I left Vegas in a positive frame of mind. Readers had recently sent me great feedback, movies and music had inspired me, a dream had enlightened me, I had won at blackjack, and I was headed back home to the lush green mountains of Northern California.
The most heartwarming email I had received was the following, whose subject was “Revive the failing bird,” a reference to my report on a dream that featured a near-dead bird that represented my self-identity as a community organizer:
Hi Mr. Hudson and greetings from Minnesota! Seeing your beautiful pictures from the Dominican Republic made my desire for a spring thaw even stronger. Eventually we will be able to see the ground again rather than layer upon layer of snow and ice…
My name is Amy Ledoux. I am 40 years old and am the mother of seven (three adopted as a single parent, two are my husband’s from his first marriage and, at the ages of 38 and 39, I gave birth to the last two little miracles who could have been nicknamed “surprise” and “are you kidding me???”) I have no idea how I began receiving your emails, but I have been reading them for years and I wanted to tell you that they have been a Godsend. I began losing my eyesight a few years ago from Fuch’s Dystrophy. I became quite confined to my house as my eye sight worsened. Last February I could no longer see the traffic lanes in front of me or distinguish the lights on a traffic pole, so I hung up my keys. In August I went to cross the street with my babies in a stroller in front of me and my mom pulled me back so that we wouldn’t get run over by the vehicle I did not see, so I no longer went for walks without an escort.
But, I was able to blow up the font of your emails and hold my cell phone right in front of my face and continue to read your emails. They were a great source of consistency, comfort, and a connection to the outside world.
In February of this year I had my first cornea transplant and my vision went from 20/200 to 20/25 in my left eye! Life is progressing and I am thankful for every moment of it! I am thankful that I can see the keyboard in front of me to write this email to you.
The reason that I am reaching out to you is in response to your writing about the seemingly dead bird in your dream. I may have a cause that could help revive the buzzard. I am forwarding an article that was published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch this past Sunday. It was sent to me by my good friend, Mike Tikkanen, who is the subject of the article. I think the rest speaks for itself. And, just so you know, I don’t know exactly how old Mike is but, I think we can safely say he has been buying the senior coffee at McDonalds for several decades!
Should you ever decide to make a stop in the Midwest on your U.S. tour, I hope that you make a pit stop in Wisconsin or Minnesota. I think we could arrange a get together of several open minded individuals and enjoy a good conversation in person.
Baby #2 is up and trying to rip off my glasses and grab the keyboard. Gotta go. I believe all of Mike’s contact info is in the article if you choose to follow-up with him.
She then included an article, “He hopes the public will soon notice the children he can’t ignore,” about Mike Tikkanen and his work with Kids At Risk Action (KARA) advocating for abused and neglected children.
Wow. That’s incredible. It really warms my heart to hear your story and to know that my writings were so meaningful to you under those conditions. As is the case with many writers, I often write not knowing if anyone is really reading what I write. It’s great to know you were really reading!
Actually I’m familiar with Mike and hold his work in very high regard. May I post your email with a link to that article about him?
I have plenty of causes which inspire me. What is lacking is collaborators. Recently, it seems some partnerships may be forming with the Full Employment project and I just posted some encouraging feedback from Gary Pace on the Holistic Community Pledge.
We shall see. In the meantime, I’m enjoying working on my autobiography.
Thanks again and best of luck with the family!
Amy shared her email with Mike, who replied:
Wow Amy this is good news. As is your improving eyesight. Thank you so much for keeping us in your thoughts and helping us advance our Kids At Risk Action effort.
I am very familiar with Wade’s work and so glad you have made this connection and hope that he will make our information available to his readership. I believe he has a pretty big following.
Wade, Hello from your pals in MN. I so love the smallness of the planet when my friends connecting me back into their circles. Amy was KARA’s executive director for quite some time and has helped us become an organized advocacy group making hour long documentaries with Public TV stations (we are in negotiations this week) and presenting resolutions to our DFL convention this spring in hopes of making life better for at risk children. We are really excited about the possibilities this year and would greatly appreciate any attention you might give our efforts.
Keep on writing and organizing as it does tie us all together and keep raising awareness.
As an odd tidbit related to your dead bird in the attic, years ago (about 30) I owned a junkyard with 29 employees and it made me crazy. I don’t know if this dream prompted my bailing out of the business, but I suspect it plays in somewhere; I remember the anchor around my neck and what seemed like an entire night of (dreaming) trying to remove it. I much prefer my bodies flying dreams but have not been able to replay them recently.
