One City

by Jerry Kolber, IDP, follow me on Twitter . For more about the IDP check out The Intderdependence Project website

As talk turns to turkey, pilgrims, stuffing, and Black Friday, I offer you the best and most accurate children’s Thanksgivingpresentation I’ve ever seen, in the spirit of a favorite book of mine Lies My Teacher Told Me. I’ve learned a lot more about actual American history in the past tenyears than I did in my entire thirteen years in the public schoolsystem. It’s not always pretty, but it’s good to know where ourassumptions come from

This year, my Thanksgiving theme is “enough”.  I’m nearly done reading Lynne Twist’s terrific book The Soul of Money, and she makes a great point throughout about moving from a you-or-me world to a you-and-me world.  It’s all about questioning your own assumptions about what abundance and wealth means.

Engagement with others too often becomes over-simplified into what is usually labelled the liberal attitude of “I feel guilty for having what you don’t have so let me give you some” vs. the attitude frequently labelled conservative which goes “I worked my butt off for what I’ve got so you better earn yours too.” 

Both attitudes miss the not-quite-middle ground which is that none ofus fail, or succeed, based on the five minutes we see in our personalrearview mirror.  There’s so much more going on that we’ll never beable to draw an exact flowchart of how we got where we are(cough-cough-interdependence) and it seems like more and more peopleare coming to the realization that the pathway to liberation for all ispaved with cooperation and compassion.

In particular, even mainstream religions are trying to figure out howto take the “Stewardship of the Earth” stuff as seriously as they takea lot of the other easier to implement words in the bible.  This is agood thing, but challenging, as “Stewardship of the Earth” has notmeant much more than “hey this is a nice place to build a church…orfactory…or McMansion” to most of us for the last one hundred years.

So this year, I’m going with “enough” instead of “plenty”.  There’senough food in the world to feed everyone, but solving the hungerproblem isn’t an issue of getting the food that’s over here hauledhalfway around the world over to there. It’s not about “earning aliving”. It’s not about dropping buckets of money on hungry populaces. It’s about empowering people to figure out that despite perhaps beingtold all their lives that they must be dependent on outsiders orstarve, that they have the resources -enough resources – to participatein the global economy. Inner city, war-torn country, sub-Saharanwasteland – there are people there with the same ingenuity as you orme.  Dropping food and money has failed. Any “let me solve this foryou” or “you figure it on your won” approach is destined to fail.

We’re not going to solve world hunger or climate change or poverty orrights issues with math equations, despite our belief in numbers andcommerce. We’re also not going to solve it by some unrealistic “returnto Eden” mentality.  When the native Americans were forced off theirland by the first Americans, we began a slow but steady degradation andhumiliation of intuition and instinct and earth knowledge in thiscountry.  Only now are we realizing that the way out of many of themesses we are in is to mix in a little magic with our math. 

In his book One City,IDP founder Ethan Nichtern makes the observation that”Assumptions…become the source code from which all our beliefs arecompiled.” If we want to know what our assumptions are, just lookaround at how we do things.  The world is full of options; how thingsare is never how things have to be.   The most compassionate act ofcharity may be sitting and listening and helping someone learn how toinvestigate their own beliefs about their world. And the greatest gift I can give myself is to deepen my own practice of mindfulness and meditation to become ever more present in this moment.

Every act of over-eating, over-building, over-agression, over-sleeping, over-dosing, over-over-loading, over-working, and over-anything comes from a fear that the present moment doesn’t offer “enough”.  But it always does. It’s just really hard to realize that on a moment to moment basis.

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