Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Group Epignosis Launches New Blog!

Group Epignosis Launches New Blog!
Group Epignosis of Roanoke, Virginia announced its launch earlier today of a new blog it's calling, Integral City 2.0 - Roanoke.  "To say we're excited in taking this 'next step' of exploring the creative potentials inspired by Marilyn Hamilton at Integral City this Fall through, "The City 2.0 Online Conference" is something of an understatement" said group director, Brian McConnell.

"The Integral City 2.0 Online Conference gathered 60 visionary thought leaders, designers and practitioners, with 600 participants from 6 continents, to inquire into how to design a new operating system for the city. The 12-day Conference allowed exploration of each of the 12 intelligences from the book, Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive, and their contributions to city vitality." from "Radically Optimistic Solstice Exec Summary from Integral City 2.0 Online Conference"

Hamilton: Integral city - city boundaries related to consciousness from FreedomLab on Vimeo.

By integrating social media platforms like YouTube, Wikipedia, Vimeo and Slideshare together on Blogger, the Integral City framework readily translates as a multimedia context through which emergent (integral) thought and theory can be shared with a global audience across multiple disciplines including leadership, education, governance, and economics.  This in turn, initiates a laboratory setting for collaborative, transdisciplinary practice and methodologies in which city practitioners can communicate with each other through, or across, an integral 'meshwork' to further discuss, test, and harvest their respective visions.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Transforming Kingdom Architecture - Beams and Struts

When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. Mark 12:34 (1)

"Understanding The Apostles Creed"
I've recently discovered a newly introduced magazine describing itself as an "experiment in collective intelligence" and whose content is directed towards those like myself, supposedly, possessing 'hungry brains and thirsty souls'.  Consequently, and comprised of an ingenious conclave of associates (sometimes) assuming double-duty as publishers, editors, and contributors, Beams and Struts' mixed-media format, high-tech presentation, and 'deep' commentary appears to place it conspicuously at cyber-media's leading edge.

Acceding however that the "modern knowledge quest has largely been characterized by specialization and analysis" that's in turn, left an immense amount "of fragmentation in its wake"; Beams and Struts instead, takes a crosscurrent approach in exploring "how that vast body of post/modern knowledge hangs together."  A noble and all together worthy objective, indeed.

"Since no one person can possibly accomplish this project alone, we've gathered an assemblage to work together.  The intention behind the site is to inquire into, envision, and help usher in the post-postmodern world.  We live in a troubled time rich with possibilities for transformation.  Beams and Struts is a place to exchange information, share perspectives, and initiate action.  Together we can make a complex world understandable and act appropriately within it." from "About Us: The Beams Team" (2)

Yet to my way of thinking, because a 'post-postmodern' approach to knowing suggests a tact far more 'dialogic' than modernity's pathological compulsion towards authoritarianism (or postmodernity's with totalitarianism), I've found Trevor Malkinson's apologetic in "Understanding The Apostles Creed", exemplary.  No tired rumination of staid doctrine here; to the contrary, we're actually discussing 'the stuff' of which the Cosmos is created.

Toward the Soul's Awakening

Similarly too, but beginning with the premise that there's "arguably no more important and pressing topic than the relation of science and religion in the modern world", Ken Wilber's, "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" has artfully proposed a framework for the prodigious enterprise of "integrating Science and Religion".

"The reconciliation of science and religion is not merely a passing academic curiosity.  These two enormous forces--truth and meaning--are at war in today's world.  Modern science and premodern religion aggressively inhabit the same globe, each vying, in its own way, for world domination.  And something, sooner or later, has to give." from The Marriage of Sense and Soul (3)
As Wilber's work attests however, the bigger picture involving how this knowledge is transmuted to spiritual or even evolutionary development in relation to the human soul accordingly, resides within contemplative or meditative practice itself.  In this regard, Wilber fervently contends that "(a)ll knowledge is based upon practice--that is, at the core of every truth lies an injunction that essentially says 'if you want to know this, do that.'  This is true for all branches of human knowledge, whether ecology, psychology, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, or mysticism--data can only be enacted and observed if you are willing to perform the experiment" (4).

For these same reasons then, it's especially compelling to me that contemporary practitioners like Gail Hochachka ("Enacting a Post-Secular Spirituality") and Phileena Heurertz ("Yoga as Christian Spiritual Formation?") are both such sterling partisans of a revolutionary, but yet emerging, yogic discipline.  Consequently, but in this same respect, what could be simpler than to traverse our own paths from their respective example?  Hmmm?

