conversation #2—gleanings

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
—Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching


I’m going to write down some thoughts regarding the last meeting, and I encourage all of you who attended to do the same in the comments section below. You may also comment on comments. As always, please remain civil—people often let loose in an online forum. This is not that kind of forum.

A Mixed Bag

For me personally, there was much of interest in this meeting, but in the end I felt that we spent too much time straying from the evening’s topic, namely the causes of the financial collapse and what we might do to address them. I felt as though we got lost in some abstract territory regarding our process, and this led me to feel impatience, frustration. I envisioned these meetings as a chance to drill down deeper into various topics of importance, as opposed to meandering around into this and that. Not that I expect ultra-rigid structure—just more of a middle ground than we had at the last meeting.

As co-moderator I take full responsibility for this. Once the conversation begins to flit around all over the place, I lose track of where we are, and it becomes difficult for me to even follow what’s being said. I definitely could have been more vigilant in terms of keeping us on-topic, and I think the meeting would have been more productive. Certainly, I don’t expect our humble group to solve the problem of the banking crisis, but we could have certainly benefited from deeper exploration of the crisis in our own lives and the lives of others in our community. In my opinion, this crisis is far from over, and we would do well to devote serious attention to our relationship with these “too big too fail” Wall Street banks and brokerages.

All that said, I’d like to add that while hiking the following morning I found myself smiling as I pondered our meeting. Such a diverse and colorful group of folks with so many interesting things to say! I feel happy and grateful to be on this journey with all of you!

Three Treasures & One Recommendation

But I admit that I lost patience (see quote above), and I know that others did as well. This is fine, it’s part of the process, it will happen often. But I’m thinking it could be a good exercise if each of us wrote down three treasures that we gleaned from each meeting, in order to remind one another what was said and learned. And then a recommendation as to how we might improve the next meeting. Or a good topic for an upcoming meeting. Here are mine—please leave yours in the comments section below:

  • Treasure #1: I was intrigued by Jeffrey’s explanation of how societies reach an apex and then three things can happen: they fall backwards, they explode, or they transform into something new. We are doing all three, Jeffrey said, and I can see this. Moreover, I value what he intimated about the importance of a small group such as ours, that something new could spring up from our midst without us yet being aware that it’s there.
  • Treaure #2: I hope I’m right about the meeting here… I think Conor’s idea of sponsoring debates outside of our group is a wonderful one. And it got me thinking that for the meeting on 10/19 it could be good to watch the movie Food, Inc. Then at a subsequent meeting we could invite local food providers (owners of the Fairway, Mtn Harvest and perhaps some restaurants) to join a roundtable discussion about local food quality and other issues that arise when we watch this powerful film.
  • Treasure #3: I loved the moment when Puri stated powerfully: ‘We know that crimes have been committed, and that they have gone unpunished. And something should be done about this!’ Yes, indeed Puri!
  • A piece of advice: more focus and a clearer agenda would be good. Consider restricting length to 90 mins. Less abstract discussion of process. More drilling down into the issue at hand.

Afterthoughts, Links & Resources

In hindsight, it seemed to me that some of the trouble we ran into was a result of the BIG subject matter. It really is overwhelming, especially if you’ve not been following it closely for the last several years. With that in mind I’d like to provide you with some links that you might find useful. If any of you have links you’d like to add, include them in comments below. Or email me, and I will add them here.

Refund California: “A state-wide coalition of homeowners, community members, faith leaders and students working to make Wall Street banks pay for destroying jobs and neighborhoods with their greedy, irresponsible and predatory business practices.” Check out their events section—you’ll find they have some good ones coming up in the next couple of weeks in conjunction with the Occupation of Wall Street, including next week’s “It’s Time For Wall Street Banks to Pay Week” in Los Angeles. It’s part of the ongoing New Bottom Line campaign to hold banks accountable.

Move Your Money: You may recall I mentioned this in our meeting. “A nonprofit campaign that encourages individuals and institutions to divest from the nation’s largest Wall Street banks and move to local financial institutions.”

Center for Economic Policy Research: I also mentioned the economist, Dean Baker, from this nonprofit organization that “was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives.” Check out Dean Baker’s blog and explore the site. Among other things you’ll find a home ownership calculator that enables you to compare the true cost of buying a home vs renting.

