Choices

“We already have gift economies among friends and family. Perhaps expanding that within small communities is possible; it’s certainly desirable.” –Myth of Barter

Daniel Quinn, in his book, The Story of B, informs us that our current way of living, which is nearly a global way of living, is a choice that was made by one culture about 10,000 years ago and which spread to other cultures through conquest and violence.  That seems like a very long time ago, until we compare it to the time that humans have been around – at least 3.3 million years (if we consider the dating of stone tools to be a marker). Most of us have been assured that it is the best way of living and are pointed to those our culture has exploited and defeated as evidence.

“Look at how hungry they are, and how few clothes they have, and the shacks they live in!  How short their life spans are! How crime-ridden their neighborhoods are!  How miserably they live!  And most of them don’t have dishwashers in their kitchens!”

The ‘they’ and ‘them’ are usually people living in other countries under a different economic system – such as the people in China, Russia, Bangladesh (although their economic system is no longer much different than ours).

But perhaps most often, we are pointed to the past for comparison, and it almost goes without saying that our way of living is superior.  It has to be … because of … well, because of evolution!  The past is always inferior to the present and the future will be better yet!  We are not only making progress, but the rate of our progress is increasing exponentially!  Just look at the size of our tv screens!  How big they’ve become!  Or look at the size of our smart devices!  How small they’ve become!  We can wear them on our wrists!  Life has never been better! Or so we’re told.

If we are most comfortable with this story, we should be careful not to listen to the news or pay any attention to the alarmists and doomsayers – especially scientists who specialize in studying soil, water, air, populations, natural resources, diseases, politics, agriculture, climate … you know …  those who claim that we face a multitude of crises, a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that are leading to our possible extinction; the results of an unsustainable way of living.  And, even if we do listen to them, if this way of living is the best that we can do, why should we care if there are no better alternatives (except, of course, for a little fine tuning here and there, such as putting a better person in charge of making decisions for us)?

Suppose though, that the story we’ve been told is not true.  Perhaps we have choices that we don’t know about or there are stories that differ from what we’ve been told.  Maybe we could learn something from those cultures that we’ve long considered not worth paying attention to – those to whom we sent our missionaries to save them from their ignorance and lack of civilization.  Perhaps we are the ones who need to be saved and especially from the results of civilization – war, waste, depression and anxiety, domination and control, the buying and selling of life (which we call “making a living”).  How many of us dream of a different way of living, having a life that is not enslaved by debt?  A life where we are not in competition with our friends and neighbors so that we are not divided into winners and losers, the haves and the have-nots?

I believe we can make better choices about how to live, but those choices must be learned until we pass them down to our children as traditions.  We have to recover what we’ve forgotten. And that is why you might consider starting or joining a neighbors gathering, to learn how to be a neighbor and to care about other neighbors and, as a result, share your gifts with them.

Do we live in neighborhoods, or do we simply live in close proximity to others? What’s the difference? Well, neighborhoods contain neighbors. Neighbors are those we can call on when we are in trouble or need a helping hand. Neighbors care for one another and have face-to-face interactions with one another. Neighbors enjoy life with one another!

The purpose of these Gatherings is to learn how to be good neighbors; to create intentional communities of neighbors within walking distance.

BACK AGAIN

It’s been a long time since I last posted my thoughts here.  Most of my written thoughts have been expressed on Facebook – more response there, and opportunities to compare my thinking with others.  However, I feel an obligation to continue this story of Neighbors Gatherings.  That story must include why the gatherings in North Port, FL ceased, and why I believe they didn’t continue.  And, of course, why my dream of starting a movement such that a global network of gatherings could come into being didn’t happen.