Works Cited

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Gospel of Mark 12:34 - (NASB - New American Standard Bible)." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 9 Feb 2012.
2. Beams and Struts. "About Us: The Beams Team." Beams and Struts. 2011-2012. 9 Feb 2012.
3. Wilber, Ken. The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. New York: Random House. 1998. Print.

Friday, September 30, 2011

58: Conscious Christian Leadership

Group Epignosis (City of Peace) in concert with Greene Memorial United Methodist Church and Roanoke's interfaith community is hosting a Release Screening of 58: The Film at 6 pm on Sunday, October 16th.  This special showing has been said to depict "an empowering vision of the Church rising up to its remarkable potential to end extreme poverty".  Reflecting on a broad range of related issues, this article subsequently invites community support, participation, and attendance in response to Isaiah's plea to 'God's people'.

Jesus Rejected in Nazare
To Judaic and Christian heritages in particular, the prophet Isaiah's writings as transcribed in the Book of Isaiah, bear a deep cultural, historical, and spiritual, relevance.  Though contextualized in a setting of Assyrian and Babylonian domination, including the imposed exile of a divided Israel, its content prophetically directs the course by which 'God's chosen' (Jeremiah 32:38) are to realize a future 'kingdom' in which justice (again) reigns supreme.  It's similarly significant in this respect that Jesus himself, in addressing Nazareth's citizenry (Luke 4:16-21) reads from Isaiah 61 in pronouncing the underlying purpose (and authority) of his own ministry.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."  Luke 4:18-19

In Luke's account, and as alluded to previously in "Leading in an 'Unthinkable' World - Towards Holistic Community", Jesus' proclamation to reinstate Jubilee; or the healing conferred by 'forgiving indebtedness' and 'releasing from bondage', met only with raucous opposition from local religious, civic, and business leaders (Luke 4:23-30).  Nevertheless, yet in this same spirit perhaps, a creative team of film makers including Directors Tony Neeves, and his son Tim, along with Associate Producer Scott Todd, have adopted Isaiah 58 as their project's guiding theme.

In so doing, they've boldly adopted Isaiah's precept to "loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke" and "let the oppressed go free" (58:6), as a call "to create, shape and join communities of passionate, like-minded Christians who will work together to end extreme poverty in our lifetime" (1).  Consequently, and joining with Accord, the 58: team has forged a partner network comprised of established ministries including Compassion International, Living Water, Hope International, and Plant with Purpose.

"Toward a Sustainable Future: Leadership in the New World Economy"

"The world's economic, technological, agricultural, and political systems are breaking down.  While the causes are debated, it's certain that the human assault on the natural world has wiped out vast numbers of species and polluted the land, the air, and the oceans.  After the past 100 years of history, with two world wars and low-grade but vicious warfare going on almost continuously somewhere in the world since World War II ended, it seems impossible for human beings to live together in a state of harmony either among ourselves or with the planet we call home." Richard C. Cook from "Global Crisis: The Time of Testing is Here" (2).

At the same time however, both the scope and complexity of the systemic breakdown to which Richard Cook alludes in the preceding quote, suggests that mankind has entered an unparalleled stage of evolutionary challenge (see - "A New Era Has Begun").  As the video, "Ecologize Growth" below attests however, where modernity's empirical approach over the last four hundred years has fashioned socioeconomic systems that appear sorely inadequate of "better supporting value(s) of human relatedness", an increasing number of socially conscious individuals including clerics, artists, academics and everyday citizens are stepping into roles of global advocacy (3).

Among these are Barrett C. Brown whose recently published findings in "Conscious Leadership for Sustainability", evince the orienting mindsets of highly developed 'leaders' and 'change agents' with established backgrounds in designing sustainability initiatives.  Although there are a number of factors which distinguish these figures from their cohorts, one of the things Brown notes is an underlying difference in referential worldviews between values associated with a dominant social paradigm (DSP) and those aligned with a new ecological paradigm (NEP).
Dominant Social Paradigm contrasted with New Ecological Paradigm - Table 7
Consequently, but where the (DSP) is "characterized by belief in the virtues of economic growth, free enterprise, technological progress, and human domination over nature", the (NEP) by contrast "is an ecocentric worldview based on a belief that economic growth is limited by natural resources, that technology will not necessarily overcome our environmental challenges, and that humans should live in harmony with nature" (4).

