Friday, April 18, 2014

Catalyzing Empathic, Engaged Citizens



On 26 June 2012 I gave the following presentation at the UN Public Service Forum in New York City. The title is "Innovative Leadership to Engage Citizens in Self Governance and Development."

I.              Our Time

We live in what is likely the most turbulent and transformative time in human history. The very future of life on Earth is at stake. In my case, my four year old grandson, Phoenix, and my two year old granddaughter, Mariela, remind me again and again of my care and passion for a positive future of life on this planet. We face multiple crises any one of which could be definitive. However, for us a whole system transition is underway – this is a transformation in the interconnected web of social, economic, political, cultural and environmental forces and factors.

Climate chaos due to an economy based on fossil fuels is changing our planetary ecology irrevocably endangering life support systems. We see ample evidence that temperatures are rising and that coastal cities and islands will be submerged. Droughts, desertification and massive storms will increase. Food production will collapse. We are in the midst of a massive die-back of species. Oceans are becoming sick. Water scarcity is a cause for international conflicts. Mass migrations will take place as people search for a livable environment.

Fiscal and economic systems are careening out of control with austerity policies causing great harm to countless people. Money has become divorced from the care of people and nature. Profit for a tiny few has become a higher value than justice or equality for the vast majority.

Democratic governance systems have been captured by corporations and wealthy individuals overwhelming the voices of the majority of citizens. Oligarchy and the plutocracy of the military-industrial complex are fighting to maintain their control of our societies and resources.

Fundamentalisms of all sorts are at war with an empirical, scientific worldview and the principles of inclusiveness and respect for differences of opinion. The rights of women – 50% of humanity – are being violated and pushed back in alarming ways. Culture wars continue to erode human rights.

HIV/AIDS and other new and old diseases are rampant causing widespread suffering. Health care systems have become too costly or are non-existent. Public education is being threatened and denigrated.

This is a time to “do or die.” Either we do what is necessary to survive or we may die as a species along with many other species.

II.            Empathic Civilization
What then is the big picture, the overarching narrative of our times? Is it inevitable that we are moving through a time of systems collapse, suffering and death? Or could something else be emerging? What if the breaking down of our unsustainable, unjust, authoritarian, unequal and divisive systems is forcing us to re-invent these systems based on healthy and hopeful principles of sustainability, justice, participation, equality and inclusiveness? What if these crises are really opportunities to redesign our societies as part of a new empathic civilization of sustainable human development that works for everyone?

Empathy has always been a deep part of the human psyche, with mirror neurons in the brain as the physical corollary, and is now being called forth for survival’s sake, as the driving force for a new civilization of mutuality and care.  Every day it is proven again and again that people care about each other including those who are far away and from different nations, cultures, religions and races. Human beings are fundamentally empathic because we are deeply interconnected one with another and recognize ourselves in each other. We each want happiness and health and we feel each other’s suffering and joy. We are a big family of brothers and sisters which includes other life forms as well. Seven billion human beings now are present on this planet with their unique intelligence, creativity, compassion and understanding in order to take us through this dangerous transition. This is the moment of citizens to the rescue.

The new civilization will be based on a social contract of the interdependence of people with each other and with natural systems. Renewable energy of sun, wind, water, geo-thermal and algae will sustain our social and economic life. The protection of natural systems of soil, water, plants and animals will be embodied in collective law and individual behavior. Governance systems will be based on the needs and voice of all the people not just the economic, political and cultural elites. Accountability, transparency and responsiveness will be present at all levels of government.

Fiscal systems will be designed to provide equity to all people. Global and local economies will be concerned about the rights and well-being of workers and the environment. Health care and education will be universal rights in policy and practice. Cultural diversity will flourish and people will delight in their differences and enjoy learning from each other’s knowledge and wisdom. Consumption and production will be replaced as the highest good of society by mutual learning, care, artistic expression and other forms of creativity.

This new civilization will be the flowering of the planetary and human project. Or as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put it, “the task before us now, if we would not perish, is to shake off our ancient prejudices and to build the Earth.” Is this a vision of utopia? I would submit that we have a radical choice to make – either to move toward a sustainable and humanizing world or a world of endless dystopia of chaos and suffering.

III.           Citizen Engagement
Around the world citizens are arising with new energy for transformation. The Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement are two manifestations of this. People are demanding that they participate and lead in their own governance and development. It is time to move beyond the control of corporatocracy, plutocracy, oligarchy, patriarchy and militarism. Citizens are capable of governing their societies through their own intelligence, voice and energy. Education, health care, justice, livelihood, shelter, food, water and sanitation are universal human rights and services that can be provided for all, to all and by all.   Current policies based on scarcity must be replaced by policies of sufficiency and sharing.

