My Search for Deep Community — Web Edition

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After making some corrections, I’ll be posting My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography to the Web. If you want to receive the chapters as they are posted, you can subscribe here: I just posted the Front Matter.

Uber Attacks Taxis (and Readers’ Comments)

Gas-guzzling Uber cars are killing San Francisco’s energy-efficient taxi industry. San Francisco needs to protect and improve its publicly regulated taxi system.

Prior to Uber, which uses smartphone apps that allow customers to get rides from drivers using their personal cars, San Francisco limited the number of taxis. That policy enabled drivers to make a decent living, so they stuck with it, became more knowledgeable, provided better service, and had a relatively good attitude with tourists. We were called “ambassadors of tourism,” the City’s biggest industry. Many passengers visiting the City told me they were impressed with San Francisco cab drivers. Cab companies made enough money to buy new cars frequently, so the City requires all new taxis to use natural gas or electricity.

The City also requires drivers to service all law-abiding people and accept paratransit vouchers for seniors and the disabled. And the City requires drivers to undergo background checks for egregious criminal activity and requires cab companies to carry substantial insurance to cover accidents whenever the cab is in operation. None of these regulations apply to Uber. So as Uber grows and taxis decline, the City will suffer.

But the California Public Utilities Commission ruled that Uber vehicles are not “taxis,” even though the dictionary defines that term as “a car that carries passengers to a place for an amount of money that is based on the distance traveled.” So Uber enables several thousand cars to illegally operate as taxis and take business away from taxi drivers, which adds to air pollution.

Uber, which means “over” in German, considers itself above those regulations. The word “Ubermensch,” or Superman, was central to Hitler’s philosophy. Why a company would brand itself with that word boggles my mind. I take it to be a reflection of Uber’s arrogance, and the elitism of the tech world.

This development is another example of worshipping the “free market.” Uber declares its intention to break up the “taxi monopoly.” To see that what future will look like, take a taxi in Washington, DC, where there has been no limit on the number of taxis, and observe the condition of the old, run-down vehicle. has covered the issue well. A search for “uber” from their homepage reports many excellent articles, including “Why Uber must be stopped.” That article begins:

What is Uber? A paragon of free market efficiency and technological innovation serving the greater convenience and comfort of the general public? Or living proof for why capitalist societies require regulation?

On September 23, the San Francisco Chronicle featured a page one article titled, “S.F. taxi owners, cabbies join forces against Uber, Lyft, others.”  That article begins:

Taxis, badly losing the battle on San Francisco’s streets, are finally fighting back.

After seeing 65 percent of their business migrate to ride services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, taxi drivers and company owners, at odds for decades, have joined forces — not only with one another but with their overseer, the Municipal Transportation Agency.

Their common goal is to save the taxi industry — highly regulated by the city as part of its transportation network — from extinction at the hands of the largely unregulated upstarts… .

“The Tragedy of the Commons” has hit the San Francisco taxi industry. As defined by Investopedia, that phenomenon is:

an economic problem in which every individual tries to reap the greatest benefit from a given resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits.

Yellow Cab, the City’s largest company, used to fill all of its available shifts. Last month, it filled only two-thirds. That means fewer hybrids on the street and more air pollution, thanks to Uber.

As I told the California Public Utilities Commission at a hearing last week, when I was thinking about switching the Uber, I asked Uber if they have a limit on the number of Uber drivers. They told me that they do not, and have no plan to establish a limit.

This development is reflected elsewhere in the emerging “sharing economy.” As Jon Taplin wrote:

the average 30 year old might be holding down four or five jobs simultaneously in this brave new world–driving an Uber car while renting their spare room on Air BnB and raising money for their video on Kickstarter while doing odd jobs on Taskrabbit.

Taplin quoted an unnamed mentor:

for better or worse – the sharing economy has to lower the GDP and at least currently would speed up the demise of the middleclass and push more onto the long tail of minuscule incomes that in turn accelerates the sharing economy since that is the only way these folks can survive. This all has many unintended consequences and in the long run may not enhance sustainability.

And he reported:

The writer Venkatesh Rao makes the basic point that the so called sharing economy is designed by the 1% to help the 90% destroy the livelihoods of the 9% who make up the small business middle class.

