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  • Several years ago, NPR aired a story about monks in the Carthusian Order. Someone had written a book about them, which was challenging, given that this is an Order committed to a complete break with the world outside the Order and each monk has taken a vow of the same.

    I had a dream about these monks last night, and about some comments the author had made during the interview. I am not surprised that I dreamed of this, as I think of it often. The author's comments went something like this:

    Many find this group of men an odd anomaly to the norm, and wonder what would lead anyone to the decision to be sealed off from the world like this. Perhaps some unfulfilled need, some psychological deficit, a lack of options.

    But having spent time in this monastery, and in the surrounding town, I've come to appreciate these men as having a great purpose that even they may not understand.

    I am reminded of the role of loons along the border between the United States and Canada. It is well known that so go the loons, so goes the rest of these ecosystems. They are just birds, but everything around them depends on them. And when the loons start disappearing, we know that the health of that community will soon deteriorate.

    These strange men in this monastery up the hill are like these birds. Despite having separated themselves from the material world, it is as though their resolve, their dedication and devotion to their faith, may be what holds the world together. They are as necessary to us continuing in our day to day as the loons are to the frogs and the fish and the insects and the plants in theirs.

    So, I woke up thinking about this. And thinking about the Occupy movement and the Oakland camp. And I realized that everyone there may very well play a similar role. And I felt a duty to help.

    After I got to the office and got settled and sent some emails and finished a PowerPoint presentation and returned voice messages, I decided to take a ten block walk to the Occupy Oakland site at Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza.

    I stopped at the drug store on the way, and bought some trash bags and toilet paper and toothbrushes and a first aid kit. Because I figured those would be nice things to have if I were out overnight in Urbania.

    When I arrived, provisions in hand, I could tell that something was happening here. The entire plaza is, in fact, occupied. There are about 40 tents in the center of the space. There are pods of people - black, white, young, old - milling about the perimeter of the park, discussing very big things and talking about what they can do to address them. There is a central supply station under a tarp, sheltering several tables covered with food and water and medical supplies.

    People are upset by what is happening everywhere else, but at the heart of the Occupation, I could sense that people are excited and charged up, and happy because they are shoulder to shoulder with others who are ready for something really, truly different and willing to take action for it. And there is a calm and a peace and a safety about the whole thing.

    I walked up to the supply station to meet the woman behind the tables there.

    "Hi. I come bearing supplies."

    She looked at me, in my suit, with my grocery bags.

    "Don't mind the costume. I'm a Suit in solidarity. Just wanted to do my little part."

    "Wow. Thanks. What's your name?"

    "Derek. You?"

    "I'm Ari. We've got boxes of things organized over here. You can put things in there."


    "So, are you going to hang out? Or can you come back later or something?"

    "Well, I've gotta get back to the shop."

    "OK. Would be cool if you could make it back."

    "We'll see."

    What if in these little camps all over our country are the seeds of a new world beginning?

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