Citizens everywhere have organized as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) in order to engage in self-governance and development.  Civil society as a whole is now seen clearly as one of the three governance actors, the other two being government and the private sector. The environmental movement, the women’s movement and the human rights movement are the direct voices of citizens to create a sustainable and human world. To empower these citizen movements, new and effective institutional and leadership capacities are needed.

We see around the world NGOs and CBOs collaborating with local authorities and local businesses to improve the living environment in low income settlements. We see NGOs and CBOs improving sanitation systems and waste management, providing clean drinking water and starting clinics and community schools. We see NGOs and CBOs speaking out for the rights of the poor, minorities, women, youth and the elderly. We see NGOs giving voice on behalf of other species, the oceans, air and soil.  People everywhere are waking up to their interconnectedness through social media, mass media and travel and know their rights and their power to direct the course of history.

Knowledgeable, engaged citizens – of communities, nations and the globe – are the keys to confronting the overwhelming challenges facing us and creating a new empathic civilization of sustainable human development.

IV.          Innovative Leadership
No longer can leadership be by command-and-control. Absolute authority doesn’t work and is inappropriate for a race of intelligent, creative beings. Local and national governments are being called to a new style of leadership to empower and engage citizens in their own governance and development. The leadership needed at this time of crisis and opportunity must be integral, facilitative and creative.

Traditionally, change processes have focused exclusively on institutional arrangements, policies and systems. This collective-exterior leadership is critical but is not sufficient. Change must also happen within the culture itself – the collective interior – by changing collective values and norms through motivating, transformative stories, rites and symbols. Change must happen in individual values and behavior – the individual interior and individual exterior dimensions - changing mindsets and perspectives as well as relational and interpersonal behavior. This is integral leadership – working to change collective institutions and culture and individual mindsets and behavior. In addition to having the right legal frameworks in place, we must have the right individual and collective values and behaviors moving our societies toward a more sustainable and human future.

The facilitative leader sees her/himself as a guide who enables groups of people to think, analyze, plan and act together through participatory, interactive processes. The facilitative leader asks questions of people that allow them to journey together in a structured manner toward productive outcomes. Facilitation of citizen participation is essential to motivate and call forth the creativity and energy of all the people to respond to the massive challenges facing us today. Facilitation can be learned as a new type of leadership that does not control outcomes but provides participatory processes that allow citizens to create the policies and services that are most important to them.

Facilitation requires skill and patience, an ability to listen deeply and willingness to allow citizens to chart pathways of good governance and effective development. The facilitative leader has the skill to lead productive discussions, analytical and problem solving workshops, strategic planning exercises and whole system design processes. The facilitative leader asks people to articulate their hoped for vision of the future, the factors that could enable or inhibit reaching that vision, the strategic directions that would carry them toward their vision taking into account the inhibiting and enhancing factors and the implementation action plan and timeline that they will commit to in the day to day.

Government and NGOs must provide a multitude of opportunities of facilitated citizen dialogue and decision making through forums, workshops, conferences, online chat rooms, websites and social media.

The creative leader is a social artist who awakens and enlivens peoples’ capacities in the dimensions of the sensory/physical, psychological/ historical, mythic/symbolic and unitive/spiritual. The creative leader provides processes by which people can access their own creativity, intuition, motivation, courage, vision and genius in solving problems and designing new systems. The leader as social artist enables citizens to deepen their capacities of body, mind and spirit in order to release their full potential as human beings. The creative leader makes use of individual and group processes, both face to face and online, that stimulate the best thinking, doing and being in others that is possible.

The integral, facilitative and creative leader helps turn challenges into opportunities for sustainable human development. Government and NGO officials who learn and practice these skills find themselves becoming true civil servants – the servants of the people – that they have pledged to be as elected or appointed leaders.

Over this day and one half we will practice facilitative, creative and integral leadership as we share our knowledge with each other and make recommendations for ourselves, member states and the United Nations. We will listen deeply for insights in the presentations and discuss interactively at our tables using a series of questions.  As Rilke says, we will be “living the questions.” We will be the People of the Question. We will be asking “what if” and acting “as if” it is possible. We will become an emerging Community of Practice on governance and development.

Related to the concept of Gross National Happiness, happiness will not be our goal but our way of being as we catalyze well-being for ourselves and all others. A sense of hope will carry us through this tumultuous time of crisis and danger and the lure of a possible-future will draw us toward it – a new empathic civilization of sustainable human development. Innovative leaders within government and throughout our societies are needed to help humanity through this great transition. If not us, who? If not now, when?
(Note: Photo above of the Bill T. Jones Dance Company)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Transformative Civilizational Leadership

On 20 June 2011 I gave a plenary presentation to 600 participants from around the world attending the UN and Africa Public Service Forum held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The text of my speech on "Transformative Leadership for Sustainable Human Development" follows.

