Do we need a lifeboat, an ark… or a big wave?

For years I and others have worked with great determination to reverse the tide of destruction of natural systems, to catch some great wave of change that will lift all our boats over the great reef of resistance. We’ve launched many boats (projects), and fleets of boats (movements), but the undertow is strong and the hour is late.  In this post I introduce one more tool, a subtle one, that may put more wind in our sails, or at least add another oar or two. 

The Global Earth Repair Conference, May 3-5 in Port Townsend Washington will be a huge confab of people from around the world who work daily on knitting and healing and repairing the web of life that capitalism seems bent on consuming down to the very last drop. 

I’ll be there and I encourage you to sign up and show up as we need to learn about and energize the ways millions of humble people are innovating with the earth in mind. I may be on a panel about innovations in money but that’s not why I am going. I am going to be with my clan/ tribe/ allies who have been outposts of sanity for many long years. 

Unique in this gathering, though, is an invisible but intentional track called network weaving. They are using a model articulated by June Holley called Network Weaving, to consciously increase the density of connections within tracks and awareness across tracks so that each of us, I suspect, understands that we are part of something on the move, gaining momentum, globally distributed and locally grounded, and that our contributions are not just our projects – a garden or food forest a natural water purification system – but nodes in a living immune response to the toxicity of our times.

I’ve been to countless conferences and workshops.

One or two conferences have changed my life trajectory. Most have been uplifting but not impactful. 

I’m sure you know this syndrome well.

You go to a workshop, have an intense 5-day experience, take voluminous notes, pledge undying love for people who have touched you deeply, have a quick conversation about “how to make it real on Monday morning” and leave the facility on time so the next group can inhabit those halls. Email chains peter out. You try some new behaviors and meet resistance and enact only a fraction of what you thought was possible. Not only that, your enthusiasm for change making makes the change resistors in your field dig in their heels. 

Or you go to a conference, drink for 5 days from a fire hose of brilliant speakers, form a buzzing hive around each of them in the halls seeking a few more drops of honey that can help you in your work, take voluminous notes, attend a closing ceremony aimed at going out with high spirits and great resolve.  Yet soon it’s like a dream with only threads of stories captured to inform our lives. The wave lifts us… and then recedes.

I wonder if there’s a deeper root to this failure to effectively confront the Earth Dis-Repair. It’s not us. It’s not the speakers. It’s not the workshops. It’s a socially sanctioned and encouraged tendency to default to individual solutions and leave the systems that shape the playing field of our lives unscathed. I’ve been part of many inspired communities and projects, strategies and initiatives, some of which have spread around the world with millions of adherents. Yet the powers-that-be seem impervious, not just the political parties but the deeply embedded money and financial systems, the basic machinery of government, the systemic injustice. 

Personal responsibility might be a red herring. 

But how can “personal responsibility” be wrong? Isn’t, “What can I do?” the right question? Isn’t, “If not me, who?”, the right and righteous path. 

Perhaps in a more sane and less toxic and climate disrupted world, this personal response would lead to change, but we are not in that world now. With a tsunami or consequences heading to swallow us, the ideal of “personal responsibility” lets destructive systems off the hook. Good people get medals and prizes for heroic action, but the system gets a pass.  

We need to be a “we”, not just a world of responsible “me’s”.

In the USA in 2019, though, collectivism has a very very bad reputation. Our youth, especially in the Climate Movement, understand far better than those over 30 the need for socialist policies, enacted through democratic processes. Still, tidal forces separate us through fear of cults, of them (people from the other party, the other part of the country – or world), of domination, of being trapped in the massive failures like the 20th Century Communist states, of big government and on and on. We shrink our sphere of responsibility down to me, myself and I, the only place we feel like we have control.  

Back to earth repair, both the Earth Repair Global Conference and the task before all of us.

What would be a “we” outcome of a conference?

In fact, how do we “we” in any circumstance, see ourselves as part of the whole and act that way? Is it possible to weaken the grip of individualism without sacrificing discernment and integrity and to work collectively without stumbling into “follow the leader” and cultic tendencies?

For many years I, in partnership with thousands of allies, have worked through dialogue and deliberation processes to break up power gradients and break up hierarchies so insight and innovation can break through. Conversation Cafes. World Cafe. Circle Process. Open Space. They all depend on hosts rather than facilitators, people who see their role as keeping the playing field open and safe rather than running people through a fixed agenda. They all work with agreements rather than rules. They are all wonderful and I use them often. 

I think the Network Weaving intention for the Global Earth Repair Conference may be a step forward in “we”ing. I’m curious, can it break us out me-ness. Can we feel the strength and intention of the web even long after we part. Can that last day cheerleading that we are mighty and our work is important and we are changing the world will become a foundation for more weaving, not a nostaligic moment that you go to the next conference seeking.

I was attracted to the conference the first time I heard about it. It seemed to have some different juju than other more established annual meetings. With this Network Weaving piece, I am even more curious about whether we can get our earth repair canoe over the reefs of resistance and travel further into resilience.

Or maybe we aren’t in a canoe lifting up over the reef into wider waters.

Maybe we are the waters, maybe we are the ocean, and not a gentle one.

Maybe through this weaving we become part of something greater, which is Life’s intention to repair itself no matter what the insult. Maybe it’s understanding not just how our work or projects are mutually supportive but understanding ourselves all as part of this ocean, teaming with life. 

I know as I sit here that I am part of you and part of Life’s will to live, that I feel my future as a pull, a tidal pull, that places me where I’m needed. This sense of myself as an expression of life, not just a participant in or consumer of life, is now half a century in the marinating. It is too deep in to evaporate. It is rooted. I cultivate it daily.

I network naturally because of this identity and so I wonder whether network weaving is a skill and a way of being that can be taught and spread. What if we all tithed even 10% of our waking consciousness not just to working on our projects but weaving between them, not for a weaving brownie badge but because we see weaving as part of who we are. What if there aren’t a few people with an eye for weaving, but everyone, no matter what their main gig is, is also a weaver.

Maybe cooperating with life’s design – together – will be the aligning message of the Global Earth Repair Conference. 

Not that weavers will save the world any more than charismatic leaders or dialogue interventions or strong unions or suing institutions to get them to do the right thing. But it’s a fresh idea in a movement of movements that has been in a Sisyphean labor of repairing the world as the powers that be unravel it.

Learning to “we” is not easy. Becoming a we with another is tough, even for well-meaning couples. While we-ness may move at glacial speed, one romance, child, family, extended family, classroom, church at a time, the world around us requires that we get ourselves pointed in the same direction with a willingness to set aside differences and row the boat. Perhaps network weaving is practice for we-ness. 

Are you intrigued? Not just with the speakers and workshops but the ongoing work of weaving networks of earth repair-era and together feeling strong because we are a “we”, all in the family of life.

How do you “we”? 

3 Comments

  1. I will not be able to attend, but if you can prepare a short summary of the outcome of this conference, I will be glad to publish it in the May edition of the Progressives on Whidbey newsletter.

    Carolyn Tamler
  2. thank you Vicki for the wise words. Many people of goodwill are yearning for, or working for, earth repair. but as long as the forces of destruction are busy at tearing the world apart, it will hard to get ahead in this pressing need for earth repair. So we need to resist the destruction and social injustices as well as do earth repair, full speed ahead.

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