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Being Alive

I originally wrote this on Bowen Island, attending an Art of Hosting retreat. It reminded me of the counter cultural nature of Parker Palmer’s writing and events focused on his work. It is about communicating and seeing others as fully human.

In today’s divided world, this seems countercultural. An essential element to hosting and dialogue is listening to others in respectful ways. It does not mean we agree with them. What it means is we are open and listen to hear how they experience living their life, guided by one’s conscience and sense of values that ground us. Values give each of us strength, anchoring us and letting us understand what is proper and improper.

When we invite people into conversation, listen deeply, and ask questions which shake our certainty about the world we turn inward and focus on what grounds us to respond to them and help heal a hurting world.

Perching pensively–

Holding pen tentatively;

Senses coming,

In the midst of nature’s beauty.

Awakening–

Becoming aware;

Listening deeply;

In the midst of sounds flowing.

Breeze caressing gently–

Sunlight bathing softly;

Basking in these moments,

Resting in peace.

A colleague took this picture of me on top of Cates Hill on Bowen Island as I wrote and they were gracious enough to share it with me. It is spectacular with water and land in the panoramic view.

Focusing on the Essential

I took this picture in the summer of 2012. I sometimes keep blurry phots to remind me to try bring and keep things in focus. They remind me life is not always in sharp focus and there are times to step back, pause, and reflect. I think this is essential amidst multiple crises we are experiening: health, economic, and social justice. The health crisis accentuated and made more visible the social and economic fault lines in the world, including in so-called advanced countries. These inequities include the wars, hunger, Amazonian deforestation, accelerating climate change, etc.

It is essential to keep our eye not on the outcome to correct the injustices, inequities, and lack of democracy in the world, but on the processes that will overcome those phenomena. John Lewis in Across that Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America stated

“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.”

The title could read any country in the world and the world itself. In focusing each of our light, we can gradually transform the world, making it better, more just, more equitable, and more democratic; a beloved community.

One’s spirit wearies;

One’s travails weighing heavy–

From within,

A voice calling.

Seeking peace;

Turning inward–

Posing prayerfully,

Listening for wisdom.

Paying homage;

Celebrating–

Carving paths through wilderness,

Cherishing one another.

Appreciating difference in unity;

Opening hearts to one another–

Reaching outstretched hands,

Grateful for common humanity.

I leave you with the video of the reading of the poem Invictus by Tybre Faw. What gives me hope is there are young people like this who are the light.

 

Silently Blooming

via Silently Blooming

Shobna provides a beautiful images and Thich Nhat Hanh‘s quote about silence. Parker Palmer says that community and solitude form a paradox. They do not exist without one another.

It is in moments of solitude I find meaning in living in community. What I share in common with others far outweighs what makes me different although the differences are essential to what makes each of us unique beings.

It is in moments of silence I look at my life as if it were a mountain revealing its story through the striations it formed throughout its existence. In silence, my life takes on meaning. It is there that my relationships take form and mean more than they did in the busyness of the day.

Mountain's Layers

Community and Servant-Leadership

Community has been a recurring theme throughout the World Café conversations and events, with many descriptors alluding to communal practices and relationships needed for learning to happen. Reciprocity, connection, supportive, affirmation, and other words expressing interactions suggest community. The summary posters of the March 17, 2012 World Café Event confirmed this recurring theme of community and the table posters, to being posted, also bear this out. The theme of community is important not just in learning, but in life itself. Without community, can life and learning be as meaningful?

Parker Palmer recently shared in a Facebook posting: “Community does not mean living face-to-face with others—it means never losing the awareness that we are connected with each other…”

The servant-leadership conference I attend in Portland reinforced that, although community continually evolves, as a value it can remain intact. Here are some examples.

Professor Shann Ferch, from Gonzaga, spoke about the “beloved community” that the late Martin Luther King so eloquently referred to. It is the necessity to see each other, including oppressors and those who have done harm to us, as human. Dr. Ferch also quoted Viktor Frankl: “We are made to turn outward, toward another human being to whom we can love and give ourselves. … Only when in service of another does a person truly know his or her humanity.”

We easily dismiss these references to community as the extreme and needed actions and words of those in different settings. After all, Dr. King led the Civil Rights movement in its halcyon days and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Dr. Frankl survived the atrocities of concentration camps during World War II. What do their experiences have to do with simply getting through the day?

Kirk Young, a colleague from Gonzaga, elaborated on what could be understood as community in the form of a value. The communities we choose to belong to share one common ingredient: intimacy. Ferdinand Tonnies, a German sociologist, used the word gemeinschaft and described this form of community as “a tighter and more cohesive social entity. [It is] exemplified in family and kinship” suggesting when humans gather in community, intimate experiences are shared. Members share the good, the bad, and grow together towards common purposes, thus are mission driven. Values and mission serve as glue for community.

Father John Dear, a Jesuit priest, proposed in The Rebel Jesus, a second, mostly unnoticed miracle occurred during the Sermon on the Mount: the forming of community. Community allowed people to see the human nature of each other as Jesus instructed those closest to him to organize the large group (some believe well over 5,000 people) into small, more intimate groupings of about 50 people. Father Dear suggested that in these small communities, people interacted differently and shared as they made connections with those now close to them. People were no longer strangers; because moments before they were simply part of a large and increasingly hungry throng. In contemporary parlance, they were statistics.

By witnessing the humanity in each other, we form community and share intimacy without fear. Our humanity is the one thing we share with others and through it, we find purpose to gather and create community around the universality of human values and the value of humans.

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