The Art of Hosting

This evening I am back at Axladitsa – having left Athens at 5.30am this morning with Maria to travel 5.5 hours back to Pelion for an important appointment.  Maria is now back to Athens to journey to Brussels tomorrow for work.  A busy day - hence the delayed account from last night’s events in Syntagma Square.

 

We were scheduled to host a World Café last night at 11pm.  We had sensed right timing the day before – both by members of the assembly core team in Syntagma and by ourselves – Maria, Anthi, Odysseas (not present to host this night – as he is hosting 250 children at summer camp for 6 weeks) and myself.  We were scheduled to follow a series of speeches, starting at 7.30pm, by a Panel consisting of well-respected Greek professionals offering different perspectives to a seated crowd – assembled in rows in the centre of Syntagma Square. 

 

In addition to the 3000+ assembly this night, thousands of others encircled the space – including those gathered in front of the parliament building, waving flags, beating drums and singing – continuing the enigmatic presence of the masses gathered two days earlier, 15th June; plus those others simply hanging out, being in parea (good company), being part of the scene, ongoing for 25 days now.

 

~~~~~

 

Earlier in the day, Anthi had met with one or two people from the core assembly team – as well as the artists group, who would be helping to harvest the World Café.  Collectively, the preparations were made.  In the meantime, Maria and I drove from Axladitsa - having just returned the night before - not knowing if we had been given the ‘green light’ to hold and host the space for conversations inviting and amplifying the intelligence of the collective.  The ‘yes’ had emerged – and so we were on the road again – informing various networks that the conversations in Syntagma were perhaps about to go to another level.

 

Before travelling to central Athens, I sent out a call for those around the world to participate – and join us in conversation around real / direct democracy.  This was our focus and this was our question: What is the Real Democracy we are dreaming of, what does it look like and what are the key~questions that we need to ask in order to move forward...

 

The network is activated.  Wishes of hope, love, holding, protection – the time is nowwe are holding you all came flooding in through email, text, posts on nings and list-serves.  It was incredible.

 

So – at 8.30pm – Maria, Anthi and I finally meet in Syntagma - and speak to one of the artists.  Vasilis is excited about our work – and the artists group are also ready to be of service this night.  With logistics in place, we name our time to reconnect, 30 minutes before the conversation commence.

 

Meanwhile, the Panel presentations are in full flow – with microphoned voices booming and applause of the gathered crowd resonating throughout the space.

 

We speak together – the three of us – about how we will host and hold the space; how to language the process that is new and fundamentally different in resonance.  How to speak as Citizens, Greeks, people who care.

 

Connected, we go in search of food and water – and then return to join the seated crowd, to hear the presentations – and sense the field from within the field.

 

Disturbance & Questions come…

 

Is it really right timing?  Can we bridge the presentation process with ours, so that the people remain engaged?  What language, tone, detail and presence is needed to call those present to offer what they know?  Have the people been listening too long – and is the process/paradigm transition too big?

 

At 10.20pm, we go in search of Georgios, the core team member who is our contact. Spiros, another core member invites us to gather just behind the speakers’ Panel - where Georgios is seated - to sense the field energy and clarify our steps and to ask the question again: is it right timing? 

 

It seems that the core members are not feeling confident that it is right timing to go ahead.  We sense this together and agree.  They feel that people are tired and low in energy and so might create more disruption to change the form to something people do not recognise.  They also inform us that they want to bring another process of questions to the panellists and opinions from the ‘floor’ to go ahead instead. Is this final intent not what we to be hosting…whilst also weaving these perspectives into newness together?

 

I ask why are they now doubting us stepping forward this night – and also pose the possibility that perhaps people were tired – of listening.  Other questions reverberate between us.  We also sense our own timing as hosts, as practitioners.  What is really of service here?  

 


We dance back and forth.

Anther suggestion is to advertise the conversation tonight and host it before the Panel tomorrow.  We cannot.

 

The clarity emerges that the timing is simply not right – the conditions are not in place - and that the process shift is too great at this stage in the evening. 

 

We say goodnight – with the possibility that it can happen another time.

 

The three of us step away – and find a place on the pavement behind the speakers’ Panel, that continues for another 45 minutes or so.  We circle up to reflect on what might be at play here.

 