Jambo! Habari?

I am very happy to be with you. Why are we here – in Africa, in this gathering? I have returned to Mother Africa, East Africa, as a pilgrim to the birthplace of the human species. I am part of this gathering because I am convinced that you and I can make a difference in this glorious, suffering world by what we think, say and do.

What is a human being (binadamu), born here in East Africa? What is development? What is human development? What is the purpose of societal organization and governance in relation to human development?

These are urgent, practical questions facing us as a species. Our responses to these questions, both in our individual thought and behavior and in our collective culture and systems, will determine how human society and all life forms flourish or decline on planet Earth.

There are many views of what a human being is; and each definition of humanness carries within it an implicit or explicit definition of development. In the view of the United Nations and the international community, a human being is one who is guaranteed universal rights by society as articulated in the Declaration of Human Rights. Over the past twenty years the UN has analyzed and promoted “sustainable human development.” Furthermore, the Millennium Development Goals were agreed upon to provide tangible targets for human development over the short term.

How do nations and local communities understand the social compact that guides the design of social systems for the benefit of all human beings, all living beings and the finite resources of planet Earth including plants, animals, water, soil and air? Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the social compact directs that human beings agree to care for each other to ensure that each person has the necessary conditions for a full and meaningful life while ensuring that future generations have the same right.

This means that in order for all people to enjoy these rights, no group of individuals should make this impossible by the over accumulation of economic wealth, political power or cultural dominance.

I believe that we have just entered the Most Critical Decade in human history – a time to do what is needful or face the direst of consequences. Other generations thought they were it; they were wrong; we are it. If we do the right things, the future of life on Earth can be brighter than we can imagine. If we don’t, the future could be dismal and even disastrous. (Turn to a person near you and share in one minute each what for you is the greatest crisis and opportunity that humanity faces today.)

We are in the midst of a whole systems transformation – a time of chaos, crisis and possibility. We are facing multiple, interlocking crises including climate chaos, economic injustice, increasing poverty, dysfunctional governance, gender inequality, unsustainable energy and an HIV/AIDS pandemic. Each of these crises, however, is also an unparalleled opportunity for the reinvention of the human enterprise.

We as a global society have the tools and technology needed to solve each of these crises. What we lack is collective agreement and action. We must, at the same time, transform individual consciousness and behavior and collective culture and systems.

These crises are an opportunity to reinvent nothing less than human society itself from the bottom up, the top down and the inside out based on principles of sustainability, equity, justice and participation. We can literally create a world that works for everyone – societies that enable each person to realize her or his full potential.

There is a pathway forward. We need to put an end to our purely production-consumption society, end the unrealistic concept of unlimited growth and drive towards a sustainable, equitable, participatory, just society. We need renewable energy, an equitable financial system, participatory governance, gender equality, environmental protection, universal healthcare and education for all. We need new ways of thinking, new assumptions, and new myths, policies and collective action. We need to understand how to stay awake and how to act mindfully. We need a “lure of becoming” that draws us out of the present delusion and morass toward a hoped-for future.

Within this very moment of crisis, a new civilization is emerging. It is an Earth-based civilization. In this new civilization, people will increasingly embody a consciousness of being part of the living Earth, of being part of the life force of our beautiful planet. (Look back from the Moon and see the blue Earth in black space.) We are all Earthlings. All people and all life forms are our brothers and sisters. We have a common future or no future at all. In the new civilization, people will embody behavior that is empathic and compassionate. People will embody a culture of peace, creativity and learning. People will embody systems, policies and institutions of equality, justice, sustainability and universal participation in decision-making. And if we do not create such a civilization, the alternative will be chaos, tyranny, suffering and systems collapse.

In the midst of this critical decade we must build a new civilization of sustainable human development country by country, organization by organization, community by community.

We are here together in the UN Public Service Awards Forum to celebrate successes and challenge ourselves to create a new civilization lesson by lesson, story by story. We are here in Dar to advance that noble cause. Public service in the 21st century faces many challenges and opportunities. In the midst of the breaking down of an old civilization and the emergence of a new civilization, public service is now called more than ever before to provide innovative leadership for sustainable human development.
There are many styles of leadership which follow a developmental progression identified by Dennis Emberling. First, leadership can be authoritarian, exploitative and coercive with the leader as the boss, dictator or employer. Next leadership can be bureaucratic with the focus on rules and roles with the leader as a manager, administrator or “parent.” The third stage of leadership is pragmatic with a focus on results with the leader as a guide. Next, leadership can be based on values and principles with the leader as a facilitator, coordinator or coach. And finally, leadership can be systems-based with a concern for multiple perspectives with no managers but true delegation of responsibility to all members of the team.

What then are the most effective means in this critical decade with which to build a new civilization? Transformative leadership approaches are keys to unlock our human potential. I would like to share with you three of the most effective methods of transformative leadership.

Change requires new systems, policies and institutions but these alone are not enough. In order to create effective change, we must also transform individual consciousness and behavior and collective culture. These four dimensions of leadership based on Ken Wilber’s quadrants of integral development are all essential: change that is both individual and collective and internal and external.

Within each of these quadrants of leadership we must work on four levels of
transformation: physical/sensory, psychological/historic, mythic/symbolic and unitive/spiritual. These four levels as delineated by Dr. Jean Houston in her social artistry work are all essential for creative, effective change to take place.

The third set of methods that is part of innovative leadership is the Technology of Participation or ToP. This array of effective leadership methods was developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA.) ToP includes, among others, methods of effective group discussion, group workshops and strategic planning.

These and similar methods will help us catalyze a new civilization in this critical decade through public service, public administration and governance. If a leader makes use of these types of innovative methods, whole organizations, institutions and communities will begin to mirror and emulate the leader’s own awareness and prowess creating a powerful multiplying effect throughout the society. Can you imagine the use of transformative leadership approaches in a cabinet meeting, a parliament, a civil service bureaucracy, a corporate board room or an NGO meeting and what a difference they could make?

Transformative leadership moves a society from a past-oriented problem-solving mode to a future-oriented whole systems design mode. It helps transform individual mindsets, values and behavior, and collective culture and institutions. The transformative leader is deeply concerned and committed to creating the conditions in a society that enable each woman, man and child to realize her/his full potential. Transformative leadership makes use of participatory, interactive methods to ensure that each person’s voice and wisdom is heard and felt in social dialogue and policy making. The transformative leader is a social artist and makes use of myths, stories, rituals, symbols and metaphors to motivate the society to imagine and reach its future vision.

Transformative leadership makes use of the very latest information technologies to enable the population to participate in governance processes at every level. The transformative leader is a person of deep personal integrity and empathy who manifests compassion for other people. He/she is committed to being the servant of the people in helping everyone to live well. Transformative leadership is responsive to present and potential dangers and disasters and helps prepare and engage the population in doing what is needed to avert and deal with natural disasters such as climate chaos and human-made suffering such as armed conflict. The transformative leader has a profound belief in universal human rights and is a powerful advocate for the empowerment of women, minorities, elders and youth.

Transformative leadership works to create strong, accountable and transparent democratic institutions and processes of governance. The transformative leader does everything in her/his power to help make a better life for all the people. In order to do this, he/she spends over half of her/his time managing his/her own ego, pride, greed, fear, anger and hatreds and practices concern for and understanding toward all people.

Following the Forum we the participants will return to our countries, organizations and communities with renewed vision and practical tools for the betterment of our societies.

We will stay networked electronically and will continue to challenge and encourage each other. We will make use of new methods of leadership and will help create new institutions of participatory governance. We will design new systems and structures, as well as new policies, programs and projects that will put into practice the insights gained in the Forum. We will continue to transform our own consciousness, values and behavior as we help others transform theirs. We will catalyze new cultures of mutual respect and understanding among all people everywhere.

What if these four days in Dar marked a turning point in human history - from despair to hope, from greed to compassion, from impoverishment to empowerment? What if We the Participants are indeed the people that the world has been waiting for? What if we are the catalysts and servants that history requires at this time? What if we are able to mobilize people in such a way as to respond to climate chaos, increasing poverty, dysfunctional
governance, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, gender-inequality and economic collapse? What if we embody integrity, creativity, effectiveness, accountability and transparency in everything we say and do?

What if we are the transformative leaders who call our fellow and sister citizens to join us in the greatest and noblest of tasks – to Build the Earth - to create a New Civilization - to catalyze Sustainable Human Development? What if these are indeed the times and we are indeed the people? What if we have come to East Africa to be reborn as truly human beings?
Asante sana!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Four Faces of War and Peace


In March 2014 I spoke to a symposium on creative peacemaking at Oklahoma City University. (video: The following is an edited version of that talk.

May all people everywhere, including you and me, realize peace, happiness, understanding and compassion.

A Cherokee prayer . . . “O’ Great Spirit, help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence.”

We are so busy, rushing about here and there. Let’s begin by relaxing our body and bringing our mind to stillness and quiet. Please relax your body. Become aware of your body, breath and mind. Take 5 minutes. . . . . What did you notice, experience?

Thank you Mark and Terry for inviting me to this symposium and to Joe for making me feel welcome. It is very meaningful to me to be back in my home state. I am happy and honored that my brother, nephew and many old colleagues are present here this morning.

