My Red Thread of Truth

I found some writings from the past year and decided to post them. This is the only post I wrote on October 6, 2020

by Terry Sterrenberg

I have been reading Blog posts that I started writing back in 2015 until the present. They outline our story for the last five years. The very first one “from a “Treadmill existence” compliments “The Dream We Choose” movie incredibly well. Some of these posts actually brought me to tears, not only because I thought they are fairly well written but because I have been so silent for the last couple of years. Truth is I have let Donald Trump do me in. I lost my “Red Thread of Truth” which is reflected in those writings. I have felt somewhat empty and defeated as everything I believed about what it means to live in this country became suspect. I realized I had lived in a delusion most of my life. What I thought was true was no longer true. I was living in a linear life and thought and expected that life on this planet was meant (perhaps even designed) to get better and better. In 2015 Laurie and I made the decision to move to New York and we experienced that move as leaving behind one life and moving into the unknown. This was actually the case for me. I had done that before in my life. This time however I felt cut off at the knees after the 2016 election when I experienced my American values become topsy turvy. I have said many times in the last year that my life has not prepared me for the life situation I find myself. I realize as I write this that none of us has been prepared for this life situation.

What I have called the “Red Thread” of my life is parallel to a set of train tracks with a set direction into the abyss. I let go of the thread for a bit, but now I’m stretched out, grasping that red thread, and being whipped around by it. It pulled me off those train tracks and dangled me in the unknown. I wanted to blame Donald Trump, or maybe my age (73) but that won’t work. In this time of covid my Red thread manifests in the relationships I have with the people around me, i.e. my family, my amazing wife of almost 39 years, my children and their partners in love and in the endearing smile, movements and energy of my 19 month old granddaughter, as well as the friends and colleagues I have at Ganas and our vision of Freemont Community Village.

Make Life Not Death

(Written at the beginning of Covid)

I woke up this morning ruminating on the song “how wonderful life is. How…Screetch…! (add sound effect)! Well, no I didn’t. I actually woke up with water in my eyes thinking “WTF has happened to this world and what does it have to do with me? Is the world as we know it really coming to an end?” I never remember my dreams but I often wake up in moods that tell me I was processing something important. At least something that felt important in the middle of the night during my half awake state. This morning the big IT seemed to be about loss. Covid-19 has opened my heart to fear and loss. This morning my mind was a fog as my eyes welled up with tears for no apparent reason. As far back as I can remember I have always been prone to tears. Over the years I have considered it a malady of some kind and certainly a nuisance. Today it just seemed like sadness. I just let it happen. If nothing else, crying is a release and for me a reality check.

Many times such occurrences have ended up giving me insight but this morning nothing seemed to come to mind. I remembered how taking a hot bath used to settle my mind and body. I haven’t taken the opportunity for baths for several years, but moving to a new residence gives me easy access to a bath tub and I took advantage of it this morning. As I lay there I could feel my body and mind relax. The words “make life not death” came forward.”

Seems like a cliché – But it reminded me of a deep seated value – the life I live is my own. I create my life in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Life is always uncertain. I have no control over that. I live my life and the result is either more life experience or less. I literally have a choice to make life by being open to life experience or to make death by withdrawing into my self and shutting down life experience.

“Make life not death” seems in some ways self absorbing and arrogant when I consider how much Life my life has lived. I have always thought that “touching life” or “aligning with life” is the more proper target. Compared to many other people I have not experienced much death. Socially I am privileged. I have always had what I needed – food, love, and houses to live in. I am not poor. I have not experienced great tragedies in my life. So “making Life” has been relatively easy compared to what so many other people in the world have had to deal with. Because of that I have a sense of responsibility to “make life” and I consistently fail to live up to that responsibility. Perhaps “make life not death” is the same as “Make Love not War”. It seems to have the same sentiment. I never love enough. There is too much to love. The loving never ends.

I’ve always believed that love is what creates Life.

I think I know why I cry now. Making Life is the only productive activity. The only one! And it is fairly common and many times overlooked. It is precious. It is Love. I cry when I fail to Love and it puts me in touch with the tragic loss of new life. A missed opportunity. It is an existential loss which over comes the moment for me. It is a deep well, full of confused thoughts and ungrounded searching. Over time the loss may be (will likely be) replaced by existential love (acceptance) which also moves me to tears. Neither of these experiences seem to be in my control as they are totally dependent on the environment and the other people involved. They often happen suddenly and unexpectedly like the onslaught of covid-19 or the birth of and then unexpected isolation from a new grandchild.