Innovation Resets Singularity - Fig. 4
As one might imagine however, the respective 'truth claims' associated with each of these two perspectives differ dramatically in their theoretical approach to 'sustainability'. There are those like Geoffrey West from the Santa Fe Institute for example, who in a recent TED talk entitled, "The surprising math of cities and corporations" presented findings concerning an "inexorable trend toward urbanization worldwide" where not only does 'the city' serve as a "predominant engine" for societal innovation and wealth, but also purveys "its main source of crime, pollution, and disease."

The "Window of Viability" - Figure 2
As a result, the group subsequently concluded that were it not for the generation of "major innovation cycles" at "a continually accelerating rate to sustain growth", those same 'systems' become subject to the vulnerability of "stagnation or collapse" (Bettencourt et al. 5).  In its own way then, their research mirrors the work of Bernard Lietaer's team with natural ecosystems, where efficiency isn't obtained by imposing economies of scale as an arbitrary function of design.  Instead, their study suggests that systems not utilizing man-made, ultra-efficient (e.g. monopolistic, constrained) streams to control and distribute money, energy, water, or whatever, aren't dependent on innovation for survival but rather, resilience.  Consequently, their conclusions render "a single metric as an emergent property of (the ecosystem's) structural diversity and interconnectivity" which, in turn, represents a sustainable balance between efficiency and resilience (6). 

"The effects of current economic and monetary policies are starting to approach the level of genocide against large segments of society, if not in their intention, at least in their effects.  Crime, health, and income statistics identify vast areas of both urban and rural environments as what have aptly been called 'death zones'" (Cook 7).

Tragically though, but as the "Planting Hope" video above illustrates and is further conferred by Robert Neuwirth's TED Talk on 'shadow cities', factors accompanying global debt and globalization are increasing urban slum populations at a rate of 25 million per year.  Similarly then, and as recent events like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street seem to make plainly obvious, the world is poised at an epochal point of turmoil in witnessing a rare convergence of good and evil . . . one comparable to that envisaged by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.

Nevertheless, yet for these same reasons, the Live 58: project affords a unique opportunity to connect with others as a holistic community of compassionate practitioners, heeding Isaiah's injunction to "divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house" (Isaiah 58:7).  We'd encourage you to join us.


Works Cited

1. "The 58: Initiative." Live 58:. live58.org/thefilm. n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.

2. Cook, Richard. "Global Crisis: The Time of Testing is Here." (2010): Centre for Research on Globalization.  22 May 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2011.

3. McConnell, Brian. "Toward a Sustainable Future: Integral Leadership in the 'New World Economy'." (2011): Integral Leadership Review. June 2011, Vol. 11, no. 3. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.

4. Brown, Barrett. "Conscious Leadership for Sustainability: How Leaders with a Late-Stage Action Logic Design and Engage in Sustainability Initiatives." (2011): Fielding Graduate University. 2011. Web. 27 Sept. 2011.

5. Bettencourt, Luis, Jose Lobo, Dirk Helbing, Christian Kuhnert, and Geoffrey West. "Growth, innovation, scaling, and the pace of life in cities." (2007): Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). 24 April 2007, Vol. 104, no. 17. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. 

6. Lietaer, Bernard, Robert Ulanowicz, Sally Goerner, and Nadia McLaren. "Is Our Monetary Structure a Systemic Cause for Financial Instability?: Evidence and Remedies from Nature." (2010): Journal of Futures Studies. April 2010, Vol. 14, no.3. Web 27 Sept. 2011.

7. Cook, Richard. "Poverty in America: Progressive Schemes to Reduce Poverty will Fail Without Monetary Reform." Chapter 7 of We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform. (2009): Tendril Press., 2009. Centre for Research on Globalization. Web 29 Sept. 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Leaders Bridge Pathways to Peace

Participants of Roanoke's Creative Communities Leadership Program together with various civic and interfaith members are hosting a BridgeWalk at 3 pm on Sunday, April 17th in efforts to promote 'tolerance, diversity, and understanding in our ever-evolving community'.  This article offers a reflective overview and calls for a collective response in support of the occasion.

"Exploring the Shame" - Salvation in Forgiveness
For whatever reasons, perhaps only because Spring has initiated her graceful embrace, I find myself again pondering the meaning of cast shadows.  Although a fourth year approaches since the Virginia Tech massacre too, a renewed sense of hope nevertheless rests perched in response to the lessons emanating from an extended string of heartbreaking catastrophe. As I blogged in "A Crisis in American Leadership" some nine months after the Tech incident, and for grounds I couldn't possibly fathom in their entirety at the time, its occurrence marks a significant crossroad in my life.

