Oklahoma


It was an exciting day
yesterday
at CommonWealth Urban Farms.
The community prepared
for a special visitor,
spreading wood chips on a muddy path,
sweeping leaves and sticks
from the garden entrance,
filling an Oklahoma-made basket
with tender turnips, radishes, baby carrots,
micro greens and a card
with all our “thank you” messages.
All this
because Thunder player Kyle Singler
was coming to donate
$10,000 to CommonWealth!
He had visited the farm
a few weeks ago
and evidently liked what he saw
because we soon received word
that he had decided to make
a significant donation.
Friends, volunteers,
Closer to Earth youth
and others in the CommonWealth community
greeted this tall, friendly young man
who explained during the presentation ceremony
that friends in his home state of Oregon
were urban farmers
who taught him the value of growing
nutritious food locally, right in the heart
of the city.
We exchanged gifts—
a giant check
and a basket of food—
and toured the garden again,
lush and green
even now, mid-January!
We posed for happy photos
and widened the friendships
and the CommonWealth community.

The funds will be used
to build a hoop house
and improve CommonWealth’s
infrastructure. Kyle noted
that CommonWealth is near “my backyard”
and that he wants to support the community
that supports the Thunder team.
We hope he knows he’ll always
be welcome here.


DSCN9369Awaiting arrival

DSCN9372Friends in CommonWealth community

DSCN9373Closer to Earth youth

DSCN9380The Presentation ceremony

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DSCN9401Farm Tour

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DSCN9366Lia Woods and Allen Parlier, CommonWealth Urban Farms

More photos here, on The Thunder OKC website.

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So, there is this group in Oklahoma City,
a group that has been meeting for two hours weekly
the last three years. They have this vision
that there is the possibility to enable systemic change
in Oklahoma toward a more just and flourishing
human and ecological society. They call it
The Human Community Network.
I have had the privilege of engaging in their weekly
discussions the last few months and attending
the monthly gatherings that began a couple of months ago.
When I invite people to come to the monthly gatherings
(you are invited too!)
and when I talk to people following a monthly gathering,
very often there is this quizzical conversation
and some comment along the lines of
“I just can’t grasp what this is really about.”

This blog post is one effort to explain
the inexplicable. Since this is about
change,
there’s no linear, step-by-step, goal-oriented formula
for what will happen in The Human Community Network’s
Oklahoma Project.
Change doesn’t work that way.
And because, to my mind,
the person who best explains the way change does happen
is Margaret Wheatley,
I’m going to let her to speak,
especially from the piece she published
in “Kosmos Journal” last summer.

Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.

This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

Researchers and social activists are learning that networks
are the only form of organization used by living systems
on this planet. Out the window,
the belief that it is only through human will and intervention
that change happens.
“Networks create the conditions for emergence,
which is how life changes,” says Wheatley.

Emergence. Understanding emergence
has brought hope
and energy
and a way forward.

In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, preconceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a {larger} or comprehensive level.

What The Human Community Network
hopes to do then in its Oklahoma Project
is bring people together from many areas
of social concern and effort
to network together,
especially around three areas:
Economic, including eradicating economic corruption,
establishing worker equity,
reclaiming lost human resources
and reframing ecological innovations.
Political, including engaging and networking local citizenry,
preparing emerging leaders,
initiating institutional reformulation,
interconnecting network of movements.
Cultural, including student-focused public education,
recovering missional focus of faith-based institutions,
social and ecological grounding of academic curriculum.

Those are the current processes of concern.
How will this happen? What’s the process?
What is this group going to do?
Wheatley teaches a way to catalyze
connections to achieve large-scale change:
Focus on discovering pioneering efforts and naming them as such.
Connect these efforts to other similar work.
Nourish this network, especially through creating opportunities for learning and sharing experiences.
Illuminate these pioneering efforts so that many more people will learn from them.
Networks are the beginning.
Eventually, networks develop what she calls
Communities of Practice. From Communities of Practice
new systems
suddenly, surprisingly
emerge.

