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Part of Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue: Collection of papers and notes, problems and possibilities on the new frontier of high-risk gatherings concerning social development (1991). Prepared in the process of envisaging the group dynamics of the World Parliament of Relgions
Creating a space. Cultivation of the space from which doing emerges -- or from which the point and focus of doing become evident. Here the challenge is to avoid premature filling of that space with know-able and do-able things. The point of the gathering, if that is the appropriate geometrical metaphor, is whatever we can collectively allow it to be.
Urgent illusion. Here the challenge is to respond to the paradox of "the perfection of what is" versus "the agonizing urgency of social transformation".
Making music. Whether each person is seen as a musical note, chord, melody or instrument, how are the principles of harmony to be understood? Here the challenge is to discover what kinds of music the group can play.
Gathering of the handicapped. Where each person is seen as differently handicapped, how can collective work be envisaged? Here the challenge is to accept the handicaps and find ways to work around them.
Images of perfection. With a Japanese vase, its aesthetic perfection lies in the harmony of its imperfections. Here the challenge is to balance imperfections, bringing out unforeseen harmonies.
Healing insights and poisonous skills. Each mature person's preferred mode in a fruitfully diverse gathering can only be experienced as constructive by some and destructive by others. Here the challenge is finding the perspective that makes this appropriate -- and the balance required.
Making weather. Some act like the wind, some like water, some like fire and some like earth. In so doing, each can enhance or undermine the other's contribution to the whole -- or can counter-act the other's imbalancing of the whole. Here the challenge is to understand what is appropriate.
Art of refraining. Skills and insights need to be used at the appropriate time. They are seldom as relevant as the possessor would like to believe. Withholding may also be "with-holding".
Honourable enemies. As in aikido, those holding apparently opposing positions in a gathering can be usefully considered as honourable enemies. Here the challenge is to cultivate the dance of energies that conserves and enhances the energy of the whole -- the real risks point to truths.
Nuclear plasma. As in a fusion reactor, the art is to prevent the (ch'i) energy of the gathering from being "quenched" by association with any one of the complementary particularities needed to contain and sustain it.
Being part of the problem. If one does not understand how one is part of the problem, one cannot understand the nature of the solution required.
Engaging difference. Rather than consider ourselves "equal" as "humans", it may be more fruitful to imagine each other as representing quite different species (even from different parts of the galaxy!). What then is the challenge of communication.?
Limitations of language. No single language or form of articulation is adequate to comprehension of the situation and the appropriate response. Here the challenge is to develop an adequate set of complementary languages and to understand how (and when) to move between them.
Psycho-social laboratory. If we cannot achieve any useful collective transformation processes in a gathering of the committed, any effort to use its insights outside that environment is suspect.
We the metaphor. For better or for worse, the gathering is a metaphor of the opportunities it purports to address and of the difficulties in doing so.
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