Please turn to someone next to you and introduce yourself. Share with them what your hopes are for this symposium and its follow up. Take 5 minutes. Okay, now let’s hear a few of the hopes expressed by the person who was speaking to you.

Who is from the farthest? Closest? Oldest? Youngest? Our gender balance? We are exactly the group needed to be this symposium and to conduct creative peacemaking in our lives and work.

I grew up here in Oklahoma and went to Oklahoma State University. My great grandparents were Oklahomans and I am proud to have Cherokee blood in my veins along with mostly Scottish blood. I am proud that our state logo has two symbols of peace covering an Osage shield: the calumet, or peace pipe, representing Native Americans, and the olive branch representing European Americans.

Since leaving Oklahoma, and after graduate school in Chicago, for the past 45 years I have worked in international development in 55 countries with the Institute of Cultural Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme and now with New York University, the UN and the East West Center. I am married to an amazing Zen Buddhist priest and have two wonderful sons and two adorable grandchildren.

As you know the UN is dedicated to peace and development. It is often said that there can be no peace without development and no development without peace. I have spent my life working on the development side so that we may have a lasting peace. Thus I am a development expert not a peace expert.

I believe that we are living in the most critical time in human history. This is it. Everything is at stake. It is a time of whole systems transformation. A time of crisis and opportunity. We must move toward a compassionate civilization or settle for a dystopia of environmental and social chaos. Why do we need to be aware of this in a symposium about creative peacemaking? This is the socio-environmental context in which we must wage peace.

Climate Chaos
Extracting and burning fossil fuels is damaging our planet’s ecosystems resulting in violence and harm to humans and other life forms. Sea rise from melting ice is submerging islands and coastlines. Mega storms are battering human settlements. Droughts and flooding are harming people and food production. Acidification is killing sea life. These are literally acts of war against our planet and life on Earth. Peacemaking is critically necessary. Promoting sustainable development is the peacemaking required. How do we do this? What is required of us?

Gender Inequality
Half of the human population is relegated to second class status and suffers violence and abuse from men. This is a war on women. Peacemaking is required. Promoting gender equality and ensuring the full partnership of women at all levels of society is the peacemaking needed. How must we go about this? What is required of us?

Socio-economic Injustice
Social and economic injustice is doing violence and harm to billions of people as the rich control more and more resources and wealth. This is a war on the middleclass and the poor and peacemaking is greatly needed now. Socio-economic justice is the peacemaking required. What is needed to make this happen? What can we do about this?

Elitist Governance
Plutocracy, corporatocracy, oligarchy and authoritarian rule are doing violence and harm to billions of people around the world. These are acts of war against people’s freedom, self-determination and voice. Radical peacemaking is needed. Participatory governance is the peacemaking required. What action will turn the tide? What can we do here and now?

Cultural Intolerance
Intolerance of differences of race, culture, religion, ethnicity, class, age, sex and sexual and gender orientation is doing violence and harm to billions of people around the world. This is open warfare against those who are different, weak or minorities. Peacemaking is sorely needed. Tolerance, understanding and opportunity for all are the acts of peacemaking needed. How do we ensure that this happens?

We live in a world at war. Peacemaking is the life and death vocation of our time. How are you and I personally called to use our creativity and energy?

Who is most concerned about climate chaos? Gender inequality? Socio-economic injustice? Dysfunctional governance? Cultural intolerance?


War involves acts of violence and harm whereas peace includes dialogue and justice. Ken Wilber provides us with an integral map which can help us see the four faces of war and peace. There are four dimensions to the map: Interior, Exterior; and Individual, Collective. At the intersections are: Mind (Individual/Interior), Behavior (Individual/Exterior), Culture (Collective/ Interior), Systems (Collective/Exterior).

Take a few minutes and think about what is going on in each quadrant, both what you think is contributing to violence and harm or war in that particular dimension and what can promote dialogue and justice or peace. Take five minutes and then share with someone.

I would like to share a few of my thoughts about these four faces of war and peace for your consideration.

Mind of Warmongering:
A violent, harmful mind emerges as negative emotions arise from our confusion about our true nature of compassion and wisdom. When we separate our self from others, negative emotions of fear, anger, hatred, greed and pride take root. These negative emotions can control our mind and then find expression in our behavior.

Mind of Peacemaking:
We can cultivate a mind of peacemaking through meditation, empathy, ethics, compassion, wisdom, moving beyond ego, experiencing unity and manifesting generosity, equanimity and trust. Exemplars of the mind of peacemaking include His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Methods of fostering a mind of peacemaking include meditation and ethical practice. But this is never easy. Where do you struggle with letting go of negative emotions?

In the words of HH the 14th Dalai Lama: "Many people today agree that we need to reduce violence in our society. If we are truly serious about this, we must deal with the roots of violence, particularly those that exist within each of us. We need to embrace 'inner disarmament', reducing our own emotions of suspicion, hatred and hostility toward our brothers and sisters." 

