One Day ... Reality Shift
by Robert Alan Silerstein
I'm no expert on life and Reality, that's for sure. But after thirty some-odd years, a girl can't help but notice obvious patterns and you sort of know what can be expected from your life.
Sometimes, however, things happen that are just so ... well ... so unexpected that the only way their occurrence can be explained, is that some kind of reality shift must have taken place, and suddenly all the rules are changed.
That's what happened to me on August 16, 1996. There's just no other way to explain it.
Now you might not think the email I received was that big a deal, particularly in my line of work as an activist, with twenty years under her belt, turned administrator for one of the world's largest environmental organizations. But at the time it was a monumental shift in my understanding of the world.
I'd started out early in life as a girl burning with a passion to change the world. I was haunted by a vision of a simpler, happier more beautiful world that had visited my dreams for as long as I could remember.
I remember quite clearly my rude awakening when I first discovered life just wasn't that way. But they couldn't keep me down. I honestly believed that it would be possible to change the world so that it more clearly resembled the vision of Peacetopia I'd so clearly envisioned.
A lot of girls I knew growing up set their sites on simpler goals -- finding Mr. Right and building the perfect little cozy life, with a perfect set of kids and a secure future. But, during my late teens and early twenties, that passion to create a better world was all consuming. I didn't have time for anything else. By my thirties, my dream was all but shattered, but I never thought of "settling" for this world.
Well, truth be told, my goal did settle on somehow forcing myself to try and set my sites on feeling some sense of pride and accomplishment for the little, and I mean little victories that I could achieve to help make the world a little better.
That's what seemed to work for the best of the do-gooders I'd come across. Over the years I'd met many people who wanted to make life better, but no one that I'd ever met allowed themselves to think that a real CHANGE was possible. They found joy and satisfaction in reaching one person; in making one tiny step forward on the local level. And that gave them the strength to live, what I could only see as boring, plain and ordinary lives. I knew that that's what I needed to think. How I wished I could make myself think that way.
Sometimes I was able to change my perspective, and I felt good for the little things I was able to help happen, but most of the time I was filled with a deep, aching disappointment, because I knew that LIFE would never be the way I'd imagined it could be. It would never be the Peacetopia I had dreamed so clearly.
That's the frame of mind I was in when I received that email.
There wasn't much in the email, really, but somehow it touched me and stirred all the passion again.
I should mention that just a month before then I'd suddenly realized that a new millennium was rapidly approaching. For some reason, it had never occurred to me before. I can't say why. 2001, A Space Odyssey was just some distant future. It never came together in my head that it represented a whole new era in human existence at the dawn of a new millennium. There I was in 1996, suddenly consumed in hope again. I saw the New Millennium was the perfect opportunity for the world to decide to create a brand new beginning. I started writing, pouring out the thoughts that had haunted and inspired me all my life. I spent every waking moment hiding in my office, hiding in my room, pouring out my dreams.
Three weeks later I'd finished THE PEACE ON EARTH MILLENNIUM: A GUIDE FOR THE PEACE ON EARTH MOVEMENT, and it was inspiring. It would awaken that universal desire that I knew was hiding in every heart I'd ever seen when they let their guards down; when they dared to dream. I knew everyone wished for a better world in their heart of hearts. Even the darkest, most lost souls, deep down, were only longing to be loved. Even the most cynical, destroyed life only because they'd given up hope that life would ever be fair and just and good.
A week before the fateful email arrived, I'd sent out my own email to every do-gooder I'd ever known or could hunt up an email address for. I sent them an excerpt from my treatise for a better world, inviting them to read the whole book on my website. I felt for certain that my book would incite a global movement to seize the opportunity of the approaching millennium. We would change the world together! For the first time in so long I believed once again that it was possible to change the WHOLE WORLD.
Over the next few days I received a splattering of polite encouragement, but it was obvious that my vision wasn't resonating with anyone.
But that one email on August 16, it was different from the others. Or at least it's exactly what I needed to hear that night. For I had been having one of those urgent moments when I just needed SOMETHING to happen, or else I'd just explode in disappointment.
"Bravo, Regina. Your vision is exactly our vision. We believe that togther we can create a more peaceful, just and sustainable world, one day at a time, too. That is our goal. We would be honored to have you join our Peacetopian community. Peace on earth is coming, with your help...
-- Roger Singer
People For Peace, Weimar, Arizona"
Roger Singer! Now that was a name that stirred memories. I heard Dr. Singer speak at a symposium years ago. Actually I was in college at the time, and I'd found his vision of a better world compelling, although a little too New-Agey for me. He was a middle-aged man at the time -- at least twice my age -- but he was so charismatic that I'd had a school-girl crush on him. Of course I didn't pursue it back then. But over the years his name came up quite a few times, and I always imagined our paths would eventually cross. He must be an old man now I sighed, remembering my school-girl crush and realizing no one I'd ever met since then really stirred me as much as he had inspired that naive college student.
Of course I remembered that the people who'd brought his name up each time were always snickering and using words like "cult" and "crazy." And yet all I could see when I stared at his email, was a memory of his eyes staring at me, from when I was twenty; eyes filled with passion and compassion. All I could think about now was that there was a whole community of people who were trying to create the world I once upon a time believed could come to be. I quit my job the very next day, packed everything I cared to keep into my car and headed west for Weimar, Arizona, never once looking back.
I wasn't disappointed when I got there. Dr. Singer was much older looking than I would have extrapolated, but when he greeted me with open arms, it was as if I were coming home to an old and trusted friend. Gazing in his eyes, I felt transported to another place and another time, when we had always been together.
