The Mover’s Manual
A Guide to Movement
by Thomas Elston
Schedule of Contents
- The New American Frontier – the Historical Precedent to Movement
- Maslow’s Hierarchy and the Vision of Movement
- Core Principles of Movement
- Meditations on Freedom
- Stories from the Streets
What is Movement?
Movement is a non-profit organization and philosophy based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, published in 1943. Our goal is to ascend the hierarchy and achieve Self-Actualization in both our personal lives and in our community. “Movement” then the process of ascending Maslow’s Hierarchy through 1) creating an intentional community, 2) being socially conscious, aware, and active, and most importantly 3) turning ideas into actions. We believe the act of doing, following through with your dreams, is the key behavior towards a fulfilled authentic life.
Movement is dedicated to eradicating the psychological poverty that is learned helplessness.
Contrary to popular belief “poverty” is not simply a lack of material things. This is a misconception that hinders both those who help and the ones we are trying to help. Poverty is a fundamental brokenness of relationships between the impoverished, other people, and the social institutions at large. To be sure, material want is a piece of the puzzle but the greater mosaic also contains distinctly psychological elements – culminating in a sense of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is overcome by developing and reconciling these social and socio-institutional relationships. Movement does not provide handouts – handouts act to incentivize the learned helplessness we are combatting. Instead We are taking a “grassroots” approach through the applied use of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by creating intentional community and identifying ideas to actualize. Our current project is MVMT: Stories from the Streets – a series of short-stories synthesized from intentional interviews with the homeless we relate to and serve.
Our neuroscience-backed philosophy is that the summit of human potential is achieved when an individual is a valued member of a positive local community group (tier 3). With regard to the homeless and those affiliated with the organization, Movement seeks to be the vehicle which elevates both those who serve and those whom we serve to the height of their Human potential.
II. The New American Frontier – a historical precedent to MOVEMENT
The 20th century saw the close of the geographic Frontier, the 21st sees the opening of a new one: Society. In this age of mass industrialization, social networking, and financialization, unused resources are now Human rather than material. John Dewey tells us that the modern Frontier is the potential of Human Nature, “as that nature [exists within] every human being irrespective of race, color, sex, birth and family, of material or cultural wealth.”
Humans have lived in communities for hundreds of thousands of years; survival is simpler in a group, provided the right conditions. In this arrangement, each member’s survival and success symbiotically depends upon one other, not unlike a relay race. Instead of one runner passing the baton to another, a farmer would take his grain, a good, to the mill to be ground into flour, a service. The farmer and the mill-man have mutually assured one-another’s survival through conducting business in a Society. It is crucial to understand that as an Individual exists within a Society (s)he similarly exists for the benefit that Society. Society is the great platform of Human Potential, it is the womb of art, culture, and commerce; it is the Educator and it is the Enabler, the Regulator and the Stabilizer: the Spirit of Democracy resides within the souls of its citizens.
America’s History is unlike any other: it has been founded upon the Frontier; indeed, the History of America is synonymous with it’s settling. Americans are Pioneers; we have thrived and survived throughout the continent with innovation, resourcefulness, and expansion. This is the foundation of Democracy: each individual finds within him/herself the key to Happiness within Life and intends to pursue that Happiness to the fullest. Democracy is the assurance that one has a Voice to be heard, that an individual’s existence is not trivial, but is rich in meaning. Charlie Chaplain claimed its cause to be that “men will have a chance to work, that youth will have a future, and old age a security.” It is a way of life driven by a working faith in the possibilities of human nature; as Americans we believe in one another to live a Just Life without coercion, so long as the conditions of Freedom are furnished.
Fundamentally, who is an American transcends race, creed, and party. One’s Americanness is not linked to the past in terms of rank, affiliation, and/or origin. America is the land of immigrants; the “American Dream” is the immigrant’s dream: to move to a new land, build a home, establish a trade, and lead a better, happier life. In this way, one’s Americanness, worth, and value is naturalized by where he/she is going. Americans are Individuals, constantly on the move, living on the frontier, pursuing Life at the fore.
The common denominator in the development of America and her Americans is Labor. Labor is the broth of the melting pot: it dissolves differences (race & religion) and defines the finest flavors (practical strengths & the cross-cultural human resolve to live deliberately; the unbounded pursuit of all Life has to offer).