When Terry and I moved from Florida we were hoping to take Neighbors Gathering on the road with us.  But, in the six weeks of travel before arriving in Washington, we received several discouraging emails from neighbors.  I was amazed at how quickly what we had put together in our home, came apart. The gatherings became ungathered – although there were hints of problems before we left. Three in particular:

  1. No “home base”.  Although several neighbors had volunteered to hold gatherings in their homes occasionally, no one was willing to open their home on a regular basis.  Our home was recognized as what some called, the “club house”.  (What the gathering was or how to label it was always a problem for some.)  But, without a default location to gather at, there was no physical center.  “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” (Yeats).
  2. Rules were created.  One of those “rules” had to do with how often gatherings should occur.  It was decided that, rather than simply relying on the invitation of a neighbor opening their home to a gathering, meetings were to be held monthly.  And of course, rules were created because certain neighbors had a desire to be in control.  Rules and rulers develop together plus someone wanting to enforce the rules.
  3. Internal division.  A person began attending who was intensely disliked by another neighbor (the same person encouraging the creation of rules). It didn’t take long for an infection of disaffection to spread and shunning to occur.  Eventually the person was accused of  breaking a rule (taking a picture and publishing on FB) and was told to stop coming to gatherings.
So that happened.  Which raised the question in my mind whether the gatherings would have continued if we hadn’t left.  Were the gatherings ego-centered? Was I the center? Were they  dependent upon me?  And, if so, would I want to start again gathering neighbors in other places?
My wife and I started a “home church” in Wyoming several years before we moved to Florida and had walked away from it, because I could see how it was becoming institutionalized and dependent upon me to be the ‘pastor’ (I’m not a fan of the clergy/laity system). Plus, I could see potential problems ahead as my theology began changing radically.  I didn’t want to do that again.
How could I encourage neighbors to gather with other neighbors if I really didn’t believe their efforts would be rewarded (and it takes a lot of effort and commitment)?  If I wasn’t willing to be an example, practicing what I preached?  Better, I decided, to figure some things out – like, can neighbors really learn to get along with other neighbors?  Is the vision I have for an egalitarian, non-hierarchical (anarchic), peaceful world a pipe dream? Maybe … but maybe not.
More to come …

INVITATION

INVITATION

This is the Invitation

To a new conversation

Of depth over speed

Of gift over need

A new Listening…

 

The structure of how we gather

Speaks of what really matters

Telling a new

Story of who

We are to each other

 

This is the Invitation

Community’s Restoration

By just showing up

We’re gifted enough

To birth a new world

 

Though we don’t know

what it will look like

We’re feeling that world’s alive

Like it’s ready to bloom

Here in this room

The seeds in each life

 

So Community’s New Frontier

Is finding all that we need, right here

To weave a rich, local life

Into a tapestry lined

With the connections we share

 

This is the invitation

To join a celebration

Of neighbors & friends

Connecting again

Creating the new…

 

Of neighbors & friends

Connecting again

Creating the new

 

My neighbors & friends

I’m glad to come in

And be here

With you.

 

Words & Music by Randy Weeks
with thanks to Peter Block and A Small Group

randy@weeks.org    April-July 2009

Recorded 7-27-09 at Monastery Studio, Cincinnati, OH
Production & Engineering: Ric Hordinski
Acoustic Guitar & Vocal: Randy Weeks

 

AM I A HOARDER?

Am I a Hoarder?

