Radical Acceptance and Compassion

“Radical acceptance and compassion,” said Tina Clarke, after warning us that this tenet of the Transition movement might shock us. It means that if we are inviting all in the community to share their gifts (not joining our movement), we must embrace all who come. This is how we cross the cultural, racial, political divide. The Transition movement is not about politics. It’s not about “creating” community. It’s about asking people to share their gifts, ideas, and energy.

This was just one of a wonderful host of learning tidbits gleaned at the Transition Training in Greenfield, Massachusetts I attended last weekend. Although I’ve been involved in the movement for the past several years, I had never attended the two-day official training. I came a way filled with joy and hope. I have been mulling over how to be more inclusive in our Transition Charlotte efforts. It will take some footwork to get to each household, business, town commission, and church, to invite all to the “table.”

According the the Transition Network website (www.transitionnetwork.org) the definition of a Transition Initiative is:

A Transition Initiative (which could be a town, village, university or island etc) is a community-led response to the pressures of climate change, fossil fuel depletion and increasingly, economic contraction. There are thousands of initiatives around the world starting their journey to answer this crucial question:
“for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly rebuild resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil and economic contraction) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”

And According to the Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins (a teacher of permaculture and natural building) the Transition Initiatives are based on four key assumptions:

That life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable, and that it’s better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise.
That our settlements and communities presently lack the resilience to enable them to weather the severe energy shocks that will accompany peak oil.
That we have to act collectively, and we have to act now.
That by unleashing the collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching, and that recognize the biological limits of our planet.

But how do we even begin to talk about these ideas with our neighbors when we might have a radically different view of the world? My philosophy for the last thirty years has been to begin a conversation with first finding commonalities. For example, I can begin by sharing dog or cat stories, if they have one of those. It might get us laughing together. I might share something about our current weather (here in Vermont its been VERY snowy and cold and everyone wants to talk about it). If we can jointly nod our heads, laugh, lament, or complain together, we are building a relationship. I need go no further for awhile. It’s important to have that relationship that includes a hand wave when passing and a periodic stopping to share. After awhile I could begin a deeper conversation.

Tina Clarke gave us an order of the discussion that was very helpful:


You can see where this is going. Everyone is talking about our tanking economy. Not hard to get agreement there. Same for general discussions about rising energy costs, like “Remember when gasoline was 25 cents a gallon? Boy those days are never coming back!” And even some discussion about where we get our electricity and where will it come from in the future. And fairness is something that is on many people’s mind. Who is suffering most now? How can they be helped? What’s the fair thing to do to make sure everyone has heat and electricity and enough food? And after we have all those nods in agreement, we might even be able to talk about the big E, environment.

But, remember that we’re talking about “radical acceptance and compassion” here. We’re not trying to create a debate on the issues, but instead a compassionate listening to one another with respect at the foundation of the exchange.

A wonderful group gathered for the weekend hosted in the home of a couple, Sandy and Russ Thomas, who have been tirelessly working for change in their community in Greenfield. Guided so well by our facilitator, Tina, we felt safe and held to explore, challenge, and express ourselves fully with each other. I am deeply grateful.

I am more diligently preparing for my visits and interviews now that my work with Quaker Earthcare Witness has wound down considerably. I interviewed three people during the training weekend and will share all that and more in coming blogs. Your comments, suggestions, and guidance are encouraged and welcomed.

About ruahswennerfelt

I am searching for a global vision for a sustainable, resilient world in the face of peak oil, climate change, and economic instability.
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