Rise Up With Love In 2014


Occupy Love Screenings

In 2014 we will rise up like never before. We will rise up with compassion, action, and consciousness.  We will rise up rooted, like trees.

We will rise up connected, like mycorrhizzal fungi, a rhizome spreading, cracking, shattering the cold concrete of a consumer culture bent on self destruction. We will rise up symbiotic, interdependent and independent, free thinking and open hearted, throwing our mind body heart and spirit into service to the greatest good in this time of greatest crisis.

We will turn the tides, correct the course, re-align, re-design, re-vamp, re-jig it all before the jig is up. Then we’ll dance a jig!

The time is now to seize the day before the day seizes us.

We will transcend the howling complaints of our ego, let go the petty jealousies, and breathe, deeply, before we act, remembering to love. Remembering to remember.

The time is now, not a moment too soon. We will laugh in the face of cynicism, and dare to be radically optimistic, against all odds, because nothing less will do.

We will open our hearts with empathy to  those still locked in fear and apathy, for those who have lost their way, for those who mock us in our loving, for they are us, and we are them. There is no separation. To love them is to love ourselves, and until we practice self love, the journey will be incomplete. We are the 100%.

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We are the 100% but we will call the 1% to task. For our love will be fierce, and uncompromising, and we will do everything we can, with peace in our hearts, to stop the destruction and start the healing. Transformation is risky, love is risky, caring is risking. We will risk it all, for the present is crumbling and the future is in jeopardy.

We will stand trembling in awe before the great mystery of life, knowing that we can never know it all, that the journey is never over, that we will always be just beginning, out here on the leading edge of evolution.

We know that nothing less than everything needs to change, that change is not enough, that only transformation through and through will do, and that’s the wonder and excitement of this era of chaos and possibility.

A new year is upon us, a year like none before. Anything could happen, if we dream it into existence.

A new day is dawning, and we are all invited to surf the crashing wave of possibility.

We are all needed now, all hands on deck. Unwrap your gifts, bring it into the light and unleash it on the world, let yourself shine. Together, we can outshine the darkness of this world, together we can do this, if only we dare to try. Let’s do it!

~ Velcrow Ripper, Jan. 1st 2013

 

“If we surrendered to earths intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

“In 2014 we will rise up like never before.”

~ Occupy Wall Street

Images from the Occupy Love screenings around the world.

Upcoming events with Fierce Love Films

We’ve been busy these last few months, attending screenings, workshops, panels – and there’s more to come. Check out our upcoming events over the next two months, and please share widely.

NOV 6-7 – VANCOUVER – MERGING MEDIA CONFERENCE – Panel discussions on emerging distribution + alternative financing, and a screening of OCCUPY LOVE.
In attendance Velcrow Ripper, Nicole Sorochan and Ian MacKenzie

NOV 9 – VANCOUVER – THE ART OF CROWDFUNDING, TYEE MASTERCLASS
with Ian MacKenzie. An extended all-day workshop in partnership with the Tyee.

NOVEMBER 21 MONTREAL ~ Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) ~ Panel Session on Crowd Sourcing
with Velcrow Ripper (Details TBA)

NOVEMBER 23 TORONTO ~ Planet in Focus Film Festival ~ Panel Session on Activism + Juror
with Velcrow Ripper (Details TBA)

NOV 30-DEC 5 – VICTORIA – LIVING THE NEW ECONOMY CONFERENCE
with Ian MacKenzie. A week of workshops, speakers, events and more.

A World of Peace

The shift from a culture of war, a culture of domination, a culture of “us versus them,” to a culture of love, a culture of shared power, a culture of “us ” is at the core of our evolutionary journey, and key to our very survival on this precious planet.

Peace starts in our hearts, in the hearts of each every one of us. It begins every day, in this very moment, right now, not then, but now ~ as you read this ~ in your very next breath.

Push the pause button, and take a few seconds to connect with your breath…a single deep breath in and out… ah, yes.

Now take another moment to connect with your heart, breathing in and out of your heart center, grounding yourself in the loving mindfulness of this present moment. And again. Breathing in love, breathing out love. Repeat as needed. Three deep heart breathes at any moment of the day will do you a world of wonders. I like to do this before each meal, and before I make any decisions, large or small.

As you go through your day, allow your actions to spring forth from this beautiful place. Remind yourself to return to your heart, your breath, this space. Creating a sense of spaciousness allows your actions to come from a true place, not from the fear and anxiety that often percolates near the surface, but from the calm depths of the Knowing Heart.

From this place, we can begin to truly Occupy Love, as an important part of who we are. In touch with this ocean of ‘being,’ our ‘doing’ emerges, naturally, without force. We can learn to follow our heart, unwrap our gifts, and let them shine, allowing right action to unfold with right timing, emerging organically.

Occupy A new Era of Compassion Photo by Jenna Pope

More and more of us are beginning to move from this place of deep love and deep peace. A new culture of compassion is being born, all over this pulsating earth. This is not a pipe dream, this is not speculation, it’s truly happening. I’ve witnessed it first hand. Yes, there is an intensification of the setting sun mentality – aggression, hate, fundamentalism, corporate domination, eco collapse, and on and on and on. As a documentary filmmaker, I travel the world and see this dark underbelly, close-up and personal, everywhere I go. But I also have begun to discover the shining emergence of a global, heart centered community that dares to dream of a world that works for everyone and all life, shimmering into existence, everywhere I go.

I see it in the social movements of this era, when they are at their best, dazzling displays of love in action, bursting forth amidst revolutions and evolutions. The love I’ve experienced astounds me. I see it on social media, every day in different ways- the way we, The People, refused to sanction the bombing of Syria. The way we are seeing through the distortions of greed and consumerism and corporate dominance, reaching for real meaning. The way we are evolving new models of sustainability, of creativity, of possibility. The way we The People, are arising, everywhere, and discovering each other with a shock of recognition – oh, you are a lover too? And you, and you and you? Yes – we are.

~ Velcrow Ripper

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Velcrow Ripper is a Canadian Academy Award (Genie) winning filmmaker, writer, sound designer and public speaker. He creates powerful, cinematic documentaries that deal with the central issues of our times. Occupy Love is the culmination of his epic “Fierce Love Trilogy” – See more here

CALL TO ACTION

Join the synchronized global meditation for peace at www.unify.org

Host an Occupy Love Screening
Occupy Love is a feature documentary film that connects the dots of in this era of turmoil and transformation, charting the emergence of the new story, the new revolution of the heart that is emerging around the world. It is a powerful tool that works wonderfully when shared with groups large or small. Arrange a community screening, or a house party screening with friends. Learn more here.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, you can watch it on-line, DVD or download.

Become an Occupy Love Partner
You can host the film on your own website, facebook page or anywhere on-line, and become an Occupy Love partner. Everything is based on the gift economy and profit sharing – we believe in living the new economy. Learn more about becoming an Occupy Love partner here.

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Love is a Verb

‎”I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am.
I know that I am not a category.
I am not a thing — a noun.
I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process
— an integral function of the universe.”
~ Buckminster Fuller

We are all verbs.  Not a one of us a noun. Not one a fixed identity.   Thank you Bucky, for articulating something so critical, so crucial,  so clearly.  The liberating power of this deep understanding is a game changer.

Somewhere a few centuries back, we developed the fragmented, Newtonian worldview that haunts us still. Our very perception shifted, as we fragmented ourselves, specialized ourselves, as we created a binary world of black and white, of us and them, of either/or.  Nature and spirit a distant other. There was security in this view.  A false sense of security.

Look up! The skyscrapers are falling. Rapid climate change, economic collapse,  ecological collapse, political instability and technological escalation: the only thing we can be sure about is radical indeterminacy.   In the face of this acceleration,  we  have choices to make.  We can freeze in fear, becoming paralyzed. Static. Resistant. Frozen. We can buy stuff or watch stuff or eat stuff, anything to avoid feeling. There’s too much pain out there.

Or we can rise onto our surfboards and surf the power of this wave ~ particle ~ wave of change.  This Tsunami of transformation. We can dive into the frothing waters with joy, celebration and Love, following the currents, not fighting, not resisting, yet not succumbing ~ transforming poison into pearls.

Buckminister Fuller’s gravestone reads, “call me Trimtab.” The Trimtab is the tiny rudder that trims the direction of great ships. We are not trying to shift the steel prow of the oil tanker that is industrial growth civilization, which is clearly on a collision course with limits, heading for the next spill. The next crash. The next dead end. Instead, we are becoming the collective Trimtab for spaceship Earth. We are learning to meet the raging tides of this age of extinctions with radical grace.

We are schools of fish lost at sea, seeking to change course from the bottom of the ocean up. Slowly, then suddenly, with a committed wave of our million fins, we will steer the seemingly immobile forces of top down self-destruction, back towards harmony, towards Love, towards an ever evolving universe story that is as ancient as life.