I think that if I did more blogging I would probably find myself repeating the same complaint:  It is very difficult to begin.
The problem is not that I have a scarcity of ideas or words.  The problem is, in fact, the opposite.  There is an overabundance of words and ideas swirling around in my mind.  It’s like living in a house with too much stuff that has been collected over the years.  Eventually, in such a house, freedom of movement becomes very limited.  The only option one has to get from one room to another, after the floor is covered with stuff, is to clear a path by getting rid of stuff – either by throwing it away, selling it, or giving it away.  
There is a tendency, I believe, to become a hoarder of stuff if we live in one place for an extended time.  The possessions of Hunter/Gatherer tribes were minimal because owning too much stuff had a negative value. Anything that had to be carried was an encumbrance.
But, my analogy has caused me to digress.  My intention is not to complain about having too much stuff (although I often do), I want to find a solution for being encumbered – paralyzed even – with too many words and ideas.
It occurs to me this morning, that my ego may be the problem.  With a world full of people speaking and writing, it seems that there are too many words out there for mine to make much of a difference.  I begin writing, and then discover that someone has written what I intend to write – but better than I can.  So why should I write?  My ego tells me that unless I can be the best at what I do, it’s not worth doing.  Damn ignorant ego!  Fortunately, I can choose to hear a wiser voice.
That wiser voice, which I choose to identify as the voice of the Spirit, tells me that words are gifts that we offer to one another to meet one another’s need to understand.  I can hoard the gifts of words that I’ve been given, or I can pass them on to others who may have similar needs to mine.  Each word offered, as it is passed around in a community of givers, includes a portion of the life of the giver.  Sharing our words is a form of sharing life.  
The really cool thing about giving words is that, unlike material things or money, they are not given “away”.  I am not less for giving, I am more … and my capacity to be more is increased.  And, while I realize that at times I talk too much, or that my writings are too “wordy”, the solution is not to hoard my thoughts, but to listen more – especially to that voice of the Spirit as she speaks to me through my neighbors. 

APOLOGY

APOLOGY 

It has been over two years since my last blog here.  Seems I left without saying goodby or an explanation which was a betrayal of relationships on many levels.  I know that there were several who were reading my blogs with hope that my intention of saving the world by helping to change neighborhoods would ‘work’.  

It didn’t happen.

My neighborhood did change during the time that we held Neighbors Gatherings at our home.  Much of that change was documented on the Neighbors Gathering website.  After we moved, the neighbors continued to meet but less frequently.  I don’t think they are meeting now.  My hope that other neighbors gatherings would form and that a movement would be born didn’t happen.  Even my wife and I didn’t try to start a neighbors gathering in our new location for which I have several excuses – some may even be valid.
I believe that it is truer now than when I published it on the web page

It’s increasingly becoming clear that our social, economic, political and ecological systems are in trouble—civilization may be heading for a global collapse.  Chaos theory tells us that when stable systems become unstable they can reach a tipping point where the complex factors which produced the instability overwhelm the systems, leading to either a breakdown of order or a breakthrough to a new and different kind of order. 

 I continue to believe almost everything else I wrote in these blogs and on the website.  The trend toward more separation, isolation, and hyper-individualism continues and unless it is reversed we face a hospice situation for our planet.  But the effort to reverse the trend by forming neighbors gatherings is not enough.  What is required, I believe, is a cure for the disease that drives the trend.  What happened in North Port Florida did relieve locally and temporarily, a few symptoms.

I do see many signs of hope — of movements that have the potential to lead to a cure.  My efforts these last few years have been toward the development of an eco-village – an attempt to create a microcosm of a healed world.  Unfortunately, I’ve come to see that those efforts, like Neighbors Gatherings, are similar to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it was sinking.  There are three candidates that I see presently that offer the sort of meta-systemic change that I’ve begun to see as necessary:

Copiosis
New Earth Project
The Venus Project

Of the three, Copiosis seems the most viable.  I think it has the most reasonable plan for a transition or a way to build a bridge from this world to a more beautiful world and a cure for the global disease which has the least chance of killing the patient – or waiting for all the patient’s life supporting systems to fail and then resuscitating with new systems in place.

If there is to be a breakthrough to a new and different kind of order there must also be a breakthrough into this world of the power of Spirit of Love working in the place of the power of control and domination.

It’s happening.  

+Charles Eisenstein has opened my eyes to the work of the Spirit of Love at work around me and in the world more than any other, and it is mostly in his writings that I find reasons not to sink into total despair.

And if my words fulfill their intention, which is to catalyze a next step, big or small, into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, my very ordinariness becomes highly significant. It shows how close we all are, all of us ordinary humans, to a profound transformation of consciousness and being. If I, an ordinary man, can see it, we must be almost there.
Eisenstein, Charles (2013-11-05). The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible (Sacred Activism) (p. 7). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition. 

