Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Game changer? Or not.


Our Overcoming (Community) Polarization kickoff event project has been announced. Check out this link for details.

So now what?
And the question
is.....?
I asked myself that question this morning after the flurry of activity to get this striking official announcement out into cyberspace, print and broadcast media etc. etc.

Interesting.


Next, back and forth email conversations revealed the fact that, perhaps, New Horizons was flying almost solo when it came to having any agenda at all that this event, billed as a kickoff to air the problems of polarization in our local community, Frederick County, Maryland, might be anything at all by way of being a game changer.

Sue and I thought it intriguing that others, having a stake in the program, didn't care one way or the other if anything changed as a result. Well, I asked myself, why bother talking?

We got involved in order to offer our best, as an organization, to building that vision of the
Possible Human, Possible Society.

Could it be that others want only to keep talking the talk?

Not really interested in taking the time to walk that “real deal” walk?

Very interesting said I,
Anastasia, Super Sleuth, "Talking versus walking. Umm."

That's pretty much what we experienced being the rule, rather than the exception, from our Abkhazian Dinner backlash. One guest reported being verbally abused by another with a racial assault. The “victim” was traumatized. The apparent perpetrator blamed the victim (and New Horizons and me, personally) for being disturbed. And, her friends who had originally invited her to this Season For Non-violence event walked away still wondering --

"How is it possible that 6.9 billion people can all claim to want the same thing (peace, security, opportunity, prosperity, happiness, and love) and be singularly unable to get it"? Neale Donald Walsch

Oh, well, there it was again; the talking versus the walking.

Our Abkhazian Dinner event – and the upset that followed -- became a game changer; a turning point for New Horizons, our Possible Human, PossibleSociety Study and myself. Not in quite the way we had anticipated from a Season For Non-violence sponsored event, but a turning point, no less.

A teachable moment, actually a series of them, had occurred. In some ways, we learned more through our immersion in this moment about "real deal" community unity builders than we might have with only our study to inform our data gathering. In the game instead of watching and analyzing the game. Umm. Good for growing, but challenging, being a part of the action on the field.

I have pondered this unpredicted turn, of late, as it came about from Abkhazian Dinner, concluding that circumstances such as those that arose from that event may not be, so much about the absence of yearning for an unknown something better, but people not really having a concrete vision of how we could be as a possible society in motion -- and the skills to bring that vision about. After all, no real blood was actually shed.

Sometimes, actually most of the time, people see things from different angles; what is big to one may be tiny to another. In this case the more subtley oriented, like my board members, the more attuned guest that we shared the incident with and myself,  saw that we had just encountered an unhealed piece of our mid-1800s civil war; the piece about racial respect and dignity.

In terms of this next coming event and the possiblities for it to open any doors to creating anything to actually overcome polarization in Frederick County, Maryland, we know we will just show up, offer our best and, again, as Dore, my favorite fish in "Finding Nemo" suggests, “Just keep swimming." 


Or, as Pastor George, urged of his congregation that did its successful turn around with our help, “Just keep talking.” And, so we will.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Introducing People We Know Who “Turn Round Right”


Visioning how New Horizons’ selections for the Peace Buddy of the Month Profile might produce a “real deal” Council of Elders; not always right, but never in doubt, as to where they stand.
Or, what I/we learned from Murat Yagan, our community unity building mentor.
Turning Points,
turning people
Trance-like Sufi dervishes turn to their version of the “light” by whirling, as in “Whirling Dervishes.”

Native Americans turn to nature to guide their sacred path on the earthly plane. Jews turn their minds and their hearts to a higher plane through the High Holy Days, honoring the threefold practices they call "teshuvah, tefilah and tzedakah," repentance, prayer and  good deeds (usually, charity).
New Horizons, too, has its set of highly valued ideologies and protocols to which we turn, a mix from our time honored (circa 1980) gatherings of program participants, supporters and volunteers, coming together to uplift themselves, personally and collectively.  Aspiring, as we do, to hold ourselves accountable to both concrete, earth bound codes of behavior and high minded principles, we offer our best.

As a community development and violence prevention training program, we seek practical problem solving strategies, along with the higher realms of consciousness.  Intent, as we are, on overcoming dysfunctional polarities in our work with groups and organizations, we are making it our objective, presently,  to find like-minded others.  (For details and additional background information on us, explore my/our two blog sites and our long established web site at:  http://www.newhorizonssupport.org/nhs.html, thanks due our loyal web host/web master, Kim Nuyen.)
With that goal in mind -- and -- grateful for the responsiveness of others to our Possible Human, Possible Society Study, we, now, turn attention to showcasing notable others, beyond our long-term inner circle of board members and other devotees, celebrating some of the Real DealPeace Buddies we have known for awhile and those have met, recently,  on our super sleuthing, investigative path. 

