Compelling Conversations

The following is a story in response to a question Juanita posed:

How did you become aware of conversation as a co-evolutionary force and why do you think that is an important insight for engaging with the critical challenges of our time?

It was 1970 and I was 16, a ‘run-away’ living in a hippie commune in the back woods of Vermont.

One day a group of enterprising souls announced a ‘gathering of the
tribes’ to be held at one of the communal farms north of Burlington,
and word quickly circulated among all the communes in the region.  On the designated
day people came pouring in from all over Vermont and New Hampshire and we began to set up
our tents and tipis in the fields surrounding the farm.

We all worked together to build a practical infrastructure that could support that many people (there were several hundred of us by then), and for three days and three nights we gathered in groups large and small around campfires, communal camp kitchens, and in the green fields that surrounded us. We met one another and developed relationships; we cooked and ate and drank together; we talked about what we were doing and why, what we wanted to see happen in the world and what issues we were facing in our communes. We talked about our dreams and fears for the future of our country and our hopes for our individual lives.

Those conversations seeded a hundred more that kept going as we all returned to our various homes, and before a year had passed the group that gathered that weekend had achieved something miraculous. We had collectively started a newsletter, opened a collectively-run residential elementary school for the kids, and launched a collaborative food co-op – soon to have our own tractor-trailer and 6 food distribution centers from New Hampshire to Montreal.

From that experience I learned that ANYTHING is possible if there is intention, and that intention can be catalyzed, by even what seems like a very small action. I learned that the momentum that starts when people are talking about things that really matter to them is unstoppable, and that friendship is one of the strongest bonds on earth.

We didn’t just get things done out of that conversation – our conversations that day were part of creating ourselves and the beings we would each become. If it’s true that we listen each other into being, and I believe it is, those conversations were not only pivotal moments in our personal development as individuals, but they were helping to form the ideological foundation for the socially progressive work that many of us are still involved in today.

A few years later I experienced another conversation that took my exploration of self and world even deeper. I was introduced to a group of people who had started a spiritual school based on the eclectic philosophy of a South American mystic named Oscar Ichazo. In those early years we had intensive, ongoing conversations about the big questions: “What is a human being?", and "What is consciousness?". These conversations opened up a whole new dimension for me. The answers that arose from serious contemplation of those questions changed the direction of my life.

The experience gave me a bodily sense of humanity as one spirit. It taught me that the right question can open up the heart of things and take us deep inside our own truth. Ultimately, it helped reveal a sense of purpose and the nature of my own unique role in creating a future that works for all beings.

It’s been clear to me ever since that even a small group of people asking the right questions and engaging others in conversation about them are the crucial factors that will catalyze the challenges of our times into opportunities for a better world.