My intentions are to participate in this breakthrough, if it occurs, by being open to the Spirit of Love so that it flows in and through me, enabling me to take those next steps, big or small, toward that More Beautiful World.

A FORTRESS IS A DANGEROUS PLACE TO LIVE

(1) We hosted a Crime Prevention Seminar in our home last night.  (2) This week I’ve been reading Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block.  (3) I’ve been in an email conversation with my sister-in-law concerning sport hunting and having compassion for the “other”.
Three events seemingly without a causal relationship, but tied together with meaning.  They seem to fit Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity:  Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner.  So, how are these three events related by meaning?

Crime Prevention

I had some misgivings about hosting the Crime Prevention Seminar, knowing little about how it would be presented and the motives behind the presentation.  I did not want to host an organizing effort to start a Neighborhood Watch.  I was involved in a grassroots attempt to make our neighborhood in Kansas City, KS a safer place to live that was essentially hijacked by the Police, turning neighbors into spies and allies of the government in its “war against drugs”.  When a group of us were invited to view a video that the local police had made showing a “sting operation” at a drug house in which the most hopeless and marginalized citizens of our community were terrorized, humiliated, and used as objects in a cruel game of sport for the amusement of the police officers… I was disgusted and heartsick.  Clearly missing was any compassion for the elderly, infirm, impoverished and depressed people who showed up at the house in order to purchase a respite from their suffering.  Such people are generally hidden from our view.  All we see are their caricatures drawn by those who profit from processing their souls in a dysfunctional and pathological “justice” system. They are the ones that brought condemnation down on Jesus because he identified with them by eating with them
As it turned out, the presentation wasn’t a solicitation for a Neighborhood Watch, but an attempt to sell products disguised by practical security tips offered as a public service.  We were told that with the products a fortress would be created around us.  It was assumed that everyone would want to live in a fortress. 
The existing community context is one that markets fear, assigns fault, and worships self-interest. – Peter Block

Restorative Community

Yesterday morning I was reading near the end of Peter Block’s book and came across this passage:
There is in every neighborhood structures for citizens to volunteer: Citizens on Patrol, Neighborhood Watch, safety meetings, educational pamphlets hung on people’s front doors by the police.  These go under the   title of crime prevention.  They are a useful warning system and help us watch out for criminals, loitering, strangers hanging out in the neighborhood, but they still function within the retributive mindset.
[What is the “retributive mindset”?  It’s a mindset based on fear and the need to control others by punishing them.]
Fear justifies the retributive agenda, fundamentalist in the extreme that has been on the rise for some time.  The retributive agenda believes that a just and civil society is one that gives priority to restraints, consequences, and control, and underlines the importance of rules.  It gets packaged as spiritual values, family values, the American way, love it or leave it, all under the umbrella of law and order.  It helps build the incarceration industry and the protection industry, it creates a platform so that those in power can expand their power, and it discounts the rehabilitation industry…. Fear also fuels the allure of suburban life and is a subtle but clear argument against diversity and inclusion.
Peter contrasts the retributive culture (which is the status quo) with a restorative community (which is a possibility for the future) and says that change from the present problems to a hopeful future comes through a shift in our conversation – a shift from conversations focused on fear and problems to conversations focused on hope and possibility.
We move toward a restorative community when we realize that safety occurs through neighborhood relatedness.

