[Sdpg] Vision and proposal: Deep grassroots substratum for global transformation

Brad Smith papatopierre at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 6 23:55:15 PST 2010

Hi, Saralin and Ken,

Thank you for your thoughtful and heartfelt responses. I will be starting a new list soon for the people who have responded on the few lists I have sent this piece out to. We are spread out geographically, and so may form a virtual circle in order to follow where our inspirations lead. Any others who want to be a part of this conversation about the unfolding of a network of fellowship circles as suggested in my original post, please contact me so I can include you on that new list. I will copy that post below in case you missed it.

Ken, I enjoyed the piece you linked to. Perhaps we should contact both the woman who posted it on her blog and the man who wrote it.

Saralin, I would enjoy meeting you and your friends when you come to California. I will be happy to help you make what connections I can and will welcome you into whatever communities begin to form out of the circles. Or I will assist you in finding any other communities that may be unfolding. Unlike the Bay Area and farther north, Southern California has not yet been very fertile ground for intentional community, but I feel its time is come. I'm certainly ready, and I feel that this will be one of the fruits in the gardens that grow out of the circles. 


Original post:

 consider the following articulation of an unfolding vision and if you 
feel so moved reply to the whole group. My purpose here is to start a 
conversation that leads soon to collaborative action. I know, have met, 
or have talked with each of you and hope that you might join in whatever
 direction emerges from this conversation. Feel free to invite others 

 a recent collaborative sustainability
conference I gained some new and inspiring perspectives and certain 
have become more integrated and better articulated for me. In particular
 I perceived
that the social awakening ideas that have been unfolding to me, or 
like them, are necessary for the success of all the other visions I 
shared. All paths to sustainability seem dependent on finding ways to 
and nurture a collective awakening of our conscious capacity to be 
transformed. For if we do not change our attitudes and ways of living 
that are destroying
our relationships, societies, and the natural ecosystems upon which we 
depend, we face a bleak future. 

My own experience and research over many years
have combined to suggest some practical ideas forward. I ask your help in
refining, developing, or changing these ideas, of integrating them with others,
or for your own ideas based on your own complementary perspectives and
experiences. And if you feel so moved, let's build together on what we all
collectively now have and learn as we go! 


The changes we need to make must
be on a monumental scale if we want to avert wholesale suffering and death as
our way of life expands more and more beyond the capacity of the social and
ecological systems that sustain us. This will require a global collective
awakening from the unconscious cultural conditioning we have been subjected to
since birth. Since we are fundamentally social creatures and actually learn and
develop socially rather than as isolated individuals, the question I ask is
this: how can we create a healthy and compelling new social context that will
catalyze the necessary awakening and facilitate our living together in a happy
and sustainable manner?


The root cause of our predicament
may be that our contemporary social systems tend to condition us to grow up
into unconsciously selfish and individualistic adults. The core organizing
principle for our society has become nothing more than crude financial self-interest.
Our dominant measure of value is money. And it is commonly believed now, at
least by those who possess a comfortable quantity of cold cash, that everyone is
naturally and unalterably selfish and that if everyone is encouraged to seek only his
or her own personal gain, somehow a mysterious “invisible hand” will provide
the best for all. I need not refute that pervasive ideology for you who I am
sending this to, but just confirm that while this system provides a huge
material benefit to the very few, it is gained via the exploitation and
suffering of the many. Many of our contemporaries may not always see that
because so many of them belong to the few.


What if we chose a different, more
beneficent organizing principle, one that is more in line with our deep true
natures? Would Love perhaps be too much to suggest? Did not someone named Jesus
embark upon such a project two millennia ago? Is that project not still alive,
at least in name?yle="">          


In reality, if we look
dispassionately and without ideology at human living patterns throughout time
and space, it can be seen that only to the degree that we cooperate have we
ever had any kind of security, comfort, or prosperity. Cooperation has always
been necessary to survive in our weak, slow human bodies. We are fundamentally
cooperative beings. It is just that under the conditions that have prevailed
and accelerated since the agricultural revolution some people are able to
successfully manipulate for themselves progressively larger shares of the fruits
of that cooperation. And our core western belief systems since the so called
“enlightenment” have become progressively more mechanistic and

So the question is, how
can we foster the consciousness and cooperation necessary for general happiness
and prosperity without allowing the manipulation of the system for the benefit
of the few at the expense of the many?


Innumerable ways to do this are
well-established, even if not so generally known. The problem is not how to do
it, but the lack of consciousness that it needs to be done, the will to do it,
and the awareness that life will be much better for each and every one of us
when we do. The reason we do not have such consciousness, will, and awareness
is that we are programmed or acculturated otherwise. The engines of such
programming and acculturation are vast and firmly controlled by those who feel
that they benefit from the status quo and who therefore believe what they want
to believe, which is that this system is the best for all. They control the
global financial system, worldwide corporations, national governments, major
media, and educational systems, not to mention some of the most politically
active religious movements. We might make some small inroads in these
institutions, but the status quo is built into their fundamental structures. 


What can we do to counter such a
vast power as this, especially after the Citizen's United case put the last
nail in the coffin of representative democracy in our land? For the time being at least. (I know there are
flickers of hope, such as that Whitman could not buy the election in
California, but the major political trends are not so encouraging. The Browns and
Kuciniches are few and far between, and what can we really expect from a few
against so many?) 


The strategy I propose here is to
reach people not through institutional intermediaries, but directly, person-to-person,
in small groups. People are naturally social and most are not commonly getting
their deep social needs adequately met. They may think they are, but when they
find a more rewarding way, they will know it and won't go back. That is my
postulate and I see no other realistic way that has not been tried and thus far


What if we can fashion new social
contexts in which people will naturally awaken from their culturally induced
selfishness to their native cooperative sociability? A knowledge of the
patterns that have worked in the past or are working now to knit people
together in solidarity and bring out their noble instincts ought to provide us
valuable clues. I won't go into all the different sources I have researched,
seen, or experienced, but will simply suggest some specific patterns I have
drawn out from them that seem practical to me and should have the power to
facilitate fundamental transformation. 


