What Time is it on the Clock of the World?


Several years ago, I had the incredible opportunity to meet the legendary Grace Lee Boggs. A small group of us waited in a hotel lobby on the Upper West Side in anticipation. We had asked her to endorse our call for a truth commission: A People's Investigation of Money, Debt & Power. She had agreed to meet with us to discuss the project.

Grace was already nearly 100 years old. Her body was failing, but her mind was sharp. She didn't have time to mess around with small talk; she wanted to make sure that every moment of her life was used fully.

She looked at me and asked, "what time is it on the clock of the world?" She was a philosopher who loved ideas and provocation. "Com'mon, what time is it on the clock of the world?" It wasn't the first time I had pondered how to create value in the time we are living, but I was tongue tied.

One of the key concepts of Buddhism (as well as Hinduism and yoga) is the understanding of time as inextricably instructive to action. One of the subtle benefits of practice is a deepening sensitivity as to how to act at a particular moment in time. In yoga classes often our instructors prompt us to focus our awareness on how we feel on "this day" or "this moment." In Buddhist philosophy a snap of a finger holds 64 moments, and transformation is possible in each and every one of them. 

Grace decided to answer her own question by sharing with us about her life - the century she had seen. Looking back on this conversation, it strikes me that her analysis was so rich that she could actually see the future. She spoke to us about discomfort and loss - particularly the loss of racial power and the potential rise of a leader who would reverse the social changes she had seen and fought for.

Grace, a Chinese American woman, had done the unthinkable and completed a PhD in Philosophy in 1940. But she quickly discovered that credentials and merit could not override her status as a Chinese woman. She was forced to take low wage jobs, but found a new life, when she began fighting for justice and change. 

"To make a revolution, people must not only struggle against existing institutions. They must make a philosophical/spiritual leap and become more 'human' human beings. In order to change/transform the world, they must change/transform themselves." ~Grace Lee Boggs


Everyone of us was less than half Grace's age, and so for us the changes of this century were largely theoretical and historical. But, for Grace they were visceral - and although a lot had changed, there was still much more change left to fight for. 

Toward the middle of the meeting, we had a surprise guest: Matt Birkhold. Although I had met Matt previously, I did not know him well or that he had been mentored by Grace. It struck me that Grace seemed like his grandmother - so familiar, so respected and so admired, so loved.

Today, one year since Grace's passing, I can see the legacy of their relationship. Matt has responded to Grace's famous prompt, "what time is it on the clock of the world?" with the founding his organization, Visionary Organizing Lab. Visionary Organizing Lab provides innovative trainings that help deepen our perception of the connection between inner and outer change, empowering our understanding of evolution as revolution. 

We hope that you can join us on Saturday, October 8th at 1:30pm to continue to explore how we can transform our lives toward truly being the change we would like to see in the world.

Register at: http://www.alignbrooklyn.com/workshops/