Editorial Unlearning Together

Awake, Awakened, Woke!

In our collective dream, we are racing toward a precipice. Earth’s human children have lost their way, propelled by swift currents of mindlessness and greed. The more we struggle against the current and try to cling to passing debris, the more exhaustion and panic we feel. And yet… and yet, we somehow know another reality is still possible, if only we can shift our awareness and change the story.

As in any dream, we will have to confront our own thought-forms and fears, our habits of mind, in order to wake up. We will have to let go and stop struggling, cohere our thoughts, and will ourselves awake.

Many of us believe a collective awakening is possible and happening right now. We can point to other great awakenings in our Story: the spread of literacy through writing; the rise of philosophies and scientific advances that began in Egypt, Greece, India, Mesopotamia, and China and spread to Europe and the rest of the world; democracy; the abolition of slavery in the US; and freedom struggles the world over. For such great learning to take place, equal unlearning was required.

My generation experienced the 1950s to 1970s as a series of awakenings. Born in the late fifties, I had a deep sense of devotion to my country, based mainly on romanticized stories about the heroism of the founding fathers and early ‘pioneers.’ Like many, as I became aware of the misogyny and racism hard-baked into the cake of my culture and the painful realities of the Vietnam War, my illusions wavered.

I left home at sixteen and sought refuge in the heady atmosphere of feminist intellectuals in the West Village, witnessing encounter groups where women wept describing years of abuse at the hands of fathers, husbands, boyfriends. Many ‘woke up’ and left those debilitating situations. Some men awakened with them. Together with the civil rights, farmworkers, and peace movements, the women’s movement illuminated intersectionalities of oppression, mental health, white privilege, economic disparity, violence, and self-worth. In other words, we had to unlearn what we had been taught: that women and immigrants and people with dark skin and people with disabilities were inferior to wealthy white males of European descent.

It takes tremendous energy to unlearn such a simple lie, and our tears too often are the source of that energy. We have much to unlearn right now from each other’s pain: #MeToo, #MarchForOurLives, #BlackLivesMatter, #lgbtq, #WomensMarch, #Occupy, #Ferguson, #humanrights, #disabilities.

Young people use the word woke to express their raised awareness of the labels and boundaries that divide us and how the media work relentlessly to reinforce those separations. They are keenly attuned to language on multiple scales and hypersensitive to the nuanced relationship between climate, race, and poverty. Non-binary, gender-fluid, multi-ethnic— they reject insincerity and revel in irony. We need them, and if they are ‘entitled’ to anything, it’s to our respect and allyship.

You might notice the word ‘grief’ in these pages. Grief is a natural response to change. Maybe this inaugural edition of Kosmos Quarterly could have struck a more celebratory note. But I think it would have been a false one. Many of us feel torn between two realities: sorrow when we confront the hard truths about suffering on Earth and our part in it; and an aching tenderness, arising love, and new gratitude for the wonders and beauty of nature, the kosmos, and all beings. The challenge is to see that these are not two separate things, but One. We must learn to hold our sorrow and our joy together in our cupped hands.

For the first time in the human experiment, we have the instruments and technologies to see distant galaxies and understand something about our origin. For the first time, we have the scientific tools to look inward at the genetic and atomic structures that underlie all Life, the Code of Creation unwinding its great Story across space and time. For the first time, we understand that Earth is a single great living, breathing ecosystem; humans are but one part. Finally, we are beginning to see that the theories, ideologies, and wars we create are the output of our collective dream—habits of mind.

So that we might unlearn together, there is a way of using this Quarterly called Course View. It is an organized approach to the content across four weeks. You will find many invitations for practice, self-reflection, and sharing. We look forward to your insights.

This is the first Quarterly under my stewardship and a collective effort. Our Editorial Circle is a family that shared deeply, from their hearts, for 100 days—through writing, advising, and numerous conscious conversations. One of those—Grief, Collapse, and Mysticism—is featured. My gratitude for everyone who worked on the Quarterly, especially our designer and webmaster Karen Anderson, is boundless. Of course, the wellspring for Kosmos is our founding editor, Nancy Roof, a lifelong world server and a joyful light in my life. This is her continuation.

Now it is time to open our eyes. May we unlearn the illusion of a separate self so we can see what we truly are. In each other’s shining eyes may we discover the truth of our own awakened nature.

In loving gratitude,

R. Fabian

About Rhonda Fabian

Rhonda Fabian is Editor of Kosmos Quarterly. She is an ordained member in the Order of Interbeing, an international Buddhist community founded by her teacher, Thích Nhất Hạnh. Rhonda is also a founding partner of Immediacy Learning, an educational media company that has impacted millions of learners worldwide.

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