Unit 3: Becoming Together
Topics: Agreements, social cohesion, asset mapping, willingness, kindness
The conversation in this session, which happened right before covid, is all the more relevant today at a time when our society lacks civility and when generally held agreements are unraveling.
It is obvious today that society has fractured into conflicting reality bubbles that can barely communicate with one another. Where can we find healing? What can bring us together again? How can we arrive again at what I call a unifying story of the people? Orland here identifies an important prerequisite to such a story: simply, the willingness to enter one. Then we can ask the question Orland poses, the social version of the personal question of how can I be so that you can be you. It is, “What agreements can we share that we can be here with these changing times?”
Next Orland speaks of social asset mapping, which, without going into the details, is a process of coming together in mutual agreement on the validity of everyone’s needs and in the capacity of the society to meet them. It is a kind of prerequisite or launchpad for imaging a future together. A striking symptom of the illness of Western civilization is its failure of imagination. In the 1950s there was broad, implicit consensus about the future, and confidence that we could achieve anything we want to. That consensus is still to be found today in China, but not in my country. There is no shared vision of an inspiring future. As Orland would put it, without the shared willingness of humanity, we cannot act as a host for nature to play with us and deliver new gifts. He calls it “vibrancy” – “feeling connected to the life realm we are inhabiting.”
Think about that. Are we as a society connected to the life realm we are inhabiting?
In the second segment Orland eventually arrives at a very simple prescription for building the field of collective willingness: kindness. To the cynical political activist, kindness might seem like a dodging of the systemic issues – telling people to just be nice to each other rather than to examine the conditions of oppression. However, here he describes kindness as the expression of a basic orientation that holds each other in reverence. Thus it resonates with and strengthens the source from which meaningful social change must come. The source is the collective carrying of each other’s will. That commitment also is expressed as kindness – which is not always the same as “niceness,” but is to hold another in reverence, as a full human being whose needs and development are important.
Kindness does not mean never to disagree with someone, or never to take a stand for something you believe in, or to set a boundary. It does mean, however, to keep always in sight the truth that this person is a comrade, a divine soul. Think about the origin of the word kindness. It is to be alike, of a kind. It is to be kindred. It is to be family. If you lose sight of that, you are no longer in reality.
Therefore, let us take as a subject of contemplation an interaction in which you were not kind. Maybe you were polite. Maybe you were nice. But in that interaction, you were not in sight of the truth of that person’s divinity. Maybe you were in judgment, or you wrote someone off, or you were manipulative. The purpose is not to castigate yourself, but to recognize, to bring something to awareness. In your meditation, hold that person in kindness. Touch the place in you that knows their needs are important. Find your willingness to hold their will, and for your will to be held – the will for our becoming together.
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