Sunday, November 15, 2015

“Hang Together…” Or Else

Ben Franklin, around the signing of the Declaration of Independence, stated his well-remembered quote, “We must all hang together or most assuredly hang alone,” emphasizing that all must remain united and supportive of one another to ensure our freedom.

There are endless reasons for people to hang together. But so often we forget this or neglect to give it its due.  Then something tragic occurs such as what has happened in Paris this past weekend. 

Then we remember, at least for a little while, how very much we all need one another -- and the tragic price we can pay for divisiveness. 

As we face heartbreaking losses we cleave to one another, finding comfort and warmth in our human connectedness. All too soon, however, when our catastrophes recede, many, if not most of us, return to life as usual; the way it was before we were challenged in the heartrending way; too caught up and busy with our own, self-focused imperatives for others to matter.

When I was the local president of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) I experienced a heartrending controversy that tore Jews in my local area apart, at least initially the situation seemed to me to do that. Simultaneously I found alliances with Christians and other non-affiliated folks.

Actually, as I was to discover, as I waded my way through hip high resentments, power plays, secrets and collusions, distancing the hearts among many Jews in a town, not overly abundant in them, divisiveness was rife in this community. I was heartbroken at this realization as it became clearer and clearer to me. In fact, I believe that what I saw, how I interpreted it and what I felt at the time about the situation was an important turning point in my life.

I, too, had turned my back on others; of my faith heritage as well as many others. In fact, for more decades than I care to remember I became determinedly anti-Semitic. Even bleaching my hair blonde so as not to be identified as “one of them.” When I purposefully came back to my association with these “others” only to find Jew against Jew in the most petty of ways, my hard won dedication to going back turned my perspective of Jewish community and what it meant to me growing up on its head.

Today we see almost daily that people need to not “other” anyone, same or not same.  While people will, no doubt, find sustenance  most readily from likeminded others, we must ‘hang together” with “others” no matter who or what they are; the same or not.

There is much more to this story of mine; a tale of separation from others, the toll it took on me and the others, what my return has been like and how it has changed me – for the better. I will speak of it increasingly in the future as I believe that what I have learned in this specific area of my personal journey is well-worth the sharing for the lessons accrued.

Already my Exploring Your Dark Side blog site is becoming a platform for the treasures I have gained to be shared. I hope you will check it out, especially if “hanging together” means something to you – and – sometimes you don’t do it as well as you might.

Today, as my inner world plays an increasingly energetic and interactive role with my outer world and the world surrounding, close up and far away, what I have discovered as I made my way to this place of abundant unity and support merits sharing.

For today, however, I think it best to simply invite you, my loyal readers, to check out the most recent Possible Society In Motion Radio Show titled, “Why "Bother" With Community,” that Jack, my co-host, and I did last Thursday.  We made a beginning, but only a start, at digging into the countless obstacles and rewards of humanity, at its best, when people hang together. 

Especially when we can each appreciate that no other option can better serve us; in times of tragedy, loss, sorrow, joy and celebration!  

Today if we look to Paris we are reminded of this.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

George Barris Has Died: I Had Hoped He Would Be Immortal

George Barris, the world renowned custom car designer, best known as the creator of the Batmobile, has died. I read of his passing in the New York Times. As the headline announcing his demise sunk into my mind, a clunk hit my belly, my chest went thud and my heart ached. Next I heard my mind state, emphatically, that an era had ended for me with George’s passing; my childhood was finally over!

Now what could that possibly mean?
The model and color of my first car
George and my Dad customized for me.

Foolishness to the extreme you might think, especially considering I had not seen the man in over fifty years. But there it was anyway, the hit I hadn’t expected, bringing me to realize that I had been holding on to a belief – a wish?? deep down that George Barris would be immortal and live on forever. What an unanticipated surprise!

On the surface, of course, my reaction might seem strange. But no, George Barris had died, leaving me feeling bereft in unimagined ways. Today these unexpected emotions show up again as I set thoughts to paper.  Of course, the deepest part of the meaning is about my father and how George’s relationship to him altered the course of my life. Yet beyond that there is something more. These two men together; my father and George Barris, have shape the woman I have become.  Neither of them alone could have brewed what jointly they created in me.