I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said of the dignity and necessity of labor to every citizen. There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, for learned as well as for unlearned hands. And labor is everywhere welcome; always we are invited to work; only be this limitation observed, that a man shall not for the sake of wider activity sacrifice any opinion to the popular judgments and modes of action.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
We work because we have something to work towards. One’s Americanness is earned by how well you have gotten so far on the Frontier. The Frontier is an ever-expanding icon of the Muse, the ultimate condition of Freedom. As one aspect closed, the settling of the geographic Frontier, another opened. That new Frontier is the social structure: Society. America has become the United State of America – a collective of individuals pursuing a common enablement.
Since it’s inception, the North American continent has been a hub of MOVEMENT, tempered by hunger. Some were hungry in a literal sense, some in a financial sense. The two required each other: to cross the seas, claim territory, and establish venture settlements along and about the continent. This is the Labor Emerson spoke of; we are invited to Live, to envision a Dream and pursue the path to its achievement, to pioneer the Frontier. One needed only to find some meaningful Work and he was then established. This is a distinct way of Life; it is called Democracy, for it grants to the Individual only what the Individual has granted himself. There were the most literal means of Freedom one could encounter: Life on the Frontier. Houses were built by the their residents, clothes were woven by their wearers, and survival was the driving force of life. Adversity breeds Innovation and is overcome by Adaptation. Locke demonstrated that the drive to survive overcomes all things, the will to Live carries us forward, MOVING us to evolve.
But today, conformity has arisen from complacency: the resounding Voices of the multitudes in civic discourse have faltered. The mass of the American people now accept the tracks of life they are put onto and do not seek to deviate; they take the fish they are given and learn not to fish for themselves: they lead lives devoid of their natural Efficacy. They have become complacent. Complacency is the fixation upon what has been gained instead of using it to open the road and point the way to new and better experiences. This is fundamentally contrary to that unifying Spirit of Democracy – Creation, Innovation, and Progress. Indeed, America has been founded on these principals – the Spirit of Democracy. And we must live it or else be colonized by the needs and desires of other Men, as we have renounced that role ourselves.
I am inclined to believe that the heart and final guarantee of Democracy is in free gatherings of neighbors on the street corner to discuss back and forth what is read in the uncensored news of the day, and in gatherings of friends in the living rooms of houses and apartments to converse freely with one another. Intolerance, abuse, calling of names because of differences of opinion about religion or politics or business as well as because of differences of race, color. wealth or degree of culture are treason to the democratic way of life. For everything which bars freedom and fullness of communication sets up barriers that divide human beings into sets and cliques, into antagonistic sects and factions, and thereby undermines the democratic way of life.
MOVEMENT is a process that must be carried on day by day; its conclusion accompanies the final bout of experience itself. This is the challenge before us: to expand along the social Frontier; to pioneer We the People; to Move.
III. Maslow’s Hierarchy and the Vision of MOVEMENT
The birth of modern marketing and psychology can be associated with Abraham Maslow’s 1943 revolutionary paper A Theory of Human Motivation. In it, Maslow articulates the fundamental needs of human beings as they grow and progress towards self-actualization – the apex of the human experience. Maslow postulates a five-tiered pyramid-shaped hierarchy of needs in which higher needs cannot be attained until the base needs are achieved. From the bottom-up, Maslow’s hierarchy is composed of: (1) physiological needs, (2) safety needs, (3) love/belonging needs, (4) esteem needs, and (5) self-actualization – each level progresses from the establishment of the preceding needs.
All humans are regulated by these needs. Maslow’s hierarchy is instructing via its implications in human behavior – what amount of time human beings do stuff. Indeed, one cannot survive without eating – someone in the physiological tier will wholly devote their time to pursuing that need. And one cannot be bothered about his/her safety/security until he/she is eating consistently. Furthermore, the aspects of love and belonging cannot be approached until one has a certain security in life – time to devote to the social dimension of life. One cannot worry about the emergence of Identity and self-esteem until one has a social circle, Others, to compare and contrast Oneself to – humans at this level exist as content within a context, an actor on a stage, a role to be played. Finally, self-actualization is pinnacle of the pyramid. It is the full enablement of consciousness – the ability to translate from abstract to concrete, turning ideas into actions. Self-actualization is embodied by the individual who lives on purpose, unabatedly pursuing their unique human excellence – we term such individuals Movers.