Columbine Students Holliday and Perez
More recently though, and as Marilyn Hamilton at Integral City mused in her blog only days after the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January, such episodes appear to reflect "strong “weak signals” that may be indications of onset of the human hive’s CCD in America"(1).  Likewise, and as a former public school instructor, my own perspective over the last decade and a half has been profoundly affected by a pervading sequence of similar tragedies originating with the Oklahoma City bombing but including also the Columbine High School massacre, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Northern Illinois University (NIU) killings perpetrated by Steven Kazmierczak (see also - "Revolution, Anarchy, or Madness?: A Crisis in American Leadership").

Jane Vance - Bridging East and West

Subsequently then, I suppose, it's all the more astounding that a role in community involvement has drawn me into the collaborative company of such an illustrious group of soulful others.  I'd already had the pleasure of meeting one of these exceptional individuals named Jane Vance, at a recent opening of her downtown gallery in February.  As "an adjunct professor of the Creative Process through the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech" and aide to "special needs children" with a Floyd County middle school, the art she induces is an eloquent testament of her imbued passion for Tibetan Buddhism.

In fact, it's her enchantment with the colors, sights, and sounds of Eastern culture that effectively inspired Jane's travels to South Asia beginning in 1985.  As fate sometimes evinces itself too, she first met Dr. Tsampa Ngawang on just such an excursion in 1995.  Heralding from a long line of 'amchi' practitioners, in addition to using a complex combination of "herbs, mud and prayer" to facilitate healing, Tsampa is also recognized as an "artist, mind-healer, physician and veterinarian, public health expert, settler of village disputes, village chairman and farmer" within the "Mustang district of north-central Nepal".

In the months surrounding the September 11 attacks however, and having instructed a course on Himalayan culture at Virginia Tech that same year, Tsampa nonetheless returned to Nepal's villagers to share the legacy of his experience after only an initial semester on campus. While led to chronicle the amchi's story artistically, yet concerned it would be construed as 'disrespectful', Vance in turn "wrote a personal letter to His Holiness the Dalai Lama explaining her intentions" and entreating the leader's approval.  Upon receipt of his blessing however, Jane began work on her project in 2002, becoming "the first westerner and the first female in history to be granted permission to do a lineage painting of a prominent Tibetan amchi".

Although the portraiture itself would take only ten months to paint initially, the task group congregated to document its delivery to the lama's village of Jomsom wouldn't make its trek to the Himalayas until June of 2007.  On their arrival though, and because he'd learned by phone of Seung-Hui Cho's slaying of fellow Tech students less than three months earlier, Tsampa resolved that "the first order of business" should entail holding a candle-light vigil in honor of the campus' dead and wounded (see video above).
"It was so important to me to honor the people lost, but also to honor this strong bridge that now exists between two very unlikely places" - Jane Vance

Where the village had cooked "for days" in preparation "to feed a thousand people", the unveiling of "Amchi" now became a cause for celebration, giving rise to "horseback races and archery competitions, and the village's first game of Twister".  There was dancing, and laughter, and in the midst of this polyphony of life, as Jane herself recounts, two distinct groups of people, as if awakened to a timeless dream, "became family".  Just as miraculously too, this extraordinary convergence of the human spirit has been captured in the triumphant production of an award winning documentary entitled, "A Gift for the Village" (Deacon 2).

A Student Memorializes Morgan
Regrettably though, yet as we're sometimes brutishly reminded, destiny can prove a capricious lover.  The truth of this is reflected in the fact that among the students scheduled "to travel to Nepal" for the film's World Premiere this past summer was a Tech co-ed named Morgan Harrington (Acclaimed Artist, 3).  For those who aren't otherwise aware, Morgan disappeared in October of 2009 from a Metallica concert she'd attended at UVA, and though her body was recovered more than a year later, the case involving her 'abduction, rape, and murder' remains unsolved.

Kurt Steger - Bridging Worlds through Art 
In addition to Jane, we'll also be joined for BridgeWalk by two remarkable individuals who, each in their unique way, is gifted with a genius for touching or otherwise shaping human hearts.
The first of these is a regional sculptor by the name of Kurt Steger.  Along with a few friends in January, I had the good fortune of attending a showing of his ethereal creations at Roanoke College entitled, Silent Nature.
Steger's 'Burden Boat'
"To get into the exhibit at Roanoke College's Olin Gallery you start by walking through a piece called "The Pearl Gate" . . . As the piece came together we started realizing it had a bridge like quality, and then we saw the metaphor of the bridge from this world into the other world -- the sculptural world." - from a public radio interview
Kurt's work subsequently has the affect of eliciting almost a somatic connection between the viewer and his art which in turn, serves as a portal for transporting those venturing the journey, into a realm of mystically altered forms of space and time.  But, at least in this instance, "healing (was) the point of the show; where the center piece is the 'Burden Boat', a fifteen foot long sculpture with a ceramic section inside it, filled with tiny wads of paper.  These are the 'burdens' visitors to Silent Nature have scrawled out and placed in the boat" (Silent Nature, 4).

