I’ll say it directly: this healing, courage and imagination can emerge from our relational work.
If we do it well, we can live in dignity and die well.
Here is what I see as possible, in multiplying local arenas:
Through our one-to-one process, as our fields of energy and imagination deepen and expand, we can begin to transform our separation, not just from other humans, but also from the rest of life, throughout nature. As experiencing I-Thou takes on more depth and meaning, we can come to see more clearly the scale of suffering—caused by our species’ social, financial and technological inventions— in Earth’s systems, hence the suffering ahead for our own families, communities and species.
We can no longer delude ourselves, by continuing to insist, in denial, that 500 years of poisoning and exterminating Earth’s life-forms and systems will have no consequences: that blow-back is already here. We are inside the crisis already. And no magic of digital or money-creating technology is going to let us off the hook.
How many of the issues we’re working on now in fact seem “safe” because we are not connecting them with our larger planetary emergency? Are we perhaps telling ourselves, “I know our house is burning down, and our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids are stuck inside, but let’s go scrub the bathroom.”?
There are times when this reality feels overwhelming. I write not to overwhelm you but to alert you and make some suggestions. Yes, we will come to places where we confront the depth of our civilization’s confusion and brokenness, and to the place where there is no hope, the place where we “hit bottom” and can do nothing but moan.
But because we will have done our relational work, and have been partially healed in the process, we can have local communities where people know each other, even love each other, people who are well-acquainted with suffering, mystery and healing energy, who are therefore no long afraid to confess to each other our Earth-ruining addictions—and so may find ourselves lifted from our moaning bottom by our local community, embodying the source and expression of Earth’s life, in radical relationality, what we might call I-Thou at a larger scale.
As that “outrageous” hope emerges among us in our local communities, we can adapt our life-styles together, cut our energy use together, and develop new local enterprises that do not war with nature but support it, enterprises that help us stay resilient, even survive: doing our relational work, amplifying our understanding and action, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I’ll say it directly: this healing, courage and imagination can emerge from our relational work. If we do it well, we can live in dignity and die well.
But effective organizers and leaders are also deeply aware of destruction, especially unnecessary destruction, and the despair it generates. I cannot testify to my experience with relational work, and the immense opportunity it opens for us, without including the great threat, the NO, the dominant culture’s I-It quality, and its sources.
However, due to space limits, in this paper I want to focus on the YES sides of the YES/NO/YES name for our situation—the First YES of Creation and the second YES of our Great Work, the opportunity and the I-Thou dimensions which are available to us when we put on those other glasses.
Here, I’ll simply mention core elements of the Threat. They rise from the system-story of our political economy, in the deep relationships among:
—our money system;
—our energy system;
—parts of our Enlightenment world-view;
—the culture and politics manufactured and captured by financial
capitalism’s Sales Effort.
Our elites in charge of these system- drivers create an insistent, endless demand for unlimited growth, which in turn creates massive imbalances in both nature and society. Among humans, those imbalances turn into wide-spread addictions, especially in the rich nations and among refugees and “climbers” in emerging economies. We are ensnarled in massive layers of denial and unacknowledged grief about these addictions and their sources.
In our new century, this Threat drives the growing phalanx of pressures on our families, local communities, and their social and natural habitats. It is the ground and source of most of those pressures.
Our crisis, unprecedented in human civilization, emerges from across-the-board collisions of our political economy with Earth, its living organisms— including us— and their systems.
How do we see high-quality organizing in the face of this Threat, the NO, the dominant I-It?
Understanding the core of the NO system in our political economy—how its core drivers actually work— is part and parcel of understanding both the YES of Creation and the YES of our Great Work: our ground and opportunity for organizing. I’m claiming that this understanding—this lens— can emerge through a maturing practice of relational meetings and a new set of leadership workshops.
Let’s now return to my main theme here, for the third phase of how one-to-ones might develop in our time.
Download the annotated print version of this piece HERE.