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Jerry Wennstrom: Holding a New Vision

By Remy Benoit

Hands of Alchemy.

So many of our current problems from war, to global warming, to the lack of proper care for our Veterans come from a lack of vision.
Jerry Wennstrom offers us a better way.
Do take heed.

Holding a New Vision

Most of us think of a person with “vision,” as someone ahead of his or her time, someone who is in control and actually knows something that the rest of us do not. What people of vision hold is not a literal, insightful view of the world moving in a particular direction. What the visionary holds is a purely intuitive sense of something greater moving quietly through the collective. The visionary helps bring this “something,” into form by paying attention to the conditions and creative impulses of the times we are in. These conditions cannot be assured or perceived as absolute, as many political leaders would like to have us believe. Instead, vision is born out the abstract conditions of reverent unknowing and the ability to trust an emergent design. One would need to leave behind the comfort of a world fixed on solid perceptions to fully engage the conditions of this visionary unknowing. All successful enterprise comes out of one’s ability to find creative inspiration in a luminous void of unknowing. The bold new forms that further consciousness and change our world come through more like an inspired whisper than a definitive scream.

A wonderful example illustrating the mystery of this process is in the way Albert Einstein arrived at his life’s work. He admitted that the Theory of Relativity occurred to him in a dream that he experienced as an adolescent. In the dream he was riding on a sleigh that continued to accelerate until it approached the speed of light, where the stars began to distort, changing their pattern and colors and dazzling him with the power and beauty of their transformation. He admitted that the inception of his entire scientific career had begun with that dream.

Even after one’s vision begins to take form in the world, the ability to keep absolutes at bay are required to see the vision through as a unique and complete expression. One’s ability to hold the necessary unknowing that initially gave birth to the vision must be continually tended and refined in its’ original form. Lao Tsu says, “As it is in the beginning, it will be to the end.” The conditions of unknowing that brought through the original vision would have to be reflected in each progressive phase, as the vision finds solid grounding in perceptible reality. Any deviation would effectively interfere with the power and perfection of its final expression. With this in mind, tending a vision requires great care and absolute dedication. Even the most humble of visions has the potential to become a life’s work.

I have an upcoming storytelling/art event with friend and Salish tribal elder, Vi Hilbert. Vi is an extraordinary person and most certainly a woman with a vision! I continue to be astonished by the relentless way she holds her vision for her people. Vi is eighty-nine years old now, blind and living in an assisted-housing situation, yet, she will come out for an event to represent the stories of her people without hesitation. I have spent time and driven long-distances in a car with Vi. She often sits quietly, speaks gently and comes across as your quintessential, sweet, little old lady. Then, I have watched her completely transform into a woman of great strength and power when she begins to tell one of her traditional stories or speaks about the vision she holds for her people.

One’s own true vision is most often held alone and without fan-fare. Vi is greatly respected by her people and most certainly has a large following as a wise elder; yet I have glimpsed a deep loneliness in her in relation to the vision she holds. She often speaks of her longing that younger generations from her tribe would return to their roots and carry on the vision she holds for tribe after she is gone. The beautiful thing I see in Vi is that even with the limitation that comes with walking this good earth for 89 years, she carries on, living out her vision with or without the help of others! Perhaps the inevitable loneliness that comes with carrying one’s vision lies in the fact that there is no reference point to original creation. (How could there be?) Others simply don’t see the reality of a vision until it has undeniably established itself as a form in the collective.

I am certain that Vi’s people (and people in general) will eventually come to see the power and beauty of her vision. This may, however, not happen in her lifetime. Vision is not something one can simply hand over to others. In fact, it is more often than not, resisted. Vision, however, does win out in the end, in spite of being misunderstood by those who are attached to established old forms and fear change.

If you think about it, we are generally not taught how to inhabit the lonely wisdom necessary to carry out a vision for our culture. Instead, we are taught to please others, to fit into the cultural norms; to adapt and stay within the prescribed boundaries of an image of “success” in a conventional sense. And if we adapt completely to this model, we do so at the expense of our individuality and the very birthright of our own true Being!

We do, however, get a poetic glimpse into the requirements of a vision through our myths and stories. Even in the simplest of myths, one must accept loss, loneliness and obscurity in order to bring through the inspired resolve. How many of our myths, movies, and fairytales leave us in the “belly of the whale” for the proverbial three days before allowing us our well deserved “Happily Ever After?”