There is tremendous energy to be found in these days of quantuum leaping. We are facing record breaking weather around this trembling Earth – the hottest, the wettest, the coldest, the driest. But we are also seeing record breaking vision arising everywhere, in this season of transition. Millions of people around the world are creating a new story. We are the largest mass movement in humanities history, and we are a verb.

Welcome to the era of resilience. Of fluidity. Of flexibility.   Balanced with the strength of right relationship, of clear intention.  Free will in service to the Universe made manifest on Earth. Which is Us.

The rigid, the fixed, the unmovable- they will be moved, regardless. Most likely they will snap, crackle, crumble, unable to bend with the winds of evolution.  Unless they (who are Us) learn that we are truly verbs.  How beautiful this understanding that we are evolving.  There is so much joy in this – so much meaning.   How can we not help but be in awe of the stupendous 14 billion year journey that has brought Us to this place of consciousness, of conscience, of self aware Love? A miraculous mirror reflecting the infinite journey back to the creative life force Ourself.

I am in Love with Life.  I can’t get enough of it. I am in Love with this pearl of a world.  I am in Love with humanity. I am in Love with our wisdom – and our folly.  To those who say the planet would be better off without Us, I ask that they reconsider.  For we are integral to this planet.   We are Earth.

We are  in the midst of a great Love story, and part of that story currently involves a separation. Yes, we have lost our way, We have strayed far from our Love.  But still we carry the torch, burning away, buried in Our heart of hearts.

We are in a reckless mid-life crisis, spending all our resources on some useless, big red Ferrari, racing away  from compassion and responsibility, lost in denial, searching for something we’ve always had.  One day, may it be soon,   we’ll crash the damn thing one last time, and come back home, to our true Love, to our true Life, with a much deeper appreciation for all we have left behind.  Carrying new gifts, borne of the experience of separation.  And in that return, we will Love like never before.

Love is a verb. It is something we do, something we live, something we are.   Every dancing cell is alive with Love.  The stars are burning with Love. The Earth gives birth  to Love, night and day.  Death is part of Love. Sadness is part of Love.

The whole spectrum is Love, in action, in motion. Even our illusion of rigidity – borne of fear – is all about Love, about our vulnerability. Our human vulnerability.   We are afraid of truly living, of truly Loving, for to Love is to accept that one day, the Lover will be gone. To open the heart, is to be deeply vulnerable. But to be vulnerable is to flow, to be open, to give and receive.

Yes indeed- all is impermanent, all will be lost. And that is the ultimate source of liberation. So don’t hang on – but don’t let go.   Breathe it all in! Don’t miss out by numbing down or dumbing down or running away.  No matter what is happening, you are Loved, and you are Love.  And it will all disintegrate, dissolve, decompose, be gone in a flash.

Don’t turn from the journey! The greatest show on Earth is this very moment. This very breath. This this very heart beat. This endless Love.   Welcome home to planet Earth. May you Love the Life you Live.

~ Velcrow Ripper

AWAKENING THE GLOBAL HEART

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I’d like to offer you an invitation, an invocation, a wake up call.   I’m inviting you – me, we – to celebrate the astounding goodness of our essential beings, the goodness of this gorgeous miraculous unsurpassable earth glittering like a green emerald in the vastness of an incredibly mysterious universe.   I’m inviting us to return to our true journey, to align our hearts and our minds  and even our bellies with the unfolding evolutionary adventure, to break free from these dark dark ages and help to bring in a new era, an era of empathy, of harmony, of co-operation, of shared power, of meaning, of purpose.

It will be messy, we will stumble in our awakening,  hit the snooze button, fall back asleep, wake up again. And again. And again. Make no mistake about it.  There will be more suffering on the journey- perhaps a great deal more.  But the time has come.   It’s time to let go the petty profane existence the greed machine is  relentlessly selling us, to break free of the shackles of illusion they have built, out of thin air.

 

Wake up!  (Zen hand clap)

It’s time to come to our senses, and wake up!

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Listen – can you hear the alarm bells ringing? Can you hear the cries of Mother Earth?  Can you hear the cries of Her children? Can you smell the stench of an industrial growth addicted civilization rotting from the inside out?  Look – have you noticed the species going extinct minute by minute, the disappearing bees, the melting glaciers, the rising seas, the expanding deserts, the suffering skyrocketing out of control, the politicians that act like childish lunatics, the greed crazed gamblers of Wall Street throwing dice while the whole world careens on their roller coaster of illusion,  bubbles of hungry ghost money ballooning, ballooning, soon to burst yet again, banks expecting bail outs while millions  lose their homes amidst the deafening roar of collapsing economies drowned by the noise of the dream factories of mainstream media encouraging us all to be selfish children seduced into a cycle of endless consumption by heartless corporations  hellbent on using up everything this sacred earth can offer as fast as possible, backed up by a militarized police force who do not protect us but oppress us when we dare to dream out loud of a better world, a beautiful world, a world that puts love before profit?

zumbara love is greater

Wake up!  (Zen hand clap)

It’s not too late, it’s never too late to seize the day.

Wake up!  (Zen hand clap)

 It’s time we realized that this planet is having a near death experience.

And therein lies the hope.

I’m not calling in an apocalypse – oh no, quite the opposite. Hollywood is busy visioning that for us.  We can do better.  For in this chaos lies the possibility of transformation – and transformation is what we need. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than right here, right now, in this incredible time of transition.  The situation is so complex, the world is changing so rapidly, that no one can guess with any degree of certainty what will happen next.   If you like surprises, stay tuned!   Anything could happen.

 

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Listen – can you hear the sounds of revolution in the streets? The spark has spread from the Arab Spring to the European Summer, from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Together, from the Maple Spring to the climate justice movement, from ‎#IdleNoMore to ‎#FearlessSummer to the WorldWide #WaveOfAction.

The fire of change is blazing anywhere anyone is working to create a world that works for everyone and all life. From Transition Towns to community gardens, from the gift economy to restorative justice, from permaculture to maker culture, from renewable energy to mutual aid, from Open Source to Direct Democracy, we know what is needed, we know the time is now.

There is a global awakening blooming all around this trembling earth. A thirst for justice, for equality, for harmony, for sustainability, for creativity, for compassion – for love. And it cannot be stopped. It’s a Tsunami of transformation, and the time is now.

A naturally arising movement of movements, a global super movement, is emerging, rooted in compassion, rooted in interdependence, in participatory democracy. We have no interest in the tired old ideologies of days gone by – don’t come to this movement with answers alone. Come with the questions, come with an open heart. This revolution is a process, not a product. We are Occupying with Love.

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I’m not asking you to crawl on your knees in acts of service and supplication.  I am inviting you to be of service, but in a way that is joyous for you.   I’m inviting you to discover your bliss – not your ego’s bliss, but the bliss of your true Self.  You know the difference, if you dare to check in.  I double dare you to become a blessing, to allow the universe to offer you the true riches of a life of love, a life of meaning, a life of possibility.

Ask yourself this – are you a gift to the planet?  Are you a gift to your community?  Are you a gift to your family, your friends, your lover, your true Self? Are you a gift to the whole damn universe?

If you aren’t,  then you’re missing out. Because when you become a gift to this universe – to your world, community, family, lover, friend and Self –  when you become a true Giver and not just a taker,  you will discover the incredible power of reciprocity.  The real Secret is that the more you give, the more you receive.  As you go deeper into true Giving,  the particles become waves.   The oscillations between giving and receiving speed up, until they become instantaneous, until there is no giver, there is no receiver, there is just flow.   Try it out.  Let me know how it goes.

 

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It’s time to take hold of your birthright. To discover your true calling.   It’s uniquely yours – not anyone else’s. You are a perfect singular snowflake of a being  inextricably interwoven with all the other stunningly unique snowflakes dancing through this participatory interconnected living, ever evolving  universe. We are all miracles.    Wake up to your true Self.

As the Zen prayer goes – don’t squander your life. Wake up! (Zen hand clap)

I promise you this:  you cannot lose when you lead a life of love. It’s  as simple as opening your heart. It’s as natural as breathing.  All that other stuff – the addiction, the suffering, the separation from Source – that’s unnatural.  That’s just a big bag of hot air, an illusion of smoke and mirrors.  We’ve been tricked!  Are you gonna  let them keep fooling you?  Stealing your happiness?

 

Wake up! (Zen hand clap) 

Cut the cords and claim what’s rightfully yours.

 

It’s not too late to turn the tide.  Start small, start big, but start somewhere – can you spare a smile?  Can you spare some compassion?  Some creativity?  Some action? Some Love? Some love in action?  In the end, it all comes down to love.  Love is the bedrock of the universe, of the planet.   We are part of an incredibly complex system of systems, systems within systems within systems,  all relying on each other in a web of checks and balances, of co-operation, of community.  Even our bodies are made up of organisms that rely on each other to keep our system going.   This is a form of love.   Gravity itself is a loving force – without it, we would float off into space, and nothing would hold together.  We need that force of attraction.  Love – it’s all about love.

