Oh, where to start?
I've had an insane few weeks.
I'll start with the news that I've been coaxed away from my current writer / editor position with an online adult personals site to one with a far more ambitious dream. Starting next week, I'll be owning the role of Synchronicity Coordinator
. I'm embarrassingly enthusiastic about the new gig; I'll be working “in the area of partnership development, community building, media relations, and corporate communications,” and I've already had the opportunity to try my hand at an ENN
interview and a few tantalizing writing assignments. It's such a treat to get to interact regularly with people who share my own values, and I'm still a little stunned that I'm getting paid to do such things as ramble on at length about self-empowerment, personal responsibility, the inseparability of people and planet and product, the growing demographic of individuals for whom non-eco businesses are no longer an option, and additionally, get to grow partnerships with others who believe the same.
And I get to work from home. Crazy.
The transition from my job at Various to the new one at Zaadz was interrupted by a workshop I'd signed up for months ago. I just got back from spending a week at a Community Building Facilitation training. It was, perhaps, one of the most emotionally intense experiences of my life.
Imagine waking up in a world of sixteen strangers, with no other instructions than these guidelines
. It's a bizarre and more-than-surreal experience, and the best crash-course in interpersonal psychology, family dynamics, and the workings of systemic oppression I can imagine. (I've had experience doing community building before, but it never ceases to amaze me how these experiments become such microcosms of not just family systems, but cultural and global systems as well. It's one thing to understand how this "works" academically, and quite another to get it from within.) I wish I could describe in the abstract what the week was like, but this would be like attempting to impart the taste of a loaf of warm bread by giving the ingredients. And I wish I could write about the week from the inside, but I'm bound by confidentiality.
I'll say only that the net result of putting people in a room and instructing them to reach community turns the group into a miniature model of the global community; it becomes a pressure cooker for conflict and the way in which conflicts get resolved without leaving the closed system. (No one can leave the retreat, or at least not without violating their commitment to the group, just as no one can leave the human family on our planet.) Again, though, I was most stunned by the way in which the larger patterns of oppression and patriarchy manifested themselves in this collection of people, all the more so because everyone there was highly self-aware and able to talk beautifully about issues of sexism and ageism and racism and culture. It was humbling, to say the least.
There were other aspects that contributed to the profound intensity of the week; sometime around the second day I - or we - had the collective experience of a strange transcendence of time. I'm familiar with the experience of flow, of losing myself in a project or activity and losing all sense of self and time as a result. This, though, was something different. It was after a particularly combative encounter, and the emptying that followed it, and it was as though all time fell away and everything in the world had already happened and was always in the process of happening and what was going on was so ancient and so eternal and so always. It was as though the circle we were in was the same circle we'd always been in, and no different from the larger circles of the whole world. And it's another one of those things that I can't speak of, but can only - barely - remember from the inside.
In any case, I'm still struggling to integrate the week, whilst trying at the same time to gracefully exit my job (a dear friend will be taking my current position and I want to make the transition smooth) and start the next.
I'm very, very glad I have a few weeks before classes start.
Posted by Siona
Last night, a college friend came by. He was in California for the week, and took the opportunity to visit, showing up on my doorstep with a brand-new mohawk and an overflowing box of ripe organic strawberries. We spent the evening sprawled on my livingroom floor, talking over mugs of tea and fingers stained red with berry juice.
It was one of those conversations that ramble into increased depth and complexity, the sort of meaningful, heartening, rich exchanges that approach the emotional equivalent of the more awkward intellectual variety I remember from my university days. It makes me wonder why I don't encourage more of this in my life; my days seem to get so full with work and classes and the sorts of social activities that involve doing
something, and somewhere the time for just being
with others gets lost. Or lost isn't quite right; that time is always there. It's just so easily skipped over, or forgotten, or otherwise ignored.
We talked about this, some, about the way in which, though we've become experts at the technological aspects of communication - we keep our phones on us; we can make instantaneous contact with someone across the globe - we seem to be utterly clueless when it comes to deeper connections with the real human beings around us.