It was only for an instant, but I remembered a whole lifetime; a lifetime of lifetimes, even. I wasn't Regina Drayer there. I was boy named Ward, and Dr. Singer was my dear friend the Duke, to whom I had pledged a gift I had been carrying for all time. Or was he Maya, my guiding angel. Or was I Captain Rogetto, and he my trusted servant Melnor. Or... A thousand scenarios ran through my head at once, and yet all of them felt like that eternal longed for scene my thoughts had always seemed to stray to, where I was finally living the life I had always been meant to live.
Roger hugged me tightly. "I'm so glad you've come Regina. We're all glad that you're here, NOW."
And as they helped me carry my few bags inside, they each gazed into my eyes and hugged me warmly and deeply and my old life seemed further and further away. For the first time in my life, I knew I belonged somewhere.
The cynics would scoff that I'd joined a cult, I'm sure, but the next six months were the most joyous I'd ever experienced. Perhaps I did relinquish my old life and the things that I'd once possessed, but I received so much in return. I was truly part of an amazing community of like-minded dreamers, who dared to try to make that dream come true.
We worked side by side, about thirty of us in this close-knit community, doing daily living chores in addition to the work that each of us had been meant to do. No longer were our talents wasted on redtape and paperwork. Our lives were focused on helping to create a bridge to the Peace On Earth Millennium. Of course we were each very different, with different experiences and different hopes. But we shared a common dream of a better world for all. We were artists and writers and musicians, and orators and film-makers and craftsmen. Together we were stoking the fires of our peace factory, creating the inspirations and tools to spread our message of peace. And since the world would celebrate the dawn of a New Millennium on January 1, 2000, we could transform that spirit of celebration into a realization that peace on earth is possible, one day at a time, if we only try to make it so.
It was amazing how everything had come together, and in twelve short months, mostly through the Internet, we'd created a worldwide network of more than 1000 organizations in 125 nations. More than a million people had heard our message and had pledged their support to try to make their lives more peaceful. Our Peace Factory sold dozens of CDs of music about peace on earth, films and hundreds of books all of which helped to inspire more artists to create works for a better world, and empower people with the hope and courage to live more peaceful lives.
Every morning I'd wake up so glad to be alive. So happy to be part of this "family" of peacemaking dreamers. And I'd stare in disbelief for a moment as we sat together at breakfast, sharing a moment of silence. How could it all seem to have fallen into place in the blinking of an eye, when for thirty years it had seemed I was lost in a world I could never fit into?
Then one rainy day, it crumbled as quickly as it had come. In truth, it had been getting harder to convince people that peace on earth was possible. It was getting hard to convince them that "peace" was something they wanted. "We're not at war, why should I want peace!" some would say. Or "I don't want peace, I want justice!" Or "Peacetopia ... Peace On Earth ... stop chasing fairytales and face reality... the world's a heartless place." Or they'd argue that January 1, 2000 wasn't the start of a new millennium. It was January 1, 2001, and they'd become completely sidetracked from the whole point.
Out of the blue, people seemed to be talking about Y2K more and more. It seemed to cast a spell over the world, making everyone feel that the future was uncertain and they had to concentrate on their lives right now because life was hard enough without having to worry about the future, too.
The next three years were a blur. Actually, the rest of my life is a blur. I remember that exact moment the next reality shift happened. We were sitting around a campfire one evening, singing songs together as we often did. Roger was sitting next to me. I'd been in Weimar for about a year and a half. We'd been lovers for the past few months. Every time I looked in his eyes I felt whole, but I was always hesitant to gaze deeply, afraid that I would see too much. I was holding his hand then, singing in harmony with my friends, but shaking for I was afraid to look in Roger's eyes; I could feel a change coming and I knew that I would see it in his eyes.
I couldn't stop myself. My gaze went around the circle and rested in Roger's eyes. I saw the rest of my life in an instant. From an objective viewpoint, I'm sure an observer would say it was a good life, all in all. January 1, 2000 would come and go. Although our campaign would touch and inspire many to create more peaceful lives for themselves and their families and their communities for a while, we would not change the world. Not really. Y2K fears would cause most of the celebrations and excitement our message generated to become subdued or canceled. The media wouldn't pay us any attention. Would Y2K materialize and destroy the fabric of our world as many had feared? No. In fact, it would never happen. Later, no one would even explore how the world could have been convinced to expend so much energy worrying; how companies would spend so much money feverishly working to deactivate the Y2K bug, when nothing at all would happen.
The world would celebrate peacefully for that day on January 1, 2000, but no one would notice really. The world wouldn't use it as the opportunity to start anew as we'd imagined it could be. Life would pretty much go on as it had in the previous millennium. Our little community would dissolve. We'd have treasured friendships and lessons to bring with us through our lives. I'd eventually settle down. Not with Roger, but with someone who made me feel like I belonged. I'd have a family, and we would be happy, more or less. I'd continue to touch lives, a little here, a little there. Life would go on, and I would live it contentedly, and not really feel at all that I'd 'settled' for a 'regular' life.
But there in that one eternal moment sitting around the campfire, gazing into Roger's eyes, I turned away from the path that would lead me to my future. As if turning my life sideways, for that moment, I slipped into the place inbetween the here and Now and the moments yet to come. There in the place InBetween, I saw that there were many possible paths I could travel, and I knew that I could now decide which one to take. There was one that seemed to call to me, and smiling, I followed the angelic whispers on the road to Peacetopia without looking back.
From the novel, Utopian Dreamer by Robert Alan Silverstein