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I invite you all to join in the awakening – to use whatever creativity and skills and tools you can find to make this world a better place.  There are so many ways to do this – in fact, there are as many paths as there are people.  Each one of us has a unique role to play – what’s yours?   Take the time to go deep within, and listen to your heart.  Follow that heart, wherever it may lead you.  With every opportunity that comes your way, ask yourself – is this a path with heart?   If it’s not, move on.   There’s no time to waste in false pursuits.  You can be a sacred warrior, you can be both fierce and compassionate, you have the stuff!  Occupy the emptiness of corporate culture, with love.

It’s time to wake up.  Wake up!  (zen hand clap) 

This is the moment – right now, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year.    There’s no better place to be than right here, in this moment, right now.   Welcome to life in the fire of change.  Heart by heart, we can transform this world, from the bottom up.   We aren’t waiting around, we aren’t asking for permission. We are doing this.  Now. With love. Let your fierce love shine.

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Most of the images in this piece are from viral photos circulating on Facebook.  

US Theatrical Tour & Online Launch starts May 3rd in New York City

heart screening

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Coming soon to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Seattle.
Over 200 global community screenings in 25 countries and growing!

Featuring interviews with
NAOMI KLEIN, JEREMY RIFKIN, CHARLES EISENSTEIN, BILL MCKIBBEN and others!

New York, N.Y. – Fierce Love Films announces the US theatrical premiere and online launch of Occupy Love starting Friday, May 3, 2013 in New York City with screenings to follow in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Seattle. A feature documentary from award-winning director Velcrow Ripper (Scared Sacred, Fierce Light), Occupy Love explores the cultural uprisings of our time from the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring to the European Summer and environmental protests and asks the question, “How could the crisis we are facing become a love story?”.

“Occupy Love is the culmination of a twelve year journey that is both very personal and very universal,” says director Velcrow Ripper. “It’s easy to lose hope in a world where economies are crashing and ecologies collapsing, but as I’ve witnessed over and over, the most inspiring acts of human compassion and connection can emerge from the darkest of times.”

Occupy Love marks the completion of Ripper’s Fierce Love Trilogy, which began with Scared Sacred, named one of Canada’s Top 10 movies of 2004, and winner of the 2005 Genie (Canadian Academy Award) for best feature documentary. It continued with 2008′s award winning Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action.

The film’s message is resonating around the world, with over 200 grassroots screenings currently being self-organized by individuals and organizations in over 25 countries, and more being added every day. The largest community screening to date took place in Porto Allegre, Brazil on April 11th attracting over 1,500 attendees. The tipping point is near.

Occupy Love features interviews from leading visionaries on alternative systems of economics, sustainability, and social organization including Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Jeremy Rifkin, bell hooks and Charles Eisenstein.

A moving, transformative, heartfelt film, featuring Ripper’s signature stunning visuals and rich soundscapes, Occupy Love is a powerful cinematic experience that will leave audiences inspired.

US THEATRICAL TOUR launches Friday, May 3, 2013 in New York City with a week-long engagement at Cinema Village. Screenings to follow in Los Angeles (May 7, Laemmle Royal), San Francisco (May 8, AMC Van Ness 14), Santa Cruz (May 11, Rio Theatre), and Seattle (May 12, SIFF Cinema). Filmmaker discussions and special events taking place in each city: http://occupylove.org/theatrical-tour-filmmakers/

CANADIAN THEATRICAL PREMIERE starting in June, 2013.

CANADIAN BROADCAST PREMIERE THIS SUMMER ON SUPER CHANNEL, a key partner in the production of Occupy Love.

AVAILABLE ON DVD and ON-LINE starting May 3rd in the US and internationally (excluding Canada) via OccupyLove.com and most major platforms including iTunes, Amazon.com and cable Video-On-Demand (VOD).

AROUND THE WORLD community screenings are taking place in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Greece, Liberia, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Spain, Scotland, Sweden, South Africa, Turkey, USA and more! This crowd sourced, social media driven approach to distribution is consistent with the theme of the film, which was partially funded through the crowd-funding platforms IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.

FOUND LOVE MOBILE APP LAUNCHES MAY 3RD. A free global photo sharing application and web gallery that focuses on capturing and geo-tagging “found” heart images with moods and stories that describe love and interdependence. A collaboration between One Net Marketing, Fierce Love Films, Canada Media Fund, and Super Channel www.foundlove.com

Occupy Love is directed by VELCROW RIPPER. Produced by NOVA AMI, IAN MACKENZIE and VELCROW RIPPER. Executive Producers BETSY CARSON, CATHERINE TAIT & GREGG HILL.

A Community Funded Film, produced in association with SuperChannel and the Canadian Media Fund.

For more information and a full list of screenings, visit: OccupyLove.com

Facebook.com/occupylovefilm

Twitter @OccupyLoveFilm

About Fierce Love Films

Fierce Love Films is committed to changing the world through cutting-edge feature documentary films that inspire personal and global revolutions. We produce films that entertain, enlighten and offer transformative perspectives on the world we live in through effective and innovative methods of storytelling. We believe in reaching the widest audience possible, and release our films with a powerful combination of traditional film marketing and the latest social networking tools, transforming movies into movements.

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PRESS CONTACT:

Colette Gunson | Hello Cool World
C. +1 778-228-6779 | E. colette@hellocoolworld.com
www.HelloCoolWorld.com | @hellocoolworld

Occupy Love Global Community Screening Launch!

FIERCE LOVE FILMS PRESENTS THE

GLOBAL COMMUNITY SCREENING LAUNCH OF OCCUPY LOVE

The inspiring film that illuminates and connects today’s global uprisings

Beginning April 11th 2013

In Theatres Starting New York City May 3rd

VOD/DVD/Online Starting May 3rd

Home

All over the world – Fierce Love Films announces the Global Community Screening launch of Occupy Love, a feature documentary from award-winning director Velcrow Ripper (Scared Sacred, Fierce Light) that connects the dots in this era of rapidly evolving social change and global crisis.

Community screenings begin April 11th around the world, including multiple cities in Australia, Brazil, Chile,  New Zealand, England, Germany,  Turkey, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Scotland,  across the U.S. and Canada, with new screenings being added every day. This crowd sourced, social media driven approach to distribution is consistent with the theme of the film, which was also partially crowd funded through IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.

FIND A SCREENING OR HOST A SCREENING!  http://occupylove.org/screenings/

Synopsis

A profound shift is taking place: humanity is waking up to the fact that the dominant system of power is failing to provide us with health, happiness or meaning. Join Velcrow on a journey deep inside the revolution of the heart that is erupting around the planet, as he asks the question, “How could the crisis we are facing become a love story?”

Featuring captivating insider scenes from the Egyptian Revolution, the Indignado uprising in Spain, Occupy Wall Street in New York, Indigenous activists at the Alberta Tar Sands, the climate justice movement, and beyond, Occupy Love shows that love can unite as much as greed can divide.

Occupy Love is the culmination of Ripper’s Fierce Love Trilogy which began with Scared Sacred, named one of Canada’s Top 10 movies of 2004, and winner of the 2005 Genie (Canadian Academy Award) for best feature documentary. It continued with 2008′s award winning Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action.

“Occupy Love is the movie I have been waiting to make, all my life,” says director Velcrow Ripper. “Today’s global awakening is what my earlier films have been anticipating and fostering – a current of potential that was pulsing and rumbling just below the surface. As the popular Occupy sign reads, The Beginning is Here.”

Featuring interviews from some of the world’s leading visionaries on alternative systems of economics, sustainability, and social organization, including Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Jeremy Rifkin, bell hooksCharles Eisenstein.  For a full list of the visionaries visit http://occupylove.org/visionaries/

Occupy Love is a moving, transformative, heartfelt film, featuring Ripper’s signature stunning visuals and rich soundscapes.  A powerful cinematic experience that will leave audiences inspired.

FOUND LOVE MOBILE APP A free global photo sharing application and web gallery that focuses on capturing and geo-tagging “found” heart images with moods and stories that describe love and interdependence. A collaboration between One Net Marketing, Fierce Love Films, Canada Media Fund, and Super Channel http://occupylove.org/found-love/

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THEATRICAL RELEASE AND ONLINE LAUNCH MAY 3RD

Occupy Loves opens in New York City with an exclusive engagement at Cinema Village Friday, May 3 – Thursday, May 9, 2013. Events and discussions with directors, producers and cast to follow all weekend screenings.

NYC Premiere Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/129706643883431/

LA Premiere TUGG page : http://www.tugg.com/events/3540

Additional theatrical screenings to follow in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, London, Dublin, Belfast, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and more. Canadian Theatrical release begins in May 27, 2013 in theatres across Canada.