Originated initially in 'response to the regional trauma' of the the Virginia Tech tragedy, the Burden Boat Project was envisaged as an interactive experience to 'symbolically' release the weight of a participant's spiritual or psychological affliction.  First showcased in 2009 on the Tech campus with his display of Primal States and Portals, the burdens of community members are ceremoniously cremated and then, returned to the earth in burial.

Carl Tinsley - Bridging Community Relations

Rev. Carl Tinsley - 'Facing the Future'
As the article ('Bridging Community Gaps') written in support of last year's BridgeWalk attests, the underlying theme of the event emanates from a shared observance that the city's bridges have traditionally served alternately to either divide, or unite, the people of Roanoke as neighbors.  The third individual who'll be amongst the key guest figures this Sunday, and highlighting the values of 'tolerance' and 'diversity' in particular, is the Reverend Carl Tinsley.

"Four times a year, branch leaders meet with the school superintendent to review discipline issues, and Tinsley said he often meets with law enforcement officials to bridge the gap between police and the black community." quote from, "Facing the Future" (Rucker 5)
Although long recognized as one of the community's foremost advocates of 'social justice' and 'human rights', especially in relation to Cabell Brand and TAP, the Reverend Tinsley is most recently identified with a crusade on behalf of area youth.  Consequently, it's with considerable zeal I look forward to joining not only with those whom I've already mentioned, but local denizens at large, in a gathering that will undoubtedly afford us the opportunity to meet, interrelate, and in the process, grow in our learning and understanding of each other.

 1. Hamilton, Marilyn. "Colony Collapse for Human Hive or Cracks Where Light Gets In?." (2011): Integral City: The Blog. Jan. 2011. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. http://marilyn.integralcity.com/2011/01/14/colony-collapse-for-human-hive-or-cracks-where-light-gets-in/

 2. Deacon, Darlene. "A Gift For More Than One Village." (2010): Planet Blacksburg. Jun. 2010. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. http://www.planetblacksburg.com/2010/06/a-gift-for-more-than-one-villa.php

 3. "Acclaimed Artist Jane Lillian Vance To Premier New Works at Gallery Opening in Downtown Roanoke." (2011): The Roanoke Star Sentinel. NewsRoanoke.com. Jan. 2011. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. http://newsroanoke.com/?p=9696

 4. "Silent Nature - 2.15.11." (2011): WVTF Public Radio. www.wvtf.org/. Feb. 2011. Radio. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. http://www.wvtf.org/news_and_notes/news.php?audio_id=2222.

 5. Rucker, Janelle. "Facing the future." (2010): The Roanoke Times. roanoke.com. Oct. 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/264965.

Brian McConnell, BA is a divorced father of two college/career aged youth residing in Virginia.  As a member of Roanoke's homeless community over the last two and a half years, a former educator and community advocate, learning and leadership development are currently his central focus of study. Similarly, Brian is also a Researcher/Practitioner with the Integral Research Center in Integral Sustainable Development (SDv) and serves as Director for Group Epignosis.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Leading in an 'Unthinkable' World - the Transformation to Holistic Community

"Particularly in the wake of the global economic crisis, we need to rethink our values, redesign our systems, and rebuild our institutions to make them more proactive and strategic, more inclusive, more reflective of the new geo-political and geo-economic circumstances, and more reflective of inter-generational accountability and responsibility." (from the Preface to "Everybody's Business" a 'Report of the Global Redesign Initiative')

Because occasionally assessing one's experience can prove helpful in navigating destiny's footpath, I've been pondering the sequence of events and developments lately, that have transpired since our initial City of Peace conference back in November.  This assembly featuring Dr. Doug Bailey, served as a gathering for Roanoke civic leaders, local clergy, and community members, and culminated in an invitation by Carol Tuning, Human Services Coordinator for Roanoke's Homeless Assistance Team (HAT) and Chair of the Blue Ridge Continuum of Care, to co-host a service along with Congregations in Action (CIA) in commemoration of National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day.  The cooperative planning of this event in turn, resulted in a ceremonial observance on December 18th at Greene Memorial Methodist Church.