For many years I have known this to be true. But today I am telling you too.

I realized immediately that my reactions to George’s death warranted some serious contemplation. Mainly, as I touched on in my blog article titled, “Whatever Happened To George Barris,” the greatest significance would seem to be about how George’s relationship to my father as business partners for a time in the 1950s impacted me.  But still there is more.

That clunk in my belly, my chest going thud and my heart aching at his passing show me that the gifts of George’s life, as I briefly shared it and how he thereafter was always in it, near or from afar, warrant a bit more exploration. So I will take time to do this now as my way of honoring a life that was so huge it could not but help impact on others; those around him and those, like myself, beyond any conscious knowing on his part.

Honoring the passing of an individual, no matter who they are or what they done with their lives, is a right and loving thing to do. This steadfast belief of mine, incorporated with my Jewish upbringing tells me to mourn one year for members of our family. And, indeed, George without being present became an important member of my family – for better or for worse.

Thus I am intent on giving myself over, according to custom, to paying tribute to this man, George Barris, who, in effect, changed the course of my life – and – gave great gifts to this world in both his art and his personhood.  

Judaism and psychology, my chosen professional field, aside perhaps pure instinct might alert me to the fact that if I have unfinished business with George Barris it would do me well to clear it. Perhaps this unfinished business; actually a debt I thought he owed me, is reason enough for my conscious reflection at this time of his passing. It’s not “nice” to hold grudges and this I do have for him, along with respect and admiration.

So here I go on another one of my mini-adventures of a lifetime, a next personal transformation escapade of mine. I will share this journey into the hidden recesses of my mind with you and let you know what I find.  

If nothing else, this venture on my part will provide you, my loyal readers, with one more person, me, who might advance your insight on the Dark Side/Survivor/Addict in action of which I am writing on my Exploring Your Dark Side: The Adventure of A Lifetime blog. 

Certainly a grudge, especially one held for so many decades as I have done with George Barris, comes only out of the Dark Side. Not let’s see, you and me, what we shall see. 

Perhaps when my adventure is done the reason I have needed for George Barris to be immortal for me will be revealed. But then is he not to be immortal just naturally through all he has contributed and left behind?

The good that a man, especially an artist of his magnitude, is always immortal somehow.

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Monday Morning Meetings And The Growing Of An “Exceptional Community”

Meeting Monday Mornings at Dublin Roasters Coffee (1780 N. Market Street, Frederick, Maryland, noon to 2:00 p.m.)

Sponsored by New Horizons Support Network, Inc.

This morning, another Monday morning, had its high and lows. The high point was that I was relieved and happy to not need to quickly leave the warmth under my down comforter or the serenity of New Horizons’ Harper’s Ferry Retreat Center, up here in the mountains, during this first of winter’s cold snaps.  

I do love warmth and coziness, especially when the great outdoors are getting a bit chilly and I want the days to still be the lazy days of summer.

The low part was that I truly missed my Monday Morning Meeting in Frederick to which I am quickly becoming accustomed and enamored.  The abundance of synergy and goodwill that is growing there, almost to the point of calling it a vibration of love, is the main draw. 

Aligned with this is that this wonderful ambiance is interwoven with the task of building a working community project through New Horizons Coffee House Conversations Project; destination -- a community actively engaged in being a touch beyond ordinary, in our local community of Frederick, Maryland.

The Coffee House Conversations Planning Project, while still new and very tiny, is, indeed, becoming a growing community entity within our greater civic locale, dedicating itself to building a more “exceptional community” throughout Frederick County with as many people as will join with us through dialogue and pro-active social and political engagement.

The road to individual and collective transformation has many elements, “the most important one is having a community.Murat Yagan, New Horizons’ Beloved Community Development mentor, Murat Yagan (1915 – 2013), affirmed this message for New Horizons and myself, personally.  

However, I had already come to know this in my earliest days, having been born into a strong community-life that I naturally was drawn to replicate in various forms as an adult. How sad it is to me that the experience of this most essential aspect of healthy, balanced living is all too often overlooked in this day of high speed everything.  

My Beloved collaborator, Sue deVeer, a birthright Quaker. came to New Horizons in 2006 knowing the importance of community – and -with a great deal of skill and experience in building and sustaining it through Quaker Consensus Process.

