FierceLight, the secret of activism
If you need a dose of inspiration and belief in humanity's ability to save itself and the planet, go to see Fierce Light this week-end. The beautiful and moving film about what Velcrow Ripper calls "spiritual activism" opens this week-end in Toronto at the Cumberland, Vancouver at the Fifth Avenue Cinema and Montreal at the AMC. I am also in the film.
Velcrow is one of my closest friends, BFF we joke, but it's true. We met four years ago at Media that Matters. He was the last person there I wanted to get to know, at first. When we did one of those exercises when people line up according to where they are located on a spectrum, he and I were on opposite ends of the spirtual not spiritual spectrum. Media that Matters is a wonderful gathering of US and Canadian media activists at Hollyhock, a place I have come to love but is very west coast.
Velcrow first got my attention after a discussion of a film where he said that he thinks the only responsible approach to making a film in this day and age is to give people hope. Then I saw his film ScaredSacred, which he describes as finding stories of hope in the "ground zeros" of the world. I was especially amazed by the sections on Israel/Palestine and New York City after 9/11. Both places have special meaning for me being Jewish and having grown up in New York. Velcrow had found stories that had tremendous resonance for me and that I hadn't seen anywhere else. I was so moved, I was speechless (a rare event in my life). I realized that ScaredSacred was a political film speaking the heart. I was amazed and intrigued.
Velcrow moved to Toronto soon after and we started a dialogue about spirituality and politics. The more we got to know each other and the more we talked, we both realized that we were talking about the same things in different language. I understand human behaviour through the lens of psychology as I had been in therapy on and off for about six years. Besides dealing with some emotional issues, therapy helped my politics by allowing me to see that there were more than two sides to every question. It made me a much more effective political activist because I could understand where my opponents were coming from.
Through this dialogue and the political thinkers I met through Velcrow and my new openess to a spirtual element in activism, Transforming Power takes a much broader and deeper approach to politics recognizing the importance of heart as well as head in the struggle, understanding the importance of not getting stuck in polarized battles and realizing the limitations of the Eurocentric strictly intellectual frame of much of our political thinking.
The most extraordinary thing about FierceLight is that it manages to expose the passion that drives so many activists. The word "spirituality" contains alot of baggage whether because of religion or New Age self-absorption. In FierceLight, US activist Van Jones says he prefers the term "soulful" to "spiritual". Velcrow calls it embodied sprituality not that takes you out of the world but makes you an active part of it.
Whatever word we want to use FierceLight and I hope Transforming Power both recognize profound new movements around the world that are taking approaches to political change that come from the heart and are more about the connection among people than the divisions. It is a path to hope and lasting change.
Do yourself a favour and support independent Canadian media. Go see FierceLight this week-end. And I will be participated in a panel discussion after the 1:45 pm screening at the Cumberland on Saturday May 16.