Also, in assisting a collaborative effort between the Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Advisory Council (RVARAC) and the Council of Community Services with con-ducting the Winter Shelter Survey Report (2010), an opportunity was extended in February to meet with members of Roanoke's Economic Development Department who'd also assumed responsibility for heading Richard Florida's Creative Connectors.  In part, but arising primarily from this author's interest in sustainability and social entrepreneurship, the session's dialogue was summarized in an email entitled, 'Bridging Community Connection' and relayed back to those who'd attended.

In an effort to further extend its outreach within the immediate community, 'city of peace' next joined with "S.T.A.R. (Spirit of Tolerance and Art in the Region) in concert with local civic and interfaith groups" to host a BridgeWalk on March 28th as a "means of nurturing 'tolerance, diversity, and understanding in (our) ever-evolving community'."  This site subsequently supported the affair's theme by initiating an 'event page' at Facebook and publishing an accompanying piece entitled, Bridging Community Gaps . . . 'Body and Soul'.

Sneak Peek
Around this same time however, the year-long relationship between Florida's 'creative communities leadership pro-gram' and Roanoke was coming to an unceremonious end.  Much to his credit though, Kirk Avenue Music Hall founder Ed Walker, who with the city had "split the bill for Florida's $50,000" two-day fee, determined instead, now was a superb time to celebrate its "second annual gathering of the tribes". The mini block-party, featuring an appearance by Senator Mark Warner along with My Radio, whose "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" had been showcased in a newly released trailer for The Joneses', bestowed a certain credibility to Roanoke's aspirations of being recognized as 'Virginia's Music City'.

In the wake of all this activity, the article's author also had the privilege of meeting a group of innovators who reflect the very essence of community in Roanoke's Grandin Village, and contribute to their efforts in coordinating events for Earth Day 2010.  It should be noted, these individuals constitute the front line of putting ideas related to sustainable culture into practical application and are thus, well deserving of our respect and admiration for so doing.

An 'Unthinkable' World
"National and local governments are consumed by social and political challenges at home as they contend with crisis-related economic slowdowns and fiscal deficits.  The financial industry has just experienced one of its worst governance failures in history resulting in an enormous privatization of gains and socialization of losses with which societies will be coping for years to come." (from "Everybody's Business: Strengthening International Cooperation in a More Interdependent World")

For a sundry of different reasons, I've developed an astute awareness over the last four years of the existence of disturbing parallels between 1930's Fascist Europe and the postmodern world of today.  Consequently, but from my perspective, a United States' citizenry appears to be adopting a comparable pedagogic subservience to impoverished political ideologies as did the Axis powers prior to World War II.  Therefore, and whether we're especially cognizant of it or not, navigating the didactic of individual choice in our day-to-day socioeconomic relations is assuming almost Biblical significance and likely to prove nearly as vital in shaping our evolutionary future(s).
"Civilization – not the institutional order – is in a critical condition, one brought on by the failure of our intellectual and spiritual immune systems to resist the virus of institutionalism. This crisis is not to be found in Washington, or Detroit, or on Wall Street, but in our thinking about who we are as individuals and as members of society. As long as we revere the interests of organizations more highly than we do our own; as long as we continue to invest the lives of our children and grandchildren as resources for institutional consumption, this crisis will continue unto the disintegration of civilization itself." (Butler Shaffer from, "The Establishment in Crisis")
Consequently, when faced with such pressing realities, it's absolutely crucial we begin to acknowledge that evolutionary
development isn't strictly a given, linear, function.  In fact, and at virtually any point, it's subject to diversions which can transfigure otherwise purposeful objectives into heinous acts of deprivation which subsequently represent an increased likelihood for apocalypse.

Along these same lines, but in practical terms, perhaps no one was any more central in negotiating and hence affecting, the underlying structure of the contemporary (global) economic/monetary system to which I've already alluded, than John Maynard Keynes. As "a delegate of the British Treasury" to the Versailles Conference which set the terms for the payment of reparations following World War I and author of The Economic Consequences of the Peace, Keynes' input was especially instrumental in forming the International Monetary Fund as an elemental component of the Bretton Woods System at the end of World War II.
"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life." ("Adolf Hitler's religious views" from, My New Order - 1941)
Towards Holistic Community

What has become increasingly obvious with the passage of time however, is that the sheer magnitude of change occurring around us is nothing less than epochal.  From an integral perspective however, that is, one viewing evolutionary development as a process weaving its way through premodern, modern, and postmodern unfolding (see, "Economic Timeline from an Integral Perspective"); all within the context of four interrelated dimensions of reality (see AQAL), 'the future holds phenomenal potential for human realization'.  Yet, and at the same time, perhaps a caveat should be issued; 'if we don't first annihilate each other in getting there'.

