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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

244 Nov 15 2020: The human spirit is nearly impossible to destroy


Join Pat O'Connor this afternoon for an hour of conversation, listening and fun as we gather on ZOOM to say hello and catch up.

Sunday November 15th 2020 (Today)

Time: 5:00 Pacific Time

ZOOM Link:

Passcode: 1234

Meeting ID: 519 315 8573

- In preparation for our conversation this afternoon please read the following reflection to think about conversations -- by Margaret Wheatley. She has lovely insights to share with us.


Emmaus Board Meeting this Tuesday

Date: November 17th. 2020

Time 1:30 - 3:00 Pacific Time

Join Zoom Meeting

Passcode: 1234

Meeting ID: 519 315 8573

All are welcome!

Day 244: Sunday November 15th, 2020:

The human spirit is nearly impossible to destroy

“From these pages, I hope at least the following will endure:

my trust in the people, and my faith in men and women,

and in the creation of a world in which it will be easier to love.”

- Paolo Freire

For many years, I’ve been privileged to meet and work with people in many different communities, organizations, and nations. Most of the people I meet are caring, intelligent, and well-intentioned. They hope that their work will be of benefit to others, that it makes a small difference. I have sat and thought about life-affirming leadership with eleven year old girl scouts, and with the head of the U.S. Army, with tribal peoples and with corporate peoples, with religious ministers and with government ministers.

Working in the world, I’ve grown increasingly distressed. Especially in the last few years, things clearly are not going right. Good people are finding it increasingly difficult to do what they know is best. Whether we’re in a small village or a major global corporation, in any country and in any type of work, we are being asked to work faster, more competitively, more selfishly, and to focus only on the short-term. These values cannot lead to anything healthy and sustainable, and they are alarmingly destructive. I believe we must learn quickly now how to work and live together in ways that bring us back to life.

I’ve explored this distress with tens of thousands of people, and have discovered something obvious and extremely hopeful. We are all human. The unique expressions of culture and tradition that give us such interestingly different appearances are based on the same human desires for learning, freedom, meaning, and love. You and I are yearning for the same things–wherever we are, using whatever means we have available.

In this dark time, it is more difficult to do good and lasting work, or to create healthy change. But people still are basically good and caring. We may feel distressed, overwhelmed, numbed or afraid. But beneath these feelings, we still desire learning, freedom, meaning, and love.

Because this is a time when we are bombarded with images of human badness, I have been intentionally exploring human goodness. Many people have taught me about human goodness–poets, spiritual teachers, everyday people living lives quite different from mine. From them I’ve learned that no matter how beaten down we are–by poverty, by oppressive leadership, by tragedy–the human spirit is nearly impossible to destroy. We humans keep wanting to learn, to improve things, and to care about each other.

What’s truly hopeful is that we already have the means to evoke more goodness from one another. I have witnessed the astonishing power of good listening and the healing available when someone gives voice to their experience. I saw this first in South Africa after apartheid ended. We may have forgotten how to listen, or how to tell our own story, but these are the skills that will help us now.

I also have learned that when we begin listening to each other, and when we talk about things that matter to us, the world begins to change. Juanita Brown, a close friend and colleague of many years, has shared her experiences in community organizing and corporate strategy, and her belief in everyone’s capacity to figure out how to make a difference.

Juanita taught me that all change, even very large and powerful change, begins when a few people start talking with one another about something they care about. Simple conversations held at kitchen tables, or seated on the ground, or leaning against doorways, are powerful means to start influencing and changing our world.

Another friend and colleague, Christina Baldwin, has taught me that human beings have always sat in circles and councils to do their best thinking, and to develop strong and trusting relationships. I have now experienced many circles, in many different settings. Whether I’m with a group of friends or strangers, seated in a windowless corporate room or on logs in the African bush, I have learned that the very simple process of council takes us to a place of deep connection with each other.

And, as conversation slows us down to a pace that encourages thinking, we can become wise and courageous actors in our world.

- Margaret Wheatley

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