Events, Updates and Reflections
Dear Interhelpers and Friends,
As spring begins to emerge from winter (we are hopeful, here in New England, that this is the case), there’s a lot to report on. See below for upcoming events; Interhelp Network news; Earth Leadership Cohort update; and Michael Rice’s thoughtful article, A Hopeful Pessimist Contemplates Head, Heart and Hand.
Please contact me with news about Work That Reconnects events and initiatives in the Northeast.
With spring in my heart,
Work That Reconnects Community of Practice, Boston-area, March 21st, 10-4. Would you like to get together with others on a regular basis to experience the Work That Reconnects? To work with others to help bring this Work to new people? To grow in your WTR facilitation skills? Boston-area folks will meet on March 21st to explore the parameters of such a group. We hope to not only establish a local Community of Practice, but also to pilot this endeavor in a way that others can learn from our experience and thus be aided in setting up their own local Communities of Practice.
We will likely share a WTR practice or two, a potluck lunch, and discussion about what we would like for the Boston-area Community of Practice. Please contact Aravinda.
Active Hope: Dancing the Spiral, a weekend workshop at Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Deerfield, MA, April 3–5. Join us as we blend the spiral of the Work That Reconnects with the Dances of Universal Peace.
With Dance Leaders Arif Leininger and Amina Silk, and WTR facilitators Carol Harley and Paula Hendrick. Contact Paula for more information.
The Work That Reconnects for Prospective and New Parents, Saturday, April 11, 10-5 at Farmacy Herbs farm, West Greenwich, RI, with Karina Lutz and Jim Tull
A day of the Work That Reconnects specifically designed for new parents and for people considering parenthood at this critical time in Earth. Click here for more information.
Speaking Truth in Challenging Times: Writing and The Work That Reconnects, May 30–31 in Cambridge, MA, with Louise Dunlap, Joseph Rotella, and Aravinda Ananda
Louise’s transformative tools for writing, Undoing the Silence, complement The Work That Reconnects, with methods for engaging our true voices, releasing harmful self-judgment, and reaching out to the consciousness of those we wish to influence. Louise has 50 years of experience teaching writing in activist settings, and has a piece in the updated Coming Back to Life book. This workshop is for new and experienced writers. Contact Aravinda.
Joanna Macy, May 8, at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center Her May workshop at Rowe Conference Center is full, but she will be back in September with her co-translator of Rilke, Anita Barrows.
2015 Interhelp Gathering, Oct. 30–Nov. 1 at Woolman Hill, Deerfield, MA
Support Group News from Verne McArthur: next meeting is Tuesday, March 10 at Universalist Church of West Hartford, CT, 5:30-7:30.
Two events that took place this winter:
On Saturday, February 28th, three members of last fall’s Earth Leadership Cohort facilitated a Work That Reconnects workshop at the Cambridge Friends Meeting House. Lisa Galinski, Sophie Robinson, and Dorian Williams led a 4-hour spiral that included a Milling, a Truth Mandala, the Wheel of the Great Turning, and a guided meditation/partner sharing of visions for Going Forth. Participants most liked: the compact yet potent and complete spiral; truth telling; community grieving; a sense of validation offered by the “three dimensions of the Great Turning” brain food (there are many ways we contribute); as well as specificity in the Going Forth Meditation. When the participants learned it was the facilitators’ first time leading a WTR workshop, they gave a round of applause! It was a day of depth, connection and buoyancy. The facilitation team is grateful to Aravinda Ananda and Joseph Rotella for their mentoring and support throughout the process.
This from Rosalie Anders: In February, after yet another snowstorm, Anne Goodwin and Dorian Williams offered an evening for nine Boston-area activist women of three generations to share a meal and do the Work That Reconnects. As we shared our food and our feelings, I felt lifted by the history, connections, and commitment that held us together. With each of them, I have shared actions for peace and climate justice. I was resting in a nest of caring.
For me it has been a discouraging winter, with so much cold and snow and more snow and more snow in the Boston area, extreme weather linked to the warming of the ocean. As a balance-challenged older woman making my way on foot around the city, I have felt disheartened by how many people don’t stir themselves to act on climate change (or even shovel their sidewalks). I was feeling both helpless and angry. Being with those women who have faced what is happening and risen to the challenge to act was a powerful tonic, like the first green shoots of spring.
INTERHELP NETWORK NEWS
We welcome to Interhelp Council Lisa Galinski, a participant in Earth Leadership Cohort 2014 (see below). Michael Rice, who first served on the Council 26 years ago, has shifted to Emeritus status. Thank you Michael, for your indefatigable efforts, your deep, broad wisdom and leadership, and of course, for your endless puns.
Interhelp has a new website-in-progress. Check it out at interhelpnetwork.org. Please let us know your thoughts and suggestions.
The generous support of readers of this newsletter enabled us to reach our fundraising goal for Earth Leadership Cohort 2015. Helped by a generous matching grant, we raised $6505! THANK YOU. There is still space in the spring cohort; applications will be accepted until April 1st or until the program is filled.
The first Interhelp Inquiry Day, January 31, 2015
by Rosalie Anders
Twenty-three enthusiastic people, ranging from Interhelpers who’ve been involved for 30 years to some whose engagement spans a few months, gathered in Cambridge to reflect on Interhelp’s history and share ideas about how we’d like to foster the Work That Reconnects.
