How We Started Evolver Atlanta
This piece was originally published in June of 2009.
It all began with an intention. Sitting in a circle of smiling strangers, I gave voice to a vision I hadn’t realized I’d been holding inside: to create community in my city, where it wasn’t before. The sacred ceremony that followed was over by morning, but the unfolding of that intentional prayer continues still, many months later. Looking back on all the uncanny connections, synchs, and serendipities that have converged to form Evolver Atlanta, I can’t help but grin.
For the past year and a half, I’d been serving as a contributing editor here at Reality Sandwich, the online magazine started by author Daniel Pinchbeck. The story of how that came to be is incredible enough from my perspective, as an aspiring writer and longtime fan of Pinchbeck’s work. But despite landing my dream gig, I couldn’t shake occasionally feeling unfulfilled – empty, even. Watching the Reality Sandwich community grow has been an inspirational, life-affirming experience, knowing that others out there share similar views and values and are working to positively transform the world. But the mediated universe of blog posts and online debates wasn’t nearly enough of a human connection to get me through my days. Atlanta, my hometown, seemed an ignorant, boorish wasteland of corporate logos, strip malls and congested mega-highways. I needed to find my people, here, where I live.
With a couple of like-minded friends (Jess Hickman and Patrick Page), I devised a plan for a spirit-rallying event: a Reality Sandwich Atlanta production. We’d screen a DVD lecture series from physicist Nassim Haramein, a truly groundbreaking presentation that had filtered to me through the Reality Sandwich channels. It would take two nights, consecutive Saturdays, to watch the whole six-hour lecture … and it was some esoteric stuff. The initial challenge was to find a venue that would be intellectually on board and willing to host us for free. My first thought was a neighborhood coffee shop called ParkGrounds, which I knew had an in-house LCD projector and drop-down screen. I emailed the owner, cautiously hedging the language of the event description to downplay the “fringe” element. Within a day I got a reply from the proprietor, Scott Stone, who expressed a surprisingly keen interest to work with us. A couple weeks later, we had him reading Pinchbeck and managing our internal message board. Needless to say, it was a perfect match.
In the early planning stages of these inaugural events, Reality Sandwich community director Jonathan Phillips suggested I make contact with a couple of Georgia-based RS folks I’d never met before. Maya Lemberg and Adam Weaver (of Atlanta and Macon, respectively) had been volunteering for the website doing online marketing, and both just happened to live in the vicinity. As soon as we began communicating, it was obvious that something intense was going to come of all this. On November 15 and 22 of 2008, Reality Sandwich Atlanta hosted our first two events at ParkGrounds. The initial night was crowded; the following weekend was standing room only. With just a stack of Xeroxed flyers hung up around town and Reality Sandwich’s online presence as our promotion, we pulled close to 80 people over both nights and blew a fair amount of minds – including our own.
From there, everything gets kind of blurry. Reality Sandwich Atlanta became Evolver Atlanta, a regional chapter of the just-launched social networking website Evolver.net, co-founded by Pinchbeck. We hosted several more one-off events at ParkGrounds over the next months: film screenings, book readings, and panel discussions. The team of organizers expanded organically, as people would approach us after an event asking to get involved. Brian Lord and, more recently, Rafael Lopez stepped up from out of the crowd to work behind the scenes as indispensable members of the core group.
Reality itself turned into a magical game of call-and-response; someone would express a need or desire, and the universe would promptly provide the solution. Early on I had the idea that our group should start a community garden, an undertaking that none of us had the slightest experience with. I raised the subject during an organizational meeting, expecting to begin a lengthy process of seeking out suitable locations. A few of our newest core members immediately chimed in, explaining that they all live in a communally-owned land trust in the heart of the city and were already planning to cultivate the land this year. No sooner had I spoken than we already had our garden, sprouting in our minds.
It’s been a full six months since our first event, and my life has been completely transformed. Atlanta, the crumbling and crime-ridden city I once felt was constricting my soul, has opened up as a vibrant, visionary, and healing place that I never imagined possible. Perhaps the biggest revelation has been realizing that the community I set out to create was here all along, right under my nose and just hidden from view. As soon as I set my intention and shifted my energies, a thousand doors opened and remarkable people began streaming through.
Over time, the purpose of Evolver Atlanta has become clear. We’ve met all of these collectives of inspired and tireless people, from bicycle co-ops and yoga studios to organic farms and off-the-grid homesteads. Though their interests are diverse, these groups all share a guiding vision of empowering local communities and co-creating a more beautiful world. Through Evolver, we are linking up these transformative tribes, to recognize our common dreams and make them a reality. Our upcoming event on June 7th – EvolverFest – is a culmination of all our experiences so far, a day-long celebration bringing together the extraordinary people, places, and ideas we’ve discovered along the way. This is our coming out party, a beacon to Atlanta and beyond about this global movement springing up in our own backyards. It's our world to change, and the time is now.