Behavior of Warmongering:
Violent, harmful behaviors include acts of superiority or hatred toward other races or women or different sexual and gender orientations, as well as greed, consumerism, corruption, meat eating, being part of a throwaway society and packing a gun.

Behavior of Peacemaking

We can cultivate the behavior of peacemaking through practicing happiness, non-violence, facilitative leadership, collaboration, compassionate action, reconciliation, mediation, vegetarianism, promoting diversity and care for environmental sustainability. Exemplars of the behavior of peacemaking include Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Peace Pilgrim who walked across America for 28 years. Malala has said “I would not shoot someone threatening me.” Methods of behavioral peacemaking include non-violent resistance and group facilitation. But this is never easy. How do you struggle to manage your harmful behavior?

Culture of Warmongering:
Violent, harmful cultures emerge from stories, symbols and rituals of racism, sexism, intolerance, nationalism, classism, ageism and homophobia.

Culture of Peacemaking
We can catalyze a culture of peacemaking by living by principles of sustainability, justice, equality, participation and tolerance. We can create new stories, songs, symbols and rites that embody these principles. On March 1st a Climate March began to traverse the USA which includes my colleague David Zahrt along with many others. But it is never easy to manifest new cultural forms such as this high ritual. Where do you struggle to do this?

Systems of Warmongering:
Violent, harmful systems are manifestations of collective greed, fear, anger, hatred or pride including exorbitant wealth accumulation, militarism, armed conflict, maintaining armed forces, the armaments industry, nuclear proliferation, capital punishment, the extraction, selling and burning of fossil fuels, plutocracy and systemic poverty, injustice and inequality.

Systems of Peacemaking
We can cultivate new systems of peacemaking by creating policies and institutions that promote environmental sustainability, renewable energy, socio-economic justice, gender equality, participatory governance, cultural tolerance, nuclear disarmament, an end to capital punishment, delegitimized war and universal education and health care. Exemplars of creating systems of peacemaking include Nelson Mandela and Bill McKibben of But any of this is not easy. Where do you struggle to challenge the present corrupt systems and catalyze new systems of justice?

Creative peacemaking can begin in any of the four quadrants. We can teach meditation, practice non-violent networking or advocate new stories or new policies. Where ever we begin we can affect the other quadrants. We can also design projects that activate all four quadrants.

Most of us could agree with these faces of peacemaking, but what is blocking us, what is keeping this from happening, what do we need to do in order to do this? I struggle to do these things. What are your struggles? We need a balance between patience and consideration and urgency and boldness. How can we do this? It isn’t easy. It is very challenging. It can be boring. It is hard work. Its outcome is uncertain. It won’t make us rich or popular. How do we move forward day after day?

Who is drawn to help nurture the mind of peacemaking? The behavior of peacemaking? The culture of peacemaking? Systems and policies of peacemaking? All four dimensions?


We can design creative initiatives and projects of education, networking and advocacy.

We can design educational projects to promote creative peacemaking. These can involve teaching meditation or ethics and providing relevant information. They can teach non-violent resistance, facilitation, mediation, new stories of dialogue and justice and new policy messages.

We can design networking projects that promote collaboration and group facilitation. We can promote networking among diverse communities to nurture understanding, among facilitators and mediators, among new exemplars of peacemaking and among policy makers.

We can also design projects that advocate for new mindsets, individual behaviors, new cultural expressions or new policies and institutions of peacemaking. These can involve speaking out, writing, blogging, creating artforms and political engagement.

We can invent creative new pathways to peace, new language, new methods, new partnerships, new projects, new ideas, new rituals and new policies.

My challenge to you is to push for breakthrough thinking towards radical being and doing. Speak your truth. Listen to other’s truth. Risk bold proposals. Manifest your ground of values. Dare to be the change that the world needs.

These are the Times! And we are the People!

May all people everywhere, including you and me, realize peace, happiness, understanding and compassion.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Aruba - An Enlightened Society?

Bhutan has declared to the world that it is creating a society of national happiness. Rifkin has written about the coming of an Empathic Civilization. This blog is dedicated to the emergence of a Compassionate Civilization. Recently I have become aware that the new Rector (Head) of the University of Aruba has challenged his country to become an Enlightened Society.

Beautiful Aruba, a country of just over 100,000 people, just 17 miles long and 6 miles wide, gorgeous beaches, a rich diversity of cultures and languages, a tourist mecca, along with much suffering.

