12.19.16 | Global Dialogue Project

Let's just say the group worked its way through denial, anger, and bargaining as we discussed David Loy’s “Bodhisattva Path in the Trump Era” at today's Member Monday (12/12) session. The depression stage was a draw and acceptance drew a salute with the middle finger. There was the whiff of existential dread.    

But consider the words of St. Thomas Merton speaking of an evolution that survived, thrived, and ultimately blossomed through a different sort of existential dread:  

“How did it ever happen that, when the dregs of the world had collected in western Europe, when Goth and Frank and Norman and Lombard had mingled with the rot of old Rome to form a patchwork of hybrid races, all of them notable for ferocity, hatred, stupidity, craftiness, lust, and brutality — how did it happen that, from all of this, there should come Gregorian chant, monasteries and cathedrals, the poems of Prudentius . . . . St. Augustine’s City of God . . ?”

While we are not (yet) old Rome and the enemies are of a different sort and the nature of the threats appear more intractable and immediate, the words transcend the then-and-now and speak to a common theme: a fundamental change of consciousness.

Consider the upcoming Member Monday (12/19) discussion as part thought experiment and part invitation. The thought experiment starts with the Zizek quote in the Loy piece (attached again, below), “The real calamity is the status quo.” Measured in terms of such things as exploding population growth, climate change, wealth disparity, or foreign entanglements, the current outlook would seem rather bleak. We have been on autopilot with a downward trajectory.

Now inject a wild card into the political deck. The nature of the game changes. We wake up to new possibilities. A rethinking about the role of government is among them. Perhaps the election results laid bare a conflicted, sclerotic tops-down government is ill-equipped to effect any fundamental change in consciousness.  Maybe important matters must be entrusted to something far more powerful than any government i.e. Victor Hugo’s notion of an idea whose time has come.

And therein lies the invitation. Our next Member Monday (12/19) discussion, the last session of the year, will be somewhat different in design, scope, and ambition i.e. it's the unveiling of the Global Dialogue Project (GDP). The idea behind the project — the establishment and nurture of a virtual and physical network housed at Highlands — has been percolating for some time. The difference now is the pieces are coalescing.

Members Roger Briggs and Edgar Papke, along with some other expert facilitators, will drive the project and stay true to the model of change centered around curiosity, inquiry, ideas, and then action leading to change. The operative word is action. This will not be some formless exercise. 

Looping back now to the initial sentiment, the best antidote to distress is engagement. Regard this project as a vehicle for your direct involvement in making the world a better place -- a consciousness change from the bottom-up. The anxiety communicated today seemed, in part, to be a misplaced reliance on the goodwill of a nation-state. Bureaucracies don't have a conscience. People do. 

The next Member Monday (12/19) shall be a hybrid session combining our traditional discussion format with a presentation by Edgar Papke flushing out the details of the project. It will be held in the dining room to accommodate a greater expected number of participants.

Steve SmithComment