Sarah Pirtle, one of Interhelp’s founders, sent a video (on youtube) offering her reflection about how it was in the 1980s, when the work was called Despair and Empowerment and the existential threat that most people were unable to acknowledge was nuclear war. At one time Interhelp had grant funding and paid staff. But for many years, we have been an all-volunteer, self-organizing and non-hierarchical organization. A Council of 10 or so offers the annual Interhelp Gathering and other events, and serves as an informal support group for each other.
To focus our inquiry, we shared how the Work That Reconnects has buoyed us in these tough times. It has given us the courage to look a little more squarely at the destruction of so much that we cherish, helping us to act a bit more wisely, maintain focus, and not burn out.
Carol Harley reminded us of our mission statement, and we reaffirmed the foundations of our work. Participants expressed their desire to support each other and everyone else who is on the front lines of working for change; to help turn anger and despair into constructive action; to create intergenerational support networks; to listen to the non-human world as well as to human beings who are suffering; and to energize each other.
An Open Space format yielded small group explorations of several possible directions for our work: establishing regular groups of practice and support; bringing the work to organizations engaged in social change; building on Joanna’s discussions with people of color; fostering a men’s group; delving more into the non-human world; and using the arts. Follow-ups are being planned.
The Council reiterated its desire to share responsibility and leadership. As the follow-up activities develop, we will look at organizational structures (non-hierarchical, of course) and responsibilities.
It was a day of enjoying and energizing each other.
A Hopeful Pessimist Contemplates Head, Heart, and Hand
by Michael Rice
Optimism and Hopefulness are often treated as synonyms. I believe this is a conceptual mistake, for the scale of optimism to pessimism resides in the left brain and the scale of hope to despair resides in the heart. When I say I am pessimistic about the future of climate change, for example, I mean that my study of the ways in which world economic and political structures function leads me to calculate that the odds strongly predict (90% or more!) the likelihood that many low lying populated areas of the world will be permanently under water before the end of this century, that many ocean species will die out, that there will be mass starvation and migration. (Of course the CEO of Exxon might regard the same calculation with optimism.) In short, whether we regard some future outcome with optimism or pessimism depends both on a calculation of the probability of a given outcome and on whether we view that probable outcome as desirable. It is, of course, possible that the degree of our attachment to, or fear of, a given outcome will affect our ability to make an objective calculation of probability. Thus the confusion of hope with optimism may arise from a tendency of a hopeful person to deny or suppress data that would yield a pessimistic calculation – in other words, to look at reality through rose-colored glasses.
Before turning to the question of hope, let me contemplate one other example. My acculturated sense of justice leads me to disdain domination by one or a few over the many, or by a dominant group over a less powerful group (European Americans over indigenous Americans, Nazis over Jews, Israelis over Palestinians, Saudi rulers over women, colonizers over the colonized, corporate capitalists over workers, the 1% over the 99%). I believe that neo-liberal economics leads to ever-deepening chasms between the wealthy and the poor, and damages the possibility of a functional democracy. Two of the advocates of neo-liberalism, the journalist Thomas Friedman and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, used to like the phrase There Is No Alternative (TINA). That suggests to me a calculated 100% probability that neo-liberalism is here to stay – forever – and that they were “optimistic” about that. I would view that result – that we would still be facing neo-liberalism in 2100 – with pessimism, although I never accept 100% certitude about the future. Why? Because, as the ad for the New York State lottery claims, “You never know.”
How do we respond to our calculation of the probable future? Do we accept powerlessness in the face of TINA? Do we let the future take its “inevitable” course without a fight? Do we thereby eliminate the possibility of an alternative? That is where Hope comes in. Hope is a heart-felt belief, commitment to the proposition that Another World Is Possible (AWIP). It recognizes – and welcomes – that we cannot know the future with certainty, that the probable does not dictate the only possible future. Optimism/pessimism deals in probabilities. Hope/Despair deals (or gives up dealing) in possibilities.
So what feeds my hope? I recognize – and honor – my sense of justice in the anger I felt at the prospect and actuality of the 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq, and I am nurtured by the sense of community I feel with others who were able to rise above the jingoism of war fever. (Ditto the police killing of Michael Brown and the wonderful communal stand “#Black Lives Matter.”) I celebrate my love of the land and good soil when I let myself feel sadness at its conversion to the “development” of a subdivision or a mall. I even find support for my hopefulness in the not knowing what to do about it all, for it reminds me of the possibility that arises from uncertainty. (My attention was first called to the hope that lies in the unknowability of the future by Rebecca Solnit’s book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.)
And what do I do with my hope? I act. I get my hands dirty – literally, on my farm, to demonstrate ways to consistently improve soil fertility while growing healthy, organic, food – and figuratively, on the streets, to counter the constant din of propaganda to consume, consume, consume, while closing one’s eyes to injustice and other consequences. And I try to discover, and live in, the spirit of “another world” that “is possible”; my favorite T-shirt states “Be the Change You Want to See in the World.”
In short, I try to look with my brain, my head, without blinders, at the reality around us, to keep in my heart the hope that sustains focus on the possible, and to use my “hands” to promote it. And since I know that I cannot know what will happen, what actions of mine will bring about what I envision, I do what seems to me as right, without depending on results.