November 5, 2012 at 2:49 PM

A Thousand Dark Pilgrims

"Three million have died over the last 20 years in wars funded by players in the diamond business"

By Marc Choyt

Ornamentation Without Exploitation

Marc Choyt is an activist fair trade jeweler, journalist and author of an upcoming book about business, circle and blessing: 'The Circle Manifesto.'

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I shop our farmer's market, eat organic, hunt for my meat and use my company as a social entrepreneurial venture. Yet my daily activities continue to drain resilience from our biosphere. Hidden externalities in supply chains make alignment between values and actions next to impossible. I muster the courage to face my participation in the collective destruction of Gaia. No matter what I do personally, news of the day—ice caps melting, extinction of species etc.—bring up feelings of fragmentation, grief, anger and powerlessness that move through my psyche like a thousand dark pilgrims.

Embracing the dark pilgrims, giving them a place of honor on my altar, working with the truth—if Gaia is being raped by human activities, then I am being raped to— increases opportunity to approach issues in a transformational manner. The raw truth of burnout, depression, unskillful anger or other feelings that limit my ability to act strategically are faced directly, filling me with terrible awe. Us/them is too simple, too “black and white.” Earth is a great circle where even in opposition we are connected, our fates as intertwined as the double helix in our common DNA.

As an activist and business person in the jewelry sector, I want to create parallel economic models that break free of the linear industrial processes. It is too late to be sustainable. I want my activities to be regenerative—that actually rebuild communities. It helps to see my actions as part of a greater human story. Sometimes I identify with Odysseus, having to face the on- eyed Cyclops whose power and weakness derivs from a singleness of vision. Three million have died over the last 20 years in wars funded by players in the diamond business, which still treats blood diamonds as a marketing issue. Opposing sociopathic businesses (some of which are creating the new ethical standards for the industry) is personally intimate. I am related to those elements in the human circle that includes even those who express symptoms of separation and disconnection

I am not trying to save the earth here—I dropped that anthropocentric hubris long ago. Earth will survive and transform regardless of whether human beings begin to understand that we are part of the great movement of all things. The ever-widening permutations of gray between profound acceptance, compromise and no fucking way—I am drawing the line here!—are deeply intimate, soul-searching issues guided by the sacred pilgrims. Leaning into the great mystery contained within paradox and polarity, wrestling with the angles in our collective trajectory and personal values is an opportunity for transformation. The wrestling is my fate and your fate. My destiny and your destiny.

In this context, the work itself is enough. Attachment to some personal notion of winning or losing diminishes the scope of sacred activism as I understand it. I am more focused on the question one of my mentors used to ask me: what is your 500-hundred year plan? I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors who brought me here. Similarly, our children will stand on our shoulders and look at the choices we are making now for them. The Cartesian model, this notion of separation between ourselves and other, this idea of dead matter, is dying but not without struggle. Whether we are in a collective birth canal or our death throes is up to the collective us. I do the work that is in front of me because it is beautiful and also because if I do not, part of me I love dies.

In Practice

Whereever we are, whatever we do, we make a difference by trying to save as much of our bio reserve as we can for the future by reconnecting fair and equitable relationships shredded by commodization.

People, Profit and Planet has become a somewhat limiting perspective. We need planet, planet and planet because we are all equally part of one great circle. We must measure profit in context to activities that are regenerative to nature and community. In practice, this means making connections that require a kind of new eyes wisdom.

When I started my jewelry company I was doing a riparian restoration of land in Northern New Mexico. I realized that the money I was using to fund the project was destroying some riparian area in another part of the world. Jewelry is a repository of culture, rich in symbolism and emotional meaning. Opportunities to create a more beautiful world are around us if we can only see them. Reconnecting threads for myself entailed helping to build a community with a common vision around ethical sourcing. Five years ago, few thought jewelry could ever be beneficial for human and ecological communities from mine to market. Now I sell my customer fair trade gold. I can tell the story of the cooperative from which I sourced my sapphire, how it is pure starlight, part of a demon god’s eyes when he fell to earth that can help you, perhaps, see more clearly.

Nothing will be possible, however, without us. If just five percent of people interested in jewelry went into their store and said, I will only buy jewelry that is traceable and transparent, business will follow money and change will happen. Expanding consciousness often conjures up goals bliss or happinesss but bringing attention to issues of how our simple day -to-day purchases affecting the world,. Embracing the dark pilgrims of discontent awakens us in ways that are at least equally important for ourselves. It takes careful listening, self-acceptance and courage to walk this kind of Blessing Way.

It is not easy to walk on the edge of a knife. Sometimes to change the course of a mighty river, all you need to do is move a pebble on top of a mountain. Even a small act of personal kindness, which at times might be the only thing you or I can give, or what you purchase or do not purchase for a wedding ring, something in a grocery store, can have cosmic significance.

Marc Choyt is Director of Fair Jewelry Action, an environmental justice and human rights network and Ppesident of Reflective Images, a Santa Fe designer jewelry company producing unique artisan conflict free diamond wedding and engagement rings.

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