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This is our fourth conversation based on the model developed by Peter Block in Community: The Structure of Belonging, building on the "Dissent""Possibility" and "Ownership" conversations we hosted in May, June and July respectively.  Once again, we are delighted to welcome back co-hosts Eric and Elaine Hansen, who have worked extensively with Block, and are masters of this form.

The invitation conversation is considered to be the most important of the Six Conversations in this approach.  Unlike the other five, it is not one that is engaged in once the group has convened. Rather, it is quite literally the invitation to join the gathering itself, as well as a concept that can extend into our lives more generally as a way of engaging with one another. 

We explore this concept of "invitation as a way of being" by inviting YOU to join us aa fellow "steward" of Occupy Cafe.  You can think of this as both an actual invitation (it is!) and as an opportunity for experiential learning regarding this set of concepts in general.

There are five elements to this form of invitation, two of which relate to its content and three of which concern the way in which it is extended.  We offer the content elements--which consist of naming the possibility around which we are gathering and the hurdle (or price) that is required should you choose to accept the invitation-- for your consideration below [please note that this is a "working draft," and part of our goal here is to explore ways to refine it together]:

We wish to invite you to expand your participation into "stewardship" of the Cafe.  It is perfectly fine to say "no," of course (we won't hold it against you!).  Know, however, that you, and the unique gifts you have to offer this community, will be missed if you decline.  We would also like to extend this invitation in a more personal manner, so if you have any interest in exploring this possibility with us, please let us know and we will arrange for a one-one conversation.

The Possibility:
We are weaving a community of people aligned around a shared belief in the possibility that we can and must co-create a world that works for all. The community co-creates and stewards hospitable space in which we invite the world to engage in compassionate and appreciative dialogue to:

  • Learn more about the various dimensions of systemic transformation that might be possible
  • Foster meaningful connections that enhance the resilience and functionality of the broader network of change agents and those who wish to support them
  • Provide a laboratory for innovation that supports our ability to work together and to "be the change we wish to see in the world," including experimentation with new models of economic exchange, governance.

The Hurdle (required price/exchange):

  • Listen deeply and seek to understand before we react or respond
  • Tend to relationships, paying as much attention to how we engage with others as to what it is we engage about, with a core commitment to practicing nonviolence
  • Offer an exchange (of money, services, or both) in return for the value we receive and in support of the growth of this work.

As always, we invite you to begin the conversation right now on this forum, and to continue it here once our call is complete. We would like to start our discussion of "invitation as a way of being" by considering the core distinction it offers with approaches based on "mandate" or "persuasion:"  

  • Have you ever been offered a compelling and inspiring invitation, free from any hint of "mandate or persuasion?"  If so, what was this like for you?  
  • What might be possible in a future in which this becomes a more common form of engagement?

 

Photo by Maria Guimares via GroupWorksDeck.org

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Here's a bit more from Block on the importance and value of the "hurdle:"

Paradoxically, even though there is no cost for refusal, there is a price for
coming. Everything that has value has a price. Make the purchase price explicit,
so that the act of showing up carries some accountability.


Naming the hurdle in the invitation gives us traction in the meeting.
When people start to complain, sit in the back of the room, act as if they
do not want to be here, and do all the small but noticeable things that hold
the action back, we can stand on the fact that they knew what the deal was
and still showed up. This gives us the right to ask them what they are doing
here. It gives us traction in moving people past their typical story. When
they give their habitual explanation about who else needs to change, we
can deal with this in a new way, simply because the agreement as to what
would be required of them was clear. (pp.121-122)

Jumping in late, I know, and I may not return to continue the conversation.

With that said, I am going to jump in anyway. It does seem to me that time is limited. Each day has exactly 24 hours, each hour 60 minutes, each minute 60 seconds. Nothing I can do to change that. So, I am having trouble understanding the implication that there is something I can do to create more time.

Can you tell me more about what you mean here regarding time?

This is a really challenging question Eric, it makes me stop and realise how difficult it is to step from one dimension to another. What you say is totally true - a day is 24hours etc. At the same time 'Awareness is boundless and infinitely available in every moment.' They do not conflict with each other. They exist side by side. The clock time is the basis for concepts of causality, past and future, doing, objectivity, scientific enquiry. And my subjective experience in this moment called NOW is ungraspable, has no form, is undefinable, and is the only place where I can know reality. Past is gone, future has not arrived yet.

This is not easy to feel, it is what meditation is trying to reach, or rather it is the experience that exists beneath all the doing on which we focus during our day. So when we stop doing we can taste a little of this reality.

This may not be the sort of answer you were wanting and it may raise a query about what this has to do with the new society we want to build. I can only say that the experience of this dimension can put us in touch with a deeper experience of being alive, a deeper understanding of what life is about, and who I am.

Love anna

I had no -- or perhaps better said, I think I had no -- expectations for the answer. At any rate, your answer works for me.  There is a difference between objective/clock time and subjective time/awareness.  I have pursed that difference more in the past than I am at this time in my life. Mabye your answer will serve as a remider.

And the answer that Ben gave as well works for a way to shift how I look at time as being more than my individual experience of clock time.

An idea that this brings to mind for me is to shift the idea of price and value  A price I have learned to pay for the value of better understanding is to replace certainty and advice and answers with curiosity and questions. I think this sense of price is important because my hope is that people will pay the price (give up their own certainty) in order to develop a better understanding of others -- of me. I think of it as deep listening -- listening to understand, not persuade. And this is important to me because I want to be seen, heard and valued for who I am, not who you (someone else, not you specifically) think I am or interpret me to be.

So, let me ask you: What does this idea of price mean to you?  And then (to ask the next question) Why is that idea of price important to you?

