In his opinion piece in the New York Times, The Moral Meaning of the Plague, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/opinion/coronavirus-meaning.html
David Brooks excited in me a response to our current situation. Well, truth be told, it was actually some friends of mine and a commitment to the work of The World Cafe (http://www.theworldcafe.com/) that truly inspired me to take my thoughts of freedom to the next level.
Both David Isaacs and Juanita Brown, PhD., co-founders of The World Cafe and Co-Authors of “The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter” have been instrumental in helping me internalize and subsequently externalize one aspect of my purpose here on this planet. That purpose was the purpose that columnist David Brooks excited in his March 26 piece in the New Yourk Times. I am here to share my story and my gift…and so are you.
David opens his piece with “It can all seem so meaningless.”
So I ask myself, am I responsible for giving this life meaning? If I am is this the meaning I want to give it? My answers respectively…Yes and NO!
I have been working on these questions all of my adult life. Often failing to come to a conclusion is frustrating. I also want to know why I am nearing the answers now? Why not 10, 20, or 30 or more years ago? Is it because this set of difficulties is here upon me, you, us, now? If I have a choice, and I do, I wouldn’t choose this set of circumstances to find my voice. Would you?
That’s when David Brooks reminded me as he wrote: “Viktor Frankl, writing from the madness of the Holocaust, reminded us that we don’t get to choose our difficulties, but we do have the freedom to select our responses. Meaning, he argued, comes from three things: the work we offer in times of crisis, the love we give and our ability to display courage in the face of suffering.”
Okay, so now I understand the meaning piece of this — the work I offer in times of crisis, the love I give and my ability to display courage in the face of suffering, but what I didn’t know what how? What can I do? I don’t believe I have any special skills, certainly not like those of many of the people I know.
And then David Brooks wrote this, It’s the story we tell about this moment. It’s the way we tie our moment of suffering to a larger narrative of redemption. It’s the way we then go out and stubbornly live out that story.
That’s it! It doesn’t matter what gifts you or I possess, it’s the choice, the freedom as to whether I am willing to tell my story at this moment. The freedom is in whether or not I choose to tie my moment of suffering to the larger narrative of redemption and then how I go live it!
There is something more comingling this redemption and the work of the World Cafe community. That is, “Everybody hungers for tighter bonds and deeper care.” Yes, but how do we get there especially in this time of social-distancing? The answer is in the dialogue. The World Cafe is a “Community of inquiry and practice.”
As stated in the book by its authors, “The World Cafe can make a special contribution when the goal is the focused use of dialogue to foster productive relationships, collaborative learning, and collective insight. Now that’s Freedom! People coming together in the face of adversity to collaborate on the common goal of living…not just surviving. And, we can do it.
So my emailed me this article and asked me what I thought. The following is my response:
This is an impressive piece of work. AND, to me, it indicates that we have come to the biggest individual and cultural decision of my lifetime. Will I, are we, prepared to acknowledge that there may be no other time to make a decision to go beyond “the me” to love “the we?”
Are we prepared as a people to invest in what we already know and have known inherently and intrinsically all our lives: In order to survive we must choose to love each other enough to see ourselves as one aspect of the whole. If we can’t or won’t…we will perish alone.
I believe the time is now. There is a voice calling out to unite the critical mass of people who are willing not only to ask that question but will act on the shared responsibility to answer it. Are you that voice? Are we that voice?
The question isn’t what can I do now? But, am I willing to act as one aspect of the answer? I/You/We already know how, but are we willing to overthrow the selfishness at this moment to act as one?
It’s time to INHALE THE FUTURE AND EXHALE THE PAST.