Communities, particularly the “exceptional” kind, do require certain kinds of investments, all too frequently disregarded in today’s world, such as time, especially face time, an altruistic commitment to the wellbeing of others, determination to pursue the highest good, a defining aspect of a passion for excellence in human affairs  -- and -- patience.

Here is how I have described the “exceptional community,” contrasting it to the "ordinary" in my manuscript in progress, “The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard.”

The following is excerpted from “The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard,” (a manuscript in progress).

Commonly held views of a “community” define it as “a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and are bound together by various interests, characteristics and values they hold in common.   
A definition of community that is more exceptional, however, holds that a true community has several other distinct characteristics. These qualities carry the normally-held view of a community forward into an extraordinary form; New Horizons call this the exceptional community 
One characteristic of the exceptional community is that the members are particularly like-minded regarding the necessity for resolving conflicts in ways that represent social justice in a superlative fashion. A second is that they function synergistically. The presence of these two attributes*; like-mindedness and synergy, separates the exceptional community from all other communities.  
To the extent that members not only share common values, interests and characteristics (i.e. like-mindedness) in a particular locality and under one government, but also consistently seek to function synergistically, they set themselves on a course of evolving. Evolving as a group can be the basis for producing an “exceptional community.” 
The exceptional community is a thriving, healthy system that makes every possible attempt to maintain harmony and peace. In the exceptional community, violence could, someday, even become obsolete because the conditions that foster violence become unnecessary. 
In today’s world the exceptional community is an important model for creating a “culture of prevention,” a significant deterrent to the proliferation of violence. (The Tunisian Dialogue Quartet is an example of this.)
The Coffee House Conversations Planning Project Team is becoming an emerging “exceptional community.” Here is an invitation for your participation in it, even in short, periodic visits and in small ways.

There is room and work for everyone. 

No effort is too small or insignificant to make a difference in this endeavor.

We need YOU! We need everyone!

For details and registration, contact: 
Anastasia 240.409.5347

New Horizons is a 501 C 3 non-profit educational organization 
Cash contributions are welcomed to support this project!

*Regarding like-mindedness and synergy – I have come to realize that in communities of diversity, like-mindedness can be uncomplicated in building and sustaining an exceptional community if shared values regarding social justice and conflict resolution are agreed upon.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

How About A National Dialogue (Quartet or a Sextet or even a Polyhedron “Dialogue” or something) in the U.S.A.?

Let’s you and I make music! We can do it! 

I’m soooo excited! Being, as I am, a person given to a dedication to “think global, act local” as a mantra, what could possibly elevate both the rational and visionary/mystical parts of my mind as high as they are these days? 

Allow me to tell you what did it!

The Nobel Peace Prize being given to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet! The name alone of the awardee sends shots of joy up and down my spine! Yippee!

Especially that this prize was awarded while New Horizons is almost totally immersed, 24/7, in our own local Coffee House Conversations Project, built on the same basic principles (at least as far as we understand); dialogue  and consensus as viable pathways to large-scale civic problem-solving. 

I tell you I got myself soooo excited by these delightful turns of events; the local and global – I found myself unable to sleep for too many nights; one stint was four out of ten nights. OMG!

Jack, my radio show co-host on our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show, and I took up the topic of “How About A National Dialogue Quartet In The U.S.A?” because of this wonderful Nobel Peace Prize on our last program. And, I think we made a good start at considering the possibilities and the obstacles for our country.

One of the most frustrating hindrances that Jack suggested is that Americans aren’t in enough trouble to take up a project such as this. Could this be enough to really deter us?

Now that’s a sad state of affairs if I ever heard one; we have to go to violence and a total governing chaos to try something, which to me – and a good number of others, seems so logical and almost simple, but not easy!

Nonetheless I think Jack and I had a worthwhile discussion on this topic on our show, opening the way for more on the same and beyond.  After all, our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show began as a dialogue forum for overcoming the polarization running through our society and politics. 

Isn’t this, a Nobel Peace Prize for a “National Dialogue Quartet,” a sign of a time, the one we are living in now, that we, even America, just might be able to accommodate happenings such as a real “national” dialogue that involves large-scale engagement in our country, ushering in dramatic social and political transformation?