Whether “designed” for that purpose or not, Rao describes the Internet-facilitated impact precisely: another reason for growing inequality.

I rode in a few Uber cars and learned from the drivers that they must drive six ten-hour shifts each week in order to make a non-poverty income. As the number of Uber drivers increases and it becomes harder to make money, Uber drivers are going to be more stressed out and will drive more recklessly.

One reason I’ve driven taxi half-time is that I could make enough money to live simply and have time to do my community-service work as a volunteer. Then I got on the first-come, first-served list to get my own permit, or medallion, for a small sum, and did after twelve years. Since then, I no longer have had to rent my cab and, through the company, I collect rent from others who use my taxi when I don’t drive.

Then the City changed the system to require new drivers to buy medallions from current owners for $250,000. After the City takes 20%, if I sold my medallion now, this policy would leave me with $200,000 before taxes. And I could sell my Yellow Cab stock for $30,000. So I’ve figured that once I’m no longer able to drive, that would be enough for me to live on for the rest of my life. (Since I lived on “movement wages” before switching to cab driving, my Social Security retirement is minimal and I have no savings, so I feel the need for some cushion.)

Now, however, I fear that my medallion will soon be worth much less. Already my income has taken a big hit. My monthly share of our co-op’s profits has declined by almost 50%.

So I’ve devoted long hours to evaluating different options and developing an emergency, barebones budget in case I become disabled prematurely. And for the first time in my life, at the age of 70, I’m getting serious about saving money.

I also drove more taxi to see how much I can earn now that City streets are flooded with Uber vehicles (and Lyft cars, another so-called “transportation network company”). So I was driving more and writing less than I would prefer, which was frustrating. Fortunately, I’ve finally developed a good plan for how to proceed.

The breakthrough was discovering that seniors in San Francisco have access to free and low-cost food. Monday I paid $1.50 at the Salvation Army for a good meal and walked away with five granola bars and four apples. And next week I’ll start getting one of the bags of free food from the Food Bank that are delivered to my building. And I’ve learned that the maximum food stamp allotment is $179 per month. So I now realize I won’t have to worry about going hungry.

And here at my residence, when I move to the top of the list for the Section 8 subsidy, my rent will only be 30% of my income (after counting 2% of my assets as income). At that point, my rent may be only $300 per month. So if I have to, once I stop driving taxi, I figure I can manage if I stop paying for massages, concerts, and movies, and get the cheapest cable, Internet, and phone services.

In the meantime, however, I’ll still indulge in my middle-class comforts and travel two months a year. But that reality check has prompted me to now take public transit home at night and limit myself to one restaurant per month (except when I travel). My current budget indicates that I can do that and still save $500 per month by driving taxi 20 hours a week.

This plan will enable me to get back to my real work, which will include posting more here.



In response to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Fostering a National Movement:

From R:

Interesting. I’ve been wrestling with this for some time. I’m afraid I’m becoming very cynical and for the most part feel the majority of Americans don’t give a damn. Where I’m at in my thought about all of this is: if the American people keep voting in incumbents and turn the senate republican does it affect me? Yes and no…psychically it is very difficult but economically it doesn’t as I have my own business and I’m on Medicare now. Mind you the air, water and environment will be worse but hardly worse than it is now under a so called democrat. The rich will get richer, there won’t be unions and everyone will be policed in their bedrooms. So if the people want to vote against their best interests…fuck’em. R

My reply:

I do not believe that most Americans do not give a damn and I do give a damn about them.



What you write is important, valid and of hopeful spirit.  I know from the experience of being retired and not having the same work community that nourished me in the banter of staying true to myself while listening to others opinions is deeply missed.  And, I find there is a community divide within the labels we once gave, such as, “lefties”, progressives, liberals, moderates, conservatives.  It is more difficult today to organize within a local community around local issues nonetheless national or international issues.  Unless the community is organic, it is difficult to sustain.

I applaud your many attempts, your consistency, your hope, your creativity, your thoughts and words.  Everyday I try and make a commitment to be involved and each day that commitment is softer than the day before.  If there is anything I need more at this point in my life is a quiet, contemplative arena to rid myself of the cynicism of today’s politics and my aging.

