I don’t know how to say this without sounding self-serving. A very long time ago I saw airline officials in Denver doing something underhanded. They were sending people’s luggage along on a plane in the full knowledge that the people would not be able to board the plane with it. I happened to be beside the counter when they talked about it. They snickered at the situation. Evidently they didn’t care about the inconvenience they were about to cause the rest of us.
I’m not sure what gripped me but I turned to the people in the terminal and told everyone what was happening and there followed a ruckus that lasted perhaps 12 hours, promised to bring in local newspeople, got all of us free rooms and meals at a hotel overnight and VIP treatment and bookings the next day, etc., etc.
I didn’t set out to do that. The sense of indignation just arose and once the first few words were out of my mouth, the rest followed and the event assumed a momentum of its own. As I watch Shamar Thomas in this video, I recognize that same impulse. At first he seems almost ready to walk by the scene of the assembled policemen. Later he explains that he saw the police hurting people earlier that evening. But he starts out by just saying one thing and then something seems to rise up in him and take him over.
This is what I call emergence. You may say, well, Shamar looks pretty well emerged. But everyone emerges more fully from wherever they were. They take their emergence to a new level, as you can see Shamar do.
Back in Denver the airline officials were non-plussed that a passenger had just revealed what they had done. There was the same deer-in-the-headlights look with them as there is in this video with the NYPD. The police here seem to know they’ve done something wrong and they’re torn as to whether to do another thing wrong in the full glare of publicity or whether to fold and count themselves lucky.
The incident in Denver was a life-changer for me. It was actually the second life-changer for me that week, the first having occurred at a Six Day workshop for the est Training I had just taken. I actually don’t want to go too much into that because it’s not about me. But I do recognize what happens for Shamar here and I feel it so intimately and intensely that I almost felt myself shouting at the police. I recognize his emergence. I recognize that he recognized that there was no turning back.
Emergence is a funny thing. We don’t just emerge and that’s the end of it. We need to emerge again and again and again. Yesterday’s emergence doesn’t buy us a cup of coffee today. Only today’s emergence does. And I think a lot of people, in the Arab Spring and in the Occupy Together movement, are learning a great deal about emergence as we speak. The more danger, the more emergence, and the more learning.
At moments like these, when a stand is taken, fear drops away like snow from a speeding car. It’s a wonderful thing and the chief learning is to see that fear is not intrinsic. It isn’t a fact of life. It isn’t something we have to wear. Fear can be put behind us, like any other feeling. We only allow it to unstring us.
I wish everyone could have the opportunity to experience the birth that happens at that moment. Shamar is obviously already a very brave man, but, even so, you can see the birth in him of something greater, as if he just took his role in OWS to a whole new level. Or perhaps even more. As if he just took his role in life to a whole new level.
Emergence can be messy. It can be sweaty. It can be dirty. It gets cleaned up and organized by those who report on it. But in the act of emergence, we can look a mess. Well, not completely. Because there’s something about emergence that is noble, that almost everyone recognizes and that commands respect in anyone short of a person who’s too badly corrupted to care.
But the experience of emergence, of breaking through a shell and being released even at the cost of injury is a feeling unlike any other. Sooner or later, there comes a time in many people’s lives where they stare that choice in the face – whether to be silent and subdued or to speak and risk everything. There aren’t many videos or movies that capture that moment. But Shamar’s video does.
Like the man or not, approve of what he said or not, he broke through the fear barrier at another level and propelled the rest of us right along there with him. Shamar’s breakthrough is our breakthrough and I know he slept better that night because of it. And I feel an old memory stirred and fresh courage raised and inspired. We took abuse from the planet’s controllers for a long, long time. But the sleeping tiger finally awakens and will not be stopped.