I can see that happening – in my mind’s eye; the eye in me that learned, while I was blind, to see beyond the mundane.

Check out our discussion for yourself on podcast. Perhaps it will get your own self so excited that you won’t be able to keep from joining us for our next Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call, scheduled for Thursday, October 29, 7:00 p.m. General details here, specific ones to come on the New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” Project blog site.

In the meantime, I , will do my best to discuss here why you, too, should be as excited as I am about this wonderful international turn of events; a Nobel Peace Prize for people talking to one another enough to make a difference.

Yeah, Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet!


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Groundswell of the Grassroots and The Nature Of Awe

Try explaining or describing the nature of awe to the ordinary person and what do you get?

Blank stares!

But talk about awe with someone who has been there, personally and with others, and what you get instead is a “real” conversation.

Wow! I have some of these “awestruck” friends in my life. They can, in a heartbeat, generate a conversation like this with me, even on the nature of awe!

So when I had the opportunity this morning to have a bit of a coffee/tea break with one of these friends, I got back even more awe.

Nancy is my friend’s name. She began as my acupuncturist but after a few years of working together, discovering in the process that we really like each other and have a handful of things in common, like understanding the nature of awe, more or less, we can speak of such things rather easily. 

Nancy and I had a break time telephone chat this morning in which I found myself “trying” to tell her about Monday’s Coffee House Conversations Volunteer Planning Meeting. And the awe I experienced in it. And how that meeting was, for me, in its tiny way, like the awe for some folks of seeing the Pope.

(Which, for me, is like the awe of being with Murat, leaving me so moved as to be almost speechless).

Only fireworks come to my mind as being as high and as bright as awe. Yet, being man made, they fall short of the awe of a baby’s birth, for example, or experiencing the purity and love of the Pope. Perhaps a perfect diamond, coming as it does from nature, might come close to the sparkle I feel inside, remembering and calling up the feelings of the precious moments of awe I have known. And, indeed, there have been many!

As I recounted my experience of that last volunteer meeting to Nancy, attuned and curious as she is, Nancy leaned in and probed that in me that had recently been to awe, attempting to understand more fully my experience of awe last Monday, connecting it with her own past moments of awe. 

Out of that exchange I had a grand surprise, accompanied by, once again, the wonderment of the well-lived facets of my own life, personally!

Trained as I am as a Certified Transactional Analyst to analyze interpersonal interactions, minute motion by motion, I was able to describe to Nancy (and amazingly to myself, too) some of the essential ingredients that brought the awe of that meeting to be; a simple formula, not easy to apply, learned from my dear friend, now deceased, Rabbi Edwin Friedman, noted systems analyst and author of Generation To Generation and A Failure of Nerve.

The formula has these three elements. I am convinced these three, applied consistently, can lead any one of us, as well as any group of well-intentioned folks out of the social messes of our day-to-day lives in to creating zones of peace wherever we go. So profound we can even experience awe!

Here is the formula. Apply it, transaction by transaction to how you reliably handle yourself, personally and interpersonally, and you will be more than half way up the Mountain of Awe – and – climbing. 
  1. Self definition,
  2. Investment in connection
  3. On-reactive presence 
(Fear not. I will bring these three elements to you attention again and again with explanations. Now that I’ve started.)

However, if it doesn’t seem clear to you how high you are climbing, applying this formula, in your own personal ascension, as well as the collective, contact me, Anastasia, The Super Sleuth. I will be your personal guide for climbing the Mountain of Awe and I will assist you in reaching that peak.

I am here to help!

Definitely more on this, especially as we head into the craziness of the coming election campaigns, in the midst of all the other craziness surrounding us in our society and politics.

It’s a wonder anybody can stay sane. Let alone reach awe!

But we can! I know I will -- and -- I know you can too!

Thus we become the "groundswell" of the grassroots, as Marilyn Ferguson suggested in the Aquarian Conspiracy, that can even topple that most exasperating of entities, our dysfunctional political machinery!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Cup Runneth Over!

I got to thinking this morning, after posting an announcement for tomorrow evening’s Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call, that all of a sudden coffee/tea cups had become a symbol of something to me; something warm and cozy, relaxed and happy.

