Celebrating the Power of Conversation to Change the World.
“Have you ever wondered what would happen if the people of the world talked to each other about the most important questions of our times – and the world listened?”
OrangeBand, Conversation Café and dropping knowledge (with help from Skype) are hosting a global Conversation Week at the end of March, celebrating the power of conversation to change the world and the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Conversation Cafes. ‘Serendipitously’, following on my last post, this larger social event is coinciding with the date of our next local Saturday Soup Salon, so in an informal way, we’ll be part of this initiative.
The provocative proposition of Conversation Week: “What if dialogue and deliberation had an Earth Day equivalent, a time to raise awareness and knowledge of the people, organizations, and models we have to promote meaningful conversation?” And what if, instead of one day, we had a whole week – a Conversation Week, March 25-31, 2007, on which to consider some important questions such as the following listed on the website:
- What is the most important question in the world now?
- What can we do now to make life better here?
- What matters most?
- What steps can we easily take now to solve our problems? What more challenging steps we could take that might solve even bigger problems?
- How much is enough? For you? For others?
- What one thing could I do this day that would do the most to help address the world’s problems?
- What question, if answered, do you believe could make the most difference to you, those you love, and the world at large?
- What would a just world be like? What are we doing – or not doing – to have an such a world?
- What do you do when self-interest and the common good seem in conflict?
- What do we owe the future?
- What is freedom for?
- What is the good life?
- What can make life better now and in the future?
- What is the highest leverage action we can take to respond to the challenges of these times?
- What is the economy for?
- To whom or what does my life belong?
- What is our responsibility to each other whether friend or foe?”
- And many more…. see the website or add your own.
Since turning 50 last February, I have consciously entered an introspective cycle, listening within to sense – “where does my life energy most feel drawn to flow next?”, and “how can I follow what is calling me forward into the second half of life with ease and grace – in fact, without burnout, through high leverage actions?” Then, a few months ago I attended a public evening with Margaret Wheatley in Vancouver, and was reminded of the importance of simple conversation. “I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation where we each have a chance to speak, where we each feel heard, and where we each listen well to our experiences, hopes and fears. This is how great changes begin.” – Meg Wheatley, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future.
Meg’s presentation helped me realize that authentic conversation is a powerful leverage point for social change. And this sparked in me the idea of hosting Saturday Soup Salons, to engage (for now) in conversation with thoughtful and reflective women around what is drawing us in our lives. Last Saturday, January 20th, eight of us gathered and shared deeply around one of Meg’s questions, “What is your faith in the future?” Without divulging the content of our rich exchanges, I’d like to share some of the quotes and books that helped to seed our conversations.
- At the start, I read an excerpt from Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential by Barbara Marx Hubbard: “Social innovations are springing up everywhere. Thousands of acts of caring, sharing, healing and new solutions are emerging….However, will the convergence of positive innovations happen before the convergence of destructive tendencies? Will the planetary system repattern to a higher orcder, or will it fall apart into chaos, into environmental collapse that has also been predicted? This is the question. There is no guarantee that a dissipative structure will repattern to a higher order. It is merely a tendency, just as it is the tendency of each baby to survive, although many do not. It is precisely at this point that we need a new social innovation to facilitate the increased interaction among positive innovations – a new ground of the whole to facilitate this convergence – conscious evolution.”
- And I shared a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estés, from “Letter To A Young Activist During Troubled Times” “Do not lose heart, we were made for these times…”
- Several inspiring books and resources were mentioned (including two written by members of our Salon). These are listed in the sidebar under ‘Books’.
- I closed the Salon with a reading of this poem, by Christopher Fry – A Sleep of Prisoners:
The human heart can go to the lengths of God
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us ’til we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake?
Out of despair and extreme tragedy, new patterns of engagement are providing citizens with meaningful opportunities to be involved in the most important public decisions that impact their lives (see New Orleans and World Trade Center events below). What if this level of citizen engagement became the norm? What could we accomplish say, on the issue of climate change, by creating a collective agenda to bring together not just politicians, but also the various experts, side by side with citizens in all the regions of the planet, to learn together and coalesce the global will to act?
- “Displaced New Orleans residents gather to discuss how they’d like their city to recover, in an Internet-linked gathering that allowed for a conversation among some 2000+ of the city’s current and former residents who are now in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and New Orleans. The participants focused on neighborhood stability; education; affordable homes and rent; roads; transit; utilities; health services; and other vital public services following a methodology designed by AmericaSpeaks.” NPR http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6944978.
- Listening to the City – In 2002, AmericaSpeaks was honored with the responsibility of providing thousands of New Yorkers with a meaningful voice in the process of rebuilding the World Trade Center site. “I would be tempted to call it a turning point in the story not only of the World Trade Center, but of American planning in general. … Thousands and thousands of people talking seriously about urban design is something I never thought I would see.”New Yorker Magazine architecture critic, Paul Goldberger.