Daniel-of-2014 here. Happy Mabon.
Writing about the 9/11 attacks in recent weeks has been harrowing. Not that I personally suffered very much—I lost no one I knew—but it was still a difficult time to revisit. I’ve actually just been to New York City, and with the attacks so much on my mind, the visit felt surreal. I kept thinking of Joe, since he volunteered that week, and how the city must have looked and felt to him. On the way out of town to visit friends, I looked out the window and saw One World Trade. There was something dreamlike about the sight.
I was in The City for the climate march on Sunday.
I think a lot of people from the school were there, although I didn’t bump into anyone I knew except for my own group. It was a big march.
My wife and daughter and I drove down with Allen, Lo, and Alexis, and Kit and her husband. We actually parked in Long Island and took the train in. We met David, Kayla, and Aidan at Port Authority. They’d taken a bus.
It might seem strange to read about these people now, since you’re used to them as they were thirteen years ago, when Aidan was a toddler and Alexis was four. Alexis is seventeen, now, and a senior in high school. Her hair is dark, like Allen’s, and she’s on the short side, like he is, but she looks more like Lo in the face. A couple of years ago, she got a pair of ferrets and she takes them pretty much everywhere with her. She has a soft-sided carrier for them, but they spent most of the march sleeping inside her shirt. David is twenty-five and in graduate school for ecology. He’s the one who told us about the march, a month or so ago. Kayla is twenty-six, and dancing professionally. She’s one of those women who looks like a teenager forever. In another year or so, when Aidan hits puberty, they’ll look like twins.
The march was big enough that there were multiple staging areas, each with its own theme. We chose the one for religious groups and spent most of the day tagging along with a group of pagans. They waved banners and drummed and burned incense as they walked. Sometimes we dropped behind and found ourselves in among either of two groups of Buddhists, all ringing bells and wearing robes. Occasionally, we ran into one or another of a group of Franciscans, also in robes.
“Makes me wish we’d worn our uniforms,” Kit said, sadly.
“If we’d identified as a religious group,” Allen replied, “who would we identify ourselves as?” He has a point, since the school is still secret.
“Uniforms!” exclaimed Kayla, who had only half been listening, “I still have mine!”
“As do I,” I told her.
“You have to,” she replied. “You’re a master.” Which I am.
“I don’t have to do anything,” I told her, “except put the welfare of the school community and the rest of the Six first, to maintain my integrity and excellence, and to offer my expertise to interested students.”
“Neither bound nor free,” Kit commented, smiling at my quoting of the vow. That phrase, neither bound nor free, is from one version of a Wiccan initiation rite. It means your actions are constrained by your word, not by anyone else’s power over you.
“Obedience to the unenforceable, as Charlie would say,” put in Allen. That’s from 12 step culture, and it means something similar.
“I never got to wear the uniform in the first place,” said Aidan, sounding resentful.
“Would you have?” asked David, sounding surprised. Like most former Sprouts, he thinks of the school as the place where he comes from, not where he is going.
“Yeah. Of course.”
“You still can,” said Kit. “The school exists as long as we keep that vow.”
“I think you just passed the entrance exam,” I said. “That makes you our first third-generation student.” Sadie, Kayla’s mom, is, of course, a graduate.
My daughter, riding on my back in a carrier, wiggled and bounced.
“Watcha doing, sweetie?” I asked. She didn’t answer.
“She’s mugging for cameras,” my wife said. I really wish people would ask before they took pictures of my daughter, but we had dressed her up to attract attention. She was carrying a blue and green pinwheel and wearing an oversized t-shirt that read “It’s my planet, too!” Her sun-hat was covered with political buttons.
Some people carried signs in the march, I carried my baby.
Seriously, there are times I can’t even bear to think about climate change because of her. She won’t get to grow up in the same world I did. What kind of world she does get to live in depends on the outcome of this march, whether 310,000 people gathered together is enough to convince the powers that be to sign an emissions-reduction treaty with teeth in it next year.
We never used to pay much attention to politics, when I was at school. I suppose we considered it too worldly, or something. When I was a novice, we never paid much attention to climate change, either. Of course, the school itself was carbon-neutral and had been for five or ten years, but except for one or two required classes, we never talked about it. It was one more thing that belonged to the outside world. By the time I became a candidate, that standard had changed, we’d started talking about climate issues in philosophical and moral terms, but we still didn’t talk about politics. Not climate politics, nor the political implications of any of the other issues we learned about and discussed.
Now, I think the standard has changed again. Some of us are starting to talk as a group about how to engage with the world, how to do what Kit calls “the Great Magic.” Greg calls it “civic alchemy” or “applied mysticism.” We’re talking about how to use what we know and what we have to change the world. I think that if the school still existed as a school, we might begin to teach activism.
Or, maybe we had to lose the campus in order to learn how, as a community, to reach beyond it.