In both the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna, and the later Greek myth of Demeter/Persephone, the goddesses either descend or are abducted to the underworld, where they die and are then reborn. This same place also exists in all spiritual traditions. The holy place of complete unknowing is the Garden of Gethsemane and the Buddha on the verge of enlightenment. The Hermetic tradition, whose confusing and labyrinthine treatises were studied and translated by psychologist C.G. Jung, describes a time spent in darkness as an important phase of the alchemical process. This phase is called the “nigredo,” a “black blacker than black,” where “putrefaction” occurs. This experience of breakdown and unknowing is an essential step in transmuting the lead of our unconscious, living itself out as “fate,” into the gold of conscious, deliberate creative life. The archetype of death and resurrection is essentially written-in, as a cross-cultural phenomenon. So who are we, swimming in the shallows, to expect anything significant to come from a diet of “Happy Meals?”

Without the ability to hold a personal vision and enter the landscape of the living myth, we are often reduced to one of three options:

1- We can become selfish, “dig in,” and turn a blind eye to the larger world, only taking care of “my, me and mine.” The corporate CEO, who, seeing the company in trouble, arranges a huge retirement settlement for himself while allowing his investors to go down with the ship, most notably demonstrates this behavior. In a more insidious way (that perhaps more of us can relate to) it is also demonstrated in the way we overindulge our children and ignore those in real need.

2- We can quietly accept defeat, personally and collectively, by allowing the shadow of hopelessness to wash over us and live the shadow out unconsciously. The condition of this scenario, I believe, translates to personal, economic and social “Depression.”

3- We can allow the hopelessness born of our collective shadow to saturate our lives and live it out with reckless abandon, which is what I think many of our young people are doing these days.

A focused vision is the only real grounding we have at times of uncertainty. With vision, we can fearlessly inhabit chaos and uncertainty, allowing the challenges we may be faced with to become grist for the mill of transformation. Keats says, “… Negative Capability… is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” Keats believed that great people have the ability to accept that not everything can be reasonably resolved. He believed that the truths found in the imagination access holy authority and such authority cannot be accessed without one’s "being in uncertainty.” Vision and imagination become indistinguishable when the moment calls on us to trust our intuitive sense of greater possibility. One who holds a vision knows that chaos and the inevitable undoing of established forms offers the most potential for radical, inspired breakthrough.

The vision we hold, in its original form, can be anything. It can be as simple as a personal dream – like the wish to be a successful businessman. If a vision is pursued in earnest, it will develop and demand more and more of us as it evolves. For example, the businessman who starts out with the simple desire to make money has the potential to create a lofty new business model for the world if he/she remains fully engaged with the evolving demands of that vision. A vision relentlessly pursued becomes a journey that takes us on an unimaginable adventure. With selfless determination even a simple, material quest becomes a soul quest!

As the vision evolves we come to see how everything is interconnected and the smaller self that may have initiated the vision, develops and begins to meet the requirements of a larger Self that steps forth to hold the more expanded vision. A person whose awareness expands as their vision expands moves closer to a more dynamic edge and begins to find resonance and inspiration in the extraordinary accomplishments of their predecessors. The dynamics of this edge draws the visionary irresistibly forward into a position of greater responsibility and better articulation of their vision. With the articulation of the vision established, one’s individual accomplishment becomes indistinguishable from the collective’s accomplishment, as it belongs to all of us. Lao Tsu says, “…when the sage’s work (vision) is done the people feel they have done it themselves.”

It is no small thing to land one’s vision on the runway of a timely, receptive moment in the world. It requires everything human we have available, and the miracle of every best advantage, inspired and fallen into place. To see the workings of vision coming through and touching the world, one would have to acquiesce to the hand of Grace.

Beyond the Edge of your Name
A poem by Judith Adams

How the butterfly moves to the rap of the world,
staying for a moment in the tension of that place
where air and blossom accelerate in the winds.

How you dance without words between stillness of death.
You express consonant endings,

sighs of vowels with your body, lifting to the

place where birds worship. You dissolve toward the earth,
towards its passions. Then you gather your wings to rise
to separation. You are not lonely; you are gone.

The silhouette of your loveliness has courage in the spotlight
of the gods, in the outer universe where the solitary
sun shifts greater things than we know of.

Your heart wants to beat much harder than
this daily thing you do. Your heart wants to
pound. It wants to feel life, to dance beyond the edge of

your name. And your vision takes you further than
your hips can go, further still than your limbs can rise,
stays beside you as you lie limp and

lamenting at the threshold. Ah! Then,
then, it flutters with you like a prayer flag high up
at the moon’s door.

2006 Copyright Pomegranate Seed Production


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