This system of influence possesses qualities and capacities that were unknown in the individuals. It isn’t that they were hidden; they simply didn’t exist until the system emerges. They are properties of the system, not the individual, but once there, individuals possess them. And the system that emerges always possesses greater power and influence than is possible through planned, incremental change. Emergence is how life creates radical change and takes things to scale.

So, we don’t know the outcomes.
The next new change
emerges
because everything in the system
contributes its values.
No one can predict or cause
the next emergence. It’s a collective
effort,
every part contributing and responding
from its values.
The more connected the kindred parts are,
the greater the chance
that the next change
will contribute to the world
we want.
In The Human Community Network’s
monthly gatherings
and its upcoming Symposia,
we will share experiences,
learn from each other,
nourish and support our efforts;
in Wheatley’s terms,
move into “Communities of Practice”
and see what emerges
toward a more flourishing
and just Oklahoma.
Wheatley’s thoughts on
Communities of Practice:

People share a common work and realize there is great benefit to being in relationship. They use this community to share what they know, to support one another and to intentionally create new knowledge for their field of practice.

These Communities of Practice differ from networks in significant ways. They are communities, which means that people make a commitment to be there for each other; they participate not only for their own needs, but to serve the needs of others.

In a community of practice, the focus extends beyond the needs of the group. There is an intentional commitment to advance the field of practice and to share those discoveries with a wider audience. They make their resources and knowledge available to anyone, especially those doing related work.

I find great hope
and inspiration now
in the “not knowing”
a formulaic, step-by-step process,
and great excitement to see what
will emerge
as people in education,
people in criminal justice reform,
people in local governments,
people in the LGBTQ community,
people working in sustainable agriculture,
people in faith communities…
in other words, progressive Oklahomans
come together
to share and learn
and support
and enter the dynamic
of emergence and change
in living systems

The speed with which people learn and grow in a community of practice is noteworthy. Good ideas move rapidly among members. New knowledge and practices are implemented quickly.

The third stage in emergence can never be predicted. It is the sudden appearance of a system that has real power and influence. Pioneering efforts that hovered at the periphery suddenly become the norm. The practices developed by courageous communities become the accepted standard.

The speed at which knowledge development and exchange happens is crucial because local regions and the world need this knowledge and wisdom now.

So, join us
as we continue to network
and practice
and catalyze change
in Oklahoma’s economic,
political and civic systems
to create a more just
and flourishing life for all.

Go to The Human Community Network fb event page
to “like” it,
invite others
and tell us you’re coming
to the next monthly gathering,
THIS SATURDAY, January 16,
1 to 4 p.m., Room 151
Walker Center
on the Oklahoma City University campus.

 

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The New Year at Turtle Rock Farm

Our January 2016 Newsletter

It’s one of those compelling
paradoxes:
this is a time when all that’s
happening
in the world can overwhelm
and the most helpful way through
is counter-intuitive for some of us:
instead of a figuring out how to fix,
to find solutions,
the way through
is to be thoroughly aware
and appreciative of
and engaged in
this moment,
our life as it appears to us
this moment.
And, here’s the paradox,
when we live in this moment
without resistance to it,
we connect
with life,
all life,
and the way through,
even the next steps
into solutions,
make their way through.

So our first retreat
in this next turn around the sun,
2016,
will be a retreat on learning
or beginning again
the practices of Mindfulness,
or, Living in the Moment.
January 9
at Turtle Rock Farm.

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Living Mindfully retreat participants, in 2014

To register,
and to check out the 2016
calendar, as it evolves,
go to our website.