Thank you always for trying.  Thank you always for your faith and hope.

With respect and friendship,

My reply:

Thanks for your kind words and best of luck finding that arena that will enable you to deal with cynicism, which certainly afflicts me from time to time.


From Richard Moore:

You explore here the most important questions of our time: Is it possible to transform society in line with what people really want and need, and if so, how might that be accomplished? These are questions I too have been studying and thinking about for more than ten years.

As part of my research, I looked in history at examples of revolutions and of mass movements, both those that succeeded and those that failed. And I have noted the differences between conditions then, and the nature of our regimes today, which include sophisticated means of mass propaganda and mind control.

My negative conclusion from these studies is that a mass movement, where deep community comes from being a member of the movement, is not a viable approach in our modern societies. If they are not suppressed, they will be co-opted. In the domain of mass persuasion, and with it’s ability to ‘create conditions’, the state cannot be overcome.

My positive conclusion from these studies is that a decentralized movement, where deep community comes from belonging to an engaged local community, does show hope for bringing about transformation. Among other advantages, such has not having a vulnerable center, a community-oriented movement can be inclusive, while a mass movement is always divisive, particularly in its early stages.

How to build such a movement, however, has eluded my grasp so far. My latest ideas are here: Building the new in the shadow of the old.



My reply:

Evading the system is impossible. Co-optation is inevitable and is problematic only if it leads people to be satisfied. We need to steadily restructure the system step-by-step, while keeping our eyes on the long term. Local efforts are valuable, but eventually they must unite to change national policy. Otherwise they reinforce those policies.


From Roger Marsden:

Hi  – yeah – I like the idea of linking up – formalizing a community grfoup with a representative. Kinda obvious really — integrating grass rfoots into the “system.” It requires the representative to be responsive. it would be nice if there was a way for it not to be only depedndent on each community to create it for themselves but in concert with a national movement.


My reply:

Good to hear, Roger. Might you want to meet with one or more close friends to experiment with one or more models for how to structure such a group?


From Yahya Abdal-Aziz:

Great idea!  I’ll be listening out for anything that may help you in this search, and for any insights you gain or any such tools you create.

And try this one on for size: AA have the archetypal 12-step program, and it’s their best-known tool.  And it’s user-friendly, except for two sticking points:

that some people don’t want to admit that there is a higher power;

that some people don’t want to submit to any power whatsoever.

Because of these points, people have been experimenting with various non-theistic, non-submissive versions of the AA approach.  Which is fine if it works better for them.

So bearing in mind those difficulties, can we craft a step-by-step program that:

is as inclusive as possible

helps people with the learning you describe

helps unify their efforts at bettering the lot of all the disadvantaged in your [or my (*)] society

That would be one suitable tool, wouldn’t it?

(*)  Australia is not the USA, although we have many similarities – some of which we tend to blame you for! ;-)



My reply:

Yes, I agree AA is suggestive, but limited. I also think it’s 12 steps are too complicated. I hope to continue to experiment with developing a model or models and to suggest to others that they do the same. I’m particularly interested in doing it with people interested in impacting national policy.


From Michael Larsen:

Write on!

My reply:



Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Fostering a National Movement

A friend recently asked me, “What is missing in your life?” I replied, “I would like to participate in a massive grassroots movement to impact national policy.” She replied, “That’s a tall order” and changed the subject. Her response is typical. Interest in building a national movement is limited.

Nevertheless, I persist. From time to time, certain events encourage me. One example was the August 17 op-ed in Time magazine by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar @kaj33, the former basketball star. Titled “The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race,” the essay argued, “Ferguson is not just about systemic racism — it’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back.” The sentence that struck me most strongly was the following (the key phrase was emphasized with italics): “If we don’t have a specific agenda—a list of exactly what we want to change and how—we will be gathering over and over again beside the dead bodies of our murdered children, parents, and neighbors.”

Precisely. That is what I was trying to get at with “A Meditation on Deep Community,” which I presented to the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples on July 14. In that piece, I stated:

• Relieving suffering requires addressing root causes, getting deep.
• Addressing root causes requires correcting national policies that are the source of so much suffering.
• If we see a child drowning, we don’t tell her to pray. We change her environment.