Compassion

My sister-in-law emailed a picture of my younger brother (not her husband) kneeling in front of a bobcat holding its head in his hand as it lay on the ground.  At first I thought, “Cool!  Didn’t know they could be tamed.”  And then I realized that it had been shot.  My brother posed as though he was proud of the kill.  I was disturbed.  I wrote back:
Of course I realize that it is often necessary to kill animals.  Animals kill animals, as you pointed out.  There are some Deep Ecologists who claim a radical relativism when it comes to life – all life is equal in value.  I’m not one of those.  However, I do believe that ALL life has SOME value.  An animal killed for meat has both extrinsic value (it has value as food) and intrinsic value (it has value for itself).  In the same way, we have extrinsic value for others and intrinsic value for ourselves.  It would be a terrible world if we only valued one another for our usefulness.   
Another thing to consider, I think, is that everything is connected.  If an animal suffers, its suffering affects the well-being of everything (to some degree). Many Native Americans held a form of that belief.  They recognized the necessity to kill – but they also believed that when they killed a buffalo, for instance, they were killing a relative – something they were related to in a familial way. So, they were thankful to their brother buffalo for its sacrifice and they mourned its death. 
When I saw the picture of the bobcat, I felt compassion for the animal – and, I felt compassion for [my brother] if he was able to kill without compassion.  I don’t believe we can kill without it affecting us – without taking something away from us.  Doesn’t it affect our ability to love and to feel love?  If this is true, isn’t every killing a loss which should be mourned to some degree?  
I don’t mean to condemn the act, so please don’t interpret it that way, but I can’t help but feel a sorrow – for the bobcat and for [my brother].
She wrote back and mentioned that her dog kills bugs.  I replied:
I think the bug that Buffy kills has intrinsic value.  It demonstrates it with various defensive strategies – it tries to survive.  For Buffy, the bug has extrinsic value – for play, perhaps.  Buffy doesn’t have the capacity to appreciate the bug’s intrinsic value.
It seems that some animals have a capacity to mourn. I doubt if an ant feels sorrow when another ant gets stepped on… but it does seem that elephants become depressed when another elephant in the “family” dies.  Dolphins won’t leave an injured dolphin behind.  I think dogs can mourn.  I guess what I’m saying is that the capacity to feel compassion, although shown by many animals, is found in greatest degree in humans.  The less we are able to feel compassion, as a species, the greater damage we can do to our environment and to one another.  A soldier is trained to ignore his/her feelings of compassion – usually by objectifying the enemy (thus ignoring the fact that the enemy has intrinsic value- hopes, desires, love of family, etc.).
I also believe that the more we experience love, the more we are able to experience compassion.  An abused child is wounded in its psyche as well as its body.  Violent people are wounded people.  Killing for sport can’t happen without a reduced capacity to “feel” the pain in the other.
In her next email, she agreed that hunting for sport required a reduced degree of compassion.  However, she felt that the capacity for compassion was on a scale and that both extremes of the scale were dangerous.  A psychopath would be on one end and at the other; a person with too much compassion wouldn’t be able to survive.  I wrote back:
It’s hard for me to imagine that there can be such a thing as having too much compassion.  I also doubt if we would ever discover what having too much compassion would be like.  I think we always suffer from the scarcity of compassion, not an overabundance.
I agree that there can be danger in having compassion.  Compassion involves having openness to the ‘other’ – an inclusion of the ‘other’ into our ‘self’.
“Care flows naturally if the ‘self’ is widened and deepened so that protection of free Nature is felt and conceived as protection of ourselves … Just as we need no morals to make us breathe … [so] if your ‘self’ in the wide sense embraces another being, you need no moral exhortation to show care … You care for yourself without feeling any moral pressure to do it … If reality is like it is experienced by the ecological self, our behavior naturally and beautifully follows norms of strict environmental ethics.” – Arne Naess
When we experience compassion, we become aware of the internal relationships that already exist.  A lack of compassion is simply an ignorance of those relationships – an ignorance of our connectedness to and interdependence with the ‘other’. The danger comes not from being compassionate, but from the lack of it in others.  History shows us just how dangerous a person who closes off their ‘self’ from others can be, i.e., Hitler.  The biblical story of Jesus, whether historical or not, reveals the potential risk of loving others.  However, there’s kind of a paradox here.  It would seem that if we are really interested in survival, and if we recognize that all relationships involve some degree of risk, we should build very thick walls around ourselves, and not involve ourselves in the lives of others.  However, the most dangerous neighborhoods are where people have taken that tactic, whereas the safest neighborhoods are those where neighbors really know one another and are compassionate toward one another.  Go figure.
I don’t think I’ve said that hunting and being compassionate aren’t mixable.  In fact, I mentioned the Native American’s belief that hunting was a necessary part of (their) life, but they still recognized their connection to and had compassion for the animal that they killed.  Living necessarily involves eating other life forms.  I might even go so far as to say that the ‘meaning of life’ has to do with living sacrificially (offering our life as food) for others.  Every time we take a breath we consume life.  When we exhale, we contribute something to the environment which nourishes it. 
Because the ‘self’ is constructed out of its relations, the most dangerous thing we can do is to attempt to seal our ‘self’ in a fortress isolated from others.