My very best wishes to both of you,
An email from Gary Pace in response to the draft Holistic Growth Pledge also heartened me. He said, “I think this looks really good, Wade. Simple, yet deep. Could be a good kernel to work around. Thanks for continuing to work with this thread of connection.”
In addition, Malcolm Hoover, had responded to that draft:
Wade, this is great. I would only add to this that I will identify and reach out to someone who I identify as a possible ally at least 3 times a year and try to build unity with that person and educate myself about their issue(s). For instance, for me it would be reaching out to the LGBTQ community and educating myself particularly on the issues of trans men. Thanks for including me.
I’m glad to receive your response. Yes, I would think that each participant could add to it in her or his own way, as you have. My intent was to leave it open in that way, rather than trying to over-prescribe, and trust each person’s essential nature to guide them — if they pause to listen.
At times, I feel my efforts to facilitate deeper, more intimate dialog are a waste of time. But when very astute individuals such as Gary and Malcolm offer comments such as those, and Amy and Mike offers such words of support, I’m reassured that at least I’m not totally crazy. And then I reflect on examples such as the success of the True North Groups and how rewarding the “soul sessions” I initiated in Mexico were (they merely asked people to “talk from the heart,” with no predetermined agenda). So I persist with my obsession.
A number of films have reinforced my feeling that the lack of authenticity in the modern world is a widespread concern. The second “Hunger Games” affirmed the need for “deep friendship” rooted in honesty. “American Hustle” (what a great title; it sums up our culture) confronted the issue provocatively. And the incredible “Particle Fever” offered the perfect counterpoint to the hustling mentality: “The very things that are least important to our survival are the very things that make us human.” Einstein also said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Last night a woman at a pizza parlor where I went to hear music told me why she likes living on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. Life here is hard, she said, so people have to rely on each other, which is humbling. Being more humble, they are more “genuine,” she said.
“Particle Fever” also inspired me to stick with my resolve to nurture “deep community.” The relentless, decades-long pursuit of truth by those physicists was amazing. One never knows what the result will be. All success is built on a series of failures. But if the quest is righteous, it will provide enough reward in and of itself to stay on the path. The Holy Grail is not merely a myth.
On my last night in Vegas, the Tony Award-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” encouraged me to stick with my focus on “soul” and “speaking from the heart.” Loosely based on the accidental encounter of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis in the Sun Records studio shortly after each of them had “made it,” the musical tells the story of how Sun Records owner Sam Phillips believed in Black music and was determined to bring its liberating power to White audiences. Eventually his persistence paid off. Perhaps someday mine will as well.
The next morning I woke with the remnant of a powerful dream lodged in my mind. I quickly captured its message with this thought, “A key paradox: I want to save the world without being an evangelist.” This formulation was so strong it stuck with me and I posted it on Facebook, where it received interesting responses. Three people “liked” it, which is about average for me on Facebook these days, but three or four others raised objections, which prompted me to try to clarify my point with this statement:
Evangelists arrogantly assume they know something that others don’t know and need to convince them to do what the evangelists want them to do. In fact, most people already know what they need to know and believe what they need to believe, but don’t see a way to act effectively. One non-evangelical approach is to inspire others with the power of example and invite them to decide together how to collaborate to act on our universal values.
Those objections to my statement and many others over the years lead me to believe that most of my peers are locked into an old, top-down notion of leadership that is rapidly fading with younger people, who are more horizontal and collaborative. But young people don’t trust old people. So I am limited in my ability to find collaborators.
These reflections reinforce my tendency to stop trying to organize. If a strong team emerges with the Full Employment project (some signs are hopeful), I’ll stay involved with that effort. But mostly I’m just going to read, write, and dialog.
Driving to Lake Tahoe through Nevada, that dream fragment stuck with me and prompted me to compose in my head a new manifesto, titled “How to Save the World in X Simple Steps.” Alone with my own thoughts, I became excited about this statement, which could end up being a small booklet.
But then reality hit, symbolized by an unexpected snow storm that almost prevented me from arriving at my cabin. Being back in Ecotopia is comforting. I no longer have to endure women telling me they love my hair, or men patting me on the back and calling me “Einstein.”
But I’m no fan of snow and cold weather, so I’ll just hole up next to my heater and re-write, re-write, and re-write. The first draft of the autobiography is almost complete, but it’s coming in at about 350 pages, which is probably much too long, so I have my work cut out for me these next eight weeks before I return to my refurbished apartment, where I plan to offer folks a foot massage when they come to my second housewarming.
And then there’s my 70th birthday, July 26. It falls on a Saturday, So let’s party.