you're reading...

Why is this a dream?

The floors creaked as we moved our weight over them. The room we were in was mostly oak, the dark oak that intones time, generational time that does not simply abide in space but imbues itself over and over again in partnership with those that fully inhabit the grounds. The grounds were sloped down towards the river. The pine and spruce surrounded us, drew the boundaries of our collective concern yet who could count the quality of care that grew outward connecting ourselves to the world. Like fireworks that “shhhsshhss” channels of connection opened outward to the world. Entering the room we could feel our temperatures affecting the air. There was no rush, we knew this would be significant  and that it would take time.

She spoke from the far side of the room, framed symmetrically by the wall and the windows.  Her palms were pressed together, fingers hovered just slightly in front of her lips as she searched inside for the truest way to speak from herself to us. The ecology of thought was sensitive to authenticity and we felt the weight of that consciousness pressing like gravity on our shoulders. In equal measure the ground pressed up supporting us and the eyes of a community held with gentle hands, the effort of meaning making from the collection of past and self.

Where do we find this? Where can we see collective meaning making in a school day separated into 6 equal pieces? Why is this a threat? Where do I look in my everyday life for the activity of life, of making meaning from each other and our experiences? The oak room and it’s gravity is almost a dream and we float around daily, reaching and straining against our connective tissue for the ground. I look around for proof that it was not a dream but I do not see the circles of people who are committed to making meaning in their lives. When I ask “why” in my everyday community I arrive at a game. Who can play the game of floating meaning best? A game that produces billions of losers. A competitive, divisive game of scarcity.

So, my act of participatory democracy is as simple and as radical as it gets. I’m anxious it will degenerate into meaninglessness but I have to risk the attempt. I will take a step toward the reality in the dream and invite study circles in my own community.  Anyone have any advice about how to best go about this?

About jsteele1979

Hello, I'm a grad student at Goddard College in Vermont though I live in Madison Wisconsin. I'm working toward a masters degree in Education and this site is part of my studies.


5 thoughts on “Why is this a dream?

  1. Hey Jeff,

    You rock! Authentic, collaborative, meaning making with vulnerability, reciprocity, mutuality – what Parker Palmer calls The Community of Truth. What an elusive but worthwhile ideal to strive towards. Has anyone ever participated in a Courage to Teach or Courage and Renewal retreat? Kirsten, am I right that you were a facilitator? From what I gather these gatherings may be as close to your ideal “dream” as we can get. Of course a good Goddard College advisory group session is pretty good too.

    I think what is sooo tricky is engaging with a truly diverse community, one that can recognize and and value truly different perspectives. So often I find myself at conferences or gatherings surrounded by other “believers.” Occasionally some astute participant points out that we’re all “talking to ourselves” (I think those were Kirsten’s words.) But is it possible to “widen the circle” really? Can we find the courage to dissent, admit to our vulnerabilities and stay open to the possibility of transformation. Can we be changed by the voice of another. If we are not open to real change within ourselves then can we even call it dialogue? Are we making meaning or are we just talking?

    Maybe you cooperative catalysts are realizing Jeff’s dream. It’s a nice “oak room” to visit anyway.


    Posted by Paul Freedman | September 22, 2010, 7:22 pm
  2. Thank you both Jeff and Paul. I think is a important conversation to have. I have been wondering about how to gain the strength to help myself and other stop fighting the “nonbelievers” and start talking and hopefully finding a way to communication that leads to action. I am seeing it now with the anti- “waiting for superman” group forming right now, a lot of anger and while it is warranted, it seems like we are just repeat the same new cycle over and over again, with little or now real conversation going on. Part of it is really rolling up or shelves and doing the work of becoming a community which often means not always agreeing right way, or as Casey put it being uniform, maybe we need to start having a conversation about how to make the community a place for everyone, not just the ones that agree with us. How I am not exactly sure, other than trying to form trust by listening and being open to different ways to educate not just our own!

    Thanks for starting this conversation! So glad that both Jeff and you have joined us over here!

    Posted by dloitz | September 23, 2010, 2:19 am
  3. Ethan Zuckerman’s Ted from this summer talks about our imaginary cosmopolitanism. if you haven’t heard it – it’s well worth it..
    speaks to our need to widen ourselves… and how we tend to think we’re global when in reality we just go far away places and seek out replicas of ourselves.

    best strategy – offense.
    bold and generous offense.

    Posted by monika hardy | September 23, 2010, 8:59 pm
  4. Monika!

    So cool! “Filter bubbles” that we live in in our social media. “Atoms are more mobile than bits.” Thank you for Zuckerman! Did you see the graphic on the African American/White divide on Twitter?

    On a more local note, I think this kind of mash up was what David’s last post was about. Getting conflicting ideas into the same room, so they can work off each other.

    How much do we welcome the idea that genuinely challenges us? In our classrooms? In our lives? On that participatory democracy depends?

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | September 27, 2010, 5:08 pm


  1. Pingback: Writing at the Cooperative: Week in Review « Cooperative Catalyst - September 27, 2010

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,103 other followers

Comments are subject to moderation.

%d bloggers like this: