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February 19, 2009


Rod Downing

Great probing questions, at both the underlying arena and the practical daily one! A small part of my answer is in what I have already posted including my Feb 21 respone to Matt Bolton's Jan 30 "managed Decline" column. Just a few quick thoughts:

1. The spark? I use "Spirit" language about the inextinguishable spirit that always calls us toward the flourishing of life for all. To me that emerges from our evolutionary heritage and is very faint (as such even atheists sometimes feel comfortable with my framings). It starts with openness, then it requires empathy or compassion and finally commitment (aside: also requires overwhelming focus on preventive - genetic and nurturing - so someday we will know how to nurture a Mandela and detect and transform a Mugabe before he becomes the destructive tyrant). These to me become what "education" holistcally should be focused on, and that includes religion. The problem with religion for me, is I am grasped by that ultimate sense of life, and not God, so I want church to focus on life not God [aside: that took years to decide the distinction is not a theological sleight of hand but a substantive argument]. Going to church, one should find a common start then break-out according to need (some may need meditation to soothe the soul, some may need snall group dynamics, some basic educ'n, and some want to dig into these big-picture issues). Practically speaking impossible in small churches unless WC completely reorients itself to feed that directly, though sometimes small congregations can simply decide on wholesale change.

2. Mobilization: The lures of NA society are so strong I can't see sustaining things apart from committed groups/networks that feed the passion. And that's where I see such potential for church, but it is so poorly aligned to feed and sustain it (the 19th C and 10thC, issues I touched on in my not to Matt).

3. Balance: Don't look to me (). Though the one thing that helps me is to do all I can but then trust the spirit of goodness - it is inextinguishable - for sure needs all the help to remove as much societal clutter and distraction. But my point is that regardless of how big one's window of opportunity is, it will never, ever be enough - there will always be more to be done. So an element of trust in the grand stream of life is crucial for not torpedoing oneself.

4. Daily dynamics: Again you show good sensitivity in your ponderings - someone who has internalized all of this! From my perspective it is so heartening, becaue that's the type of people who are going to connect the most dots and get us the farthest. Unfortunately for the person - that would be you in this case - wherever you turn there are implications. Again I'd refer to my point #3 - caught in these societal dyanmics you've got to cut yourself some slack - not numbing yourself to the implications, but not heaping guilt on yourself at every turn. One of my touchstones is the person who focused on their garbage output - they got it down to 2/3 of a can over a whole year! Wow! I'm glad someone has done that to show how off-the-scale our waste is; but I'd get nothing else done if I tried it; so I uphold the need for reduction to be part of the systemic structures, I do reduce and remain sensitive to what I buy and packaging, etc, but then I simply leave it in someone else's hands to try to change the strucures - when I see it, I'll support them but I can't do all things, and that's where I draw that personal line for me. Everyone has got to sort out their own boundaries on each aspect.

Long enough comment! Best to you in your decisions, and thanks for the courage to voice them publically - hopefully your post will help keep this forum grappling with the best supportive ways to sustain and expand thes efforts!

Stephen Donahoe

Rod, Thank you so much for your insight. I really appreciate your thoughts, as you have been struggling with these things for a little while longer than I have. One of the insights that I keep coming back to is a need to realize that life comes in seasons. And these seasons can be different from one another. The focus of each can be different, even though the heart of it all is the same. This is hard for an impatient young man like myself to realize. But I think it is valuable.

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