Post-Carbon Institute: No discussion of economics is complete without an exploration of the underlying energy issues that affect us more than we’d care to believe. For a quickie primer on the post-carbon argument, see this five minute animation by Richard Heinberg. If it strikes you as reasonable you can also check out the first chapters of his book, The End of Growth.

Finally, if rebuilding the economy seems like an overwhelming task, check out David Korten’s work, for example his Agenda for a New Economy blog at Yes! Magazine. His book by the same title is available at our local branch of the public library system, and it offers a balanced view of the historical roots of the current crisis, what’s happening now and what we might do to move from a system based on “phantom wealth” to one in which we invest in “real wealth,” in other words: our communities, education, natural resources, sustainable agriculture, etc. To get a taste check out his 10 Common Sense Economic Truths.

3 thoughts on “conversation #2—gleanings”

  1. Hi guys,

    They left out the last paragraph of my article, which happens to be
    the most important part. Here is the full text:

    I attended the discussion/conversation group last Wednesday organized by Hill residents Conor O’Farrell and Mark Yardas. It was my second time. Perhaps, like others, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but I was curious. I enjoy focused conversation and listening to different ideas – even ones I don’t like. I don’t like arguments though, and I especially don’t like one-ups-man-ship and derogatory personal attacks. It was nice to see that everyone there felt the same way and a safe, trusting environment was created. The opening pot-luck dinner was a nice touch. It created a feeling of community, sharing, and sociability. And the organizers were more participants than leaders which helped invite genuine discourse, free of a pre-established agenda.
    We had agreed to watch a documentary called “The Inside Job” on our own and make it the general focus for discussion. The documentary was a disturbing look at how big banks, large investment corporations, regulatory agencies, and elite government officials and academics helped create the conditions for the enormous economic collapse that has affected all of us. It showed how the removal of relatively simple regulations that prevented banks from being speculators was pivotal and still remains unaddressed. The documentary highlighted the complicity of both republican and democratic administrations and the enormous power of corporate influence and globalized financial institutions. The greed, arrogance, and sense of entitlement were unmistakable. All of us, whether democrat, republican, independent or libertarian, were outraged.
    It was interesting to hear how people felt and to learn additional information about various aspects of the film. I enjoyed listening as individuals spoke freely and contributed to the discussion. There was a desire to make a difference both here in our community as well as in the larger scheme of things. There was discussion about the identity and purpose of this group and questions concerning processes that allow deeper, more substantive dialogue.
    The discussion/conversation group left with a number of questions:
    – Who are we and how can we best make a positive impact on the issues facing us?
    – How can we listen to one another with respect, openness, and sincerity?
    – What processes will allow us to move into deeper levels of conversation and action?
    – How can we embrace our role as citizens in a way that transcends personal differences and ideology?
    It seems to me that these are questions every American needs to be asking. I think I’ll attend the next meeting – – I’m still hoping.

  2. At last week’s meeting I started scribbling notes – kind of free association – with the thought of producing something profound. That has been tempered considerably, but here are some thoughts….

    1. A couple of people mentioned that there are other groups out there, asking the same questions – shouldn’t we search for them and either get or contribute some “plans of action” (“processes”?) in concert?. One of these might be, suggested by Dave.

    2. Conor’s comment about emulating the LWVoters model to contribute to raising the Community’s awareness is interesting – and doable.
    This might go along with the “process” of creating a positive group identity.

    3. Excuse my ignorance, but resurrection of the _____ Steele (?) Act (?) to reform the financial institutions that was deep-sixed by one of the recent Administrations might be a goal for a grass-roots movement. (A really challenging goal, but one that might align a local group with a number of similar efforts?)

    4. Can we define what action we should pursue? Or is it, as mentioned, ‘undefinable’? Or so complex that is not a single purpose, but rather “a web”? (I would opt for the first!)

    5. Adopt a name for the group (the “Idyllwild Initiative”?) and then put to paper a “creed” or statement of purpose? (So we can stay focused — and gain the interest of other groups?)

    6. Talking among ourselves may be self-satisfying, but …. wouldn’t it be possible to make use of ‘social networking’ (I dislike that term) or the news media (this may be too big and unwieldy) in order to join in a grass-roots mini-movement? (And actually make a change.)

    Thanks for listening — we look forward to future meetings!

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