In the flood of email that's been circulating, I have been feeling the need for intelligent people to cross connect. Your engagement is welcome.

The Conversation: Making Sense of These Times
A Mighty Companions Project

Figuring Out the New Way Together
Suzanne Taylor

November 20, 2001

At some level, you could say that it's astonishing we let ourselves get into this position, where there is a terrorist network bent on our destruction. We ask how this could be – how we were not keeping up with whatever it would have taken not to have had such a force build up, unresisted, against us.

But, seen from another angle, it had to be this way. People who knew the situation knew it individually. The difference now is we know we're in it together. That's how we can vow to rid the earth of the scourge of terrorism. We had to be together to be able to make such a resolve.

Together, all people count. No one can be left out, from the homeless on our streets to the victims of droughts and war and whatever has created poverty and starvation worldwide. And the obvious place to start to normalize ourselves in a new mutuality is with the wealthy. Exorbitant wealth doesn't belong in a world where there's much suffering. The job of the wealthy would come to be seen as giving – as service, not acquisition.

Torie Osborn of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles-based social-change organization, wrote this in a piece entitled, FDR's 4th Freedom has been Forgotten:

In its 1998 annual report, the United Nations Development Program calculated that it would take less than 4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest individuals in the world to achieve and maintain access to adequate food, safe water, basic education and health care, and adequate sanitation for all people.

We can start here, figuring out the new way.

"My work is a perfect fit with Torie Osborne's piece on FDR. Indeed, what I'm proposing seems to be the most direct and practical path, as I discuss in Ending Hunger, Homelessness, and Poverty."
Steven Shafarman, Update Listmember

Madeleine Schwab writes:

In response to your call for "figuring out the new way," I'm in two environments which provide me models and maps of human behavior that could supply some insights into our current situation.

Landmark Education talks about what we originally develop as our "winning formula" – our particular adaptations at critical times in our lives that we figured out in order to survive (the term "winning" is used ironically), which we typically continue to employ past when they are no longer productive to us. We determine one aspect at about 2 1/2, when we realize that we are in the universe as a separate entity; the next, at around 13, when we have to deal with how to relate to our peers; and the third, at around 17, when we need to be finding a way to make it in the world. (My winning formula is to be a good girl, do things on my own, and stay busy. Now that I am conscious of other possibilities – the nexus of Landmark's philosophy for personal and global transformation – I see that my formula is pathetic; it was a survival, not a growth mechanism.)

I've been thinking about how this translates to the USA as a society. When we separated from England, in positioning ourselves in relation to the whole world I see that it was with a sense of "divine right" – it was OK, for instance, to slaughter Indians then, and, more recently, it's been OK to interfere with the governments of other regimes and to cancel civil liberties at home. Next, in needing to relate to our peers, came our "rugged individualism" – a separation which created competition instead of cooperation, and translates now into us going to war. As to how we make it in the world, materialism – e.g. capitalism – is the success of our rugged individualism, so that now "keep shopping" is the mandate.

The environment that has helped me think through how it is that we invoked our "winning formula" instead of seeing the situation through fresh eyes after the terrorist attacks, is Matthew Fox's University of Creation Spirituality (UCS), where I am a doctoral student. Foundational to Matt's teaching is Meister Eckhart's "Four Major Paths to Enlightenment," all vital aspects in the configuration of a healthy life. The first is the via positiva – the awe and wonder of life. Then, the via negativa – the suffering and letting go of control. The via creativa is the creativity and innovation that is fueled by the first two paths. Last is the via transformativa, where our creativity goes to promoting justice and making the world a better place.

Matt criticizes our culture for denying the via negativa – for not permitting ourselves to suffer with, for instance, social inequities. (Joanna Macy, who wrote EARTH AS LOVER, EARTH AS SELF, and teaches at UCS, says that before we can heal the environment on the via creativa path, we must do grief work, on the via negativa, for what we've done to destroy our planet.) Thus, on September 11th, instead of being receptive to the world problematique, which could have impelled us into our via creativa to look for innovative ways to meet the situation, we reverted to our winning formula, which no longer serves in our maturity. The via transformativa is the path we should be on now, but we can't get there until we unblocked ourselves from experiencing the suffering of the world, and our compassion and not our arrogance would come into play.

Cycling back to where this letter began, I believe that the "winning formula" and the Four Paths to Enlightenment are dimensional maps for giving us insights into how we are stuck and a starting points in "figuring out the new way."
Suzanne replies:

Thanks, Madeleine. I love maps. They help us to see big pictures.

It makes sense to me that a winning formula turns into a racquet – it's hard to change any system once it's in place, with all that has gotten erected around it. But when the system breaks down, then you are stark up against the need for change. And with our situation, our lack of remorse for our previous stupidity is such a combative old way, that's beneath us in terms of what this country at heart, grounded in the inspired vision that birthed us. We have to learn that humility isn't weakness – ah, sounds like some patriarchal myopia involved, speaking of another system that needs new lights.

Barbara Osborn, Director of Media Relations for the Liberty Hill Foundation, writes:

Thanks so much for quoting us on your website in your piece, Figuring out the New Way Together. We hope you continue to find us quotable! Torie's op-eds are appearing regularly on and often in the Los Angeles. Times.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
Suzanne replies:

Liberty Hill and Mighty Companions are deeply aligned, and might go on to who knows what together from both of us being in L.A. and being so resonant in our points of view – that Margaret Mead quote expresses what's central to my belief (my living room has long been a place for social change agents to huddle). That particular quote I used on my site was such a telling item supporting my perception of what's at the heart of the matter of what makes the world not work, but Torie surely is eminently quotable ongoingly.

In terms of this disparity between rich and poor, here's something that was part of the last email that I just I wrote to a friend. I'm feeling so affected by what I wrote about that it just feels good to share it. How can we let this be?

This was what I wrote:

This morning I was struck by a horror story on page three of yesterday's LA Times, "Desperate, Defenseless Refugees Find Only a New Kind of Misery in Camp," about the unthinkable conditions in some makeshift border camp that people have to bribe their way out of if they can – and most can't – to get to the UN facility in Pakistan, where at least they get tents and blankets. In this camp you cannot believe how it is – like the concentration camps without the gas chambers. I mean, that bad. So picture that story against the inside fold of the paper, on page three, and on page two, adjacent to the story, there are 5 ads that take up about 3/5ths of the page – for Tiffany featuring a $2,000 bracelet and a $1,300 ring; for Cartier with a "lacquer and ribbed gold-plated pen;" from Geary's inviting us to a personal appearance by someone showing Lalique jewelry, watches, leather accessories, fragrances and crystal;" for Salvatore Ferragamo's $850 boots; and from Saks with "sumptuous accessories for the home" which include wool throws for $325 and little throw pillows for $125.

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Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric...

-Edna St. Vincent Millay-

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