The most problematic element in Abdul-Jabbar’s formulation is the “how.” One barrier that any such strategy must address is the social conditioning that has been embedded in each one of us. This dehumanization divides us and undermines our ability to work together effectively. To unite, we must unlearn this “internalized oppression.”

Different individuals have different issues. Trying to tell others how they need to change is counter-productive. Each individual can make their own decisions. But we can support one another in these efforts, if only by listening to one another report on our successes and challenges.

Growing a unified movement will be enhanced if we develop user-friendly tools, like Alcoholics Anonymous did, that concerned individuals, without going through any elaborate training, can easily use to meet the unmet need for deep connection. I would like to experiment with such options that could be easily replicated, and learn about other such efforts.

We also need to develop new structures that will facilitate broader political engagement between elections. The other night, a disturbing dream woke me up in the middle of the night. It involved a double murder, the first of which was a mistake. The dream left me with a sense that my dream of a national movement was dead. I had trouble going back to sleep.

But I woke up with a wrinkle on an old idea: get a group together to engage in a series of open-ended, problem-solving discussions with their Congressperson’s office about how the Congressperson and the community might work together to build that movement. One option that could be placed on the table at the outset would be monthly Congressional Community Dialogs, the carefully structured forums I’ve been proposing for some time.

Regardless, we need to keep on pressin’ on. If we do, eventually we can fulfill that dream that Abdul-Jabbar and so many others have articulated.

50 Essays Guaranteed to Make You a Better Person

Originally posted by Emily Temple on Flavorwire 

It’s hard to be a person in the world today — or, really, any day, but today’s what we’ve got. Humans are striving creatures, and also empathetic ones, so most of us are always looking for an opportunity to improve ourselves, even in tiny, literary ways. We’ve already established that novels can make you a better person, but of course, novels also take you down a long winding road to get there. If you’re looking for a more direct shot to the heart, try an essay. After the jump, you’ll find 50 essays more or less guaranteed to make you a better person — or at least a better-read one — some recommended by notables of the literary and literary nonfiction world, some recommended by yours truly, incessant consumer of the written word. Don’t see the essay that changed your life? Please do add it to the list.

To read commentary on the 50 essays and the essays themselves, click here.

Fellowship Church: August 24, 2014

The August 24 service at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples included the following.

Readying the Spirit featured a piano prelude by Dr. Carl Blake.

Ingathering of Community included this responsive reading from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference:

A Litany For Children Slain By Violence and Traumatized By Those Called to “Serve and Protect”
August 17, 2014

Leader: A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are dead.

Assembly: We pray for the families of children who have been slain by gun violence, left to die on streets with less dignity than is given to animals.

Leader: A sound is heard in every city. Communities are weeping generationally for their children. Our sons, like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown and John Crawford. Our daughters, like Ayanna Jones, Miriam Carey, Malisa Williams and Tarika Wilson.

Assembly: As people of God, we weep for the lives of all children who instead of enjoying the sweetness of innocence become victims of hate, victims of war, and victims of violence.

Leader: Now, let us rise up and interrupt these rushing waters of violence that leave children and communities wounded and paralyzed, traumatized by internal disintegration and state terror. Let us rise up and demand this nation abandon its affair with beliefs, practices and laws that are rooted in militarism, justified by racism and propped up by systemic inequities.

Assembly: We will rise up against laws rooted in evil that have no concern for life, nor any concern for God’s love. We will rise up until justice rolls on like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream.

Leader: Oh Lord, we commit ourselves to seeing all children the way that you see them. No matter their age or race, they are precious gifts made in your image, created with transformative purpose and unlimited promise.

Assembly: And for that cause, we pledge to be hedges of protection for their lives, we pledge to stand against anything that threatens their potential or promise.

All: We embody the universal spirit of Ubuntu, “I am because we are and because we are, I am.” We are all Rachel crying for the children! Therefore, we pledge to lock arms in solidarity with the families of the slain. We pledge to let our voices be heard all over this nation and the world, for we know we are called to do what is just and right.

