I remember the wind that day because it was so still that any rare breeze that kicked up was so noticeable. Months of grassroots organizing had led up to this point. I had heard the nuclear sabers rattling since Ronald Reagan first took office in 1980 and I wondered where it was all headed. In 1962, I was 6 years old, when the Cuban Missile Crisis turned both my parents faces a terrified ashen white. They were afraid the whole Earth was going to be turned into a crematorium if the Soviets did not back off. Fortunately, they did.
In 1982 they would not back down again. The largest military buildup in the history of humanity was underway. Reagan’s people discussed «usable» tactical nuclear weapons and seriously proposed «nuclear warning shots» in Europe
In response, thousands of peace groups, largely under the umbrella of the non-profit “Mobilization for Survival” were creating a peaceful demonstration to mark the Special Session on Disarmament at the United Nations. I did not know how big the march and demonstration would be but I did what I could on late afternoons after work. It was unbelievable to me that two governments on two different sides of the planet were preparing for war on such a scale. I had to do something. What I did not know at the time was how profoundly June 12,1982 would affect me for the rest of my life.
For the previous 4 years, I was married to my first wife working as a cabinetmaker. On the morning of the day, she and I were waiting for a dozen friends to arrive at our small Brooklyn carriage house, so that together, we could make the trek up to midtown Manhattan to join the others, from all over the world.
While waiting for our friends, I remember listening to The Police song:
“Just to be an invisible sun
That gives us hope when the whole day’s done”.
There was a growing Presence that had been building for days. Several staff members at Mobilization for Survival had told me a LOT of people would be descending on New York City that day, but the numinous quality I was experiencing on the morning of June 12 was more than the numbers.
It felt like something huge was happening on the inside of us humans that I could not explain. All I knew was that it felt good. By the time my friends and I had boarded the subway a few blocks from the carriage house, I thought that someone had dropped some psychedelic substance in my breakfast, but that was not the case. Time seemed to stand still and I sensed that others, not just my friends, were also feeling that an enormous change was underway (though possibly more faintly), even if just for a day.
On the subway I perceived every interaction between the riders had some deeper, more profound meaning. I finally understood Jung’s term: “synchronicity”. The inside and the outside were intimately connected and constantly affecting one another. This was made ever so clear when we stepped out of the subway on Sixth Ave near Rockefeller Center. People were streaming towards Fifth Ave where the main march from the UN was happening. While making our way east on 49th Street Isaiah’s famous saying was written on one building’s front wall: “they shall turn their swords into plowshares… and learn war no more”. It was as if it was written for that day!
When we arrived at the corner of 5th Ave it was then I could truly sense how big this day was, thousands of very peaceful people were walking north up Fifth Ave, carrying signs of all types and sizes but most with the same basic message; “Peace” and “Choose Life”. Of course there were the standard “Fight Nuclear Weapons, Fight Imperialism” signs but for every one like that there were ten more that said “bear babes, not arms”, “ good planets are hard to find”, and “for our children, your children, the children.” Many of the signs were funny. Like “mushrooms are for quiche not clouds“ and “ET, Phone home” Then I noticed a wedding pouring out of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It coincided perfectly with the “march” as the demonstrators cheered the newlyweds. When I saw the NYC policemen with the origami peace cranes wrapped around their necks, I knew something really special was happening, something with enormous implications. I was enveloped in “a sea of love”… and somehow knew this was the primary reality… we humans had just forgot. More prophetic information would pour through me. The meaning of Ghandi’s satyagraya became apparent: Wikipedia describes it as «a relentless search for truth and a determination to reach truth. It is a force that works silently and apparently slowly. In reality, there is no force in the world that is so direct or so swift in working». Its lava like movement felt to me like the evolutionary direction of humanity. At that moment, I became one with that larger collective essence of who we are.
When we turned left into Central Park at 72rd Street I saw the Japanese monks from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They represented a fierce determination to ending the madness of war. Their drumming was so powerful as they walked towards the huge central stage. Thousands of thousands of people were filling the park with them. Some estimates were that over a million people participated making it the single largest demonstration in U.S. history. There was not a single arrest!
Right before I settled in with my friends to listen to the speakers and the music, I made my way over to Cleopatra Needle, a giant obelisk covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics. I did not know it at the time but the obelisk was one of three that were given as gifts of peace by the Khedive of Egypt, Isma’il Pasha in 1881 . As if there were not enough cosmic downloads that day, when I touched the obelisk I almost went unconscious and was transported into some powerful dimension that I still have no explanation for…
The rest of day was filled with a kind of peace and contentment I had never known. This peace was followed by a corresponding heightened consciousness that stayed with me for months. I remember finally “coming down” and feeling so disappointed that the incredible open heartedness that I was feeling for all beings would give way to what is considered a normal amnesia by most of us. It however set the stage for many good things to come…