I was invited to host a conversation at Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday, February 1st from 1-2pm EST (a recording is available here).  The subject I chose is "Occupy as a Leap of Faith."  As I note below, my initial inspiration was the work of Frances Moore Lappe.  I also want to acknowledge the influence of my time with the FOUR YEARS.GO campaign.  Much of the language that came to me in my opening comments at Trinity were a direct expression of the basic message of that initiative, and echoed the words of Lynne Twist (who was central to the launching of 4YG) in particular.  

The conversation began here before the event, seeded by a Cafe Call on January 6th.  I have reframed the core questions, and look forward to our ongoing dialogue on this theme:

  • How has the Occupy Wall Street movement changed your sense of what might be possible?
  • To what extent do you live as if we truly have enough goods, goodness and time to create a world that works for all?

Initial post for this discussion, from January 4th:

For me, the essential power of the Occupy movement has been its ability to inspire a very large and diverse group of people to move out of a place of disempowerment into one of possibility.  It is easy to understand the resigned, cynical and dis-empowered perspective given the current state of affairs on this planet. That makes the decision of so many to take a stand based on the possibility of something new all the more remarkable and precious.

France Moore Lappe's wonderful book Getting a Grip 2 presents an elegant framework that addresses this dichotomy directly, with the twin premises of scarcity and sufficiency at the heart of two different spirals.  She moves from these core premises all the way through to the specific political and economic dynamics that have created a world where the 1% are increasingly able to dominate and exploit the 99% on the one hand, and a world where we work collaboratively to meet the needs of all, on the other.  You can study the two spirals on her www.smallplanet.org website here [and we have also now posted them below as well].

The "spiral of powerlessness" begins from the assumption that we don't have enough "goods or goodness" (to which I would also add "time") to go around and that as a result, human nature is inherently "selfish, competitive and materialistic."  The "spiral of empowerment" is based upon an assumption that we do have enough, both materially and spiritually.  As a result, we can trust our "deep needs for fairness, cooperation and effectiveness," harnessing them to transform the systems by which we organize and govern ourselves so that the voices and the needs of the 99% are heard and met.

The Occupy movement emerged out of those "deep needs."  The encampments were grounded in the Occupiers' faith in "fairness, cooperation and [the] effectiveness" of the people.  And they were energized by the discovery of sufficiency, as the basic needs not only of the Occupiers themselves, but also of the poorest and weakest among us, were met with grace and love, despite extremely challenging circumstances.

Now almost all the encampments are gone.  Perhaps they will reemerge, perhaps not.  But it is their lesson that holds the greatest power, in my opinion.  How can we nourish that precious faith in human goodness and the sufficiency of the universe that is the source of our ability not simply to "solve our problems," but to step into a realm of possibility in which the true genius of humanity can be unleashed with all the incredible power and brilliance that is within our grasp?

Perhaps we might start by looking within ourselves. In that spirit, I suggest that we begin our conversation with these questions:

  • When have you experienced a deep and powerful sense of sufficiency?
  • What would it take for you to trust that we truly have enough goods, goodness, and time to create a world that works for all?

[Note: I suggest that we move from these initial framing questions to the ones that are now posted at the start of this thread above]

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I just listened to Ben's Trinity church presentation this morning, via the recorded version.  I sincerely appreciate this conversation at Trinity, for its reaching out to perhaps the more intellectual elements of society who may have perhaps not understood the Occupy Movement, except as portrayed via the media soundbites.

I liked the Rev's comment "Jesus spent more time talking about money, than sex".  Money certainly seems to be a central issue of the challenges that we all face together, at this time.

I enjoyed the woman's comment about "slow" work and interpersonal contact.  That is the approach I am taking, and thoroughly enjoying, in an effort to keep our business from dying, due to the economic circumstances that are "larger" than our little business. 

I am finding in so many aspects of my life, that money itself failed to bring satisfaction; and that I was overwhelmed by sheer volumes of activity, to the point of not being able to enjoy my life. 

What I want is balance.  What I want to be able to pursue our goals (preservation of the natural and historic assets of our property and enrichment for our un-schooled children's lives with diverse experiences) without having to think so carefully about money, as we have to do at the moment; and are even often blocked since last fall, at being able to do anything, due to a lack of actual cash resources.  At the same time, I am discovering "value" and "meaningfulness" again; and not simply consumerism (our "lesson" from last Christmas).

