Reimagining Systems for a New Paradigm

This tree found its home in ancient roots. Elizabeth Ross Holmstrom 2021

This morning I am enjoying a cup of coffee out of a “Hop to it” mug, a gift from my friend, Kris, for this journey. My camp spot is nestled along the Yakima River about ninety minutes outside Seattle, Washington. There are two young girls from the campsite next door fishing in the river with bright pink bobbers on the lines. “Practicing for the lake fishing later with their dad!” the older one informed me. They are on a camping weekend. They also have two bright pink and blue bikes leaning on the trees. Looks like a perfect weekend to me.

The Yakima river is fast moving, and it is part of an eco-system, a tributary of the Columbia River. As I have traveled further away with space to think, systems have been on my mind. We are all part of and impacted by various systems. I am continually grateful for my friend and family systems that fill and support me with love. My work and community systems help me feel connected and valued. Other systems are on my mind as well, as I am beginning to question their value to human beings.

What has struck me along these four thousand miles traveled is that most of the time I operate within these systems without noticing how they impact me and others. Even though I am committed to awareness and to being a resource for positive change in the world.

On this journey, I have thought about health care, which is really designed for sick care in this country; government, what kind of government and justice systems will best serve human beings in a new paradigm? Of immediate importance are systems of racial inequity and capitalism, where greed has created our own US caste system.

As a white woman in the midst of racial inequity work and reflection over the past few years, I am more aware of what this cross-country experience might look like if I were BIPOC. There were several country stores along back roads that may not have welcomed me with a smiling face. They may have been suspicious and watched my every move as I wandered through the store isles. The gas station mechanic who ran out to help me (at no charge) when my brake light suddenly lit up along an old highway, might not have rushed out at all. Even this camper van I am driving, purchased using a home equity line of credit, would be damn hard to come by affordably because BIPOC people face discrimination at every level in our financial and business systems.

I begin with racial inequity systems because we need to value all humans as one and equal in order to reimagine and create the other systems that will support the new awakening that is here. I have learned that racial inequity has nothing to do with how nice I am, or how much I love all people. We live in a system that divides and crushes and discriminates at every turn. A system that has continued for hundreds of years (millennia actually) to keep an entire people with a particular skin color down. When in fact, there is no such thing as race. Race is a concept designed to exert power and control. We are biologically equal — all of us. The research is clear. We have been fed false stories and narratives our entire lives, for centuries, because it made life easier for a self-selected few.

In a racial affinity group I have been part of this past year, we are reading Ruth King’s book, Mindful of Race. A question that continues to haunt me is: if I grew up in a melting pot (as I have described it) in central California, why didn’t I spend time at the houses of my black, Asian, Hispanic, and Indigenous friends during elementary and high school? Why didn’t they spend time at my house? I don’t even know where most of them lived. We grew up believing that we were experiencing diversity at school, and we weren’t spending any time together outside of school. Our families were not connected.

As I have been fortunate to experience many other cultures in my adult life, I know that I have missed so much by not having these cultural experiences in my everyday life. Ceremony, food, music, conversation, loving kindness, alternative viewpoints, laughter, and dance. Living in closer harmony with Mother Earth.

As a young teenager I sensed inequity deep down. My grandmother was the influence for the Episcopal church coming to our small town in Oakhurst, CA. She offered up space for the services. The services didn’t quite connect with me spiritually. I remember that the priest asked me about this one day. We were living in the one-room building on my grandmother’s property and on Sundays we would clear out and set up chairs for the service. I was helping him. He asked me what could help me be more engaged. I said music. He said that if I came to church, he would play any song I chose. I chose Stevie Wonder’s Heaven is Ten Zillion Light Years Away. He played it the following Sunday and while there was still a disconnect for me in organized religion, that moment stuck with me. I have listened to this song again and again over the years. The words are so perfect for this time and perfect for that time. It gives me hope and yet we still have far to come.

Our capitalism system is similar. We have allowed greed and a tiny percentage of our people to hoard money, while millions of people suffer and work the hardest to make these few lives comfortable beyond measure — comfortable beyond what is healthy. If you have been paying attention during Covid, think about “essential workers.” While I believe all workers are essential, the evidence is loud and clear that the people who are really keeping our country alive and our lives comfortable, are those who are paid the least.

It is time to redesign the systems that are no longer serving the highest potential of the human race. As I said in my first journey blog, we are on the edge of a new paradigm. One that recognizes human equality and capitalism that can be a source for good.

We humans are not best defined by color, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, job titles., or other labels. What good do labels actually serve?

Human beings are best appreciated for our hearts and souls which is what truly differentiates us. We are part of nature. We have the power to step away from systems that are not aligned with nature. It is time for us to unite to move toward equality. As my friend Kevin Hancock says, “In nature, power is dispersed. No one walks into a forest and asks who the lead tree is.”

Please join me in this journey.

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Elizabeth Ross Holmstrom

Elizabeth Ross Holmstrom

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