Shortly before I self-published My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography, a good, trusted friend told me that the title and cover (which features a head shot of me) did me a disservice because they suggested an “ego trip.” He suggested “Searching for Deep Community” as an alternative title, presumably because it would be less self-centered. His comments bothered me a great deal, so I reflected on them for a few days.
Then I told him, “If others take it as an ego trip, that’s their problem,” and proceeded to publish and distribute some 50 copies, mostly to people I discuss in the book. About 20 readers have given me valuable feedback, most of which has been positive. So I’ve begun posting the book on the Web at http://deepcommunity.org. My plan is to edit the book a bit as I go along, especially in order to correct mistakes that have been pointed out. And eventually I may re-write it considerably, make it much shorter, and try to get it distributed more widely.
But my friend’s comment still bothers me, causes me to reflect on my motives, and prompted me to google the definition of “ego trip,” which is “something done primarily to build one’s self esteem or display one’s splendid qualities.” I acknowledge that my ego would like to be recognized as a “great man” as my mother repeatedly told me I would be. And I’ve long been ambivalent about any recognition given me. But when I told Ajahn Amaro, the Buddhist monk, that I had mixed feelings about the praise I received after serving in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team during the U.S. invasion, he told me, “Relax. Accept it like icing on the cake. People want to express their appreciation.” I think his advice was wise. The degree to which I am motivated by my ego is very small compared to my desire to help relieve suffering. I would much prefer to work under a pseudonym with a democratic team of co-equal collaborators who had an enormous, positive impact on the world, with only my close friends knowing that I was involved.
I’m sharing my full life story primarily because I hope doing so will plant some seeds that will contribute to the growth of “deep community,” which I define as a community of individuals who examine themselves deeply, resolve to acknowledge mistakes in order to grow personally and become more effective, work to change national policies that are the root cause of great suffering, and support one another in those efforts. I believe such communities could play an important role in helping to foster the kind of change that we need in this country.
- 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.
In “Changing the System: A Proposal for a National Conference,” I reported on my suggesting to Berrett-Koehler (BK) Vice-President David Marshall that BK convene a national working conference focused on these questions:
- What is “the system”? How can we best describe and analyze it?
- How do we need to change it?
- What organizing strategies are needed to build a popular movement pushing for those changes?
Shortly after I posted this proposal, Marshall posted the following on Facebook:
Super reader Wade Hudson advocates for a “Changing the System” National Conference in 2015. It’s cool to see such leadership from somebody in the largest BK stakeholder group: readers. This may fit with three of our five initiatives from our 2014-16 Strategic Plan: Connect with Customers, Build Our Brand, and Commit to Diversity and Inclusion. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
He also tweeted about it and @BKpub retweeted his tweet.
I am encouraged by that response and am hopeful that BK will pursue a problem-solving collaboration of the sort I proposed.
But I am not making any assumptions. Most political activists don’t take time for personal growth, and most people engaged in personal growth don’t take time for political action. Integrating the personal and the political, my life-long commitment, is not easy. To foster such holistic communities, I believe we need new tools, or formats for meetings, that could be easily replicated and adopted by activists who want to nurture self-development, both their own and that of their fellow activists. Knowing of no such tools that are being used at present, I’ll continue to look for them and encourage others to develop them, as I have with the Movement Strategy Center, the Center for Spirituality and Social Transformation, and others.
In the meantime, I prepare financially for my old age by continuing to drive taxi part-time, am deeply involved with organizing the Residents’ Council in the 170-unit senior-citizen apartment building where I live, and hope to start blogging regularly on essays in the New York Review of Books, while continuing to post chapters to My Search for Deep Community.
I often feel alone with my concerns. But I know there are many others who share a similar perspective. Figuring out how to find each other, connect, and grow our numbers is the dilemma. Hopefully, someday soon, it will happen.