"We feel we need to evolve the ‘we’ (that’s the title of the event). We’ve spent the past couple hundred years evolving the individual. Some of us have evolved to a place that the individual act has limits. There's a place you get to in your own development where the potency of people coming together has so much potential. You can feel within yourself that there is a limitation to being one. The seminar is an exploration of that potential. What is the potential when people come together to explore the mystery of the authentic". -Stephan Martineau, Next Step Integral
That was a passage from an interview that Br. Juma did with Stephan before last years Integral Community Seminar, an event that Beams and Struts supported and that I attended. I wrote a series of posts from that seminar which you can read beginning here if you're interested (the rest can be found by putting 'community seminar' in the search function). Beams is supporting this years seminar too and I'll be going again, and it looks like I'll be joined by a couple of my Beams colleagues too, so we're all excited about that.
So this is just a short post to let folks who might be interested know that this event is happening. If you want to learn more about the seminar, my posts are probably a decent entry point, as is the description of the event on Next Step Integral's website.
I'm personally looking forward to the seminar for several reasons. First off, I get to drive from Vancouver to Colorado with Juma, and well, everyone loves a road trip!! But beyond that enjoyable detail I do think this work of developing and deepening our capacity to be together in collectives is crucial work going forward. To look at this from a socio-political angle, we're coming out of a highly individualized epoch (in the West at least), and the consumer capitalist ideology of our period has only served to deepen and strengthen our separation. We'll never move beyond our current neoliberal form of Empire if we don't intentionally cultivate our collective capacities together. The new power of collectives and collective action- of the multitude in motion- has shown its power in recent world shifting events, from Egypt to Greece to the Pirate Party in Germany, and I think it's a thread worth following.
So on that score I look forward to the many collective practices at the seminar, and to the exploratory fields that get generated in that space. Last year on the Saturday we also spent some time in small groups sharing our personal projects involving collectives, and we gave each other feedback and creative input on those, and that'll be good to do again. And I also just really look forward to seeing people whom I met last year, and to meeting some new folks too. One of the great things that emerged out of last years seminar was a whole series of connections and friendships between people, and a lot of that has carried over into Facebook and other online environments this year. And I should add that this is among people of many shapes and ages, and in some cases, culture and color too. It reminds me of what I've been experiencing being in a church congregation. On some level, when you've gathered under some collective intention, everyone's included, everyone's a friend. I do things at the church with eighty year old ladies and in that context, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. Like family. We're in something together, something meaningful, and there's a subtle current of connection that brings the most diverse of people together. It's been an eye opening experience.
And it strikes me that this space of the church, and of the community seminar, can both be seen as versions of a Temporary Autonomous Zone. The TAZ is a concept coined by the anarchist scholar/activist/poet Hakim Bey, and it came to wider prominence this year with the Occupy movement, whose encampments followed this principle. The TAZ, as I understand it, is a space where all of the rules and social relations of the dominant culture get temporarily suspended. It's a free space where humans can explore different ways of being and organizing together, and find out if how they were socialized (or overcoded) is truly the only way to make a world. The Burning Man event in the US was conceived of with the concept of the TAZ in mind, and it's been quite a successful endeavor in that regard. I should point out that the notion of the TAZ is not something Bey invented, but noticed as having (re)occured many times in history. It's apparently some sort of evolutionary strategy for escaping oppressive/stagnant/decaying social systems, and acts as an open space for the exploration and emergence of alternative social realities.
And I see the community seminar as just such an autonomous space, a small pocket of time to experiment with a group of willing others. But the community seminar also has one other aspect worth noting, and that's its explicitly spiritual dimension. I think the recognition of deeper and wider realities within and without, and the cultivation of a recognition of being united beyond self with the All, is also politically important going forward. The political theorist Michael Hardt intuits this same point, and has (very bravely in a postmodern context) brought forth love as a political concept. In their book Multitude, Hardt and his collaborator Antonio Negri write:
People today seem unable to understand love as a political concept, but a concept of love is just what we need to grasp the constituent power of the multitude. The modern concept of love is almost exclusively limited to the bourgeois couple and the claustrophobic confines of the nuclear family. Love has become a strictly private affair. We need a more generous and more unrestrained conception of love. We need to recuperate the public and political conception of love common to premodern traditions. Christianity and Judaism, for example, both conceive love as a political act that constructs the multitude. Love means precisely that our expansive encounters and continuous collaborations bring us joy. There is really nothing necessarily metaphysical about the Christian and Judaic love of God: both God's love of humanity and humanity's love of God are expressed and incarnated in the common material political project of the multitude. We need to recover today this material and political sense of love, a love as strong as death. This does not mean you cannot love your spouse, your mother, your child. It only means that your love does not end there, that love serves as the basis for our political projects in common and the construction of a new society. Without this love, we are nothing. (p.351-52)
And from where I stand, the integral community seminar is also an attempt, however frail or feeble, to Occupy Love. And so for all these reasons, I'm stoked about this year's seminar, and I look forward to meeting those who attend. Beams will be also covering the seminar again this year, but we're going to try out a whole new form this time which we're still in the process of conceiving. Something a lot more fun, piecemeal, multimedia and collaborative, so I look forward to what emerges there.
I hope this tiny experiment of the community seminar can contribute to the great passage that's underway across the globe, the movement from the epoch of individualism to the new forms of community and human solidarity that are struggling to emerge in the face of an increasingly globalizing and oppressive Empire. May it be so.
I should also add that what I've written above is only my perspective on the seminar, the way I look at it and come to it. But the diversity of why people come to the seminar and what they're working for in the world, is one very rich part of such a gathering. I want to finish with a video where professor Karen Litfin- who attended last years seminar- talks about her particular focus when it comes to 'evolving the We'. Enjoy.