I so appreciate the work Ben Roberts is doing in this world, even if I find having enough time to be truly active here with the Cafe's conference calls, a big challenge personally.  Faith ?, that is how I manage to not fall into despair and resignation, in the face of difficult times financially.  I want a world that works for everyone, especially I want that world to be the world of opportunities for meaningful engagement, that my children experience as they become contributing adult members of society.

The Occupy Movement gives me a belief that radical change actually is possible.  At least, people are now admitting to, and talking about, the more serious, complicated and difficult to shift issues.  I remind myself daily of the abundance that actually IS in my life (as cash seems not to be one, of those abundant resources, at the moment) - the 3,000 business contacts that we've never seriously mined, the toys that clutter our floor, the Christmas gifts from very abundant "Santa" years, still yet to be discovered, the sheer number of rocks and plants in my view, as I sit in contemplation beside a creek who's flow never stops.  I consider in the moment of NOW - do I really have a serious problem ?, and usually the answer is  NOT in any single moment (and this keeps me from falling into despair and immobility due to fear), though I don't hide the current realities from my own awareness - of which I increasingly grow all too painfully aware, of marked unfairness in a system that sucks everything out of most, to benefit a very few.

I thought this exchange between Ben and Lynne was important to the discussion here because it highlights what might tend to distance us from one another and where the commonalities are that can unite us in effective action - similarly to the ways the panel at Trinity also was highlighting.

We all have "beliefs".  Some people believe in God (or some other name that means pretty much the same Divine Presence).  Some people believe there is no God (atheists and to some degree agnostics).  Others believe it matters not about such esoteric claims, as much as it matters what we each personally do.  And if we are minding our own selves and not trying to force others to align with our personal beliefs, the rest would all fall into place beautifully.  Such a belief could be called spirituality, with no need to attach a religious flavor to it.

Setting any standard for others, can become a kind of procrastination for taking action our self.  Believing that things will not become better, until everyone believes in God; or until everyone realizes there is no God; or even until everyone takes responsibility for their own actions and quality of life - just puts off our need to take action, in a sort of belief that it "isn't time yet".

We need a new global perspective that honors our total human cultural richness, while at the same time increasing our tolerance and acceptance of the differences, that give each of us a uniqueness; and allowing those differences to express locally, in celebration of our historic connections and roots.  We need to discover what the core values are, that support and sustain a good quality of life for every person.

When we seek an external authority for our actions, we also make possible an external target to blame, for any lack of progress.  We cannot force other people to walk the same path that we do through life.  But if we each do our personal best, to walk through life with an awareness of the circumstances manifesting - of those that seem to affirm life and those that seem to impede a good quality of life - and if we can find within our own self, a compassion for all the ways that people suffer while living a physical existence, then society as a whole can evolve to a perspective that seeks to create a world that works for everyone.

"When initiative and natural forces are combined, there is true harmony."
~ Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao # 35

Thank you so much for these reflections, Deb.  I had a gut sense that posting my exchange with Lynne would be useful, and I think you have pulled the essence of what matters out of it beautifully.  It's interesting, too, that this takes you into the realm of "core values."

I was part of an initiative launched by a group within the Coffee Party in 2010 that explored this, based on the framework in the book Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Poras.  The idea was that when an organization (or movement) can define a "core ideology" that includes a purpose and a set of core values that do not change and are deeply ingrained, that creates a foundation/context that can support all manner of diverse and creative initiatives.  It's a vision that still resonates for me.

The seven UUCD Principles work that way, I believe, both in terms of the freedom to define one's own faith within those parameters and the support they provide for a religious community that, for me at least, feels appropriate to the times we live in.

That Coffee party work on principles has recently spun off as well, as an "open source" offering to the world, via the CitizenNow.org website.  Here are the core values as they emerged from that collaborative process over a period of many months,based on the work of a team of a dozen or more people and feedback from about 2000 Coffee Party members:

AUTHENTICITY
We strive to be open with one another in a way that promotes
understanding, cooperation and trust.

EMPATHY
We engage with one another exercising humility, listening, honesty,
civility and respect.

INCLUSIVENESS
We reach out to and engage with people from diverse backgrounds and
political perspectives.

CONTINUOUS LEARNING
We educate and learn from one another, in order to help ourselves and
others make better-informed the decisions that shape our common life.

INDEPENDENCE
We remain independent of political parties and strive to keep ourselves
free of ideologically based assumptions and influence.

UNITY
We communicate in ways that bring people and ideas together.

DEMOCRACY
We honor the practice of democratic voting to make important decisions through a process that maintains respect for those with minority viewpoints.

