Monday, August 31, 2015

August Has Come And Now It Is Going

On this, the last day of August, I am feeling the end of summer nearing with a greater sense of loss than I can remember ever before at this juncture.  In spite of the sorrow this near ending of beautiful warm, sunny days I have enjoyed ever so much and clear star filled skies, sitting out under them, I am also reviewing with delight the bounty this month has brought New Horizons and our Coffee House Conversations project – and – to me, personally.

This month at New Horizons has seen a great deal of off and on turbulence, beginning with some disappointments we experienced at our August 7 Kids and Kops In Conversations program. Then our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show challenged Jack and I a bit, followed by further tensions at the closing of last Wednesday’s Coffee House Conversations volunteer planning meeting.

Yet there is a poignant beauty in all of this as August ends, as it has marked a profound sense for me of our Coffee House Conversations programs and projects having brought us now to a place of certain motion; progress being made through turbulent times, locally and beyond, community engagement heightened, enriching my life, day-by-day.

I am grateful for what I have experienced this month. I hope you will avail yourself of a visit to my Anastasia The Storyteller blog site in addition to what you are reading here so you can, perhaps, have a bit of a window into the profound motion we have been experiencing in this last month of summer with more on its way, I am certain.

The Cart Before The Horse

Planning and preparing our next series of Coffee House Conversations.

A person can become so habituated to a way of thinking or doing they neglect to consider there may be things other than their familiar ways to take into account.  So it was with me last week when a Coffee House Conversations planning meeting came together with a group of volunteers, police officers and myself.

We proceeded with business as usual as we had become accustomed, as the months had rolled on and our community alliances took hold. Intent on continuing to develop our budding and reasonably successful conversations model, introduced in January, it hadn’t yet occurred to us that a bumpy road or two could surface as we headed for our destination; a more unified and enhanced community life.

But, oops, there it was; a bump in the road!

Nearing the conclusion of our meeting, gearing up for our next series of events, one of our volunteers happened to initiate an exchange with one of our police officers regarding a complaint he had been harboring for a time; a traffic flow situation he had repeatedly encountered with some resentment.

Simple, eh?

Nope, not so simple! Even in our program planning meeting of well-intentioned people who had taken time out of busy schedules to give their best to anticipated dialogue by way of developing a more “exceptional” community in our locale.

An analysis of what occurred in that brief exchange with far-reaching implications would take a great deal of time – and – thought, on my part, to even begin articulating for your reading pleasure and edification. Suffice it to say that what I learned most from the initial interactions as well as what followed is that, just as in our Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call forum, debate can be but a hair’s breath away when sensitive issues and topics are called up for discussion.

Sustainable dialogue is not so easy!

What I’ve realized since is that even seemingly simple and direct exchanges between citizens and police officers can readily get a bit testy, even in the most affirming of situations. Thus, it stands to reason, that as New Horizons’ Coffee House Conversations begins to make ready for its next series of programs, we need to do a bit more investigating in the mode of Anastasia The Super Sleuth. And, take a good hard look at this next leg of the adventure before proceeding, if community unity is our goal – and – trusting relationships with our police our agenda.

Trusting community-police relationships is a objective that will require increased sensitivity, skills, participation, cooperation, commitment – and – determination. While frameworks that legislate “what to do and what not to do” in this domain might be well thought out, changing hearts – and a culture – are not so directly orchestrated.  This is the difficult work of individual people, one-on-one and in small groups, on an everyday basis.

So as we embark on this next phase of our project we will need to be increasingly aware that 
we are at a tipping point in our society where the rubber is meeting the road of what our humanity means to us. In this day and age, this is a tall order; this coming together, calling for caring and compassion for each and every one of us; something we don’t know how to implement so easily, or well. We often are unable to even accomplish this end in our most important relationships on a day-by-day basis.

Please stay tuned to what will be unfolding here as New Horizons prepares itself for our next Coffee House Conversations offerings. Our adventure is becoming increasingly challenging and complex as we intently strive for our best “Possible Human, Possible Society.”

The Lesson: We must not put the cart before the horse, especially in this instance; community-police relationships.

Careful considerations and best possible practical applications must rule. 

Oh, my. Oh, my!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How To Talk About Politics, Race and Religion

Life can be so interesting when you slow down and take notice of the things happening around you.  An example of this for me is the depth and breadth of unexpected territory covered by my psyche and in some of my most important relationships since the last Possible Society In Motion Radio Show that Jack and I did, titled “What if…?. 

