Over a few days last week, in my professional capacity as director at National Intervention and in between my personal interest in his new project, Groceryships, I had the unexpected opportunity to meet with Sam Polk (despite a level of newfound celebrity that’s brought national and international media to his living room). I was unprepared for his affable demeanor, unrepressed warmth, and sincere insightfulness.
Here, before it goes to a longer blog post, are some of my thoughts, wildly abridged, in retrospect:
Hundreds of emails and dozens of calls came pouring in from Interventionists around the country after Sam Polk came out to the world as a recovering Wall Street wealth addict in his New York Times op-ed, “For the Love of Money.” Members asked questions, like whether he was on our board or if he would be going on the next speaking tour with me. Some even sent along congratulations, as if National Intervention had somehow been responsible for Sam’s decision to unwittingly validate and elevate the heart our message.
Of course, no one at the campaign knew him at that point. It was clear, though, that we ought to try to connect somehow. I reached out. I was surprised to realize we would be able to meet. When we did, I let him know that Interventionists almost uniformly seem to concur that he might make the world’s most perfect candidate for writing the foreward to our upcoming book, the Twelve Step Guide to Recovery from Money in Politics. He shared with me his idea of what powerful interventions could look like. We talked about Gandhi. We talked about King. Sam had the insight that we were basically talking about the need to inspire an entire people. That’s not an easy thing –it’s a radical thing– and he wanted to understand more about why we thought we could succeed. Eventually, he said he didn’t think he could contribute to the book. He said he’d not only need more time to properly learn about National Intervention, but also to add one more item to his already stacked plate. I continue to work at deluding myself into believing that the rest of our conversation may have helped with the former; I can’t see how there’s much anyone will be able to do about the latter anytime soon.
Nonetheless, I feel we ought to work hard to find a place at National Intervention where people with this level of integrity, humility, sobriety and commitment can feel quite at home as new Interventionists who meaningfully contribute to our unique combination of organized compassion and strategic recovery. Interventionists come to realize not only that we could succeed in cultivating the mass movement that delivers the demand for a new and sober social contract, but that we have to. Every human soul on this suffering earth struggles for a way to believe we may pass to another generation a society and planet worth inheriting. I left Sam’s generosity and authenticity, and that of his loved ones, their friends and their co-workers, feeling restored in my conviction that we have a fighting chance. In turn, I want Interventionists to also rise to the urgent challenge of inspiring a similar trust that, as Alice Walker puts it, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for…”
In math, the radical is the fundamental root. So, call us radicals, because our promise sets us apart at the core of the illness under all the symptoms. There are the painful sores, and there is the leprosy. There are a million fires we scramble to put out, and there is the arsonist, who can’t seem to see the damage he causes or stop himself from the next destructive act. There are slaves, and there are masters. There are substances, and there are the addictions that demand the next fix at any cost. In a time when Fear and Greed are the code running our dominant operating system, ours can be an extraordinarily rebellious and disobedient Love. In every story of recovery, I am reminded that our last great and necessary social movement is not yet behind us. Dorothy Day from the Catholic Worker said, “The greatest revolution of the day is a revolution of the heart, a revolution that begins within each one of us.” As we Interventionists like to say, “The beginning is near…”