Seems so ironic that having waited so long for a grandchild whose arrival was never a certainty that covid-19 now makes being with her impossible. I love being with Cleo, The energy she generates is precious. She creates life every where she goes – constantly learning and emoting, Making Life not Death. She may be a good teacher (model) for me. Sometimes I “well up” when I think about her and the possibility of not seeing her for a while makes sad me and angry.

How did such a world as this evolve that makes relationships so important in the process of making life? In fact maybe it is relationship that creates life itself and the absence of relationship that makes death. My relationships are what make my life. My relationship with everyone and every thing, even the people I do not know.

Making Life seems to be the same as “Being in Relationship.

Make Life not Death is my new mantra. It helps me focus on looking for that spark of love in any event or occurrence; for the green tips of skinny branches preparing to leaf; for the moment of potential before the turning toward life or death.

Birthday Memory 2019

by Terry Sterrenberg

Some weeks ago I said to Laurie that I realized that In spite of the all the good things, coming to New York and Ganas has been like going to an alien planet. The last couple of years have been particularly difficult. Difficult times always have always nourished inner growth for me.

I was going to begin by apologizing for being relatively silent over the last few years. For some unknown reason I felt I needed to protect myself. Not unusual for me. But this case had unique a feature. I have been in mourning. (mothers death, retirement, new life style, Donald Trump)

When Laurie and I came to New York 4 and a half years ago I unknowingly left behind an important piece of my life and have been struggling . I have been puzzled about this ever since I came to Ganas because I have started a new life several times. I don’t think the newness has ever been this great.

The nuggets that started my awareness of all this in myself manifested when we went back to Salem Oregon last summer. I have a history of writing a journal ever since I was in high school. Most of those journals have been lost in the process of moving over the years. In 1969 I started writing poetry and keeping a journal and when we moved to New York I thought this writing had been lost, but low and behold I found a folder with all my poems. These writings reveal a part of myself I thought I had lost since coming to Ganas. They express my internal struggle with love and death in relationship and the turning points in my life. I have never considered them great poetry but they express significant points in my life and growth as well as ongoing issues I deal with.

Some of you know that I was a minister for ten years. My church experience was not about fundamentalism or simplistic answers to life. But rather it was all about the difficulties and contradictions of living love in the world. Of being that which I was striving to create. To be love in the world as a change agent is always a huge challenge for me, seemed impossible and a recipe for failure.

Some time ago I backed off of that belief, saying to myself that it is a childish belief, life is never as simple as just loving everyone. I’ve never given up love. I just learned that it is not simple. Love as energy of change means taking a stand. As an adult this grounding message of love turned me toward social action and social responsibility. I became a social cynic. I saw in the world that adults for the most part live by different rules than children – loving, sharing, cooperating, are qualities we ask of children but are suspicious of as adults.. In a Trump world love seems to be a ridiculous and absent notion. It seems that problem solving ultimately is not about loving and talking it out but rather who has the most power, strength and intimidation.

Then when I came to Ganas the alien world that I stepped into seemed to require different skills than was available to me. Along with everything else the Trump election brought up all my insecurities. Taking any kind of stand seemed impossible. And what stand should I take? I shut myself down. A familiar tactic. I felt over whelmed, vulnerable, hypocritical and incompetent to deal with the situation. The notion that love can change the world. That love is the energy of the divine in the world became dormant for me. What does that actually mean and and how does it fit in todays world.

Well, Ganas and Fremont Community Village became the answer to that question. For me the vision of Fremont Community Village is partly an outcome of this struggle to live love in the world. It is also an attempt to manifest what we have learned in our travels and research for our movie which is also about this.

The Dream We Choose

By Terry Sterrenberg

With so much going on the thought of not releasing “The Dream We Choose” right now crossed our minds … um, but only for a fleeting second. Truth is we cannot be distracted from the importance of this election. But no matter who wins, the timing for this movie probably could not be better. With all the social unrest and the election coming up we have to have change on our minds. This movie reaches to the core of our American values and how they have been idealized and played out in the model of the American Dream. The Truth of the traditional American dream is that we are given that dream at birth and most of us accept it at face value and in doing so we unconsciously make the choice to continue to manifest a way of life that supports inequality, racism, and oligarchy. There is another choice based on another dream that does not grow out of the “everyone for themselves” mentality produced by the traditional American Dream. “The Dream We Choose” is an offering to the movement that has manifested the tradition of “looking out for each other” mentality. This is a different and powerful American Dream that has been nurtured in the back ground since the beginning our our country to build local communities. Perhaps it is time for it to be more in the foreground with the creation of a different economic system that can create wealth for all and not just the few.