The basic unit of the social
network I envision is the fellowship circle. Human beings naturally belong in
small bands. The beleaguered nuclear family and the corrupt large institutions
that form our current primary social structures are too isolated and limited on
the one hand and too vast and impersonal on the other to support people's true
social, spiritual, and psychological health. Large corporations are now
breaking their organizational structures down into small work teams to take
advantage of this human fact, but in the service of corporate profit and power
rather than human welfare and happiness. 


Imagine the formation of small
groups of six to eight people who meet weekly for mutual support and to
collaboratively explore the models we use to understand and pattern our lives.
Various loosely structured formats can be used in order to provide a nurturing
and stimulating social experience. Whether they are conscious of it or not,
people long for such fellowship. This is what they seek at least a facsimile of
in TV comedies and dramas, social networking sites, churches, political
affiliations, clubs of various kinds, and of course bars and other traditional
drinking establishments, a la “Cheers.” 

It is just that these often meet a need
without serving much of a deeper function. Or if they do serve a deeper
function it is often in ways that divide groups from one another and enslave
them to rigid belief systems that serve some powerful hierarchical institution.
Instead, we need consciously created relationships that not only meet people's
basic emotional needs, but also nurture their deeper collective cognitive and
spiritual growth. Is this not how Christianity got its start before it was co-opted
and corrupted by the Empire? Did not Jesus, according to the sparse records we
have, teach us to love one another and even love our “enemies?” 


I am not sure exactly how to organize
and format such groups, but am confident that some of the people I am sharing this with
will have experience with
proven ways that we may build upon and integrate together. Some of the
objectives would be to provide a thoroughly enjoyable and even positively
addictive experience by meeting people's needs for love and camaraderie; to
support people in exploring their unexamined assumptions and beliefs; to help
them to investigate, create, and try out alternative models for apprehending
reality; and to facilitate the development of healthier and more sustainable
patterns for living together in this world. 


I am imagining a format that may
include some sort of quiet time wherein we can rise above some of the emotional
reactivity we may be carrying with us; a check-in where we may surface
important issues we have been dealing with; an idea or story that will
stimulate worthwhile dialogue in which we can develop our various native
cognitive abilities that were quashed by an education that emphasized the
memorization of abstracted “facts” at the expense of thinking critically and
creatively; exercises and games to develop the critical communication and
relationship skills that most of us did not learn growing up, the lack of which
impede our ability to cooperate and collaborate effectively with one another; a
chance to support one another on specific issues or endeavors; and time to work
on the bigger issues we need to address together as a people. In short, let's develop
a system in which people will set aside a regular time and place to evolve
together into more conscious and mature human beings, living in a more loving
and sustainable manner. And of course, let’s do that ourselves, right where we


As I write this, I realize that a
once a week meeting is not enough, but that we should actually be living in
this manner with one another all the time. But we have to start somewhere and a
weekly meeting is more than hardly any of us have right now. It may become the
catalyst that enables us to begin to live in such a way with each other
throughout the rest of our week and create a life wherein such needs are met in
the course of everyday activities. We can learn and develop perspectives and
skills that we bring into our everyday lives, such that we will begin to change
the world one loving thought, feeling, and act at a time. We can develop new habits of
the heart that will reflect the world we long for and make it real. We can
create a context in which our hearts and minds will awaken together.


It occurs to me that this process
may be jump-started with weekend workshops or intensives in which some
consciousness is awakened and new perspectives and skills are initially
learned. Then in the weekly meetings they can continue to be developed and the
fruits may begin to unfold. I can conceive perhaps a monthly schedule wherein a
different main process is explored each week in a cycle that iteratively builds
upon itself month by month.


I am imagining a robust network of
such groups that will share among each other the perspectives and skills they
learn and will collaborate with one another on larger visions and endeavors.
There will be a facilitative core that helps organize and guide the network
according to the principles and directions that emerge from within the network.
Again, I don't know how to do this, but there are people reading this who will
have much more experience and ideas along these lines than I will. From out of
these circles and the more comprehensive wholes that form from them, the
network can evolve various kinds of more universal social and economic
patterns. Some such models might include the following:


Village Fairs: Weekly community
gatherings where local people may interconnect, exchange, and celebrate


Town Halls or Community Centers:
Full time centers for learning, exchange, social interaction, and civic


Town Squares or Commons: Outdoor
places with space for markets, meeting places, community gatherings, social intercourse, community
gardens, demonstration gardens, and any other collectively beneficial


Ecovillages: Small urban,
suburban, or rural settlements where people meet their social, economic,
material, and spiritual needs locally, cooperatively, and sustainably.


Living Economy: An economic system
that supports wholesome rather than destructive environmental, human, and
transcendent ways of life. 


Inclusive Power: As the now
dominant system disintegrates and collapses of its own contradictions, this
resilient and robust network of human hearts may one day arise from the ashes
and form a resilient collective power that takes us to a new level of
evolution. Indeed, I see that emerging even now.            


The fruits of such a social
network will be innumerable. We will not only nurture our deep human endowments
without harming each other and the environment, but also collectively create
the world we have dreamed of. These small fellowship circles will form the
social cocoon in which we may transfigure from the furry little earthbound
caterpillars we have been to awaken as the beautiful unfettered butterflies we
always contained the matrix for deep inside.
-Brad Smith949-933-1983 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 949-933-1983     


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