The Contemplative Side of Social Change

Dear Friends,

Jess and Ruby were livestreamed on the Fallon Forum on Monday.

I’ve had lots of invigorating conversations lately about the spiritual and moral impetus for civil disobedience. Much of that conversation was inspired by the resistance of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, who recently confessed to damaging Dakota Access pipeline equipment. Check out our talk on this week’s Fallon Forum, and dialogue with Ruby and Jess face-to-face tonight at 7:00 p.m. at 1041 8th Street in Des Moines.

Leaving time for introspection has always been tough for me. How tough? Here’s a reflection I wrote about . . . well, about reflection . . . during the 2014 Great March for Climate Action. As always, feedback welcome. Thanks. – Ed

“With Steve gone, my marching day becomes increasingly contemplative. I often avoid the route Sarah and Anna have laid out and tack on extra miles to walk quiet roads or detour through small towns in search of a cafe with Internet service and large servings of bad food.

“Western Nebraska is sparsely inhabited but under-appreciated, exuding a wealth of sights, sounds and smells too abundant to catalogue. The lack of traffic liberates me from the fear that the next car or truck barreling past could kill or maim me. My focus shifts from survival to the alluring world around me — and to the even more alluring world within.

“Marching becomes meditation, my footsteps the mantra. I see the fields, ditches, trees, irrigation pivots, fence lines, homes and out-buildings. I hear the dog bark, the cow bellow for her calf, the cardinal sing to his mate, the warm breeze rustle the chest-high corn. I smell the white clover, the fresh-cut hay, the comfortable scent of horses, the acrid pungency of too many hogs. All this and so much more drifts through my senses in slow motion — visual, audial and olfactory b-roll, the canvas for the actual performance of life itself.

“My mind focuses on the repetitive, rhythmic crunch of shoes on gravel. It clears my head and brings a sense of peace. I recall the meditation course I took at age sixteen, the ten-minute introductory session inducing an unexpected inner calm that remained with me the rest of the day. Nothing bothered me — not the blackberry thorns that tore at my skin as I harvested the plant’s fruit; not my Mother’s nagging; not my brother calling me names for sport.

“Years later, after a long day hitchhiking through the French Alps, I settled for a bit high up in the mountains at a Buddhist monastery. Sitting for hours with the monks as they chanted “om,” the sound playing off ancient stone walls that once housed Catholic monks, I noticed how the mantra would roll through six or more unique tones in one recitation.

“Decades later on a work day during my campaign for governor, I thought about that experience as I made tiramisu at Cafe Dodici, an Italian restaurant in Washington, Iowa. The restaurant’s young, artistic chef showed me how to blend the egg yolks. “Watch how many different shades of yellow they go through, like 15 or 20,” he explained excitedly. “It’s awesome, as if you’re watching the universe unfold in a mixing bowl. But you’ll need some tunes to really bring it home,” he said as he flipped a switch sending rap music blaring through the kitchen.

“Om. Egg yolks. Footsteps. There are endless aids to center oneself on the path to enlightenment. But a mantra isn’t stagnant white noise. It’s alive, rich with motion and texture. My right heel’s first contact with gravel produces a deep tone. There’s a sudden decrescendo as the foot begins to roll forward. The pitch and volume rise as my weight shifts to the ball of the foot as the left heel moves into place and repeats the pattern. Every four steps, my walking stick punctuates the rhythm with a sharp sforzando as it grinds into the loose gravel. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Seven million times . . .

“Like waves breaking on a beach, my footsteps roll through gravel, through Nebraska, toward infinity, toward eternity. At times like this, my mind seems to get it. The technique and purpose of meditation — directing the hungry soul toward the peace that comes with knowing one’s higher self — is so simple, so transparently important. Yet more often than not, my mind remains restless, distracted by both beauty and ugliness, unable to focus on the deeper truth that transports one beyond pleasure and pain.

“Forty years ago, my first meditation was a uniquely powerful experience. But life’s pressing demands lured me away from the pursuit of inner peace. Perhaps had I continued to meditate, continued to cultivate the balance that such practice brings, I’d be able to manage the March’s turmoil with more dignity. Perhaps meditating during my solo walks on backroads might yet help me deal with the challenges ahead.

“A dog barks. I re-enter the world of the senses. What kind of dog is that? Is it on a leash? Does it bite?

“A bird sings . . . wren or finch?

“Will the cafe in the next town serve real butter?

“I hope I don’t run out of wet wipes today.

“I suck at meditation, even under the tutelage of a guru as patient as western Nebraska’s gravel roads.”

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Climate Justice Unity March

Dear Friends,

To build momentum for the People’s Climate Movement, Bold Iowa and its partners are organizing an eight-day, 80-mile Climate Justice Unity March. Marchers will set out from Indigenous Iowa’s Little Creek Camp near Millersburg on April 22 and arrive at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines at 1:00 p.m. on April 29 for a huge rally.