Occupy Love opens in Japan August, 2013 via United People Corporation

 ONLINE , VOD AND DVD RELEASE RELEASE MAY 3rd

Occupy Love  will be available on DVD and on-line in the via OccupyLove.com and most major platforms starting May 3rd in the US and internationally, The film will be available via DVD and download in Canada.

 

BROADCAST PREMIERE  THIS  SUMMER IN CANADA on SUPER CHANNELa key partner in the production of Occupy Love   http://www.superchannel.ca/

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PRESS KIT HERE http://occupylove.org/articles/

 

TRAILER AND MORE INFO: www.occupylove.org

 

Occupy Love is directed by VELCROW RIPPER. Produced by NOVA AMI, IAN MACKENZIE and VELCROW RIPPER. Executive Producers BETSY CARSON, CATHERINE TAIT & GREGG HILL.

 

A Community Funded Film, produced in association with SuperChannel and the Canada Media Fund.

 

For more information, visit: OccupyLove.com

 

Facebook.com/occupylovefilm

 

Twitter @OccupyLoveFilm  #OCCUPYLOVE

 

About Fierce Love Films

Fierce Love Films is committed to changing the world through cutting-edge feature documentary films that inspire personal and global revolutions. We produce films that entertain, enlighten and offer transformative perspectives on the world we live in through effective and innovative methods of storytelling.  We believe in reaching the widest audience possible, and release our films with a powerful combination of traditional film marketing and the latest social networking tools, transforming movies into movements.

 

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PRESS CONTACTS:

 

 

Colette Gunson | Hello Cool World

C. +1 778-228-6779 | E. colette@hellocoolworld.com

www.HelloCoolWorld.com | @hellocoolworld

 

 

Katherine Dodds | Hello Cool World

O. +1 604-251-5673 | C. +1 604-722-3004

kdodds@hellocoolworld.com | @katatcoolworld

www.HelloCoolWorld.com | @hellocoolworld

Happy Valentine’s Day: New Official Trailer & Website

Happy Valentines Day!

The global revolution continues to unfold, in beautiful, heartbreaking, and surprising ways. As we recognized early on in this continual expression, it dances, evolves, regroups, and ultimately reaches for the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.

We have 3 exciting new things to share with you:

The official Occupy Love trailer – please share this far and wide! It contains the seeds of our message of hope, love and possibility – of a global revolution of the heart:

Direct link to trailer on Youtube

This marks the beginning of our build up to our Global Community Screening Launch, beginning April 11th, when we Occupy the planet, with love! If you want to bring Occupy Love to your town, anywhere in the world, please follow this link to learn how:

How to Host a Screening of Occupy Love

Check it out! We have a brand new website, which will continue to blossom as we go along, so keep coming back.

We can’t wait to share Occupy Love with you. Thank you for being part of this journey!

Love,
Nova, Ian and Velcrow
Producers, Occupy Love

The Climate Crisis Connection

Select scenes from Occupy Love  that connect the dots between climate crisis, extreme weather, today’s economic system and love in action. Featuring Naomi Klein (Shock Doctrine), Bill McKibben (350.org) and Clayton Thomas-Muller (Indigenous Environmental Network). To help with Hurricane Sandy relief actions while holding Big Oil accountable visit http://www.350.org/sandy Learn more about IEN at http://www.ienearth.org/ Learn more about the relationship between Hurricane Sandy and climate change, vist this article.

Love is a verb

‎”I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am.
I know that I am not a category.
I am not a thing — a noun.
I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process
— an integral function of the universe.”
~ Buckminster Fuller

We are all verbs.  Not a one of us a noun. Not one a fixed identity.   Thank you Bucky, for articulating something so critical, so crucial,  so clearly.  The liberating power of this deep understanding is a game changer.

Somewhere a few centuries back, we developed the fragmented, Newtonian worldview that haunts us still.  With help from the new power of the zero, we accelerated our reduction of the world to facts and figures, cleaving it apart with a sword of Hubris. .  Our very perception shifted, as we fragmented ourselves, specialized ourselves, as we created a binary world of black and white, of us and them, of either/or.  Nature and spirit a distant other. There was security in this view.  A false sense of security.

Look up! The skyscrapers are falling. Rapid climate change, economic collapse,  ecological collapse, political instability and technological escalation: the only thing we can be sure about is radical indeterminacy.   In the face of this acceleration,  we  have choices to make.  We can freeze in fear, becoming paralyzed. Static. Resistant. Frozen. We can buy stuff or watch stuff or eat stuff, anything to avoid feeling. There’s too much pain out there.

Or we can rise onto our surfboards and surf the power of this wave ~ particle ~ wave of change.  This Tsunami of transformation. We can dive into the frothing waters with joy, celebration and Love, following the currents, not fighting, not resisting, yet not succumbing ~ transforming poison into pearls.

Buckminister Fuller’s gravestone reads, “call me Trimtab.” The Trimtab is the tiny rudder that trims the direction of great ships. We are not trying to shift the steel prow of the oil tanker that is industrial growth civilization, which is clearly on a collision course with limits, heading for the next spill. The next crash. The next dead end. Instead, we are becoming the collective Trimtab for spaceship Earth. We are learning to meet the raging tides of this age of extinctions with radical grace.

We are schools of fish lost at sea, seeking to change course from the bottom of the ocean up. Slowly, then suddenly, with a committed wave of our million fins, we will steer the seemingly immobile forces of top down self-destruction, back towards harmony, towards Love, towards an ever evolving universe story that is as ancient as light.

There is tremendous energy to be found in these days of quantuum leaping. We are facing record breaking weather around this trembling Earth – the hottest, the wettest, the coldest, the driest. But we are also seeing record breaking vision arising everywhere, in this season of transition. Millions of people around the world are creating a new story. We are the largest mass movement in humanities history, and we are a verb.

Welcome to the era of resilience. Of fluidity. Of flexibility.   Balanced with the strength of right relationship, of clear intention.  Free will in service to the Universe made manifest on Earth. Which is Us.

The rigid, the fixed, the unmovable- they will be moved, regardless. Most likely they will snap, crackle, crumble, unable to bend with the winds of evolution.  Unless they (who are Us) learn that we are truly verbs.  How beautiful this understanding that we are evolving.  There is so much joy in this – so much meaning.   How can we not help but be in awe of the stupendous 14 billion year journey that has brought Us to this place of consciousness, of conscience, of self aware Love? A miraculous mirror reflecting the infinite journey back to the creative life force Ourself.

I am in Love with Life.  I can’t get enough of it. I am in Love with this pearl of a world.  I am in Love with humanity. I am in Love with our wisdom – and our folly.  To those who say the planet would be better off without Us, I ask that they reconsider.  For we are integral to this planet.   We are Earth.

We are  in the midst of a great Love story, and part of that story currently involves a separation. Yes, we have lost our way, We have strayed far from our Love.  But still we carry the torch, burning away, buried in Our heart of hearts.

We are in a reckless mid-life crisis, spending all our resources on some useless, big red Ferrari, racing away  from compassion and responsibility, lost in denial, searching for something we’ve always had.  One day, may it be soon,   we’ll crash the damn thing one last time, and come back home, to our true Love, to our true Life, with a much deeper appreciation for all we have left behind.  Carrying new gifts, borne of the experience of separation.  And in that return, we will Love like never before.

Love is a verb. It is something we do, something we live, something we are.   Every dancing cell is alive with Love.  The stars are burning with Love. The Earth gives birth  to Love, night and day.  Death is part of Love. Sadness is part of Love.

The whole spectrum is Love, in action, in motion. Even our illusion of rigidity – borne of fear – is all about Love, about our vulnerability. Our human vulnerability.   We are afraid of truly living, of truly Loving, for to Love is to accept that one day, the Lover will be gone. To open the heart, is to be deeply vulnerable. But to be vulnerable is to flow, to be open, to give and receive.

Yes indeed- all is impermanent, all will be lost. And that is the ultimate source of liberation. So don’t hang on – but don’t let go.   Breathe it all in! Don’t miss out by numbing down or dumbing down or running away.  No matter what is happening, you are Loved, and you are Love.  And it will all disintegrate, dissolve, decompose, be gone in a flash.

Don’t turn from the journey! The greatest show on Earth is this very moment. This very breath. This this very heart beat. This endless Love.   Welcome home to planet Earth. May you Love the Life you Live.

~ Velcrow Ripper

From Me to We: True Love Is a Process of Humility

–by Thich Nhat Hanh

A community of people walking together on a spiritual path has a great deal of strength; its members are able to protect each other, to help each other in every aspect of the practice, and to build the strength of the community. There are many things that are very difficult for us to do on our own, but when we live together as community, they become easy and natural. We do them without growing tired or making a strenuous effort. The community has a collective energy. Without this energy, the practice of individual transformation is not easy.

