"If you're strong enough, there are no precedents." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Before I started this blog on February 6, 2004, I had thought about creating a blog for two solid years, ever since the O'Reilly P2P Conference. Personally, I knew a lot of technology bloggers--people far busier than I was that told me their secret is that they wanted to write what they wrote, share, and exchange it with others.
"When do you find time?" was my question. "You just do," they said, even folks that already did plenty of writing on deadline as journalists. I saw through my resistance and that "time" was my excuse to balk. In a nutshell, they were inspired, not motivated to blog.
I started a "technology and culture"-themed blog sometime in the early 2003. It didn't last very long. A combination of fear that people actually were reading it, and that I was spending my spring evenings after work in Milan typing behind a computer screen rather than enjoying the tangible interactive life on the cobbled streets with gianduia gelato strolling the square around the Duomo. (Or I might have been in Rome--either way I was consulting in Italy when I quit blogging the first time.)
I wanted to talk about Taking The Red Pill (a February 24, 2004 post), and other philosophical, existential, spiritual questions. My fear was that I'd be ostracized from the tribe.
Yes, this eventually happens(ed):"Spirituality?" my friend looks peaked. "I like what you write. But spiritual? That makes me think of...of Marin." (We're in Silicon Valley.)
Since a commenter asked a question on moais, I decided to go back to the original National Geographic story on longetivity where I first heard about the moai concept. The print article's not online, the video version of "The Secrets of Long Life" is (then, click on "Reason to Wake Up"). Okinawa, an island in Japan, is "home of the longest lived people on earth. The video zooms in on numerous people into their 100s leading healthy and active lifestyles--stretching, biking and offshore diving and fishing.
Moai, the National Geographic video continues: "the rough translation is that it's a group of friends who go through life together and help each other. And the energy and vitality they would get from that I think factored into the longevity equation as well."
The moai concept held a magical allure for a few years. Yet I've never witnessed it "in the field." And something seemed off.
An insight last evening helped coalesce why not. It was one of those evenings where everything swirled together into a collage (I was multitasking online, but then again I tend to bounce and surf and skim online so it's simpler multi-tasking than in real-life) that felt like puzzle pieces all falling into place.
One minute I'm watching, then rewinding the National Geographic video on Okinawan life and moai's, then next I'm downloading from a blog a free chapter of an e-book that just happens to be on The Alchemy of Relationship. I'm also bouncing back and forth reading a longer PDF (source forthcoming), and everything built upon each other in a smooth way.
First, in The Alchemy of Relationship (I've excerpted tiny part) Almine outlined the stages of relationship (and for my purposes here I'm thinking larger than groups of two or three) from dependence (describes my childhood and my family of origin) to co-dependence (quite a lot of cliques like this) to independence (common in USA--i.e. do you know your neighbor's name?) to interdependence: "These stages lead from uniformity to unity within diversity."
The aha! was seeing that my the tech blogger community was a tribe/clique/echo chamber in stage 2, and many groups I've been part of in last couple of years are Stage 2 too (Portlandia "Dream of the 90s" kind of sums it up hilariously: "You're a little San Francisco right now."--thoroughly tribal).
Moai's as genuinely supportive as they seem are also a form of co-dependence. There's only so much you can veer from the "box" before you'd be outcast.
I saw I was veering backward to co-dependence (not necessarily in the Melody Beattie sense of that word), when I wanted to share and create with other people, rather than moving foward to interdependence from my stalwart independence. In the end, tribes have strict boundaries that tend to exclude, whereas interdependence is inclusive, whole, diverse, celebratory, and--the icing on the cake--exploratory: "Diversity produces more chances of exploring the unknown."
"In the stage of unity within diversity [interdependence] the chances are maximized for individual growth to contribute to the growth of the group within a stable environment." - Almine
That was what I was trying for--interdependence--something rarely seen--being allowed individuality within a whole WHILE having the "stability" and "support" of a tribe. This interdependence I found best described in Scott Peck's The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, where a group moves from psuedocommunity to community. The crucial shift (if it happens, some don't make the transition) in the stories Peck shared of actual groups involved a willingness to accept other people as they are without fixing, converting, or "offering advice" (usually forms of fixing and converting). In all honesty, I've seen this with the miracle partnerships, and also in some longer-term (versus one-evening) writing workshops--but that's about it.
Anyhow, I was bouncing between a few different materials, and copied the below into a newsletter I'm working on.
"And if you're operating as yourself, you can always take advantage of the program. And you know how to find the right allies. You follow your [inner] Strategy and Authority. That’s how you get the right allies in your life." - source forthcoming in a future post
Simultaneously, I hear, "All we had was each other, and we made it," streaming from my Mom's TV in the other room. Billy Crystal's voice in some movie in background as I cut and pasted the above about "right allies." That instant, I wondered then about the "center for possibility" (a nickname as the name hasn't formulated itself yet).
The "center at the edge" or whatever has been the back-burner the past month as I wasn't sure it was actually a project that the Universe was insisting I do. (I am not interested in pushing against life and the world. I work from inspiration, not external motivation.)
I shared recently that I use writing for exchange, and feedback on the fertile verge, and to keep pushing edge of ourselves. By "exchange," I don't interpret this in terms of letters, or email or Tweets. It's much deeper, more encompassing.
