By Margaret J. Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science
I first discovered Margaret Wheatley in the pages of Shambhala Sun magazine, when I read her amazing reflection on e.e. cummings’ "Four Quartets" with which I was working for SHIRT OF FLAME. I went on to follow her work with Peter Senge, Berkana Institute and the Shambhala Summer Institute for Authentic Leadership (which I still hope to attend someday).
Meg is an inspiring advocate for what Paulo Freire calls “our vocation to be fully human.” Her work is all about connection, relationship, self-discovery and communication, and how those things affect change – that is, how focusing on human relationships help us be and create the change we wish to see in the world.
Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future was recently reissued in an expanded second edition, and Berrett-Koehler was kind enough to send me a review copy.
Like the conversations it hopes to inspire, Turning to One Another is heartfelt and simply written. The book is not a manual for some new technique for cross-cultural, inter-generational dialogue, although Meg admits such studies have their place. She finds that over-study of dialogue impedes real, personal, natural conversation, and it is those conversations that in her experience hold the greatest value for personal and communal development.
Meg wrote Turning to One Another to address the global crisis of uncertainty and irrationality, cynicism and despair. She asks, “How can we become people we respect, people who are generous, loving, curious, open, energetic? How can we ensure that at the end of our lives, we’ll feel that we have done meaningful work, created something that endured, helped other people, raised healthy children? What can we do now to restore hope to the future?”
The answer? “Only connect.”
I’m just beginning my community-building tour for MyOutSpirit.com, so I couldn’t have started Turning to One Another at a better time. In each city I visit, starting in Austin, TX, I’ll be convening conversations to address the central question that inspired me to create MyOutSpirit in the first place – continuing the conversation that started at the Gay Spirit Culture Summit in 2004:
What can we do to shift LGBT culture toward deeper, more positive, caring, authentic, safe, respectful community that supports each individual in being herself or himself and valuing his or her uniqueness, strengths and inner wisdom?
As we said then, “There is a need for healing and for being together in a safe haven where we can see, hear and touch each other’s hearts and souls. We need alternatives to bar culture, unsafe sex, body obsession, alcohol, drug & sex addiction and other destructive behaviors. We need to transform negative messages we have heard about being LGBT into self-love, strength, compassion and wisdom.”
That deep cultural work seems more important than ever, and as great as MyOutSpirit.com is at helping spiritual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning people find affirming resources (and each other), it’s only virtual. Not that connecting with another human being online can’t bring us joy – of course it can. But what MyOutSpirit.com can’t do as JUST a website is do the real work of shifting culture.
But what the LGBT community really needs is a MOVEMENT where actual cultural shifting takes place; a movement of immediate and personal conversation, action, eye-contact.
It’s easy to say things on your MyOutSpirit profile, but how do you LIVE? Actions speak louder than words, so if we all SAY we want queer culture to be deeper, more positive, caring, authentic, safe, and respectful, but queer culture isn’t CHANGING – what aren’t we doing?
On some level, we are incongruous. Our actions are not mirroring our deep desires.
Margaret Wheatley suggests that the way to begin is at the beginning. “If you start a conversation, others will surprise you with their talent and generosity, with how their courage grows.
“I think the greatest source of courage is to realize that if we don’t act, nothing will change for the better. Reality doesn’t change itself. It needs us to act.”
She reminds us with example after example, from Solidarity to ending apartheid to mothers demanding safe streets, that the story of a great change usually begins with, “Some friends and I were talking…”
Pick up Turning to One Another. Start talking.
~ Clayton Gibson, on MyOutSpirit tour in Shreveport, Louisana