As a result, the technological advances undergirding our current realities have brought about a clash, or perhaps more accurately, a convergence of cultures along with their respective worldviews, on a scale that's rarely, if ever, occurred be-fore.  Similarly, the 'truth claims' associated with these cultures, as translated by science, theology, or philosophy, are evincing new borders of contact and communication for interaction and relationship between previously disjoined agents, members, and players.

Yet, interestingly enough, it's at this point of encounter, not only is the role of government its most captivating, but the prospect of a 'risen Christ' likewise, most consummate.  Considering the matter of governance, Butler Shaffer has written a fascinating, if not exhaustive, exposition entitled, Boundaries of Order wherein he boldly proposes the ownership of private property as a social system.  If nothing else, Shaffer's treatise is an astutely articulated, yet scathing condemnation of the State's incapacity "as a pyramidal model" to serve "any socially useful end", owing primarily to a necessitated reliance on violence in fulfilling its decidedly collectivist agenda (see "Private Property as a Social System").

Yet somewhat oddly, the extent to which this viewpoint resounds a comparable theme to that of 20th Century French cleric André Trocmé (1901-1971), is intriguing to say the least.  Having experienced the needlessness of World War I firsthand, this same background "cemented his orientation as a pacifist" early on.  Consequently, on the first Sunday following France's surrender "to the Nazis" in June 1942 and its subsequent agreement "to arrest and deport" on demand, exiles fleeing the Third Reich; Trocmé and fellow pastor Edouard Theis "preached about resistance:
Jewish Children Sheltered in Le Chamon-sur-Lignon
Tremendous pressure will be put on us to submit passively to a totalitarian ideology. If they do not succeed in subjugating our souls, at least they will want to subjugate our bodies. The duty of Christians is to use the weapons of the Spirit to oppose the violence that they will try to put on our consciences. We appeal to all our brothers in Christ to refuse to cooperate with this violence…"
Thus, having established the L’École Nouvelle Cévenole with Theis in 1938, Trocmé became a key figure in the region's forming of "a massive, organized network to protect and even educate Jewish children who had been taken out of internment camps".  Operating in covert resistance to Hitler's Final Solution to the Jewish question, community members "opened their homes to the refugees, sometimes to stay, sometimes to wait until accommodations could be arranged elsewhere or until they could be smuggled across the Swiss border."  Ultimately, this unified effort is said to have "provided a haven or safe passage" for between 2,500 to 3,500 refugees (see, Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution).
"All of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, are responsible for the hunger, injustice, egoism, exploitation, and wars that devastate our time. Christians bear special responsibility: knowing that God can change both people and their situations, the disciple of Jesus can help bring into being God’s future for humanity." (André Trocmé from the Preface to Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution)
Amazingly enough however, and as a heroic testament to his community's power to stand down oppression, Trocmé seems to direct credit for that feat towards far loftier aspirations in, Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution (1961).  So, while his underlying premise on one hand is exquisitely simple, at the same time it's radically powerful in positing his conclusion that -- Jesus Christ's mission on earth, proclaimed the arrival of God's Kingdom based on Jubilee principles of the Old Testament.  In a very cogent exegesis then, Trocmé outlines the scriptural foundation of a social order reflecting the immutable plan of God's intended will for world justice and humanity's liberation from the imposed tyranny of debt, slavery, and oppression.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bridging Community Gaps . . . 'Body and Soul'

"S.T.A.R. (Spirit of Tolerance and Art in the Region) in concert with local civic and interfaith groups, is hosting a BridgeWalk at 3 pm on Sunday, March 28th as a means of nurturing 'tolerance, diversity, and understanding in an ever-evolving community'."  This article affords a 'backdrop' in support of the event.
Beginning last year, and as many already know, the City of Roanoke partnered with Richard Florida's Creative Class Group in a community project comprised of 30 (local) connectors formed expressly to vitalize our 'regional economy'.  As one of the most popular and 'best-selling' authors on the topic, Florida's "basic thesis" in The Rise of the Creative Class centers on the idea "that the economy is transforming, and creativity is to the 21st century what the ability to push a plow was to the 18th century. Creative occupations are growing and firms now orient themselves to attract the creative."  Consequently, the "urban lesson of Florida’s book is that cities that want to succeed must aim at attracting the creative types who are, Florida argues, the wave of the future" (see Edward L. Glaeser's, Review of The Rise of the Creative Class).

Well, uhh Duh!  Good, so being the intelligent and high functioning individuals we are, we're all in agreement and working on the same page with this then . . . right?  Right?  I mean that's our shared objective, wooing or otherwise nurturing a 'creative class'.  After all, Roanoke's cultural heritage is second to none, affording the richest of seed beds from which societal greatness has, in times past, almost magically sprung forth and flourished.

As proof of our city's merit on this count, yet lurking under the shadow of rather dense racial overtones, there was a brief point in Roanoke's earlier history that it afforded creative space and refuge on Henry Street to one of the most prolific, if not obscure, innovators of the 20th century.  Born in 1884, Oscar Micheaux was the first African-American to produce a 'feature-length' film and easily the most prominent contributor to the entire 'race movie' genre, literally inspiring dozens of completed projects over the course of his career (see Oscar Micheaux - Wikipedia).

Making his "first trip to Roanoke" in 1921, Micheaux had already begun filming "on location" in the surrounding vicinity by 1922.  With an opening of the 703 seat capacity Strand Theatre (later the 'Lincoln', pictured at right) in 1923, he established "an office" and operated "the Oscar Michaeux film Corporation" there from "1924 until 1925".  Conveniently, he also chose "the Hotel Dumas" just across the street, for his local residence during this same period.  Thus, but while in Roanoke, with the financial support of "(l)ocal investors", Micheaux was able to render "a total of eight films using nationally known as well as local actors and settings from the Gainsboro neighborhood".

Too, because of its proximity to the Hotel Roanoke, a number of the most prominent jazz musicians of the era "including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Waller", "Ethel Waters", "Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Fats Domino," and "Dizzy Gillespie" typically stayed "at the Hotel Dumas" (pictured above) following their performances.  Consequently, but over a span of the three decades witnessing an end to World War I on through the Great Depression and World War II, the Gainsboro area in general, and Henry Street in particular, became a sparkling testament to the vibrancy of the region's African-American culture (see National Register of Historic Places Registration Form).

Today however, in stark contrast to the rich aura of this cultural (i.e. artistic) heritage, it's disconcerting that a looming penumbra of dominant (and let's face it) 'white', societal mores should yet, so insistently cast its pallor across our city's contemporary landscape.  During the societal tumult that was the Roaring Twenties however, and at a time when many of the churches in Roanoke's extended downtown section had been only recently constructed, a young, Hollywood-based film industry, catapulted to success in part with its 1915 Klan-glorifying production of, The Birth of a Nation; towered omnipotently over the toil of Oscar Micheaux.

Nevertheless, and having already obtained a modicum of commercial acceptance himself, Micheaux enlisted the talent of a 27 year-old actor named Paul Robeson to make "his film debut" playing the dual role of Reverend Isaiah T. Jenkins and his brother Sylvester, in Body and Soul (1925).  Where mainstream cinema at this juncture still portrayed Black Americans in varying stereotypes of "comedic caricature", the aspiring filmmaker instead spun an intricate story of an "escaped prisoner" plotting to swindle a town's parishioners of their offerings while masquerading as a preacher.  Ironically however, when Micheaux "applied for an exhibition license from the Motion Picture Commission of the State of New York, it was denied approval on the grounds it would 'tend to incite to crime' and was 'immoral' and 'sacrilegious'" (see Body and Soul - Wikipedia).

Without minimizing the complexity involved, Roanoke's Creative Communities Leadership Program (CCLP) represents a very practical, yet significant step in engaging its citizens in the development of "a more authentic, sustainable and prosperous community" (see Creative Connector Description).  In this same respect, these 'connectors' have subsequently translated the "four T's" Florida equates with actually realizing these objectives (Talent, Technology, Tolerance, and Territorial Assets) into separate initiatives.  Consequently, S.T.A.R. (Spirit of Tolerance and Art in the Region) in concert with local civic and interfaith groups, is hosting a BridgeWalk at 3 pm on Sunday, March 28th as a means of nurturing "tolerance, diversity, and understanding in an ever-evolving community".  Beginning at the O. Winston Link Museum, participants will have the opportunity to reflect on steps towards social justice and unity in route to the Henry Street (e.g. Martin Luther King Memorial) Bridge.