rkm report: Zen Transformation book launch


Richard Moore

Bcc: the usual suspects

        > Report on book launch
        > Book Tour: Your participation needed!
        > Text of 'condensed quest'

Book launch>


This past Saturday we held a book launch for "The Zen
of Global Transformation" at the Wexford Arts Centre. 
A very attractive photo exhibition was being opened at
the same time, and both events benefited from the
double audience.  The Arts Centre provided wine, and a
few of my musician friends played Irish traditional
tunes in between speakers.

Brendan Howlin, TD (local representative to Dublin)
gave a very impressive launch speech.  It wasn't your
normal polite speech, where the speaker has just barely
read the book in time to say a few words.  The book had
obviously touched a chord with Brendan, and he had dug
down deep for an adequate response.  His words were
eloquent and inspiring... my own words fail me in
saying how much I appreciated his contribution to the

With his introduction, I had the full attention of the
audience for my own words about the book and the quest.
 Holding that attention was another matter altogether,
and I was concerned that my selected excerpts would be
more than anyone wanted to listen to on a sunny
Saturday afternoon.  I had chosen a path through the
text - out of order and skipping sections - which
managed to convey all the main points of the quest.  It
came to 5 half-size pages (which I concealed so people
wouldn't escape early.)

But it worked!  People did pay attention. I've included
the text below, and as you can see, it does present the
main gestalt of the book. In person, I fortunately had
the presence of mind to depart from the text, make eye
contact, and use more conversational language.  I was
able to make reference to a current controversy in
Wexford, and I think that helped anchor the ideas
within the local community context.

This condensed version could be turned into an
essay/article appropriate for certain venues, and it
can continue to serve as the basis of an oral
presentation at book-signings or community/activist
gatherings.  (As usual, feedback & suggestions are
invited.)  The whole point of the book is about
'changed minds', and it is the gestalt that contributes
to mind changing, not any particular detail.  And
face-to-face events are perhaps more conducive to
getting across 'gestalts' than is the written word.

Book tour>

So... I now find myself inspired to start planning a
book-signing tour. I was already wanting to visit my
family in Kauai sometime around Christmas. (assuming
the world hasn't been blown up by then).  In terms of
airfare, that makes it rather inexpensive to stop at
North American points on the way there and on the way
back to Ireland.

With the support of folks like David Lewitt in Boston,
Tom Atlee in Eugene, Jan Slakov in British Columbia,
and numerous others, there could be the basis of a
successful tour. In my imagination it would go
something like this... there would first be a
book-signing in a local bookstore, hopefully along the
lines of the launch. Subsequently there would be a
gathering of some local activists, to which the public
would also be invited (or not, feedback invited).

The gathering would provide an opportunity to discuss
the relevance of the quest ideas to activism, and to
local community problems -- and of course these kinds
of discussions end up going wherever the group wants to
go.  I'd want to use some kind of 'listening stick' or
'circle process' to encourage listening and to ensure
everyone gets to express themselves.

* Please contact me * if you would like to participate
in the tour. I'd need someone in each location to
arrange the signing with the bookstore and to arrange
for the gathering.  If there's more than one person in
the location that makes it easier. If there is someone
who can facilitate, that opens up additional
possibilities for the gathering.  Also, it would help
if there was a local place to crash... my budget is
rather limited, to put it mildly.

best regards to all,
rkm alias nasrudin

Condensed Quest>

Our modern societies are organized around two basic
principles: hierarchy and win-lose competition.

Private and public institutions are organized as
hierarchies and the major institutional decisions are
the realm of central headquarters.

Competition in our societies is all pervasive. The
whole society is set up as an adversarial machine. We
seek knowledge by competing with other students. We
seek truth and justice by setting up a competition
between two professional adversaries whose job is to
out-perform the other in swaying a jury.

A good metaphor for our adversarial society is an old
rhyme. "The big fish eat the little fish, and chew
on'em and bite'em. The little fish eat the littler
fish, and so ad infinitum." Us humans are the
infinitum. We are the bottom of the food chain.
As Bob Dylan put it:

    "The masters make the rules,   
    for the wise men and the fools."

There is only one place in our societies where
competition is not King, and that place is at the top
of the hierarchies. Oil companies do better by
parceling out marketing territories (or merging) than
they would by competing on price.  if you look at the
boards of the biggest corporations, you keep running
across the same names over and over again. And many of
those you will recognize as past or present players in
high government circles.

If you look the top, where the hierarchies meet, you
find an elite community -- a community where common
interests are recognized and mutual benefit is achieved
through collaboration.  Now they have a place (the
World Trade Organization) where only they are invited
and where they can write the rules however they want.

While the elites act as a community, the rest of are
divided by competition and by our beliefs. Not only do
elites have the power, but they also have the
collective self-awareness to maintain that power as
circumstances change.  We not only lack power, but
we -- the people -- do not have community and thus 
self-aware action on our part has no meaning. 