There is a new worldwide movement developing

Community Capacities and Community Necessities
John McKnight Co-Director, Asset Based Community Development Institute
Northwestern University’
Opening remarks, July 8, 2009, at the “From Clients to Citizens Forum”, 
Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, 
Nova Scotia.


There is a new worldwide movement developing, made up of people with a
different vision for their local communities.  They know that movements are not
organizations, institutions or systems.  Movements have no CEO, central office,
or plan.  Instead, they happen when thousands of people discover together new
possibilities for their lives.  They have a calling.  They are called.  And together
they call upon themselves.
 
In many nations, local people have been  called to come together to pursue a
common calling.  It would be a mistake to label that calling “ABCD” or
“Community Building”.  Those are just names.  They are inadequate words for
groups of local people who have the courage to discover their own way  –  to
create a culture made by their own vision.  It is a handmade, homemade vision.
And, wherever we look, it is a culture that starts the same way:

First, we see what we have  – individually, as neighbours and in this place of
ours. Second, we know that the power of what we have grows from creating new
connections and relationships among and between what we have. Third, we
know that these connections happen when we, individually or collectively, act to
make the connections – they don’t just happen by themselves.
We also know that these three steps leading to our way can often be blocked by
great corporate, governmental, professional and academic institutions.  They
often say to us, “You are inadequate, incompetent, problematic, or broken.  We 2
will fix you.” It is our calling to ignore these voices that create dependency, for we
are called to find our way – not follow their way.
We are striving to live in a democracy.  A democracy is a politics that gives us
the freedom to create our vision and the power to make that vision come true.
We strive to be citizens: people with the vision and the power to create our own
way, a culture of community capacity, connection and care.
Unfortunately, many leaders and even some neighbours think that the idea of a
strong local community is sort of “nice,” a good thing if you have the spare time,
but not really important, vital or necessary.  However, we know strong
communities are vital and productive.  But, above all they are necessary because
of the inherent limits of all institutions.
No matter how hard they try, our very best institutions cannot do many things that
only we can do.  And what only we can do is vital to a decent, good, democratic
life.
People in the new movement know what only we have the power to do as local
neighbours and citizens. First, our neighbourhoods are the primary source of our
health.  How long we live and how often we are sick is determined by our
personal behaviour, our social relationships, our physical environment and our
income.  As neighbours, we are the people who can change these things.
Medical systems and doctors cannot.  This is why scientists agree that medical
care counts for less than 10% of what will allow us to be healthy.  Indeed, most
informed medical leaders advocate for community health initiatives because they
recognize their systems have reached the limits of their health-giving power.

Second, whether we are safe and secure in our neighbourhood is largely within
our domain.  Many studies show that there are two major determinants of our
local safety.  One is how many neighbours we know by name.  The second is 3
how often we are present and associate in the public outside our houses.  Police
activity is a minor protection compared to these two community actions.  This is
why most informed police leaders advocate for block watch and community
policing.  They know their limits and call to our movement.

Third, the future of our earth  – the environment  – is a major local responsibility.
The “energy problem” is our local domain because how we transport ourselves,
how we heat and light our homes and how much waste we create is a major
factor in saving our earth.  That is why our movement is a major force in calling
us and our neighbours to be citizens of the earth and not just consumers of the
natural wealth.