Our main criteria for the selection of these people who will be featured in profiles, in the coming months ahead, are that each has demonstrated, by his/her actions, to have a track record incorporating: 1. an overarching value system based on a foundation “for the good of the whole (i.e altruistically – “all for one and one for all”), and 2. a congruent set of practices for living this out, day-by-day (albeit not always without challenge).
So, once again, recognizing our limitations in the word-lyrealm of everyday language, we attempt to offer you something concrete by presenting our nominees for my/our vision of a Council of Elders (as per Murat, see Ahmsta Kebzeh: The Universal Science of Awe, Volume I) from folks we know and have chosen from our Possible Human, Possible Society, thus far, who we believe bona fide, possible society in motion role models, imperfect as they may be.

With this vision in mind of grounded, high minded "walking the walk" people we admire and respect, look for our first member nominee for an envisioned Council of Elders member, Jim French,  Peace Buddy of the Month for October.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Morning After


I don’t know why I feel like singing this morning. Certainly the fire in our hearth on this below freezing morning is not only warm, but uplifting with its dancing flames. Still I am somewhat struck by my song-filled mind today.

The morning after Election
Day, 2012, sail away, sail away.
And, of all songs -- “The Morning After” -- as sung by Maureen McGovern in the “Poseidon Adventure,” about a certain-to-sink ship, the Poseidon, not unlike the Titantic.

Maybe it’s the fact that I have so much faith in the, so far, unquestionable strength of our country to pull itself together through tough times, in spite of our differences. We are not a ship about to sink, no matter what the urgency promoters are saying. Troubles, yes, sinking ship – no!

Maybe, I am, particularly, inspired by the efforts of those around me, coming together in our local area to put on our upcoming “Overcoming The Polarization of Politics” kickoff event.

That is definitely arousing my spirits. Look for details in the coming days. Below is what I have so far.

Event: “Overcoming The Polarization of Politics” kickoff round table event,
Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2012,
Time: TBA,
Location: Hood College, Frederick, Maryland

Imagine this for a pre-election lift! Sparks of life and hope for the morning after Election Day, 2012.

Republicans and Democrats, Independents and undecides and, perhaps, even a few “No, I am not planning to vote” people are going to be encouraged to turn out in large numbers in Frederick County, Maryland to speak their piece at this event on how we can work together for community unity in our locale.  Enough of this character bashing and smashing. Enough, already!

Fortunately, with our being just about fifty miles distance from our nation’s capitol, we still have our own air to breathe. Not at all like D.C., totally awash in stress, wondering what’s happening next in our backyard. Bunches of D.C. transplants down here though, like myself, far enough away to get a bit free of that fast track craziness.

Who knows what is in the air that is lifting my mind to sing this morning. (I keep it mental so as not to interfere with the songs of the birds, visiting the feeder outside my office window.)

Anyway, it is so much better, from where I am sitting, to focus attention on our anticipated, local display of community unity building, in spite of our differences, rather than election madness. Perhaps our efforts, through this event, might bolster other flagging spirits, lifting them up like mine, today, though mine weren’t exactly sagging to start with.

There are plenty of other minds and hearts, like mine, yearning to overcome the polarization of politics. Maybe these are, without our even being aware of one another, simply drawn together into the sunshine of this crisp, autumn day. Like my dear friend, Susan, they are just not going to allow a beautiful day like this to fall by the wayside, “hijacked” by the politicians, money brokers. and the media.  

As for me, I am, intent on another brisk walk with my neighbor where I will have ample time, among other things, to share my hopes that, perhaps, together, even those folks who are so disheartened  they can’t see over this election bump will join us soon with our dreams for the morning after Election Day, 2012.

There's got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let's keep on lookin' for the light

Lyrics from “The Poseidon Adventure,” sung by Maureen McGovern, 1973.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Message from Anastasia, New Horizons Executive Director and Founder


Study Report
As the designer and chief Possible Human, Possible Society Study interviewer I think this is a good time, as we head into the coming presidential election, to speak more directly about some of the things the study has clarified, at least  in my mind.
Here is one example:

People are like the patches on
a  patchwork quilt; each is
different and unique.
The importance of sustaining our human resources

In the heat of our national presidential election campaign, one of the biggest things we seem to be overlooking is that behind the scenes of day-to-day life, election campaign or not, treating one another well is still one of the singularly, most important  things we can do., even contributing to the solutions of our national problems. 

Puzzle of the day: See if you can figure out how. The answer is, truly, there if you can think big enough.

And it could/should be free, say I, after charging $100 and more per hour for my psychotherapy services in my more than twenty-five years in private practice, often providing “the milk of human kindness,” caring and compassion that ought to have been freely given and received by ordinary humans just being human. I stand, justly shamed for my part in this game and have, thus, retired from the endeavor.
Acting toward one another with civility nourishes us at the most basic levels. Not conducting ourselves in this way, if nothing else, makes the spaces we share toxic, draining unnecessary energy from other more critical tasks at hand. (Like watching a presidential debate and then debating it, again, on your own with anyone around, right?? Forget I said that!)

Like any other noxious chemical, the toxicity of human disrespect and aggression take their toll on our wellbeing, individually and collectively. This alone, if for no other reason, is just motivation for each and every one of us heed how we conduct ourselves, inside and outside of our homes, workplaces, community centers and so forth.