Another good question Eric. I understand the way you are using 'price' as something you have to give up in order to have something else. In this case giving up certainty. I prefer not to use price in this context because I see the approach you are suggesting as a more natural way to be when we are not afraid to be vulnerable and to admit we don't know. I think you are asking people to be more honest with themselves and with you. So you could say what they would be giving up is their dishonesty. They are not really giving up anything of value.

If you had to give up your freedom that would be a price to pay. Even then it is unlikely it would be a voluntary act, not like an exchange between equals.  Moreover freedom is priceless. This whole analogy is based on the premise that when you pay for something you have a choice. Money gives you power. I don't believe that to be true. It is the illusion of a consumer society that consumers have power because they can choose. And that validates the competetive society we call capitalism.

Price assumes scarcity, you have to give up something in order to have something else. You can't have both. What we are taught as children. you can't have your cake and eat it. Price is used to decide what we can afford. If 'care' was substituted for 'price' we would find we could afford many things which are now too expensive. The article about money which Sea recommended here explains this thoroughly. So I would prefer to keep the word price for things we have to buy in a capitalist economy in which an artificial scarcity is manufactured so that some people can make a profit.

Anna

Here's another, more mundane perspective on the relative scarcity/abundance of time, via Clay Shirky's book Cognitive Surplus... Globally we watch over 1 trillion hours of TV per year.  A 1% reduction would free up enough time, he estimates, to create the equivalent of 100 new Wikipedias per year.  As individuals, we may or may not be short on time.  As a collective, we have a huge surplus (that we have thus far for the most part devoted to watching TV!).

Shirky suggests, by the way, that this might be shifting as a result of our new media, and that this phenomenon of our choosing to be a passive audience is an anomaly in human history.  He uses the phrase "the people formerly known as the audience" to refer to a growing trend for participation rather than passive consumption.  Much of that is also arguably rather banal in nature (sharing what I ate for breakfast on Facebook), but not all of it is like that, as evidenced by what we are doing here (one hopes!).  

AND... even the trivial stuff is about creating human connection in a way that is fundamentally different from sitting mutely in front of the TV.  Perhaps we are all like kittens, thinking we are merely playing when in fact we are developing the skills needed to "hunt!"

One other distinction that feels important around this idea of a "price" or hurdle is that, because there is no mandate or even attempt at persuasion regarding the invitation to join the group, the "price" is completely optional and voluntary.  Indeed, it can then be seen as a gift made out of a desire to contribute to something greater than oneself. I love Block's writing about this in Community: the Structure of Belonging:

Invitation as a Way of Being
Invitation is not only a step in bringing people together, it is also a fundamental
way of being in community. It manifests the willingness to live
in a collaborative way. This means that a future can be created without
having to force it or sell it or barter for it. When we believe that barter or
subtle coercion is necessary, we are operating out of a context of scarcity
and self-interest, the core currencies of the economist. Barter or coercion
seems necessary when we have little faith in citizens’ desire and capacity
to operate out of idealism. The choice for idealism or cynicism is a spiritual
stance about the nature of human beings. Cynicism gets justified by naming
itself “reality.”

A commitment to invitation as a core strategy is betting on a world not
dependent on barter and incentives. It is a choice for idealism and determines
the context within which people show up. For all the agony of a volunteer
effort, you are rewarded by being in the room with people who are up to
something larger than their immediate self-interest. You are constantly in
the room with people who want to be there, even if their numbers are few.
The concern we have about the turnout is simply an expression of our own
doubts about the possibility that given a free choice, people will choose to
create a future distinct from the past. (p.114)

You know Ben, it occurs to me that it may be indeed necessary to have agreement or commitment to The Principles or Values of a 'new world' ... such as the Declaration of Interdependence or the like.  This would then be a broad basis for law, such as our existing Constitution.

This would acknowledge the idea that Everyone will not fit in to any set of principles for there will be deviants, diseased, wayward, or otherwise socially unfit humans that will need to be cared for.  It seems to acknowledge this point is to acknowledge that a wholely inclusive society is yet out of reach.  But, there may be within reach a society who compassionately cares for all nonetheless.

Block asks us all to consider the following question, as part of the "ownership conversation:"

What have I done to contribute to the very thing I complain about or want to change?

Speaking about time... it's so more relevant for me to think in terms of the present, "What am I doing.... "  That way I'm hoping to interfere with my monkey mind doing antics.

Also Block's phrasing "... very thing I complain about..." it seems loaded, maybe challenging like it wants to ask for justification of apparent inaction,  rather than "Where are you at in terms of solving the problem you define?"  I've got some bias around this myself, yet know there is also reason for inaction that can be deep and not immediately obvious.

I wonder how you would decide, or rather who would decide which were the 'deviants, diseased, wayward, or otherwise socially unfit humans'. It seems to me that a wholely inclusive society would have to accept the premise that everyone is different, and the work would be to accept people as far as possible as they are. Similar to the approach described by Eric above.

Anna

Anna, my vision of this focus on inclusion is that either people are capable of self selecting (if they want to behave in a way that's acceptable to society/humanity) or not capable to make this decision because they are diseased or insane (that's another topic to define).

If people are to self-select, accepting the invitation to 'belong' to a society AND if our highest selves see inclusiveness as the 'natural' way, then we must be wise enough to specify the correct invitation AND its conditions.  Perhaps one would view these as moral rules that can span a diverse humanity. 

So, inclusiveness can be defined as responsibility for all (which necessarily includes ones individual responsibility) yet acknowledging there will be some who will not or can not take that responsibility.  We must provide for them (live with them therapeutically or incarcerate them) even when they do not fit (but rather harm) humanity.

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