Practicing the Presence included this Meditation from Wade Hudson:

On August 3rd Rev. Yielbonzie Charles Johnson’s offered a very thought-provoking sermon here. He recommended cultivating “intimate direct action” by traveling the Four Roads to Intimacy: Move away from self-deception and really get to know yourself; Utilize solitude; Establish a strong sense of community; and then without fear experience intimacy, or the “uncircumscribed engagement in the world.”

Webster’s defines “intimate” as “belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature.” As I see it, intimacy involves “speaking from the heart.”

What does “speak from the heart” mean to you? [Members of the congregation offered some answers.]

I googled “speaking from the heart” and the top result said “Ask yourself: is what you’re saying coming from your analytical mind or your intuitive heart?” and “Know that speaking from the heart doesn’t mean getting carried away by your emotions.”

I think of speaking from the heart as a blend of speaking from the gut and speaking from the intellect. After all, the heart is half way between the gut and the brain.

But an intimate conversation involves more than speaking. It also involves being a good listener.

What does being a good listener mean to you? [Members of the congregation offered some responses.]

Also, to my mind, I am not a particularly good listener when I immediately respond to someone with something like, “I hear you. The same thing happened to me,” and then proceed to talk about myself.

We have good reasons for being reserved, for not being more transparent. For one thing, what we say might be used against us. Teachers and bosses punish us for saying what they don’t want to hear. So we learn to be guarded and it becomes a habit.

Howard Thurman, however, affirmed Gandhi’s maxim, “Speak the truth, without fear and without exception” and Thurman wrote, “Be simply, directly truthful, whatever may be the cost.” I don’t know if I can ever live up to that standard. I would, however, like to move in that direction.

How many intimate friends do you have with whom you at least weekly discuss highly personal matters, problems as well as joys? Would you like to have more intimate friends? How many of those friends belong to Fellowship Church? Would you like to have more who are?

If we want to grow a strong sense of community, as recommended by Rev. Johnson, do we need to nurture more intimacy with one another? If so, how might we do that, either during the social hour or at other times during the week? Some questions for reflection.

Maybe, if we make more of a conscious effort, we can practice more fully what Dr. Thurman preached.

Resting in the Presence included a sermon by Dr. Kathryn Benton reflecting on the following quote from John Lennon:

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.

Offering Our Gifts included Announcements by Elanor Piez, Church Treasurer.

Sending Forth included this poem by Rev. Takashi Tanemori:

We can create our lives by
Transforming our experience
Into something new,
Like a butterfly soaring freely
Into the splendor.

Meditation Idea: 8/20 Draft

NOTE: Following is a Meditation that I may give at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.

The sermon that Rev. Yielbonzie Charles Johnson offered on August 3rd was very thought-provoking. He recommended cultivating “intimate direct action” by traveling “Four Roads to Intimacy.” The first road is to move away from self-deception and “know yourself better than anyone else.” The second is to utilize “solitude.” The third is to establish strong “kinship,” or a sense of community. The fourth is to then experience “intimacy,” or “the uncircumscribed engagement in the world,” without fear.

Webster’s defines “intimate” as “belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature.” An intimate conversation therefore is one that comes from your deepest nature.

How many intimate friends do you have with whom you discuss highly personal matters, your joys and your troubles, at least weekly?

As I see it, intimacy involves “speaking from the heart.” What does “to speak from the heart” mean to you? [Allow for answers from the congregation; respond to those comments.]

I googled “speaking from the heart” and the top result said “Ask yourself: is what you’re saying coming from your analytical mind or your intuitive heart?” and “Know that speaking from the heart doesn’t mean getting carried away by your emotions.”

I think of speaking from the heart as a blend of speaking from the gut and speaking from the mind. After all, the heart is in between the gut and the heart.

But an intimate conversation involves more than speaking. It also involves being a good listener.

What does being a good listener mean to you? [Allow for answers from the congregation; respond to those comments.]

Also, to my mind, I am not a particularly good listener when I immediately respond to someone with something like, “I hear you. The same thing happened to me,” and then proceed to talk about myself. I find that kind of response to be far too common.

We have good reasons for being reserved, for not being more transparent. I don’t fully understand those reasons. I’m trying to better understand them. One factor seems to be that what we say might be used against us. Teachers and bosses punish us for saying what they don’t want to hear. Partly for that reason, we learn to be guarded and it becomes a habit. That is understandable.

