Monday, August 07, 2017

Growing Roots (with Brett)

Trev:
In a world with Escape Hatches, we can just leave when things get uncomfortable. Relationships, Friendships, Communities, Countries or jobs are no longer 'for life'. I don't think we spend enough time do the hard work of discussing what our 'rights and responsibilities' are in the personal agreements we have with each other. So eventually they just snap if the right communication isn't there. I am a big supporter of the idea of a Universal Basic Income. The funding of this has very practical challenges. The one being who has the obligation to fund basic needs. I feel like this is connected to this personal agreement stuff. What obligations do we have to strangers? What can we expect from them? When can we just cut and run, saying 'It's not my problem'

Brett:
Wow, yes, i think we could just do this whole thing on those escape hatches. i have believed for a number of years now that one of the most important messages a lot of people [not everyone] need to hear is 'Be rooted' - in families and friendships absolutely, but also in work and community and elsewhere. We've seen this in sport and i have experienced it. The more settled a team is, the more they tend to play well because they know each other. But if the coach is chopping and changing and people aren't secure in their place, it shows in the game. Same with relationships - if you are not going to be here next year, what use is there for me to invest time in you? i don't feel that way personally because i'm a huge people person but i have heard that from friends about others.

Trev:
In a city like London, people can disappear. In a suburb like Westville (where I grew up) you would still bump in to people even if your relationship changes. We are adjusting to impermanent social capital. Things don't deep soak. I recently had a 20 year school reunion where I realised just how much of my history the guys knew. I won't lie, being stuck with a small group of people we hadn't chosen for almost 12 years was intense. We were beyond horrible to each other at times. Then mates. Then horrible. Growing and learning together. Forced to stick through tough times. I am not romanticising it. A lot of guys were incredibly happy to see the back of school years. I certainly struggled through most of it, only gaining confidence towards the end. Since then however, I have worked for three companies and lived in a number of cities. We can't wave a wand and have a world where we live close to everybody again. Things have changed. But there must be a way to build genuine communities where people commit to supporting each other come hell or high water. Not just when convenient.

Pillow Fighting my Mom outside Westville Methodist Church

Brett:
Well, as a follower of Jesus i have definitely known the church community to be a place that does that super well. Despite her faults [and there are many] and the messed up way she often has of not truly living out what she says she believes [sigh], i have never experienced the 'genuine communities where people commit to supporting each other come hell or high water" that you are talking about more than in the church. It happens outside the church and we probably witness that more on a larger scale when there is a natural disaster or major incident, but when it comes to one person or one family struggling to get by, that is an aspect of the church that has made me the good kind of proud again and again and again. One of my favourite passages in the Bible is Acts 2.42-47 which basically talks about the early church living in each others spaces and sharing everything so that no one was in need. Possibly a community of 3000 plus people and they had eliminated poverty in that space. i long to see all churches and all people get that right on a more global scale. There is enough for everyone's need but not for everyone's greed and if you take a good hard look at the world it's the greed that too often comes out on top. Have you experienced this elsewhere?


Trev:
The closest I have come to that is through Yoga. There is a centre 400 metres down the road from the house I moved into when I came to London. I started attending regularly, and then did the Teacher Training Courses at Ashrams, first in Austria and then in France. There are Ashrams all around the world and it definitely fits a similar category to Churches. The challenge with Churches is for those of us who no longer believe. Similarly with Yoga, those for whom that philosophy doesn't resonate. I often walk past neglected church buildings in the UK (many of which have been deconsecrated and sold) and wonder what could step into their place for a secular society. Somewhere that did what the Church does, but for the whole community.

Yoga Teacher Training includes dish washing!

Brett:
Well, as a Christian, I believe that the church should be doing that for the whole community and there is an excellent example of that in Mowbray where on a Thursday night a small church has a communal dinner where they offer free food to whoever comes, whether it be people off the streets or church members or randoms who come and join in. They are working hard to create a space where everyone feels equal and it's not a case of the church people reaching out to the street people. Which obviously has a lot of challenges but the idea of inviting some of the folks from the street to be leaders of the group and so on. One of my biggest issues with the church as a church person is when it becomes insular and narcissistic and obsessed with itself - when the church starts existing for those outside of its membership, then it becomes one of the most beautiful things ever and I imagine that kind of church might even be appealing to so many others who have walked away from church in disbelief.

Trev:
If it came down to a church focusing on very core beliefs, like love, I could see that working. I am no longer a Christian, but I see what the Pope is doing as a huge positive. And what Archbishop Tutu has been doing for years. I know that in Westville, the various churches started working closer together. It would be great to see that happening (maybe it is already?) across other religions, as well as community groups. Historically, every time there was a 'pretend' core split groups got smaller and smaller. I know our mutual friend Sindile has toyed with going back to church for the discussion. Church would also be a great test bed for concepts like Universal Basic Income. Anything that can get people that don't agree on everything, but do agree on important things, to work and live together.

Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

Brett:
I hear you and agree. One of the most frustrating things for me in life is seeing the beast that calls itself church be everything but church. That is partly why i wrote my book 'i, church' - shameless plug. The question of what happens when the church leaves the building. Because i'm pretty sure in Jesus' mind it was never meant to be an exclusive group that focused on their own needs and the needs of their clubhouse. I can fully understand why people walk away from the church in the form it is often presented but I am always amazed when people walk away from Jesus - after all the basic doctrine is simply Love God, Love people which includes the caveat of 'Love your neighbour as yourself' and by the way even your enemy is your neighbour so love them too. That and a strong focus on those considered 'the least of these' by society - i have no idea how anyone can ever walk away from that.

Keep it Simple

Trev:
There is a throwing the baby out with the bath water problem. Alain de Botton is one of those leading the charge on putting aside theology issues and reengaging with 'the best bits' of what was the heart of our community building. I have made a big effort over the last few years to reconnect to the community I grew up in, despite my story changing. I think a core part of building a thriving wider community is us learning to focus, and build on (Theatre Sport Style - a gap for you to do another plug), the things we agree on. That goes back to the 'personal agreements' we have with people. You don't have to agree with people on everything to identify the things you do have a connection on. The world isn't 1s and 0s, light and dark, wet and dry. The interesting stuff happens in the middle where relationships are built.

Brett:
You don't have to agree with people on everything to identify the things you do have a connection on? Man, if we could only get that one right. Probably the biggest light bulb moment i have been trying to push this year is the idea of Both/And over Either/Or because i have found that people tend towards black and white thinking as opposed to the idea of Common Values/Beliefs/Practices and how do we move forwards in those. i do think church has historically been pretty bad about that although i do think it is starting to change. Jesus Himself gave the 'If they are not against me, they are for me' vibe. We've just been a little slow to catch on. Another word i am trying to get my mind around a lot more is Intersectionality, and then possibly my word for this year would be Interdependence - the move from it all being about me, towards an us kind of thinking and lived out reality. It is possible to hold ideas in tension and continue to wrestle kindly with the things we disagree on, while working together with each other to build the things we absolutely are on board with.

--- Other chats and discussions with Brett Fish ---


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