When we live together in community it becomes a body, and each one of us is a cell in that body. If we are not part of the community body, we will be isolated, hungry, and needy, and we will not have a suitable environment for practice. We can visualize the community body as a forest. Each member of the community is a tree standing beautifully alongside the others. Each tree has its own shape, height, and unique qualities, but all are contributing to the harmonious growth of the forest. Looking at the trees standing steadily alongside each other like that, you can sense the beauty, solidity, and power of a sacred forest.

Our community body is going forward on the path of practice and its eyes are able to direct us. The eyes of the community are able to see the strong points as well as the weak points of every member of the community. By community Eyes, we mean the insight and vision of the collective body of the community, which includes the vision and insight of all of its members from the youngest to the eldest. Although the contribution of everyone’s insight is necessary for the community insight to be clear, it is not just a simple adding up of individual insights. The collective insight has a strength, a wisdom, and a vitality of its own, which surpasses any individual insight. […]

The energy of the community body has the capacity to protect and transform us. As a member of the community, all we have to do is to make our contribution to that energy. This is called community building. It is the most precious work a monk, nun or layperson can do. […]

When we are stubborn, we are not open to listening to others or seeing the limitations of our own way of thinking. We think our way is the best and our ideas are best. We may become angry when our community makes a decision that does not exactly reflect what we wanted. This is the result of our stubbornness and arrogance. We are so sure of ourselves, so sure that our view is the best. This is an obstacle to overcoming our suffering and finding peace and happiness in the present moment.

I have often said that there is no place for pride in true love. True love is a process of humility, of letting go of our individual ideas and notions to embrace and become one with another person or our entire community. When we are proud we can be easily wounded. We are like the tall, dry grasses that do not bend down low in the face of the winds. Instead, they try to remain standing tall and in the process are broken to pieces. Our pride is an obstacle to developing our understanding, compassion, and boundless love. When we are humble we have nothing to fear, nothing to lose. We easily flow with the circumstances that we find ourselves in and are endlessly open to learn, to practice, and to transform ourselves.

–Thich Nhat Hanh in Joyfully Together: The Art of Building a Harmonious Community.

Occupying Tension

By Noah Fischer (appearing in Occupy Love)

After we were evicted from Liberty Park, I spent the early hours of the morning struggling in the streets of Lower Manhattan with a few hundred disoriented and angry people. Cops in riot gear were turning the streets into a maze of steel barricades. We tried to unify our scraggly numbers and rally, but it became gradually clear that the police had the upper hand. Toward morning, the tension in my body gradually eased into defeat.

Among my company that night was a Chinese man patiently trying to unify the hotheaded crowds. He had been a student protester in Tiananmen Square. He said to me, “Movements do not attract activists, they create them.” So even though we seemed to be losing, we were in fact learning. We were stumbling through the dark that night, searching for a path to walk together, and that’s why this is the beginning of my occupation story, not the end.

The story of my life began at the San Francisco Zen Center. My parents, zen teachers Norman and Kathie Fischer, transitioned from lay practice in Berkeley to a monastic life at Tassajara and Green Gulch Farm in the 1970s. We lived at Zen Center until my brother and I left for college. During these years, I absorbed the rhythms, smells, and tastes of monastic California-style zen.

Interconnectedness, sangha, and non-duality formed the language and spirit of my childhood.

Coinciding with the miraculous changing of leaves, Occupy Wall Street began in New York on September 17th but was really sparked by demonstrations in Tahrir Square, Spain and Madison, Wisconsin, months before. The time for transformation was ripe. In the U.S., decades of exponential wealth disparity and war after war against brown people at home and abroad left our society fragmented and spiritually sick. It was not an optimistic time to be a young person.

In the 2000s, as I pursued an art career, I struggled, often painfully, with finding my place in a culture that appeared to revolve around cutthroat competition, celebrity and immense concentrations of wealth. I even felt that creative freedom—the impulse I was following in my art practice—had been confused with greed, privilege and fear of failure. The big picture seemed hopeless. But then, reading about the uprisings in Tahrir and Madison, I began to realize that resistance was possible. Maybe, just maybe, we could heal our world if we woke up and brought our silent struggles into the strong sunlight—if we tried.

In June, I launched an art project called “Summer of Change: a series of numismatic rituals for Wall Street” and with my collaborator, Jim Costanzo, I chanted oratory at bankers and tourists, while throwing hundreds of dollars-worth of U.S. coins on the ground. For the first performance I chanted:
Oh, Wall Street! Your Great Wall is impregnable to marauding Justice, Equality, and Change!

Later, in another of the seven performances, arriving at the Stock Exchange in a wheelchair and wearing a silver mask resembling a giant FDR dime, I pointed at passersby and shouted:
The ship of our great democracy sinks in a rising tide of greed! Working-class Americans are the first to be cast off into the sea. Some stand by and watch this crime from afar. But who will be the next victim?

By the end of the summer, when the Occupy Wall Street protests started, I was all warmed up and right in the center of it.

What was I in the center of exactly? Something new—that was clear from the start. On that September Saturday, hundreds of people came together in Zucotti Park and didn’t go home. This was no ordinary protest. Rather, we were living change in our bodies. We were mending our connection to each other, mending the tender fabric of a society torn apart by emphasis on private space and money markets. We were re-embracing the right to occupy public space and finding our power as citizens in a shared world—the basic power of the people. It was anger that had awakened many of us. But in the park, love reigned. The beginning was wonderful!
There was a daunting task ahead. Inside the park, non-capitalist time and space prevailed: lost souls were meeting like crazy, creative plans were hatching and music rang out. Going a block away you felt culture shock: everything was the same as before in the same old world. And we knew that to get this work done we had to push ourselves, like caterpillars struggling in the cocoon. We had to transform and develop wings. Every day, all day, we marched and shouted and organized, served and ate free food, held assemblies, and struggled with the police. And so we turned from “protestors” into “people acting freedom,” in search of unbroken physical and social space, free of boundaries.

Yet we can’t live in this world without playing roles, like performers on a stage. In our occupy-opera, the NYPD play the role of protectors of the status quo, standing densely in their dark uniforms, with guns, stern expressions and menacing riot gear, or rolling up with trucks full of steel barricades. I know that these men and women are exquisite buddhas, perfectly imperfect as I am, but as the tension builds, they become monuments to un-freedom, following commands that lead them to bash heads against the pavement and to put non-violent people into little cells and slam the steel door shut behind them.

Meanwhile, we who gather together chanting and marching are “protesters.” We seem to be on the other side; we seem to be a menace, even to threaten social chaos. Passersby on the street are our audience. The stage is set and the curtains drawn. We sing our arias through the human microphone. Time and space contract and expand dramatically as these forces dance together.

These tense situations are the jewel of the movement, the master classes that turn us into activists, and we work hard to create them. We have a better chance of dissolving the boundaries that separate us if we first make them visible. But violence can begin here too, so it is important to not truly believe in the roles. I have tried to remember I am not separate from the cops and other actors, even while surfing the tension of these situations.

Early on in the protest I switched sides as an experiment, wanting to explore the limits of this new social space. As an Occupy Wall Street group marched from Liberty Park to the Wall Street Stock Exchange (a daily ritual in the first few weeks), I dressed in a business suit and waited with a small group at the Exchange. When the protestors arrived we heckled them as we imagined a group of young and entitled Wall Street investment bankers might (and sometimes do). I yelled “Get a Job!” loudly in the protesters’ faces, falling deeply into my new role. It felt a little transgressive too, like a man putting on a dress; I hadn’t realized how many unknowns were at play here.

The tension rose, emotions flared. All of a sudden, one of the drummers turned around at me and shouted, “I am a veteran of Iraq, I have PTSD and can’t get a job! Fuck you!” He hit me, hard, with his drumstick, which I was not expecting. The sting on my arm told me that years of suffering, anger, hurt and aloneness were coming forth. Yes, this was theater, but it was also very real—as real as violence, as real our emotions and bodies. In retrospect, it was like the Shosan ritual in which zen practitioners expose their inner life and pain in ceremony, for the sangha to share and support. In my conflict with the Marine, we shared the sting of disempowerment. Later that day I found him and we both apologized. Now we hug every time we see each other.

A few weeks later, I found a way to protest from my core social and economic struggles as an artist. I helped to organize an action group called Occupy Museums, to bring attention to the ways that major cultural institutions disempower artists and benefit the wealthy. One day we marched to MoMA and found a large police force waiting for us. They herded us into the police pen they had prepared for us. We stepped into the cage, yelling, chanting and waving signs; the tension mounted as our outrage filled the enclosed space. The police ushered away passersby who approached us in solidarity, creating a buffer zone around the magnetic human force of our voices and bodies.