Fourth, in our villages and neighbourhoods, we have the power to build a resilient
economy  – less dependant on the mega-systems of finance and production that
have proven to be so unreliable.  Most enterprises begin locally  – in garages,
basements and dining rooms.  As neighbours, we have the local power to nurture
and support these businesses so that they have a viable market.  And we have
the local power to capture our own savings so that we are not captives of our
notorious  large financial institutions.  We also are the most reliable sources of
jobs. For in many nations, word-of-mouth among neighbours is still the most
important access to employment.  The future of our economic security is now
clearly a responsibility, possibility and necessity for local people.

Fifth, we are coming to see that a part of our domain is the production of the food
we eat.  So we are allied with the local food movement, supporting local
producers and markets.  In this way, we will be doing our part to solve the energy
problem caused by transportation of food from continents away.  We will be
doing our part to solve our economic problems by circulating our dollars locally.
And we will be improving our health by eating food free of poisons and
petroleum.

Sixth, we are local people who must raise our children.  We all say that it takes a
village to raise a child.  And yet, in modernized societies, this is rarely true.
Instead, we pay systems to raise our children  – teachers, counsellors, coaches,
youth workers, nutritionists, doctors, McDonalds and MTV.  We are often
reduced as families to being responsible for paying others to raise our children
and transporting them to their paid child-raisers.  Our villages have often become
useless; our neighbours responsible for neither their children nor ours.  As a
result, everywhere we talk about the local “youth problem”.  There is no “youth
problem.”  There is a village problem of adults who have forgone their
responsibility and capacity to join their neighbours in raising the young.  There is
a remarkable recovery movement that joins neighbours in sharing the wealth of
children.  It is our greatest challenge and our most hopeful possibility.

Seventh, locally we are the site of care.  Our institutions can only offer service –
not care.  We cannot purchase care.  Care is the freely given commitment from
the heart of one to another.  As neighbours, we care for each other.  We care for
our children.  We care for our elders.  And it is this care that is the basic power of
a community of citizens.  Care cannot be provided, managed or purchased from
systems.  Our way is made possible by the power to care.  Democracy is the way
we care for our freedom and responsibility.  So it is the new connections and
relationships we create locally that build community because in joining each
other together, we manifest our care for the children, neighbours and the earth.
Health, safety, economy, environment, food, children and care are the seven
responsibilities of our movement.  They are the necessities that only we can
fulfill.  And when we fail, no institution or government can succeed because we
are the veritable foundation of the society.

Fortunately, at the heart of our movement are 3 universal and abundant powers.
The three basics of our calling are:

 The giving of gifts: the gifts of the people in our neighbourhood are
boundless.  Our movement calls forth those gifts.
 The power of association: In association, we join our gifts together and
they become amplified, magnified, productive and celebrated.
 Hospitality: We welcome strangers because we value their gifts and need
to share our own.  Our doors are open.  There are no strangers here.  Just
friends we haven’t met.

Ours is the movement of abundance.  There is no limit to our gifts, our
associations, and our hospitality.
We have a calling.  We are the people who know what we need.  What we need
surrounds us.  What we need is each other.  And when, we act together, we will
find Our Way.  The citizen’s way.  The community way.  The democratic way.
We are called to nothing less.  And it is not so wild a dream.

“This is just the way the world is!”

What is it that keeps us from choosing not to obey those who wish to dominate and control us?  What is it that has kept the citizens of Egypt in slavery to the whims of their rulers for the last 30 years?  And, why have they chosen THIS time to say, “ENOUGH!”, and lay their heads under the tracks of military tanks sold to despots by American bosses – all seeking profit through the subjugation of others?

Fear keeps us under the control of others.  Encouragement allows us to break free – just as the citizens of Tunisia encouraged the citizens of Egypt to have the courage to risk their lives for the sake of freedom.  To en-courage is to put courage into someone.  We can encourage one another by being an example and/or pointing to those who serve as examples, refusing to be ruled by others.