Howard Thurman, however, affirmed Gandhi’s maxim, “Speak the truth, without fear and without exception” and wrote, “Be simply, directly truthful, whatever may be the cost.” I don’t know if I could ever live up to that standard. I would, however, like to move in that direction.

Most conversations strike me as a series of monologues, telling stories, gossiping, superficial chit-chat, or intellectual discourse. They rarely involving speaking and listening from the heart.

So let me ask again, How many intimate friends do you have with whom you discuss highly personal matters at least weekly?

How many of those friends belong to Fellowship Church?

If we want to grow a strong sense of community, as recommended by Rev. Johnson, do we need to nurture more intimacy with one another? If so, how might we do that, either during the social hour or at other times during the week?

Maybe, if we make more of a conscious effort, we can practice more fully what Dr. Thurman preached.


Brandon Visits SF

Allyne ParkBrandon Faloona, my soul mate from Seattle, visited San Francisco for 48 hours last weekend and slept on my couch. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The most rewarding moments were our quiet times alone, when we engaged in rich dialog. As I’ve said before, he’s the best listener I know. There are many understandable reasons why most people (or so it seems) are so reluctant to speak from the heart and interact openly and mutually. I’m constantly trying to better understand and accept those reasons. Nevertheless, it is refreshing when I experience greater authenticity.

The fact that Brandon possesses a high degree of emotional intelligence and is very astute in his observations of others’ behavior and social conditions helps to enrich our time together. In particular, I appreciated his forgiving me for some mistakes I made in what I wrote about his father, Gerry, in my autobiography. His comments helped me see my residual bitterness about a conflict with Gerry that led to some passages being too curt. If there is another edition, I’ll try to correct those mistakes.

Brandon’s visit has had a particular enduring impact. While he was here, he encouraged me to think more about my retirement plan. Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” I lived my life according to that principle. Partly out of an ego-driven desire to be recognized as a great man, and partly out of a commitment to community service, I have not concentrated on making money. And whether from good karma or good luck, I fell into ownership of a taxi medallion, which provides me with some security. Brandon’s comments, however, have led me to realize that if I were disabled, that medallion would not provide me with enough income to make ends meet. So I’m researching retirement accounts. Indications are that I will have to drive taxi at least ten hours more each week than I had expected, which means I’ll have less time to write and travel. Hopefully, I’ll find time to write another book, my manifesto, which is tentatively titled Changing the System with Love and Power.

Otherwise, highlights of Brandon’s visit included visiting Allyne Park at Green and Gough where we used to play when we lived together and Brandon was three (see group photo of our household), walking by the six-bedroom, split-level apartment where we lived, hanging out in North Beach, hearing some great blues at The Saloon, and going around the corner to a new gallery, The Emerald Tablet, on Fresno Alley.

DSC02163After we arrived, we learned that the gallery was hosting an 80th birthday party for the esteemed Beat poet, Diane di Prima. When I wished her a happy birthday and referred to a 1968 poetry reading with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Thom Gunn, herself, and others that I co-organized, she said, “Oh yes. I remember that. It was the only time I ever read with Thom.” She then signed for me a copy of a poem that was distributed that day as a memento for her birthday. The poem reads:

The Phoenix is
as gold is

She heads for
the sky

like a grown child
leaving Mother

leaves the warm ash


Later Brandon helped me produced a one-minute video of our time in North Beach, which I uploaded to YouTube at:

And here are some photos I took:

DSC02159 DSC02153 DSC02146 At My Window

Comment on MSC Transformative Practice Survey

Photo by Willie Davis

Photo by Willie Davis

This fall the Movement Strategy Center (MSC) plans to release a report, tentatively titled “Love with Power,” on organizations that are bringing “transformative practices” into their work. I await this report with great interest.

As described in “Tell Us!! Does Your Organization Do Transformative Practice?,” MSC is inviting individuals to complete a three-question survey about their interest and/or efforts with regard to bringing “individual transformative practices, such as meditation, martial arts, gardening, and spiritual practice” into their organizing.