But what was that something?  I had not an inkling.

The notion started to form yesterday but I didn’t, actually, realize a significance to it until just a short while ago.

Then I wondered about this growing awareness. 

What was this something that coffee/tea cups were starting to mean to me?

As I often do I thought to tell my best friend, spirit sister, peace buddy/collaborator, Sue, about it.  She had a few spare moments so was willing to ponder the point at hand with me.

Always eager to explore meanings and symbols in the abstract, it didn’t take but a minute for her to be in the “game” with me.

A coffee/tea cup?

Now what could that mean to me, Anastasia? Did the damp and the dreariness of the day have a thing or two about it as a connection?

Not much I decided.

But, aha, there it was!

New Horizons’ sponsored forthcoming Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call, scheduled for tomorrow evening, Thursday, held the magnetism that was drawing my attention to the idea of a cup!

I had been in the process of posting an announcement for that event when my first awareness of a generic cup surfaced. The generic cup became something to me before it became a cup, specifically the one pictured above. 

I was developing a feeling, an emotion about cups. I had never had such before! But still what did the coffee/tea cup mean for me in that context?

I mused on the image.

Then there it was!

Coffee/tea cups had come to symbolize friendships, gatherings, community, relaxation, hanging out with folks, informality, sharing, inspiration, fun, expanded consciousness, camaraderie, new ideas, inspiration, collective ideals, “a possible society in motion.”

Got it! My cup runneth over! Then I saw it full.  Awesome!

There it is – the meaning of a cup for me had come to meaning human sustenance of the finest quality, in every imaginable color, shape and size -- cups, symbols of the people and what I share with them.

Over the past year coffee/tea cups (I don’t drink coffee, actually) have grown to represent the personal and interactive richness New Horizons’ Coffee House Conversations has brought into my life through the many friends, new and old, it has drawn together to share an intention to better ourselves in the company of like-minded others.

Now Jack Slattery, my Possible Society In Motion Radio Show co-host, and myself are striving to bring that same ambiance to our expanded format of Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call.  Yumm.

My heart is already warming to the occasion, my mind yearning for the inspiration that will come of the camaraderie.

Umm! Coffee and tea cups plus a bit of a Coffee House  Conversation right from our living rooms (or wherever)!

I am yearning for the good times. I hope you will be too. And that you will join us for the ambiance, if nothing else.

Here are the details.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On The Experience of Awe: The Grand and The Tiny

There is a wonderful definition of “awe” on the New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” blog site. Also on that site are a handful of articles related to the general theme of “awe” as New Horizons regards it. Most significantly for me and the whole of what New Horizons stands for, at its core, are references to books written by our Beloved, now deceased community development mentor, Murat Yagan; many having “Awe” as a part of his sub-titles.

This should give you a hint that the experience of “awe” is right up there in terms of importance to all New Horizons is and does.

“Awe,” however, is not an easily described, much less readily attained experience. When it comes, rare as it is, it is truly a blessing of the highest acclaim.

I was having a text message conversation this morning with my dear friend, Chief Kim Dine, Chief of the Capitol Police (Washington, D.C. Police), about his experience last week of being totally on the front lines providing security for the Pope.

The bottom line here seems to be that as the Chief’s task was security, awesomeness took a bit of a back seat. Still my friend, the Chief, did report feeling honored, especially in shakin Olpool
Pmg hands with this most revered of spiritual leaders. But more than anything else he was  glad the visit ended with security going off so very well. 

Intuitively, however, it seems that Chief Dine, along with the millions of others fortunate enough to share a relatively close space with the Pope, experienced a touch of awe at those happenings. 

Suffice it to say – love and laughter, joy and light helped to make up the vibration we might call “awe” that surrounded the Pope.

Today I am rejoicing a bit that New Horizons Coffee House Conversations Volunteer Team, also, had a tiny taste of awe at our planning meeting yesterday.  Working with our local City Police at that coming together we began to experience the “awe” of a developing trust and unity as a functioning team. That was uplifting and inspiring enough to be awe for me. 

Yet it was only a baby step, albeit in the right direction, of where we want to take ourselves; from an ordinary community of lofty ideals to an exceptional community living out those ideals, day-by-day, for real. I am gratified to see us in this kind of motion.