This striving toward human excellence, the process of becoming, is the vision of the MOVEMENT. As an organization, the MOVEMENT facilitates the third-tier belonging needs: we seek to build a diverse network of Movers who are open to new ideas and dedicated to translating those ideas into actions. It is collective effort to inspire and enable each individual to chase their dreams and enact meaningful change both within the individual and the wider community. Thus, we are targeting the fourth tier of Maslow’s hierarchy: esteem needs. These needs are characterized by a sense of “self-esteem, confidence, achievement,” and respect for all. Put another way, MOVEMENT is the process of translating ideas into actions, instilling the confidence within an individual’s own competence to succeed in both practical and personal aspects of life. These range from the hours in the workplace to leisure time.
It is worth noting the phrase human excellence. We define it operationally, that is, human excellence is defined in the way it is behaviorally exhibited. Thus, the indicators of human excellence are synonymous with Maslow’s signs of self-actualization: “morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, [and the] acceptance of facts.” In this way divisive notions of background, race, and belief are bypassed – we accept and promote the growth of each individual as they are, where they are. This development of the individual within the collective promotes the symbiotic growth of both. A collective is only as progressive as the individuals composing it: society mirrors the strength of its citizens.
IV. The 5 Core Principles of Movement:
I. We believe that every individual has equal potential to achieve success and find happiness through fulfillment.
II. We believe that regardless of race, religion, or creed all ideas and experiences deserve to be weighed and taken into account.
III. We believe that a positive relationship is the first domino towards actualizing a positive lifestyle.
IV. We believe that we have an infinite amount to do and an infinite amount to learn
V. We believe that you must want to change before change can occur.
V. Meditations on Freedom, theUltimate indicator of Self-Actualization
A potent articulation of Freedom comes from Walt Whitman in his “Song of Myself,” a poem in his book Leaves of Grass. Whitman’s Freedom is the simple process of living – to allow oneself to be drawn out by the experience of Life itself. Just as a leaf of grass is nurtured by Nature, so too must we grow into human excellence. Humans are at their best when they allow themselves to acknowledge and answer what the situation calls for. The summit of human potential is reached when these calls and answers are harmonious. Thus, Whitman’s SONG is the culminated notions of Other, Nature, and God into the Self. Ultimately, Whitman’s integration of these aspects into the Self is his Freedom – he is unhindered by the constraints of space and time, unbounded by the walls of formal definition. Freedom is allowing oneself to contact and connect with all aspects of one’s Self, allowing oneself to follow his/her own feet, wherever Nature leads them. We will proceed with an examination of each aspect of Whitman’s SONG, beginning with the Self.
I. The Self
The Self is the fundamental lens through which the subjective Experience of Life occurs (the Ego). Whitman defers all notions of separateness to be but different manifestations of the one Self – the Soul. Each person is a leaf, sprouting from the branch of the Divine; as such, all persons, places, things (i.e. nouns) are intrinsically connected. “And limitless are leaves, stiff or drooping in the fields” (Whitman 89). This carries a modern sensibility to it, as well. Science via the first law of thermodynamics has shown that matter is neither created nor destroyed; mass and energy are conserved. From ashes to ashes and dust to dust, the same atoms, the building blocks of Existence, have been in consistent use from the inception of Time itself. This suggests that, on some empirical level (the quantum level), all distinctions vanish – everything is part of one emergent potential. Though he had neither knowledge of nor acquaintance with quantum mechanical science, Whitman clearly articulates its implications when he rhetorically asks: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well, then, I contradict myself; / (I am large – I contain multitudes)” (lines 1321-1323). Those multitudes are the latent possibilities that exist within all that is, waiting for the opportune moment to be drawn forth – like a student, waiting to be asked a question. Freedom then is the way to access those latent potentials. One succeeds not through abstract contemplation but through the realized understanding that one’s Self is the amalgam of all that one has and ever will encounter. One must allow those encounters and realizations to be elicited from the experience of Life. Those encounters come from experiences of Others, Nature, and God. We will now turn to Others.
Traditionally, the concept of Other is synonymous with the conditions of polarity. Polarity is the nature of opposite things (e.g. + and –, light and dark, freedom and slavery), it is what allows Westerners to perceive things in the linguistic terms of Subject-Object-Verb.