The People’s Climate Movement is gaining momentum for a landmark day of action on April 29, marking the 100th day of the Trump Presidency. The major event is in Washington, DC — a march for climate, justice and jobs. Hundreds of sister marches, rallies and events are planned in cities across the U.S. and around the globe.

In Iowa, the People’s Climate Movement will rally at the Iowa State Capitol from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 29. A broad coalition of groups is working to make this rally a statewide event involving thousands of Iowans concerned about a broad range of issues.

The organizations partnering with Bold Iowa for the Climate Justice Unity March include:

Indigenous Iowa
Sage Sisters of Solidarity
League of United Latin American Citizens (Council 307)
Creative Visions
Iowa Farmers Union
La Reina KDLF 1260 AM
Hola Iowa
Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility
Great March for Climate Action

Here’s the route, overnight stops and approximate mileage:
Saturday, April 22: Little Creek Camp to Deep River (12 miles)
Sunday, April 23: Deep River to Montezuma (8 miles)
Monday, April 24: Montezuma to Searsboro (10 miles)
Tuesday, April 25: Searsboro to Sully (8 miles)
Wednesday, April 26: Sully to Reasnor (10 miles)
Thursday, April 27: Reasnor to Prairie City (12 miles)
Friday, April 28: Prairie City to Pleasant Hill (12 miles)
Saturday, April 29: Pleasant Hill to Iowa State Capitol (8 miles)

The evening forum and potluck is as important as marching. As we work to build the strongest possible alliance to push-back against the failed policies of status-quo politicians at both the state and federal level, it’s essential that we take time to listen to each other and embrace our common ground and destiny.

The Climate Justice Unity March provides a unique opportunity to bring these voices together through the dignified, disciplined commitment of marching, and through non-confrontational gatherings each evening that will build momentum for April 29 and forge new relationships essential to the work we must do going forward.

Sign up here to join the march for the entire eight days, or even for a day: https://goo.gl/forms/r638T4XCIEoqfCDY2

Thanks! For further details, contact me at ed@boldiowa.org.

Ed Fallon

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Catholic Church speaks out on climate

Dear Friends,

I am honored to have Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese on today’s Fallon Forum at 11:00 a.m. You can tune-in to the conversation live on KDLF 1260 AM La Reina or online. A podcast will be available after the program.

Responding to Pope Francis’ encyclical addressing climate change, Bishop Pates wrote “An honest conversation acknowledges that humans are causing much of the recent climate change . . . The dialogue we need is not about whether to act on clime change but how to act.” (The Des Moines Register, July 2, 2015)

Bishop Pates goes on to challenge us to action, saying, “With presidential candidates already visiting us regularly, I encourage Catholics across our state, and all people of good will, to talk to them and ask not if, but how, they plan to work toward solutions to climate change.”

Already, 2015 has been a big year for climate action, with two major events still on the horizon:

* Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. this month, including a first-ever address by a pontiff to a joint session of Congress.

* The United Nations Climate Summit in Paris, November 30 – December 11, where expectations are high that a serious climate agreement might at last be attained.

I am grateful for Bishop Pate’s clarion call to faith-based action on behalf of creation and our planet. And I am grateful to all who are engaged in principled acts of conscience leading up to these two landmark moments in the face of escalating climate disasters. There are so many encouraging citizen-based actions in progress right now, it’s impossible to note them all. But let me mention three:

1. The Climate Mobilization, a promising new initiative challenging presidential candidates, other elected leaders, and all of us to confront climate change honestly and commit ourselves to “a World War II-scale emergency climate mobilization to protect civilization from the climate crisis.” If you haven’t yet signed the Pledge to Mobilize, please do.

2. Activists, including some of last year’s participants in the Great March for Climate Action, are fasting for eighteen days in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) building in Washington, DC. In advance of the Pope’s visit, they hope to call on FERC to stop issuing permits for fracking.

3. The People’s Pilgrimage chronicles an informal network of concerned people heading to Paris for the U.N. Climate Summit, or those who plan to be there in spirit. The initiative’s website says, “You can cross a continent, or only walk a mile. It’s up to you. You can do it any way you like – walk, cycle or some other low or zero fossil fuel means. What matters is the spiritual journey and that you use the journey to reflect on the risks of climate change.”

Join us live every Monday from 11:00-12:00 noon CDT on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Wednesday on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 p.m. Podcasts available, too.

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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Walking the (pipe)line

Dear Friends,

I have one request of you this week: Please forward this message to at least one media contact and your personal and/or professional network. Help get the word out now, so that when this walk begins in March, we’ll have a great list of contacts from which to organize meetings and events. From everything I’m seeing and hearing, we can stop this pipeline – despite the powerful, well-financed forces lined-up against us. Continue Reading →

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