Well, what if people like those with whom I am most closely associated applied an appropriate amount of mindfulness to their daily fare of personal interactions?

To my mind that would require, for starters, a whole lot less relating by internet and a whole lot more face time, or second best to that an engaging forum such as Jack and I have created on our Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call forum which, by the way, will be offered again this Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. Check this link for details.

As the three blog articles linked below suggest, there has been a whole lot of contemplation and fruitful discussion from our last forum. 

You might just want to get yourself into the ongoing saga we are creating.  So consider spending some of your time, this Thursday evening with us, joining us for …..
  1. How To Talk About Politics, Race and Religion on our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show, Thursday, 6:30 p.m. 
  2. Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call forum, Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
In both of these programs we will be introducing the New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” way to talk about Politics, Race and Religion, a non-polarizing way and a “feel good” way, or, at least, a “feel better” way.  The principles that we have adopted are listed below.

Contrasting Dialogue and Debate
Courtesy of Everyday Democracy

Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward a common understanding.
Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.

In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.
In debate, winning is the goal.

In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning, and find agreement. 
In debate, one listens to the other side, in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.

Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participant’s point of view.

Debate affirms a participant’s own point of view.

Dialogue reveals assumptions for reevaluation.

Debate defends critique of the other position.

Dialogue causes introspection on one’s own position.

Debate causes critique of the other position. 

Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.

Debate defends one’s own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.

Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.

Debate creates a closed-minded attitude, a determination to be right. 

In dialogue, one submits one’s best thinking, knowing that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it.
In debate, one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against the challenge to show that it is right.

Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one’s beliefs.

Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.

In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements.
In debate, one searches for glaring differences.

In dialogue, one searches for strengths in the other positions.
In debate, one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other positions.

Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seek not alienate or offend.
Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles the other person.

Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution.
Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it.

Dialogue remains open-ended. 
Debate has a conclusion.                                                                  

Monday, August 24, 2015

What If…….?

What if our dreams could come true?

What if we could just imagine an end to our racial divides and other social problems and something or other, like magic, could make it all come true -- without any stress or struggle, without any blood shed?

What if, as in John Lennon’s song, Imagine, this is how our world could be – in a flash?

Jack and I took up the subject of “What if….?” on our last Possible Society In Motion Radio Show. And we did our usual fine job of working well together to create an interesting broadcast discussion, focusing mainly on how truth can set us free.

But afterwards on our Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call portion, we didn’t quite do as well. In my mind, I am always striving for the broadcast equivalent of Olympic Pairs Skating, Gold medal level. This time we wouldn’t have even made the cut. 

Definitely not! Rather, on our conference call portion, we were heading ourselves into the kind of everyday polarizing debates you can hear anywhere and everywhere!  We like to think of ourselves as, at least, a cut above such things. Nonetheless, once someone, probably me, brought up our campaigning politicians we were frustratingly ordinary!

Oh, well you can’t win them all!  And, we certainly learned a thing or two from the fallout of that discussion about what not to do next time. Read “Anastasia The Storyteller” blog articles for a taste of that conference call incident in The Price We Pay For Our Politics and Principles and Practices, Not Personalities for some of the points I learned from the episode. 

Later, after a bit of contemplation and offline dialogue, following the evening’s program, combining our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show titled, “What if….?”  and our Coffee House Conversation By Conference Call, the lessons did begin to accrue. 

Next time I think we will all be better prepared to use the guidelines, Contrasting Dialogue and Debate, for a more uplifting successful conversation. These guidelines have been serving us well as a foundation for our in-person Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations, now being prepared for a Fall series.  

Everyday Democracy is our source for these guidelines. They have given us a framework that works  well to help us guide our face time conversations into productive discussion channels on sensitive topics such as race relations.

From our bit of a fall, our Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call program participants and myself will now proceed with a bit more caution and awareness of the importance of maintaining these guidelines. 

So “What if our dreams could come true?” 

As we are likely to discover, time and time again, our dreams are most likely to come true, not by magic, but sound decisions, conscientiousness practices, determination and discipline. 

Jack and I are committed to this pathway. We hope you are too. And will want to become a part of our lively, developing forum and help us grow it into a regular roundtable discussion that, if nothing else, can provide all of us involved with an opportunity to take the pressure off ourselves as we learn better and better skills for discussing anything we choose – politics, race relations, religion etc. etc. -- in a safe, healthy and transforming-oriented setting for an hour or so, every other week.

Join Jack and myself this week on our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show where we will share our insights on “How To Talk About Politics, Race and Religion.”

Check this link for details on our after the on-air portion for our Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call.