Four two weeks
during the UN Climate Summit
we made a walk meditation
for Earth and all life
each morning. The last morning,
we left the grassy place we had walked
outside Angie Smith Chapel
on the Oklahoma City University campus,
and we drove north,
to The Great Salt Plains State Park
to see the Sand Hill Cranes.
We thought it a fitting place
to be
at the close of the UN Climate Summit talks—
at Salt Plains Bay
watching Sand Hill Cranes
on an unseasonably warm
and beautiful
December day.
We heard them long
before we saw them.
It was a bubbling,
perhaps gurgling,
sound,
loud. They were standing
in the sunlight
along the bay shoreline.
Several hundred of them.
But there were many more—
40,000—out and about,
feeding.
Creamy gray and white,
with black tips on their wings
that we could only see
when they took flight,
which they did,
to our delight.

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Too, we watched two bald eagles
in a tree above the cranes.
And we walked the nature trail,
alongside the marsh,
beside twittering sparrows—
sighing
often,
taking in the warmth
and beauty
and stillness,
letting go the tension
which we hadn’t realized
we’d taken on; the tension
of climate talks,
about the future of life
on this magnificent planet.

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And that day
in the sunlight
and stillness,
amid the gurgling sound of Sand Hill Cranes,
the beauty of life on the planet
healed us
some,
and we made one more prayer
for healing
for all.

Last week,
a 140-seat movie theater
in Oklahoma City sold out
a one-time showing of the documentary
This Changes Everything,”
based on the book by Naomi Klein.
It is climate change
that changes everything. The film’s images
made that painfully clear, as conversations
with friends who saw the film
testify. It became clear to us all
that we’re not doing enough
and that everything we do
and don’t do
matters
and that the more we
come together to do
together,
the better off all life on the planet
will be.

A few of us have been walking
each morning the last eight days
to “hold Earth”
during the UN Climate Summit in Paris.
Emerging for me
during the walking meditation
is a connecting
I haven’t experienced before.
Yes, I notice the frosty grass,
the blue sky,
the birdsong,
oranges, reds, golden in the tree leaves,
sun-glistened strands of spider webs
in the dewy grass,
the beautiful lantern shape of a fallen seed pod,
as well as the steady rush of 23rd street traffic
as Earthlings make their way
into their day.
Too, the focus on left footfall
onto solid Mother Earth:
healing energy flowing up through my heart,
down through my right footfall
and back into Mother Earth’s solidness
beneath me—
through my heart
as part of the entire Earth
community.
This also would seem
not enough
except
that I know there are “Earth Holders”
all over the world.
And activists
all over the world,
local communities in Germany
and India
and Canada
and Paris
coming together,
many footfalls
marching together,
to be “heard:”
for one thing,
“We want renewable
energy.”

This afternoon
a conversation with a young friend
who has many more miles to walk
on this planet
made real for me
that this effort
to respond to climate change
by lowering our fossil fuel use
is going to require much
of us all
working together—
even, or especially,
in Oklahoma (a fossil fuel
Ground Zero)
where the transitions
will be painful.
As we join together
to step up
and step out
of step
for Earth,
may we remember
each step
is grounded in,
part of,
Earth’s lively
life-giving
life.

Early last Monday, opening day
of the UN Climate Summit
in Paris,
we began our climate prayer—
on the frosty grass
outside Angie Smith Chapel
on the campus of Oklahoma City University.
We gathered at 7:30 each nippy morning
and walked reverently,
thoughtfully,
prayerfully
on Earth—one step
with an in breath;
one step
with an out breath;
breathing in and out
with Mother Earth,
mindful of the planet
and all life in her one
organic,
life-sustaining
system; mindful too
of the leaders and negotiators
from 196 nations
in Paris
trying to set limits
on carbon emissions
to curb global warming
and climate change.
As the meditation progressed
each morning
and throughout the week,
we each experienced
the connection
in various ways,
profoundly. And carried
Earth and the Summit
with us throughout the day.
Tomorrow and Sunday,
we will begin at 8 a.m.
and return Monday to 7:30 a.m.,
for about 45 minutes
through Friday, Dec. 11,
the final day of the Summit.
Or maybe
we will continue…
Holding Earth
and all life here
in this morning meditation
seems helpful.
All are welcome
to join us.

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