Particularly encouraging is that the survey explores interest in eventually sharing “peer exchange/case studies on how other organizations are actually doing it.” If MSC discovers and shares user-friendly tools that can be easily replicated (without extensive training), this project could help spread (rapidly) the use of methods that nurture personal and collective development rooted in mutual support among peers.

The survey opens with a very helpful definition: “Collective practice is intentional and continuously repeated action undertaken as a group to cultivate new ways of being and thinking in that group and beyond it.” The phrase “intentional and continuously repeated action” hits the nail on the head.

“New ways” strikes me as too ambiguous, however. Some phrase such as “more compassionate” would work better, it seems. “New” is not necessarily an improvement.

As I discuss in “A Meditation on Deep Community,” I believe that if activists really get in touch with their compassion, they will naturally strive to correct root causes by changing national policies. Then we can turn this nation into a compassionate community.

I applaud MSC for helping us move in that direction.

My Robin Williams Story

Like maybe half of San Francisco, I have my own Robin Williams story. In 1996, after watching the Independence Day movie at the Coronet Theater on Geary Blvd. Steven Shults, Richard Gross, and I went to the Toy Boat Dessert Cafe on Clement Street. The store featured Double Rainbow ice cream and displayed on its walls children’s toys for sale. While waiting to be served, Williams got in line behind us. Steven had seen him at an event the night before and struck up a brief exchange with Williams about it. After Richard, Steven, and I sat down at a table to eat our desserts, Williams joined us and engaged in conversation for several minutes. He often came to the cafe to buy toys for his children. He was remarkably unpretentious and warm. After a few minutes, Richard said, “I’m sorry but I have to ask you this. How much of being famous is great and how much is a drag?” Williams immediately replied, “90% is great and 10% is a drag.” I figure the 10% finally got to him. May one of the greatest San Franciscans ever rest in peace.

WilliamsFor an excellent local article about Williams, see “Robin Williams’ heart never strayed far from San Francisco” by Peter Hartlaub, Leah Garchik and David Lewis

Transform Workshop Evaluation

I just offered the following responses to a survey from The Center for Spiritual and Social Transformation concerning their four  Transform: Spirituality and Social Change sessions that were held last month.

1. How did you hear about the Transform workshop? Please be specific.

2. What were you hoping to gain from the course?
I was primarily looking for opportunities to engage in dialog with peers who respect one another as equals about how we might develop user-friendly, easily replicated tools to support one another in our spiritual growth and help build a national movement to impact national policy – that is, practice what we preach.

3. How well did the course meet these hopes/expectations?
Not at all. I found the first two sessions to be too top-heavy with lectures. They were more like a “class” than an interactive, problem-solving “workshop.” They were too much in the head and not enough from the heart. During the first two classes, when I posed a question and offered a comment, I felt that Liza did not respond to what I said. During the breaks, I engaged in dialog with others about statements they made with which I resonated, but no one did the same with me. As people walked around during breaks, I experienced little eye contact. There was no email dialog during the week. When I emailed one participant about another event and told her, “I’m particularly interested in user-friendly methods that activists could use to support one another in that work — methods that could be easily replicated and spread. AA is a suggestive example. If you have thoughts or experience along that line, I’d like to hear them,” I received no reply. So, all in all, I concluded that I was unlikely to find an opportunity to collaborate on my pressing concern through the class and decided not to sacrifice more income by participating during work hours. So I did not go to the third or fourth class.

4. Evaluate the following statements.
The instructor presented the material in an engaging and accessible way. Agree
The course material was helpful. Agree
The discussion was helpful. Agree
The course helped me in my work. Agree
The course helped clarify my vocation. Agree
I made valuable connections with other course participants. Disagree

5. How was the course most helpful to you?
It reassured me that there are others who want to work on their spiritual growth and are willing to acknowledge their weaknesses and mistakes in order to do so.

6. What could have strengthened your experience?
A more practical focus on developing and sharing tools that could be used to build a national movement committed to turning our nation into a compassionate community.

7. What kinds of workshops would you like to see in the future?
Workshops that facilitate speaking from the heart with peers who respect one another as equals and explore how we might develop user-friendly, easily replicated tools to support one another in our spiritual growth and help build a national movement to impact national policy – that is, practice what we preach.

8. What class formats would work best for you in the future?
Half-day on the weekend
Full-day retreat