In January of this year the Rector of the University said the following in his inaugural speech: "Aruba could become an enlightened society. An enlightened society is a community continuously developing its consciousness and in which the pursuit of happiness through peace and the rule of justice are the aim of all." He went on to say "Aruba needs to deepen its self-consciousness, its sense of being, belonging and contributing to an elevated existence of humanity. For this, we need to study ourselves, find ways to better ourselves and then reach out to the world to help humanity in its further development." And then he said, "What if we research, discover, develop and find a way to deploy the [unique] qualities we exhibit. I am convinced that the University can help to do this."

What would it look like to awaken a whole country, to make understanding, peace, happiness and compassion the purpose of being a global-local citizen? How could this be done? How could a university be the catalyst for this noble endeavor?

How might Aruba show the world how to deal with challenges of climate chaos, gender inequality, socio-economic injustice, elitist governance and cultural intolerance?

On my recent teaching mission at the University of Aruba I met this remarkable Rector and other educators and citizens of Aruba and I experienced that this vision is indeed possible to be realized. May it be so.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Do We Have Time?

What is time? Is it a learned habit of referring to our human perception of past, present, future? The other day I saw an interview with a theoretical physicist on You Tube. He said that time may not be a fundamental characteristic of the universe. What could that possibly mean?

Our human experience is that some things are no longer happening and are therefore in the “past.” Some things seem to be part of our lived “present”.  And then there are things that have not yet happened and are anticipated as part of a possible “future”. But do these three segments of time “exist”? Or are they figures of speech concerning our experience of being part of an organic flow of continuous change, evolution, growth and decay as well as being in the midst of spatial distinctions and discontinuities?

How do we chat about time? “There’s simply not enough time. I’m out of time. Time waits for no one. I had no time to spare. Time’s up. How time flies! I did it in the nick of time. It was a timeless moment. Time stood still. They arrived ahead of time. It will be done all in good time or at a set time or from time to time. I was pressed for time. He lived on borrowed time.”

Physicists tell us that before the Big Bang there was no time. Before you were born you were timeless and after you die you will be out of time. Time may be an epiphenomenon of being a living conscious being. It may be the way the brain makes sense of the change inherent in being and becoming.

How time flies! 2014 is almost 1/12th over! How much time should there be in a lifetime anyway? Jesus was 33 when he was put to death.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was 39 when assassinated. My wife Mary was 60 when she died of cancer. Pete Seeger was 94 when he died. Some people die as babies or children. What is long enough? Or is this the wrong question? Rather should we ask, how intensely are we living our life? How authentically? With how much gratitude? Are we contributing our unique gifts to the civilizing process? Are we relieving others' suffering and making them happy? Are we giving all that we have and are? Are we loving each person and every moment of our lives?

This is our time. Let’s use it well.

(Note: Image above is of Salvador Dali's painting of a clock.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You Are Bending History

How can we continue caring day after day without any assurance that what we are doing makes a difference in the grand sweep of history and evolution? We can realize that everyone’s life happens in a particular here and a particular now and with particular people, and that this is the situation in which the challenge is presented to us of being relevant or not, of being ethical or not, of making a difference or not. Then every encounter is experienced as a crisis or test of who we are and what we stand for.

Everyone who ever “changed history” or nudged evolution in a new direction did so in a particular moment, place and circumstance. It was then and there that they manifested their intimate values and principles through the risk taking of their own behavior and action. It was at that precise moment and location that cause and effect began to ripple outward. In that sense everything we do makes a difference. But does it make a difference that makes a difference?

It does if we are fully present and invested in what we are doing, if we are manifesting our deep intention with our complete attention. As often quoted, Gandhi’s admonition is to be the change we want for the world. I would add, moment by moment, location by location, situation by situation. Embodying vision and values is what it is all about. Walking the talk. Putting your life on the line. Going for broke. Holding nothing back. All or nothing. If not you, who? If not now, when?  

How you are parenting your children or treating your spouse or relating to your colleagues at work or exercising your responsibilities as a citizen or a consumer makes a critical difference. Your choices and actions are creating the future of life on Earth. You can live your life on behalf of others or only for yourself. But whichever you choose, without you, the future will not be the same. You and I are more powerful than we would wish to acknowledge or be aware. What we do or do not do changes the world.
(Note: Photo of Joseph W. Mathews)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dying Is So Very Natural

I never saw a wild thing
Sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

                             (Self Pity by D. H. Lawrence)

Dying is as natural as breathing and eating. It is really the only way to make our exit from existing. We are born not by any merit or initiative of our own and we die quite easily and swiftly at any moment when conditions are right. The true miracle is the life between birth and death. Breathing, eating, sleeping, thinking, talking, walking, it is all a miracle. How do we do it so effortlessly? Well, most of us that is. For some, these require huge effort and assistance and are even bigger miracles.  