In the midst of the tension, I found energy welling up within, but I let it happen, feeling it as energy not anger. I “mic checked,” invoking call-and-response from the group. “Policemen! (Policemen!) /We are watching you/harass citizens peacefully walking/on New York City sidewalks!/What’s going on here!?” Then my body, compressed in tension, started to move, to stride out from behind the barricades to the sidewalk and into the no-go zone defined by the standing line of cops. This was the corridor of greatest tension, full of the possibility of violence. But I found space, air, and life here! I began to widen my movements—now I was almost dancing—and my language opened: “I am free—I know I can be on this sidewalk!” Pointing to the policeman: “You are free! We all are free, let’s march on this sidewalk, we can be here!” Somehow, all of a sudden, we could be here! A surprise reversal of plot! So we marched out from behind the barricades onto the vast sidewalk.

Two weeks after we were evicted from Liberty (formerly Zucotti) Park, we gathered at Lincoln Center Plaza, a vast open space in New York where protest is forbidden. Lincoln Center was showing Philip Glass’s opera, “Satyagraha,” which speaks about the life of Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King—all non-violent protesters who have inspired Occupy Wall Street. Lincoln Center is partly funded by Michael Bloomberg, the very man who evicted us from Liberty Park.

Before the end of the performance, hundreds of protesters assembled on the steps of Lincoln Center, blocked off from the plaza by police barricades and heavy NYPD presence. Thus the private and public spaces, which on a normal day would be seamless, were clearly separated. When a few who dared to cross the line were arrested, there were shouts of “shame, shame, shame!” from some of the protestors. We took off our shoes—a Gandhian symbol of dignity—and stood barefoot on the cold pavement, conducting our assembly.

As “Satyagraha” ended and the elegantly dressed audience finally exited into the plaza, they came upon this strikingly theatrical scene: real life protest at the foot of the grand steps! We called out to them in unison to join us, but the sight of the NYPD barricades seemed to paralyze them.

Then all of a sudden Philip Glass, who had been at the performance that night, popped up in the Occupy Wall Street crowd—he had come to read a statement on the people’s mic. We sat down so that people could see him, and the lights from a video camera illuminated his face. He called out the last lines of the opera, a passage from the Bhagavad Gita:

Mic check!
When righteousness withers away
And evil rules the land
We come into being
Age after age
And take visible shape
And move
A man among men
For the protection of good
Thrusting back evil
And setting virtue
On her seat again.

Chanting along with Glass, whose music had been the soundtrack to my childhood, I melted into the crowd, my body vibrating to the shared voice, deeply encouraged by this ancient text. When I looked up, the opera audience had joined us. The buffer zone was gone. We were one big crowd—the 100%! The physical NYPD barricades still stood among us, but they were no longer barriers, absorbed now into our big warm body. Until late into the night we held our general assembly. The police stood offstage, now relaxed. Two separate spaces had flowed into one, protesters had become people again, and the police could then be people too.
After the first day of the occupation in Liberty Park, I went home thinking that the scraggly core protesters would be gone the next day, booted out by the NYPD. But miraculously, this was not so, and from that moment on, I learned to suspend disbelief—to not kill off this unfolding moment in my mind. I learned to trust my body, which was responding to a desire for freedom and connection. I learned to trust hundreds of strangers. When we lost the park, this was only a stage in an unfolding movement. A few weeks later, we were all standing euphorically on the steps of Lincoln Center Plaza, 100% human, pointing with our hearts toward each other, and finding freedom in this way. Who knows what happens next?!

Noah Fischer is a Brooklyn-based artist activist who grew up at Green Gulch Farm, run by the San Francisco Zen Center. He has exhibited art installations and performances in New York and internationally. Since the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, Fischer has completely committed his work to this movement. He is the curator of the No-Eyes Viewing Wall at Brooklyn Zen Center.

Visit http://www.noahfischer.org.

This is an expanded version of an article that appears in the Spring 2012 issue of Inquiring Mind.

© 2012 Inquiring Mind

At U.N. Happiness Summit, A Coal Pile in the Ballroom

By Charles Eisenstein

I spent the day last Monday at the United Nations by invitation of the Bhutanese government (along with about 600 other guests). The event was called “High Level Meeting on Well-being and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm.” I thought, “It must not be very high-level if I am invited.” Nonetheless, there I was among 600 activists, economists, NGO workers, bankers, et al from around the world, listening to speeches by prime ministers and Nobel laureates. Except for the monks, I was the only man not wearing a necktie. But that wasn’t what disturbed me about the meeting.

Let me give you a bit of background. In 1972, the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, remarked that, instead of gross national product (GNP), the nation should strive for “gross national happiness” (GNH). I believe he meant merely to point out that GNP (or GDP, as is more commonly used today) is a poor indicator of a nation’s well-being. The concept of gross national happiness had traction, though, and it wasn’t long before psychologists and economists were trying to come up with metrics to put a number on the concept. Adding impetus to this effort was a growing awareness among social critics that GDP is a very poor indicator of a people’s well-being. In the United States, real per-capita GDP has risen three-fold since the 1950s, but people are not three times happier by any measure. If anything, they are less happy.

Goods and Growth

That GDP and happiness are poorly correlated actually presents a deep challenge to economic dogma. Economics associates GDP closely with “utility” – that is, with “goodness.” After all, you won’t buy something with your hard-earned cash if it doesn’t benefit you, right? If, for example, you decided to sacrifice some of your leisure time in order to buy a new car, that must mean the car will make you happier than that extra hour of leisure every day. In a free market, two parties won’t make an exchange if it is not to their mutual benefit. Therefore, say the economists, the more exchanges being made, the more total benefit is being had. That is why, in economics, it is those things that are exchanged for money – and only those things – that are called “goods.”

The fact that economists were at the podium questioning the equivalence of happiness and GDP is a hopeful sign, a sign of a deep crack in the foundation of the economics discipline. But it is one thing to say there is more to happiness than economic growth; it is quite another to propose that economic growth is inimical to generalized happiness. None of the speakers advocated an end to growth – that would be called, in the present vocabulary, economic stagnation or recession. Instead, they invoked, again and again, “sustainable development,” a phrase I must have heard 30 times. The main message seemed to be, “Of course we will continue to have economic growth and sustainable development, but alongside it we should adopt policies that foster the well-being that GDP doesn’t measure.”

The Federal Palace Restaurant in Hong Kong offers this advice on happiness. Photo credit: Guy Kawasaki/Erno Hannink. Used under Creative Commons license.

Economic growth is sacrosanct for a reason: without it, our money system disintegrates. Because money is created as interest-bearing debt, without growth, debt tends to rise faster than the ability to service it. For a time, borrowers can be lent even more money with which to service their debts while they wait for the return of growth; but if growth doesn’t return, they will go bankrupt. As this process proceeds, debt-to-income ratios rise, wealth concentrates in fewer and fewer hands, and a Marxian crisis of capital looms: a vicious circle of falling wages or employment, shrinking demand, falling profits, more layoffs, and so on. In times of high growth, a portion of that growth can go to enrich the owners of capital, and everyone else can get richer, too. But when growth slows, there isn’t enough wealth left for “everyone else” after the interest has been paid.

So it is in Europe today: “Austerity” means that more and more of a nation’s income will go toward debt service, and more and more of its assets will be transferred to its creditors. And if growth doesn’t resume, this process will never end until the entire population are paupers. Around the world, whether for nations or for individuals, financial policymakers adhere to the same plan: Grow your way out of debt. The only alternative is some sort of redistribution of wealth – through debt forgiveness, for example, through inflation, or through Gesellian negative-interest economics. There is no alternative that preserves the wealth of those who have wealth.

Thus it was that, at the conference and in the World Happiness Report that accompanied it, while there were a few nods to the ecological limits of growth, there was no mention of addressing Third World debt, consumer debt, or the financial system that depends on it. This was the coal pile in the ballroom – obvious but unmentionable, for acknowledging it would mean, inescapably, a radical transformation of our entire society. The circles represented at this “high level” conference have not reached the point yet of countenancing anything as radical as ending the debt system. But they will soon. As ecosystems and cultures unravel, the party isn’t as much fun anymore even for those at the top.

Debt and the Erosion of Well-Being

Without addressing debt, I’m afraid the world won’t make much progress in happiness. You see, it is not only that GDP and GNH are not equivalent; further growth in GDP cannot even happen without eroding the basis of human well-being on Earth. What exactly happens when GDP grows? GDP is defined as the sum total of goods and services exchanged for money. So, if neighbors look after each other’s children, no service is rendered; it only becomes a service when they pay for day care instead. If a culture practices subsistence farming on communal land, no goods are being produced. The food only becomes a good when they sell it to each other; so, too, the land when they divide it into private property and rent it out. Any potential to monetize what was once free is a business opportunity, a lending opportunity. Without such opportunities, banks cannot lend new money into existence. Without new money, the old debts quickly become unpayable. And because the new money comes along with even more debt, the system always needs to grow; the realm of goods and services needs always to expand.