To bring this point home, look for news on our local "Overcoming The Polarization of Politics" event, inspired by New Horizons Possible Human, Possible Society Study and sponsored by us in cooperation with other of our local organizations.

Kickoff event scheduled now for Tuesday, October 30 at Hood College, Frederick, Maryland. Community-wide civility is the theme!
Sue, New Horizons board member and Curriculum Development Director, designing a recent program for our new Bus Ride Story Adventure series with me, kept bringing us round to this point for an anticipated community dialogue project. Two primary questions for program participants emerged.

  1. Do you believe that how we treat one another makes any significant difference in the solving of our national problems?
  2.  If you believe this to be true, how do the ways in which we treat one another make a difference?

Between us, synergistic collaborators that we are, our planning discussions reached a higher plane as we explored these questions and their relevance for our forthcoming program. Inspired by what came of our behind-the-scenes conversing, before long I started bringing these question into my Possible Human, Possible Society Study interviews.
Right away people started responding to the first question in the affirmative. “Of course, they said, how we treat one another makes a difference in the solving of our national problems.”
BTW, regarding question number 2, surprise, surprise, almost no one was able to give me a direct, on the spot answer.  It was as if I had opened the door to a topic that people were agreeing on, in principle, without having much idea of the how and/or the why of the principle, much less the undeveloped human capacities to carry this principle out in day-to-day life.
While we now invite you to consider your own answers to these two questions, allow me to offer thoughts that came to me, personally, on the subject.
Our human resources are probably the single, most vital resource we have to build and sustain the underlying framework of our lives and our country; the very infrastructure of our human existence. And, truth be told this resource is everywhere around us.
Right? So we should make liberal use of this commodity and use it well!
One way I experience the magnificence of this resource in my life as a truism that offsets even the noise of the election campaigning and the toxicity it breeds  is that the people in my life are part of the essential fabric of my life, like a patchwork quilt, so to speak, keeping me warm as nights grow cold.
I think of things like this when a crisp, sunny day like today can combine the pleasure of a walk on our up and down mountain road with my neighbor, a chat with other neighbors as we stroll along – and -- a freeze warning tonight up here in the mountains where we live before our trees have even begun to turn. A walk like this eases whatever else might distract me from the harmony of life. Campaign or no campaign, a respite like this is a tonic for whatever else might ail me. And, totally free!
Tonight we think of warmth up here in the mountains as we start the heat firing up in our wood burning stoves, long before we expected when it is not yet even Halloween.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dreaming and doing


One of the most intriguing experiences for me as a researcher conducting our study, to date, has been the noticeable shift in the tone of participants when asked the following question in the Society and Politics section of the study questionnaire.

What is your vision for a healthfully functioning U.S.A.?

Imagine
Of course the answers are many and varied. And, of course, I am a seasoned psychotherapist turned community development consultant, making the inquiries. So, of course, I am trained to read between the lines of what people say and be pointedly observant about what people do.

But I don’t think it takes the close to forty years mental health experience I bring to the study process to realize that simply asking citizens of this country, “how would you really like things to be, if your vision of well-being in this country could come to be” can make a difference in the tempo of a day.

Not one single person, so far, has failed to answer this question without the perceptible change I am noting. Anger and criticism drop away almost instantly in our interview process as hopes and dreams make way to the fore, disparagement replaced by an eagerness to share heartfelt desires about what freedom and democracy mean to that person.  We are, after all, an optimistic citizenry by nature.

At first I was totally surprised by the answers this single question elicited. Now I have come to expect them, eager on my end to get to this part. Psychological interpretation suggests to me that the bitching, moaning, complaining and generalized anger that vociferously fills the spaces of our online, print and broadcast daily fare, in and of themselves, takes a great toll on our well-being. However, we play our part in the spread of this toxicity when we allow it to drain off our vitality and joy.
Case in point:  Last year, about this time, one of my closest friends told me she was determined that the politicians, special interest groups, media etc., etc. were not going to be able to derail her life in this election year. From what I have seen, I think she has done pretty well at fulfilling this pledge to herself.

Has she managed to have a happier year because of this? I can’t rightly say, not having checked in with her recently on the subject.
But I have noticed over the course of this past year, working on this study, that those who are taking an active part in doing the best they can in meaningful, well-chosen ways, these days seem to be a lot more optimistic, in spite of the daily over-dose of election campaign distractions, than are those who are making less of an active, typically community-involved effort. Reading about, discussing, complaining and analyzing our societal problems is simply not enough. Actions speaking louder than words when it comes to overcoming the obstacles facing us now.

Dreaming and doing, in combination, appear to me, in the midst of this Possible Human, Possible Society, to be healthy antidotes to election campaign malaise, 2012.

If nothing else, dreaming and doing, combined, give us alternatives to simply sitting back and feeling helpless and aggravated by that which we are, at least, for the moment, unable to change, our broken political machinations.