I had a gut sense that this thread will be fruitful. It is most interesting since I entered the cafe. I represent the outer world and I think it can produce ripples you have been speaking about at Trinity

There is one - maybe minor - doubt. At least for me. Among the sources inspiring UU the second one is:

Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

For me the belief in confrontation of good and evil is the core, the soil of all beliefs, religions and power structures. One needs power to fight evil. Speaking about it you induce the traditional God.

Can you comment it?

Pawel,

I was just thinking this morning about the issue of battles between "good" and "evil", in a totally different context and purpose, when I was reminded of how over 30 years ago, I felt myself being "called" into such a battle; but the end result for me was to deny a role for myself, in that battle. 

I decided it was NOT for me.  There is a wholeness that one can apprehend, if they are open to such perspectives.  In Ben and Lynne's conversation with one another, I came to see not only the contrasts but the commonalties; and realized for my own self - that the combination represents a high degree of wholeness to my perception of it, from which a new and more inclusive perspective for my own self can also emerge.

Too much has been done, based upon "beliefs" - that one position is right or "good" - and another one is wrong or "bad/evil".  Based upon such "beliefs", wars continue to be fought - to what end ? 

Regards,

Deb

The sense of good and evil is at the core of our culture and civilization. My intention asking Ben for comment was to ignite discussion about cultural, holistic, systemic role of the concepts.

Evidently my question missed its purpose, so could we dig deeper into your remark on Saturday?:

Setting any standard for others, can become a kind of procrastination for taking action our self.

Please consider my position of an outsider in the café. I am not interested in your local affaires and actions. I am here to investigate the significance of café mission statement:

The Mission of Occupy Cafe is to expand the Occupy movement and support the conversations it has ignited into the wider worldReal and meaningful change for good comes when WE THE PEOPLE stand, speak and act together, cooperatively and collaboratively.

I regret to say I have found rather procrastination than significance of acting together. IMHO the concept of good is responsible. It has no standard or absolute connotation.To stand, speak and act together we should (first) agree together what is its meaning.

The most simple and common – although not officially formulated – definition is powerfully grounded in every ego since the rise of consciousness and is the solid part of culture and any contemporary, evolved self/ mindset: good is when I eat, evil when I am being eaten (or today: good is the wealth growing, evil disappearing). We will never agree how to act together upon such definition.

The faith in absolute of goodness gives you – Americans the powerful motivation as individuals. That is what we are missing in Europe.

On the other hand the same faith separates you from the reality (good/evil are abstract and relative, no designations in holistic reality) and makes you impotent to see the collective side of the self. Good and evil is the essence of the problem.

We need a new global perspective that honors our total human cultural richness (your words). Yes indeed. That is what I have hoped for joining the café. Why, investigating American social networking since almost 4 years, I must say it is pure rhetoric?  

We in Europe need desperately your faith in the potential power of the spirit inside us. You (IMHO naturally) need even more desperately to open on European perspective (mental environment), built upon the search of the spirit (or the message from) in understanding the nature, around and within us (ecophilosophy, ecopsychology).

Regards,  greetings from Warsaw, Poland, Pawel

"Why, investigating American social networking since almost 4 years, I must say it is pure rhetoric?"

If one hangs out where words are the tokens of exchange, one will encounter rhetoric. ;-)

More seriously, the question landed.  I confess a treatment-resistant strain of reluctance to just do, not self-publish to describe in a more and more refined way what I would do, when so many out there have no idea what to do and their activation seems so necessary.  The temptation to promote myself to Guide is great.  I'm way out on that limb.

Resisting island existence makes complete sense for one of my era/culture, despite my awareness of the fragility/vulnerability of the system in which it can make sense.

If one hangs out where words are the tokens of exchange, one will encounter rhetoric. ;-)

On the other hand to act together we must communicate and the code is semantic. This is the issue you - Americans consequently avoid ;-(

The voice from inside must be somehow transmitted to cause systemically meaningful (common) action.

"the code is semantic. This is the issue you - Americans consequently avoid"

What is the issue?  Why consequently?

What is the issue?  

Inter human real time communication

Why consequently?

Because 4 years of my efforts to communicate within social networking allows me to say so.

OK, consequently has lost something in translation.  It seems our avoidance of Inter human real time communication is not a consequence of something you've mentioned.

Well, evidently you are right. Although consequence sounds and means the same in Polish and English, meaning of consequently differs and the word is often misused.

The explanation may be however helpful: another meaning, absent in English, is used to describe the recurrent action or behavior upon the constant cause, even if the cause is not clearly stated. Constantly + consistently is the best equivalent.

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