It has to do with so much, I think. There're the general scare-tactics of the media that encourage people to mistrust their neighbors and lock their doors and to be wary of strangers. There's the distraction of all manner of entertainment, from shopping to television to the internet. There's the general denial that we're all of us in; really connecting with another demands a certain degree of openhearted authenticity, and I can't help but think that the vast majority of the US is incapable of getting to this point. I'm biased, I know; it's hard to talk about this without my social and poliitcal beliefs coloring the dialogue, but for a country at war, we seem to have an odd aversion to talking about the suffering
involved. We'll skirt political issues and heap abuse on our administration, but I so rarely encounter any acknowledgement of the pain and sorrow and anger that can't help
but accompany the death of thousands. Doing so entails taking some sort of responsibility, however minor, for the situation, and doing this is hard. And so we stay safe on the surface and talk - if at all - about facts and weather and celebrity weddings. But I digress; last night was a welcome contrast to the usual, and it's made me commit to discovering, and creating, more of these evenings. I love my across-the-world connections, but I'm hungry, too, for community I can touch.
And to that end, I'm going tonight to this exploratory salon
. I'm curious and excited about the other unknown guests. I'm in need of a little impassioned slowness, I think, and this event seems just the thing.
Posted by Siona
Write in books.
I am reading a book my mother mailed me a year or so ago, and the scribbles and jottings and underlines, the notes in the margins, the asterisks and exclamation points and her inimitable handwriting, are nearly enough to make me cry.
I don't know. Perhaps it's because, as someone
recently reminded me, so much of our correspondence is so ephemeral (who sends letters through the mail anymore? Unless you print out your words they will all disappear, and likely sooner rather than later; servers go down, computers crash, and we all know how fragile CDs are); perhaps it's just because of the mood I'm in, but I love that this book is one I can keep, and love that it's been made so much more rich by her thoughts.
Posted by Siona
A Peregrin falcon attacks a starling flock
. . . Opening Words
I believe the earth
in each minim mote
of its dust the holy
glow of thy candle.
unknown I know,
lover of making, of the
iron, deed, dream.
Dust of the earth,
help thou my
gray become gold, in the beam of
vision. I believe with
doubt. I doubt and
interrupt my doubt with belief. Be,
beloved, threatened world.
Not the poisonous
out of its privacy,
The sacred lock of its cell
the ordinary glow
of common dust in ancient sunlight.
Be, that I may believe. Amen.
- D. Levertov
Posted by Siona
Dave Pollard, of How to Save the World
, again contributes a post that makes my heart thrill. He proposes Let-Self-Change
a "theory, framework, approach and/or methodology" that flows from the integration of change agents and social activists with an appreciation of complex systems, and complex adaptive systems theorists. Pollard's been working at piecing together tools such as Open Space Technology and notions like Collective Wisdom and systems thinking for some time, and this recent post uses the lessons of The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers, and the Shaping of the World
as a point of inspiration.
Do go read his proposal. .
Again, as someone ridiculously in love with the challenge of systems thinking, I adore Pollard's vision. Still, I can't help but wonder at the way in which these net-dialogues tend to focus on tool-kits and methodologies and new languages and frameworks. It's true that these are crucial, but I worry sometimes that they miss the point. I've been involved in a few Open Spaces
, and I can't help but think that a huge part of what makes the practice successful is the way in which it teaches - or demonstrates - a new way of being. How to put it? My thought is that it's less the solutions and results that come out of these practices than it is the experience of being in a true community that makes the difference.
(I wanted to write that I thought that if the directions / paths that came from OST were merely imposed on the group from the outside, they wouldn't be remotely as effective, but as I was thinking this I realized that such a separation is impossible, and that the mere existence of the outcome is dependent on it being literally birthed through the group.)
In any case, I do think it's this embodied education that makes the difference in the success of many of these examples of collective wisdom. I'd venture that beyond the obvious benefits of intelligent collaboration, it's the experience of trusting in oneself and in community that contributes to sustainable outcomes. It's this, I think, that we could all stand to see more of; this felt-sense of being-in-a-collective.
It's strange for me to say this. I myself (like Pollard, I imagine) tend towards being a loner. I appreciate solitude more than what passes for company in this society. I'm only just realizing that what I always mistook as a preference for isolation was more a preference for being, and that it wasn't so much, growing up, that I didn't like socializing, but that I didn't care for the endless stream of entertainment and distraction that seemed always to accompany the experience of being together. As I become more skilled at holding to the present even in the midst of bustle and confusion, I've come to appreciate - and to love -being with others more and more, and the more this happens, the more passionate I feel about the heavy significance of communal projects like Let-Self-Change.
But I digress. Go read Dave's post
, or don't. Please, though, be present with the next person you meet. Because connection, really, is all that there is.
Posted by Siona