The Occupy Movement celebrates its first anniversary today. I’m already nostalgic. Last September seems so long ago. Such a contrast between the living, fermenting, spontaneous energy of Occupy and the dead ritual of stilted, sound-bit riddled, polarized, money fueled presidential campaigns.
Terry Tempest Williams, author, naturalist, and an old friend of mine, whose new book, When Women were Birds, reflects on the blank journals of her mother, was born into a Mormon family in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is an excerpt from a May 27, 2012 interview with Laura Flanders, thenation.com.
What did you think of Occupy Wall Street which at its very heart was about spending time with one another?
I thought it was beautiful. I loved the organic nature. I love the messiness of it. To me that is real. That is an ecological model. And yet the critics were saying, “Who’s in charge?” We don’t know how to deal with circles, spirals. We only know hierarchies and what I love about Occupy Wall Street is that it’s asking us to use a different kind of model.
I’ve seen you asked, what might a different sort of power look like. Have you ever tasted, felt, had a glimpse of that different sort of power?
I see it among women. I saw it in Rwanda. In the village, they listen, they understand struggle, they’re not privileged. I see it whenever I’m in a wild place. That’s a very different kind of power that’s predicated on humility and respect…
You come from a traditional culture that has certain edicts—you must have children, you must keep a journal. You both, you and your mother, broke those edicts, and yet you clearly value, continuity, connection, tradition. How do we take the bits we like of our traditions and and at the same time allow a celebration of impermanence into our worldview?
I don’t know. I’m struggling with that. I mean I know the things I have been given within my Mormon culture—and I’m certainly not orthodox, and I don’t practice the religion, but I do practice some of the ideals I was raised with: taking care of one another, caring about community. I’m a great believer in prayer. Not praying to a white-haired, white-bearded, white male god, but being in prayer, which, again, is that act of listening. So those are tenets I respect and adhere to. They’re certainly not unique to Mormonism, but they inform my spirituality…
A lot of people right now, looking at the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, are very afraid of what they hear about Mormonism: the Temple, the secrets, the ideas about dominion. What about those parts of Mormonism?
I think there is reason to fear the Mormon Church. I would say the Mormon Church is a corporation. They have huge holdings and tremendous power and regardless of what candidate Mitt Romney says, I believe that [if Romney is elected president] the Mormon Church will have a say in governance. It will be subtle, it will be invisible, but it will be there.