Recently I was offered a choice – obey or suffer the consequences.  Here is what I wrote as an answer to the choice I was given:

Power as domination operates in hierarchical organizational structures.  “Hierarchy” is an ancient Greek term which meant “sacred rule”.  Today, it is generally defined in organizational theory as “any system in which distributions of power, privilege and authority are both systematic and unequal”.  In this definition, power is taken to mean domination, and authority is the acceptance of domination as a legitimate arrangement.  The legitimacy of this mode of power ultimately comes from a dogmatic understanding of reality – that an omnipotent (all-powerful) god rules over the universe.  [http://neighborsgathering.net/2010/03/the-worship-of-power/] Logically, the ethical theory derived from this dogma is “might makes right”.  This dogma is so much a part of our history and culture, that it has been accepted without question.  It is, for the majority of our world’s population, THE paradigm of reality – in spite, I believe, of overwhelming evidence that it is irrational.  I began questioning this dogma over 20 years ago and my questioning has led me to a place where I can no longer accept “power as domination” as a legitimate “authority”.  


I would like to offer you a choice, just as you offered one to me:  Partner with me to change the world, or continue without me in a system that, if not the root cause, at least contributes to the global crises.  Walter Wink, in his book, The Powers That Be, labels this The Domination System.  Letty M. Russell (one of the first women to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church) labels it as The Household of Caesar.  Affirming that we cannot function without structures of authority, she makes it clear that we have a choice to “seek out those structures that contribute to communal well being and justice.”  But we always have a choice. She writes, “…the way I or anyone else exercises authority and power determines whether it is authority as domination or as partnership.”  It seems that you wish to deny the choice.   I heard you tell me (I think it was your third statement), “That’s just the way the world is!”  I heard you explain to me that the way you have chosen to relate to me is based on your role, your position in the hierarchy, implying that you have no choice.

It does not make sense to me, that in my calling and desire to co-create “Households of Freedom”, that I would choose to be in a position of slavery – held there by the fear of losing a monthly stipend.  Slaves are offered a choice – submit to a domination system or suffer the consequences of refusal.  I believe the term “slavery” can be substituted for any of the second terms in the language of our culture’s common dualisms relating to these kind of power relationships:  Employer/Employee, Boss/Worker, Supervisor/Laborer and others.  A slave exists where ever power is exercised over another.  These power relationships produce fear, violence, poverty, lack of energy and motivation (“laziness”), guilt, shame, depression, sense of worthlessness, etc..  Slaves become free when they refuse to submit to the demonic “Powers That Be”.  I take very seriously and literally the words found in Galatians 5:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (v.1)You, my brothers [and sisters] were called to be free…. (v.13) 


I am and have been more than willing to contribute to your mission – because of the correlation with what I believe I am called to do.  However, I will be my own master while serving, and contribute, if allowed, voluntarily, rather than work under a threat and constant criticism rather than encouragement.  My motivation will come from a desire to serve for the sake of the common good rather than fear.

I wrote in the Intro page on my NG website:

It’s increasingly becoming clear that our social, economic, political and ecological systems are in trouble—civilization may be heading for a global collapse.  Chaos theory tells us that when stable systems become unstable they can reach a tipping point where the complex factors which produced the instability overwhelm the systems, leading to either a breakdown of order or a breakthrough to a new and different kind of order.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that we have reached that tipping point – perhaps we are past it – and all it requires is for us to open our eyes to see the overwhelming evidence that this is so.  I wrote in my log this morning after my time of meditation, “If the world is to be healed, it will require creativity.”  The present system, using power in the mode of domination and control, stifles creativity (instilling fatalism) while causing “laziness”.  I think it would be a tragic loss for the world if we allow this system to destroy the potential of our continued relationship.

The World is a Neighborhood

This truth (that the world is a neighborhood) as expressed by Martin Luther King Jr.:

“We have inherited a large house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu – a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn to live with each other in peace.” 

– Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here:  Chaos or Community? (Beacon Press, 1981), p. 11.