So here is a dilemma: The way the realm of goods and services expands is by transforming nature and social relationships – the very things that the World Happiness Report cites as essential to happiness – into products and services. In order to keep the financial system functioning, we are destroying the basis of human well-being.

Here are some of the many examples of how economic growth policies directly destroy the essentials of happiness. Economic growth turns social reciprocity and gift relationships (two components of GNH) into paid services. It converts pristine ecosystems into sources of timber or minerals. It converts silence into noise, starry skies into urban lights, kitchen gardens into supermarket purchases, mom’s cooking into fast food takeout. It replaces the village storyteller with the TV cartoon, mothering with day care, outdoor play with video games. A society that still has these former things intact, and meets its needs without much money, is called, by economists, an “undeveloped market.” The process of liquidating social and natural capital is called “development.” Clearly, our conception of sustainable development is begging for scrutiny.

It is not enough to call for education, national pride, or religious teachings to stem the tide of globalization when the money system drives that tide. When rural youth leave the farm for the slums of Cairo or Bangkok, the glamorized images of Western consumption that draw them usually have an ally in economic conditions. Possibly, it is that local produce cannot compete with imports thanks to free trade policies and perverse subsidies for mechanized agriculture and transport. And what is behind the free trade policies, the subsidies? We would like to blame greed, but, at the bottom, I find something more banal – the pressure to pay the bondholders, or to get an extra half-percent return on investment, or to reduce a fiscal deficit. Debt pressure is endemic to the system, and it pushes the commoditization and marketization of everything and everyone. Ecological protection, cultural diversity, local agriculture, and fair trade are all under assault when nations are forced to liquidate natural resources, to convert agriculture to commodity production, to open markets and eliminate protections on labor in order to keep servicing their debts to the international banking system. The effects of debt pressure reach into personal life in wealthy countries, too. We would like to enjoy more leisure (listed in the report as important for happiness), but how can we when we have student loans to pay, credit cards, mortgage debt?

At the conference, Swami Atmapriyananda recited an old teaching story about a fisherman lounging at the wharf. A businessman comes up and asks why he isn’t out there fishing. “I already caught enough today to feed my family.”
“But if you fish more, you could sell the fish and make money.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“With the money, you could buy more boats and hire other people to man them.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Well, then you could make even more money and retire.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Then you could spend your days lounging on the wharf and only fishing as much as you pleased.”
“But that’s what I’m doing right now.”

During the Q&A at the end of the conference I offered a variation to this story. The businessman tells the fisherman he could make more money. “Why would I want to do that?” Because if you don’t, you won’t be able to make your debt payments and I will seize your boat!

In summary, debt drives growth, and growth drives debt. This system erodes many of the things that are essential to human happiness – such as community, leisure, and nature – but as long as there is room for new growth, the system can keep going. Today, though, we are running out of nature to convert into goods – the planet just cannot sustain much more exploitation. We are also running out of social relationships that aren’t yet monetized. This crisis of growth has been delayed for many decades through colonialism and technology, extending the domain of money, but it is upon us now. The result is rising indebtedness and growing misery, as each extension of growth comes at higher and higher cost.

Human Nature and the Easterlin Paradox

A key paradox in the field of happiness research illuminates this situation. Known as the Easterlin Paradox, it observes that, while national happiness doesn’t rise with national income, nonetheless, within a nation, those with higher incomes are generally happier than their compatriots; moreover, wealthier nations generally rank higher in measures of happiness than poorer nations. With a few notable exceptions (Costa Rica, Thailand), the happiest countries on Earth are the Western industrialized democracies.

How to explain this paradox? One might critique the findings of the report on methodological and conceptual grounds. For example, could “happiness” signify different things in different cultures? Perhaps it has taken on associations of Western-style “success.” Or, perhaps, it only measures how people compare themselves to a socially constructed standard. The accepted explanation for the paradox is that people are, by nature, competitive and are, therefore, unhappy when they see people around them who are wealthier than they are. If that is the explanation, one can only shrug one’s shoulders. Absent totalitarian communism, people will always vary in their abilities and fortune. At best, it suggests the prescriptions of mainstream political liberalism – more equitable distribution and welfare state services to ameliorate the effects of disparities. The economists present were comfortable with this level of change which, admittedly, in the current political environment, is already beyond the pale. I would be happy if the liberals got their way, but they will not. We cannot afford it – if “afford” means, as it does today, to keep the wealth of the creditor class intact. Along with everybody else, the liberals are working against debt pressure, which conspires to erode the social safety net and intensify wealth concentration still further. There is no escaping the need for systemic monetary reform.

The dynamics of growth and debt reveal another, more disturbing explanation for the Easterlin Paradox. The reason that lower-income nations are unhappier is simply that the basis of happiness there has been strip-mined, converted to money, and exported to creditor nations. And, of course, within these creditor nations it is the same – only a very few people enjoy the benefits. Most people there are debtors, as well, and suffer from the same depletion of the natural and social capital.

Where does happiness fit in life? Photo credit: Paul Downey. Used under Creative Commons license.

When the elements of well-being have been stripped from a culture, when its communities, its traditions and stories, its relationship to the land, its cultural identity, its natural resources are all gone, then its people have only money left to sustain themselves. Basic human needs do not change; but when an economy is monetized, the many ways its people meet these needs collapse into one way – money. Once that has happened, of course, it is true that happiness will depend on money. So, the explanation for the Easterlin Paradox is not that we compare ourselves to our fellows and are envious of their success; it is that the success of one comes at the expense of another. One man’s wealth is another man’s debt.

From this perspective, it is clear why economic growth doesn’t increase happiness. If monetary transactions merely replace things that have been lost, they won’t increase “utility” or well-being at all. For example, if I take your land and sell it back to you, if I destroy your culture and sell you entertainment, if I destroy systems of reciprocal labor and force people to buy and sell labor, if I pollute or privatize the water so that you have to pay for potable water, if I destroy your indigenous systems of healing and learning so that you must pay for medicine and education, if I impose debt on a population so that people must pay to even exist, then no one is actually better off. Instead, we have a situation where a shrinking minority can obtain at least the measurable factors of happiness, while the majority can’t even obtain those. And this state of affairs is irremediable, as long as we are stuck in a scarcity-inducing, debt-based money system.

Measuring Happiness

It is not surprising that the economists and dignitaries couldn’t acknowledge how fundamental this crisis actually is. They are, after all, deeply invested in the present system. But even the most conservative among us sense, I think, that superficial efforts to promote happiness are doomed, that some inexorable force is working against them. Though they might respond to this helplessness with pretense or cynicism, there is hope, too. Some of the speakers were from outside government and academia, and when they enunciated principles wholly at odds with mainstream economic philosophy, the audience came alive – professors, World Bank employees, NGO workers, and grass roots activists alike. If nothing else, the conference was significant for bringing such voices into a high-level conversation on economics.

There was, at the conference, an undercurrent of radicalism that would have supported a deeper critique. It surfaced a few times: Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla mentioned the need to reconceive what development is; Dr. Vandana Shiva spoke of the horrendous effects of economic development on Indian agriculture and questioned whether happiness can really be measured; Dasho Karma Ura spoke of the “joy of slowness,” the value of silence in nature, and other things fundamentally inimical to development as we know it. “In the GNH paradigm,” said Dasho Karma Tshiteem, “time is life, not money.”

One after another, the Western professors at the podium proclaimed, “Happiness is something we can measure,” and each attendee received a 100+ page World Happiness Report ranking the happiness level of each country according to a variety of measurements. While I had questions about the methodology and unexamined assumptions behind the data, my main question was, “Why is it so important to measure happiness?”

For one thing, if happiness can be measured, and if we understand the purpose of government to be maximizing the happiness of its people, then we can continue to apply the same mindsets and methods of the technocrat to governance, merely replacing GDP with a quantified measure of GNH. This would fulfill Jeremy Bentham’s 200-year-old ambition to make a science of governance. For a long time, we have sought through economics, political “science,” and the “social sciences” generally to engineer a more perfect society. If only we could be more rational, more scientific! Running society becomes something like a math problem.

Members of the intellectual establishment will not give up this ambition easily, for their careers are dedicated to it, valorized by it. If social engineering has largely failed, perhaps that is because we aren’t doing it well enough. We need better data! If GDP is flawed, let’s replace it with a new measure. That the whole ambition to quantify everything and to base decisions on the maximizing of a number is insane does not occur to them, for it lies at the foundation of a a 400-year-old intellectual tradition going back at least to Galileo. In science, only the measurable is real.

