The following is a slightly modified post from a little over a year ago. In recent months, the notion of puttingcare at the center of “net work” – to ground it, make it real and people accountable – has surfaced a number of times and strengthened. The original post included the phrase “the empathic turn.” Since that time I’ve come to see “caring” as a more appropriate word, rather than “empathy,” as it evokes for me not simply feeling but action. This re-post is inspired by the activists and thought leaders who are about to gather in Oakland, CA for the “Othering and Belonging” Conference, hosted by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.
In an essay that I continue to revisit, the poet/essayist/novelist/farmer/ conservationist and champion of sanity, Wendell Berry, talks about what he calls “the turn towards affection.” Having spent many years reflecting on and pushing back against the unfortunate demonstrated human capacity to despoil landscapes and demonize “the other,” he takes a strong stand for both deep rooted connection and . . . imagination:
“For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it.”
In other words, by his assessment, imagination thrives on contact, on an intimate form of knowing that is not simply intellectual, but intimate and holistic. For Berry it is only this kind of knowing that can lead to truly “responsible” action.
Others, past and present, hold the truth and power of this kind of fuller bodied knowing to be self-evident, in environmental conservation and social justice efforts and in what it means to be a responsible human. Professor john a. powell writes in his book Racing to Justice:
“There is a need for an alternative vision, a beloved community where being connected to the other is seen as the foundation of a healthy self, not its destruction, and where the racial other is seen not as the infinite other, but rather as the other that is always and already a part of us.”
Another story about what can happen when we fail to hold a broader systemic view in our social change work . . . I was working with a food system-focused network the other day and the good news was reported that great strides have been made in reducing food waste, in large part because distributors and retailers are doing a much better job of tracking inventory and fitting it better to consumer demand.
On the other hand, it was also reported that this spells a real challenge for the “emergency food” world and food banks, which have been largely dependent upon excess food to provide for the growing number of people who are food insecure. Read More
The research on the role of gratitude in supporting social resilience and thriving is quite compelling. According to the Greater Good Science Center, those who have a higher gratitude quotient or a regular practice of listing and thinking about gratitudes have been shown to experience the most significant boosts in happiness and fewer bouts of illness, have stronger social bonds in one-on-one relationships and with communities, and tend to be more generous. Connected to a host of other related positive emotions, gratitude is also shown to boost people’s willingness to reach out and connect with others, including across lines of difference, to see possibility more expansively, and to maintain a general spirit of openness. What’s not to like about gratitude?
Now imagine gratitude for one multiplied many times over in an ecosystem of social interactions and connections – that is, in a network. Read More
|Image by Nico Paix|http://www.flickr.com/photos/91845235@N00/6523944047/in/photolist-aWuVgV-84KnUQ-9p5Xr2-e7QpWv-fr9W96-bYrHxs-aamm8N-bfB8Bn-bh5d8M-9JejMT-bh4YjD-bq9z27-bD4txZ-bD4tye-dgEWqj-8AwwCb-a2hh5y-aGsxtr-7Rg5mV-7Rjmeb-7Rjm9U-7Rjm79-7RjmfS-7Rg5rR-7RjkVE-7RjmeU-7RjkUJ-7Rg5uK-7Rjm1C-7Rjmdh-7Rg5hM-7Rjmch-7Rjm95-7RjkS5-7Rg5iR-7Rjm2o-7Rjm5s-7Rjmgo-7RjkTS-7Rg5nM-7Rg5vv-7Rjm6m-7RjkWW-caM8Bm-dgtEDV-9p5VLa-7CdrXE|
At IISC we see taking a developmental view as being critical to effective collaborative and network-based approaches to social change. This is largely because of the complexity of the issues we are striving to address with our partners and the “adaptive” nature of the work. It is also because we hold an evolutionary perspective; that is, we see change and development as being part of the underlying dynamic of reality. As scientist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once declared, “We are moving!” And so we are interested in paying attention to and working with evolution as it occurs at different levels – individual, team/group, organization/institution, community, etc. Read More
|The Alchemy of Wholeness by Armanda Moncton|http://www.flickr.com/photos/armandamoncton/1705798622|
On Sunday, Gibran Rivera and I facilitated a workshop at Connecting for Change/Bioneers by the Bay about change practices for a networked world. Another way of thinking about what we were exploring was to put it in terms of “practices for wholeness.” Part of our premise was and is that we are suffering from a worldview that leads with and to fragmentation and fixity. This is part of our inheritance from the industrial age that strives to understand through division and an associated mindset that believes we can make a separation between observer and observed with no associated impact. For certain tasks, of course, it makes sense and is possible to divide, diagnose and put back together. But this does not make sense, nor is it possible, in the case of complex living systems. Furthermore, we have gotten ourselves in a bind because our habits of thought have led us to thinking that the divisions and categories we have created are in some sense primordial. And so we are hard pressed to believe, or remember, that what we do to our “environment” or “others” we do to ourselves! Read More
Two things reminded me of the power of design and physical space this week. First, in a workshop for Juvenile Justice leaders, the 12 participants were seated at three tables. It was a cozy arrangement and the tables were useful for handling the volume of materials they were using. After a morning focused on race, class and culture dialogue skills, we brought the chairs together in a circle in the front of the room to close a segment of the conversation. I asked folks how that arrangement felt and they say “Good!!” There’s nothing like removing physical barriers and enabling everyone to see everyone else easily to foster relational and conversational intimacy!
|Photo by Kelly B|http://www.flickr.com/photos/foreverphoto/147660610|
The late David Bohm pointed out the lost potential of quantum physics as he saw it being assimilated by a traditional and very mechanical mindset that wanted to make it another instrument of control, prediction, and quantification. For him the power of the field was much more subtle, qualitative, and lay in the understanding that there is an “implicate order” to reality from which form emerges via our thoughts and efforts to make meaning. From Bohm’s perspective, much of what ails us stems from disorganized thought that has us attaching to form, regurgitating and defending our prejudices, as opposed to thinking that embraces the more creative flow of life. As he once expressed it, “Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally.” Read More
Our first son was born on Saturday, he came two months early and he is AMAZING. Clearly I am gushing with joy, excitement and love! I have spent very little time with our baby (who hasn’t yet told us his name), but I am already enraptured by him – bonded, mightily connected. And isn’t that so much of what we talk about here on the IISC Blog? Love, connection – life, evolution. Read More