When someone we love dies, it breaks our heart. We do not want to lose contact with their body and mind, their liveliness. But what we are left with is their absence and their presence. We have memories of lived moments with them yet they are absent. Yet they are present in our mind and heart. When someone we love dies, it can make us more compassionate and wise. When we truly know that everyone dies including ourselves, we can be more patient, more understanding and more loving.

When my wife died I was so very sad. Then I was confused, then angry, then lost, then filled with a sick feeling of sorrow like a never ending bout of fever and flu. These are the natural stages of grief. We must fully live them, experience them, accept them, work through them, then let them change us, let them evolve into something new. Grief work is very important. We mustn’t hurry it, or think it away, or short change it. It is healing us. It is giving rise to an increase of compassion and understanding of the mysteries of life and death.

Oh, but the hurt, the pain, the anxiety, the raw sense of loss. “Where art thou, my beloved? Where have you gone? Why did you leave me so soon? I miss you terribly. I love you so much.”
After my wife died we corresponded and it helped me a little. I would write her letters on the computer and she would write back with words of reassurance, comfort and love. It helped a little. Even though I knew that it was me writing back to myself on her behalf, imagining her mind, heart and words. It helped me to feel her love, her kindness, her wisdom, her desire that I continue with my life, my service, my mission.

What a mysterious gift we are given, this life and death.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Daily Vows of Compassion and Wisdom

Fortunately there are many wonderful religious and spiritual traditions that can help human beings live lives of love and truth. Every morning I bring my palms together, bow and make the following vows taken mostly from traditional Buddhist sources. (Following each section I have provided my interpretation.) May this inspire you as it does me.

I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, until I realize enlightenment and bring all sentient beings to nirvana. (Interpretation: I find solace in the inherent capacity to wake up to a life of compassion and understanding, the teachings of compassion and understanding and the community of those who are continually waking up to compassion and wisdom, until I realize compassion and understanding and help relieve the suffering of every conscious being.)

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them. (Interpretation: There are vast numbers of conscious beings, I vow to relieve their suffering and help them realize compassion and understanding.) Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them. (Intepretation: Desires arise continually making their demands on us, I vow to place a limit to them and their influence.) The dharmas are boundless, I vow to master them. (Interpretation: There are vast numbers of phenomena, I vow to understand and work skillfully with them all.) The buddha-way is unattainable, I vow to attain it. (Interpretation: The pathway of waking up to compassion and understanding continues to unfold, I vow to realize it moment by moment.)

May all sentient beings realize peace, happiness, wisdom and compassion. (Interpretation: May all conscious beings realize the peace found in acceptance, the happiness found in gratitude and making others happy, the wisdom of understanding relative and absolute truth and the compassion of relieving the suffering of all beings.) May all beings in the six worlds realize peace, happiness, wisdom and compassion.  (Interpretation: May everyone who has died and also those still living, realize the peace found in acceptance, the happiness found in gratitude and making others happy, the wisdom of understanding relative and absolute truth) and the compassion of relieving the suffering of all beings.)

I take the backward step to study the buddha-way, which is to study the self, which is to forget the self, which is to be awakened by the ten thousand things, which is to drop off body and mind, which is to let go, which is to let go of letting go. (Interpretation: I turn inward to contemplate and study how to continually wake up and live a life of compassion and understanding, which is to study the nature of the self, which is to realize that there is no separate, permanent self, which is awakened by everything we encounter, which is to dis-identify with my particular body and mind, which is to live in detached engagement, which is to live in detached engagement about living in detached engagement.)  

Earth, fire, water, air, all dharmas manifest emptiness, impermanence and suffering, thus realizing that all is good, the self is accepted, the past is approved and the future is open. (Interpretation: All phenomena have the characteristics of interdependence and continual change and anxiety concerning these characteristics, and it is in the midst of this awareness we can realize that everything that we are given in life is perfect, that this interdependent, ever changing, anxious self is perfect, that everything that has ever happened has brought us to this perfect moment and that the future is to be decided and created by those who live their lives.)

Om mani padme hum. (Translation: Hail, Jewel in the Lotus! Interpretation: I heartily acknowledge those who embody perfect compassion and understanding!)

Gate gate, paragate, parasamgate bodhisattva, prajna heart sutra. (Translation: Gone, gone, completely gone, everyone gone to the other shore, enlightenment, hail! Interpretation: May everyone realize perfect compassion and understanding!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Top Ten Posts and Countries

The top ten countries in 2013 for readership of this blog are: USA, Malaysia, Canada, Germany, Serbia, Australia, UK, Kenya, Sri Lanka and China.
The top ten posts in 2013 (September - December) out of 66 posts (titles are clickable) are:
Nov 4, 2013, 3 comments


Dec 2, 2013, 1 comment

Nov 27, 2013, 2 comments

Nov 6, 2013, 1 comment




Nov 13, 2013, 1 comment

Oct 27, 2013