Community at the top has been achieved. Is community
from below achievable?

Rosa Zubizarreta teaches something called Dynamic
Facilitation, a particular approach to facilitation,
one that encourages people to come as they are, with
all of their thoughts and feelings and pet solutions.

A typical group may need three or four sessions, of two
to three hours each, in order to experience a
significant breakthrough. As all of the diverse
perspectives that are present in the group are drawn
out and begin to cover the walls, often a feeling of
"We're not getting anywhere." emerges. An empty, quiet
space comes into existence. Everything has been said,
everything has been heard, and no one sees any sense in
beating his or her own drum yet again.

From this empty space a new kind of energy
spontaneously emerges.  As participants take in all
of the various perspectives posted on the walls, they
begin to realize that some new creative approaches need
to be taken...

    "What if we used part of his idea and combined it
with part of hers?" This kind of energy uncovers hidden
synergy among ideas, but it does something else of more
lasting value. It builds and nourishes a sense of
effective community collaboration.

In the end, as if by magic, a solution begins to emerge
which is far more than merely acceptable to everyone.
It is a solution that participants prefer to their own
original solutions -- it is a solution that everyone is
excited about. This excitement is the trademark of this
kind of process.

The mind changing that occurs in these sessions
increases people's ability to participate in a
collaborative community space, and it awakens them to
the potential benefits of such a space. Let us see
if there may be some way to create community spaces for
these changed minds to participate in.

  [Presented as an aside]: I'd like to offer a scenario,
  a possible sequence of events, where the use of
  collaborative consensus might take us in some very 
  promising directions. Just suppose...

...Some community has a problem which is vexing the
community and which is raising the temperature among
the interest groups in the community. Someone sets up a
collaborative consensus session with a dozen or so
people from all different parts of the community. Their
session is successful, resulting in a proposed solution
that finds wide acceptance in the community. The
community implements the solution and people are
generally happy with the result. [Include at this point
a reference to a current local issue.]

After such an episode, the people in the community
would deserve to feel proud of themselves. Here was a
problem that civic officials and the institutional
world were not able to deal with. The community itself
dealt with it instead, with very little bother and

Now suppose a community were to go through this
experience two or three times, with different problems.
What is likely to emerge is a sense of community
empowerment -- a sense of community existing and community
as actor. We the people begins to awake, at least at
the local level.

As this community sense and vision grows solid, we
are seeing the emergence of a fully awake 'we the
people', at the local level. The community is now aware
of itself, it knows how to deal collectively with
problems, and it is developing a sense of direction, an
agenda. 'We', as a local community, are ready to become a
player in society.

We can think of a region as being a community of
communities. It seems only natural that we would apply
our consensus tool to this larger community, in the
same way it was applied to the smaller communities. And
again we can expect the emergence of community
identity, now on a wider scale. And after that would
emerge a sense of priorities and direction, again on a
wider scale.

By employing the same consensus process, to larger and
larger scale communities, we can see how society as
community might become attainable. We the people -- on the
scale of a whole society -- is not beyond the realm of
possibility by means of this practice.

And whole populations _have succeeded in achieving
community as a movement. Such movements have by one
means or another displaced powerful ruling elites. "We
the people" came into existence and carried out a
successful revolutionary project. Such an event gave
birth to the USA, to the French Republic, to the Soviet
Union, and there are many other examples.

But in all these cases we somehow ended up again with a
hierarchical power structure, with an elite in
charge -- and for some reason we the people faded away.
Why is this?

The problem with a revolutionary movement is the source
of the binding energy of we the people as a community.
Achieving victory, the community has now completed its
agreed task. Those who are so motivated can see to the
further implementation of the program. The rest of 'we
the people' can go back home and get on with life.  The
fading of we the people creates a power vacuum, and
these power seekers soon create new hierarchical
institutions and become a new ruling elite. A
revolutionary movement cannot be the means of achieving
the kind of social transformation we are seeking.

When a revolutionary movement achieves victory, a fatal
power vacuum always flaws the outcome. In our case
however, no such vacuum emerges. We the people have not
completed our mission -- we have simply removed a major
obstacle from our path.

In Zen there is the practice and there is the goal.
The practice is dead simple and the goal cannot even be
described. If you try to reach the goal directly, you
do not make progress. If you simply do the practice,
persistently, you are very likely to reach the goal.
Your proper focus of attention is the practice. The
attainment of the goal happens automatically. You have
no control over what the goal turns out to be. It will
be whatever it is.

According to what we've learned on our quest, the
practice appropriate for social transformation is the
carrying out of collaborative consensus sessions
dealing with divisive problems in communities. The goal
is somewhere in the direction of an empowered global
society, but it cannot be described. Zen's goal cannot
be described because it is ineffable -- it cannot be
expressed in words. The nature of transformed society
cannot be described because the outcome is in the
future. It remains to be experienced, and it will
certainly bring surprises with it.

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