose, in service to a more just and sustainable planet.

I college, I found myself in a much more traditional environment at a competitive and prestigious academic institution, and found myself facing much less hope about the future.  I was learning about many world issues from a very academic, intelectual perspective, without having an opportunity to do something about it. College has felt somewhat disempowering as, at least at first, there were not constructive avenues to be active out in the world. I also got some clarity on what unawareness looks like while in college. While I have met many amazing, inspiring people, I also have noticed many people who seem to be on a linear path to a narrowly defined conception of success, slaving away at homework, tests, and then partying and heavy drinking to blow off steam, without ever seeing the larger purpose of all their effort. This sort of unawareness must be challenged, because the potential of our generation is huge, but will never be realized if we don’t slow down sometimes and reflect on where we are as a culture, as a generation, and as a planet.

David Foster Wallace echoed this sentiment in his now famous commencement address, This Is Water

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

He challenges the graduates, “I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master”.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.

This Is Water, This Is Water. Our generation has been handed a world full of crisis, both personal and systemic, and we must find ways to see the larger picture.

Pessimism and cynicism,  taking the destructive forces facing our world as inevitable, is such a disempowering and small way of thinking. The process of waking up involves both a critique of the present and a constructive vision of the future. These two moments of thinking are linked: what is wrong now, and how do we want things to be different?

Generation Waking Up provides the safe spaces to really grapple with these questions. Does change come from the top, legislated by public officials? Does real change emerge in small and spread out groups, in thousands of small communities, all over the globe? Where do our voices, as young people, have power? How do we show up in the world, in our relationships, life choices, and interactions to create change? Where can top-down and bottom-up change meet and compliment each other?

That is why I am here. I deeply believe, and am affirming here in San Francisco, that each of us has real, authentic, deep power to shift and evolve beyond the current political, economic, and cultural power structures that seem so ubiquitous and unchangeable. And we will have fun while doing so!


Fog and Golden Gate Bridge!


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