So, next, I decide to use the I Ching (my result) to confirm whether the "center" project should be pursued or dropped. At this point I was finally unattached to the outcome, just simply wanting what's best for all. I drew Hexagram 58, with no changing lines.
The online I Ching I use (above) interprets 58's symbol as Joy.
Joy's nothing to sneeze at.
"When it comes back to teach you
or you come back to learn
how half alive you've been,
how your ignorance and arrogance
have kept you deprived --
when it comes back to you
or you yourself return,
joy is simple, unassuming.
Red tulips on their green stems.
Early spring vegetables, bright in the pan.
The primary colours of a child's painting,
the first lessons, all over again." - Thomas Centolella
Ah! Now we're are getting somewhere...
The actual Chinese letter (from what Lise shares) appears to represent "interdependent lakes", such as "Rice paddies or Wadi's, the perfect place for meeting each other and exchanging." I think that's also an apt symbol for a community--each of us are our own lake and reservoir of well-being and sovereign unto others, yet completely interlocking as well with every body of water as one body.
"A cat is dangling by the screen door daydreaming of darting outdoors. Wood floors are soothed by warm rugs and vibrant colorful plush pillows piled by people. A circle of folks that one would rarely see gathered together is gathered around lounging on the floor, or sitting languidly on a deep couch.
There is laughter and unbounded hunches colliding and mingling. Someone says that they once read that art is ideas brought into form. The circle is itself enclosed in a complete circle of glass and screened doors on a ridge overlooking the gentle bosom of undulating hills.It hardly matters that it's the crack of dawn, and Joey the rooster heralds another day as slats of light softly fleck the night sky and tinge the mountain silhouette. Heralding the fresh golden age, day by day."
Thanks to everyone who's been along for any step of this seven year journey. This blog, remarkedly, has outlasted any other group endeavor I've undertaken--be it a job, business start-up, dwelling arrangement, or marriage!
This is just me expressing like a seven year old my birthday wish. And blowing the candles with you.
HOW TO FUND Interdependence Projects like ye olde center at the edge of possibility: The old adage: "The answer to how is yes." I don't know how this will unfold yet. Walking into the unknown one step at a time...
Here are two models that might click, and that might be useful to your or other community projects as well.
A few years ago, I was hanging out with a friend in Pacifica, and because I'm always the one with plenty of time (I think it's just that I stress less), he sent me to Starbucks to get some coffee while he wrapped up some business e-mails from his home office. While there, I noticed an article facing up on a table that caught the corner of my eye on my way out of door. This is only significant in that I don't read newspapers unless I spot them in passing, and I didn't read the San Francisco Chronicle (I lived actually 50-60 miles south of SF.)
I've kept the original newspaper through many moves, and here it is online: "A Means to a Home." It outlines a cooperative financing model for buying homes that don't involve a traditional bank: "A key distinction with Ameen's form of finance is that, unlike a traditional mortgage company, the cooperative shares risk with the homeowner. If a home's value increases, they both profit. But if the home loses value, they both take a loss."
I also like Elizabeth Gilbert's organic banking concept: "Take my money out of the bank and fold it, instead, into my community."
"In the past few years, a couple of locals have surfaced with bright ideas to help revive our economy—for instance, by opening a bakery, like my friend Patricia. Or a coffee shop, a Pilates studio, or a pair of funky gift shops, like my friends Maria, Sarah, Kate, and Meg. These entrepreneurial women were talented and passionate. The only thing they didn't have was capital..." - "The Power of Organic Banking", Oprah Magazine
So Gilbert stepped up, and offered them all loans herself.
BONUS: This was in my inbox today via Brain Pickings. Hmmm,....Center for Possibility... Museum of Possiblity... and love this: "...inviting visitors to share their dreams and visions for the future of the space."
"We love public space, that priceless petri dish of human interaction. It’s the lifeblood of any city, and the reason we left LA for New York. Unfortunately, much of it remains un- or underutilized, with cities failing to engage people in interacting with and in public space.
To prevent this disconnect when inaugurating its Quartier des Spectacles, the city of Montréal came up with an exceptionally inspired solution: The Museum of Possibilities — a wonderful daylong pop-up installation inviting visitors to share their dreams and visions for the future of the space by jotting down their ideas on pieces of paper and attaching them to colorful balloons."
BONUS 2: Peer exchange rocks. Check out the diagram in Beth Kantor's announcement of a peer exchange Salon for nonprofits learning social media. (Great way to exchange!) The diagram shows--for those not clicking through--Retention Rate of Lecture (5%), Reading (10%), Audio-Visual (20%), Demonstration (30%), Discussion Group (50%), Practice by Doing (75%), Teach Others (90%)
ART CREDITS: Outstanding in the Field (pop-up outdoor restaurant gatherings held at farms by artist Jim Denevan) photo via Seattle Met; stiill captured from video by National Geographic's David McLain of an Okinawan moai; Amish girls Flickr photo by Las-Initially; Jim Denevan's artwork--when it's not a group outing; Hexagram 58 rice paddy via my favorite I Ching site; 1934 photo of three kids and a cake by Conde Nast via Foxtongue on Flickr