Drawing from the extinct Latin language, the precursor to virtually all modern Western language, there is always something (an object) to be perceived and there must be a perceiver (a subject). The verb relates the two by animating the subject (the perceiver), acting in some way upon the object (what is perceived). Here, then, is the rule: we experience the Life through a polarized lens because that is the basis of our spoken and cognitive language – there must always be two. This is the way, according to Whitman, the unelicited masses understand the world. It inhibits the call of the situation. They cannot see how, despite being different words of the sentence, different bodies in a society, together they form one passage, one people, one “Soul” (line 74). Indeed, Whitman asserts “that the soul is not more than the body, / … [and] that the body is not more than the soul” (line 1265-1266). Whitman is calling for the reader to put aside divisive differences and seek solace in the common element: the one Soul, Life itself. Liberation comes from the statement: “I believe in you, my Soul – the other I am must not abase itself to you; / And you must not be abased to the other” (lines 74-75). It is the Freedom from envy and want, from taking “things at second or third hand,” (line 27) “[f]or every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you” (line 3). It is the Freedom that comes with accepting the conditions of the present, allowing one’s Self to respond to the situation’s shout.
III. Nature and God
From the outset it must be said that one’s experience cannot be debated or refuted: experience itself is the only Absolute Truth. One man’s religious experience is another’s blasphemy. In light of this, we will not address any one religion or conception of the Divine. Rather, we shall focus on a more holistic conception of Nature. Freedom concerns Nature and God when one considers the transient nature of existence – Seneca, the esteemed Roman poet, reminds us that we never cross the same river twice: every instant in unique in the history of the Universe. Whitman asks “[w]hy should I wish to see God better than this day?” (line 1280). Rather than search for something that is permanent, intransitory, and absolute, Whitman beckons us to examine the only aspect that survives the flux and flow of each moment: one’s Self. Only through the lens of the Self does one have ears to hear, eyes to see, a mind to think, a Life to live, and an existence to experience. As such, all of Life’s beauties and wonders are basally dependent on the experience and manifest of Life itself, via the Self. Thus, “[i]n the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass” (line 1283). “And I know that the hand of
God is the promise of my own, / And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own” (lines 84-85). This ecstatic union of the Self and God is termed Nature. Whitman calls for the individual to recognize and realize Nature: the Universal current whose ebb and flow dictates the workings of the cosmos.
Nature is present within all humans; indeed, it guided our development as a single-cell embryo onward, it pushes us to create, dream, and evolve. This suggests that the Self is tempered by Nature and that the two are somehow related. Furthermore, it posits Nature and the Self to be two sides of the same coin – one side, the Self, acting, the other, Nature, guiding; together they are growing. In continuum with the integrated Self, Freedom is going with the flow of Nature, positioning the Self to be nurtured.
IV. In Conclusion
The Freedom Whitman points to is the liberation of knowing exactly who you are, your Self , your multitudes. “[A] leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars” because Nature has coalesced around it and drawn that leaf forth (line 660). The individual selves sprout from the Universal Self. The human being is to take his/her place among and within Nature and be nurtured. As a leaf burgeons from a branch, so too does the summation of Others, Nature, and God emerge from one Soul. To do not what others ask of you, but what you are called to do; to pursue not notions of separateness, but what you are: unified, whole. Whitman’s Freedom is to allow the Self to be taken on the journey of the Stars.
V. Implementing Movement – Stories from the Streets
Idea: To compile and publish 10 short stories showcasing the Life and the lessons learned of a homeless person.
Action: We will develop meaningful relationships with the individual homeless people on Wednesdays between 7pm-8:30pm at Mission Waco’s My Brother’s Keeper (“MBK”). These folks have nothing to lose and in many cases have lost everything – they see Life and human nature for what it is much better than most. Because their perspective is so honest in terms of the human condition, they have vast insight into the nature of good and evil, true friendship, greed, death, etc. that is beneficial and consciousness raising for us all.
After a certain period of time (2 or 3 encounters) you will want to transition the conversation to an intentional interview format on the basis that the information/stories shared during the development of your friendship have been meaningful and influential on you and your life and that others would benefit as well from an encounter with their story and the truth it contains.
At this point you will want to ask prepared questions and seek to gather the particulars of their human experience with the intention of discerning their disposition towards certain issues in life.
We anticipate the relationship building and interviewing processes to take 5-6 weeks. Each author will write out his or her short story over the Winter break and have it ready for review and revision by December 20, 2012.
What we’ll have to show for it: a volume of 10 short stories by 10 authors examining the Life and Wisdom of a man or woman living on the streets.
General form of Interview method:
Get a chronological account of their lives à age, birthplace, family stories, how did they end up in Waco, past legal issues à what greater Truth can be gleaned from the chronicle of their lives? What nuggets of wisdom can they share with us?
Want to Continue the Conversation?