Even more alien to the technocrat would be the notion that the progressive quantification of the world is hostile to human happiness. Today we see the encroachment of the realm of money, of the commodity, of property, into the domains of the commons and the gift. We might add to Dasho Karma Tshiteem’s observation and say that only when we measure time can the equation “time is money” take hold. Perhaps it is the immeasurable that is key to happiness. Proposals for GNH metrics seek to measure the number of one’s social relationships; but can it measure their quality? We might measure leisure time, but can we distinguish hours spent in mindless dissipation from those spent in intimate connection? The danger, in making choices by the numbers, is that we develop those things that can be measured and neglect those that cannot. That is why, on a personal level, it is foolish to make choices based on money. On a collective level, too, that is why we have so many huge but ugly buildings, copious but unnourishing calories, pervasive but impersonal entertainment. And it is why those outside the measurement systems – such as the indigenous and other species – have been sacrificed on the altar of growth.

Happiness isn’t a product that can be measured, bottled, and sold. Photo credit: Jarno. Used under Creative Commons license.

To be fair, the desire to measure happiness is well-motivated. While I didn’t hear it explicitly stated, a natural next step after establishing a GNH measure would be to monetize it, in the sense of internalizing costs that are presently externalized onto our well-being. For example, if we decide that healthy ecosystems are important to happiness, we could tax their depletion. Some of the economists present at the meeting advocate just this. Robert Costanza, for instance, is a leading figure in ecological economics who advocates the valuation of “ecosystem services.” Once so valued, we can easily manage their use through green taxes and similar measures. I sympathize with this idea of finding ways to make products and processes that involve the despoliation of the planet prohibitively expensive. We must also keep in mind, however, that the immeasurable might be even more precious. Without this awareness, we risk committing monstrous acts. What if, for instance, we assign a value to a certain rare species of turtle, and find that the revenue generated by paving over its last habitat and building strip malls exceeds that value?

I am not sure whether, ultimately, the designs of the economists can be consistent with the spiritual teachings that certain of the monks brought to the conference. It seemed that the economists were salivating to get their hands on a new arena of utility-maximization. Even if their motivation is to apply the tools of their trade for the good, those tools are based on a worldview that has unhappiness built into it. It might, in this case, be as Audre Lord said: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Human Nature and Selfishness

Primary among the axioms of economics is the assumption of selfishness – that human beings seek to maximize their rational self-interest, at least in most situations. After all, if you have a choice between paying more and paying less, you pay less. Everyone tries to get the best deal. Yet some of the spiritual leaders at the meeting enunciated a very different conception of human nature. They spoke of the interconnected nature of being and, drawing applause from the audience, of the importance of altruism and loving-kindness as a basis for happiness.

The World Happiness Report, however, was more equivocal. True, it devoted a brief section to the correlation between altruism and happiness, citing studies that show that people who volunteer tend to be happier than those who do not; but it also argued that people’s own happiness diminishes when the people around them increase their income. Consider the following passage in the report:

But the more general finding is that comparator’s income reduced happiness and this has been strikingly confirmed in many laboratory experiments. One neuroscience experiment involved the task of guessing the number of dots on a screen. Good guesses were rewarded by a monetary payment. Each subject was paired with another subject, and after each of the 300 trials the subject was told the accuracy of his own guesses and the associated income he would receive, as well as the same information for his “pair.” At the same time fMRI scans measured the blood oxygenation in the subject’s relevant reward center (the ventral striatum). Blood oxygenations responded strongly to both the subject’s own income (positively) and to the pair’s income (negatively). The negative effect of the pair’s income was at least two thirds as large as the positive effect of the subject’s own income.

What are we to make of this? One might conclude that, just as economists tell us, human beings are indeed motivated by self-interest, and that this self-interest generally corresponds to money. Moreover, happiness measures also correlate fairly strongly with income. But, we might also ask, in what situation is it normal to envy the success of another person or to gloat over their failure? It is normal in a competitive situation, and our money system immerses us in perpetual competition. Because money is created through lending at interest, there is always more debt than there is money. We are always in competition for never-enough of it. The more monetized a society in which we live, the more this condition colors our perceptions, so that, quite naturally, we accept it as human nature.

Perhaps selfishness is not human nature; perhaps it is an artifact of our system. Someone recently told me a story about an anthropologist who put a basketful of sweet fruit near a try and told some children that whoever got there first would win the fruits. The children all joined hands and ran there together. When the anthropologist asked them why, they responded, “How can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?” Perhaps this, and not the above social psychology experiment, exemplifies human nature. Or, perhaps, human nature is not an immutable absolute, but arises through the the interplay of biology and culture.

In a gift-based culture, it is obvious that each person’s well-being depends on the well-being of others. In a usury-based culture, it is not so obvious. Your misfortune is my good fortune, because that’s one less competitor for never-enough money. When one is in debt, it is hard to experience the “joy of slowness” that Dasho Karma Ura spoke of. For many people I know, debt is a powerful source of stress. Marriages fall apart because of it, health breaks down. Recently, an elderly man in Greece even killed himself to escape his debts. There is academic research demonstrating a correlation between debt and psychological distress.1

Barriers to Interbeing

Why wasn’t debt and the money system mentioned in the conference? It is all well and good to voice lofty intentions to uphold the things that the debt system is destroying, but if that system isn’t addressed as well, those intentions will never be kept. I am not surprised that it wasn’t mentioned, because the money system lies at the heart of today’s world order. To advocate creating money in a different way than through interest-bearing debt is heresy. Economists, in particular, are wedded to this system, so I was not surprised that they didn’t highlight its incompatibility with so many of their criteria for happiness. The best they could do was to say, “High income does make people happy, but other things do, too. Therefore, we must pay attention to these other things even as we strive for continued economic growth.”

One might easily say that the economists have hijacked the Gross National Happiness movement, neutering its implicit radical critique of economic growth. They seem to have turned it away from the deeper questions, not only regarding the money system, but also the worldview upon which it rests – the reductionistic philosophy of measurement, number, and control, and the vision of a world of separate, competing selves. Yet even they resonate with teachings that run counter to that worldview. Perhaps they are doing the best they can, within the limits of their operating paradigms, to bring about a more beautiful world.

Unfortunately, these operating paradigms doom such efforts to failure. It is not just the money system that is at stake here. Underlying our debt-based system is a certain view of human nature, human identity, and our relationship to nature that is, like the money system, in crisis. A system that engenders competition makes sense in a world of discrete, separate selves, striving first and foremost to survive and reproduce in a world of Other. But that sense-of-self is becoming obsolete; many of the religious speakers talked of the interconnected nature of being, of interbeingness, of the larger We. Even the economists acknowledged the importance of connections and community for happiness. But when we have a money system that fosters endemic disconnection, any efforts to promote happiness will be fighting an uphill battle. We saw what happened when the sincere intentions of Rio ran up against financial reality, and its hopefully promises came to nought. Let’s not repeat that mistake. It is time to confront the fact that our spiritual values, which are evolving toward oneness or interconnection, are at odds with our institutions, which embody separation. Our economic institutions are chief among them, and cannot be excluded from the happiness conversation.

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1 See for example S. Brown et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 26 (2005) 642–663. The researchers disaggregated debt from income and assets. Savings have a positive correlation with reported life satisfaction, but not as strong as the negative correlation between debt and life satisfaction.

#GrowOccupy – Why Occupy Will Never Be Co-opted

New York Subway

There has been a great deal of talk in the Occupy movement around the fear of co-optation. The latest round of debate has been around the 99% Spring movement. Adbusters has sounded the alarm with the cry “#DefendOccupy.” The basic premise of the current debate is whether MoveOn.org is a bogeyman that is stealing the ideas of Occupy for its own ends, which some claim are as a “front group” for the democratic party.

In reality, the 99% Spring movement is a coalition of 60 different grass roots groups, one of which was Move On, none of whom are claiming leadership. The impetus, which aims at training 100,000 people in direct action techniques, certainly draws inspiration from Occupy, and explicitly uses the 99% terminology that Occupy popularized.

For me fear mongering on the part of Adbusters and others is simply that – fear. Division. Separation. And harkens back to very old fashioned elitist energy that I have encountered in movements throughout my experience as an activist.

It makes me a little sad. We need to grow the spirit of Occupy, not divide it into ideological factions. It’s a meme, and to try to “protect it” is hypocritical – one of the ideas behind Occupy is the spirit of open source.

No one owns Occupy. So everyone owns it. You can’t have it both ways – either it is an organization, which needs to copyright itself, or it is true to it’s principle. Open, shared, available to all. Or at least, the 99%. Which we at Occupy Love expand to the 100%.

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Be Love ~ In Memory of Kumu Raylene Kawaiaea

In March of 2012 the planet lost a precious beating heart – beloved Hawaiian elder Kumu Raylene Ha’alelea Kawaiaea. Nova Ami and I were honoured to spend time with her, and interview her for Occupy Love. We will always be grateful for the wisdom and love she shared with us. Thank you Joel Levey and Michelle Levey for bringing her into our lives. In this video Kumu sings a chant of appreciation for life.