We sense into the possibility that the operating system of the movement here in Syntagma is becoming established – formed  – finding its grooveconfident and wonder if the existing hosting system is simply not ready to host the next level of newness / fresh perspectives – growth – with processes different, and perhaps unknown, to their own.

 

We also wonder if the process form contains a stronger ‘patriarchic’ presence at this time in its evolution.  Certainly the groundwork to call in and then practice daily an overall self-organising pattern is deeply at work here – and an incredible act of leadership and self-responsibility.  Yet there is a danger that the process may limit what emerges.  We muse as to whether the assembly actually holds the known process form and quality held within the current political arena, albeit fundamentally different with it being hosted in this place, in this way, by these people – and engaging so many others.  A potential danger could be to stay with a more mono-logic process and limit direct dialogic democratic inspiration to emerge, the primary intent to the overall process unfolding in Syntagma.

 

 

So, we finally ask ourselves…where is the crack - and how can we open it more - to serve the conversation space – and invite people to participate at another level? 

 

Is it in the assembly team?  Do we need to spend more time with them – and even host a process for them to experience directly?

Is it in the people assembled and their readiness to engage in another level of conversation – new in form – yet serving the emergence of collective intelligence?

Is it with the artists?  Do we host a conversation with them for those people who are ready to gather?

 

When do we start?

 

Tomorrow?  Not possible –Maria and I are not in Athens

Next week?  Same issue

Beginning of July?  Possible – needs planning

Now?  Why not!!

 

The conversation is happening on the online space.  Maybe we need to offer this back into Syntagma – to show that others are interested in this dialogue, that new patterns of organising and being together are already in motion.

 

So – up we get.  The seated crowds has now disbanded since an ambulance had to drive in to assist someone – and it was clearly simply time to move!

 

We go to check in with those in the Artists area to thank them.  They are busy with other things.  So we pick up the small sign that had advertised the World Café – To Café Tou Kosmos and find ourselves a place to sit in the centre of the square.  Why not answer the question we were calling others to answer ourselves??  Maybe others might join us…

 

Our friend Vasilis the artist comes over!  He is inspired and ready to work with us and to look at the beginning of July…to call a conversation, to see who wants to show up, to harvest what we see together – and perhaps to continue hosting others in the future.  We exchange phone numbers and email addresses. 

 

The space is open…in a different way than expected or envisioned, but it is open all the same.  We can feel it!! 

 

And finally, the music team belt out songs from around the world – and about 250 of us dance in the Platia - where the 1000’s were seated earlier – sending the energy out into the city and beyond - with 1000's of others enjoying the parea, that is the magic of this culture.

 

There is beauty in the air and people are still dancing when we leave at 2am…and get a taxi home.

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Comment by Sarah Whiteley on June 19, 2011 at 3:40pm

Hi Simone - yes, echoing Helen, thanks for offering your perspectives - and speaking to the many levels at play here.  Much appreciated. 

Comment by Helen Titchen Beeth on June 19, 2011 at 2:53pm

Very beautifully put, Simon. I love that you have taken the trouble to voice all these subtle dissonances. Learning to sense and articulate these subtle fields that inhabit/inhibit us feels to me like moving in to the bleeding edge of conscious evolution. The many ways in which we humans, believing ourselves so free (think of all the biblical references to Free Will) are simply casings for memes, walking talking automatons playing out scripts that have been running for tens, hundreds, even thousands of years.

It is helpful to understand that we are all hosting these thought bacteria - probably we wouldn't be able to live without them; like intestinal flora. Now we are beginning to grope beyond them, like trying to see our own eyeballs. It's so complex and amazing that it's hard to do anything other than witness it all unfolding in awe.

Comment by Simon d'Orsogna on June 19, 2011 at 9:13am

Hi Sarah - thank you for your words here again. It is my perspective on how this might not have gone forward, simply mine. I did not sense you were making judgements or being other than open.  Or that you are holding tight to a 'must-have' endpoint. No, none of that. It was more aimed at the hearing of your offer, not the offer itself.

 

Rather, the effort in writing-responding was to frame how hard it is for any of us hear the offer - how the echoes of the rich past flood us all. A wooden horse from Troy is for us today also a kind of virus, one that goes everywhere, invisibly and near instantaneously - a meme too fits this description.Some memes are just what the collective organism needs to shift to the next level, a strengthening of the immune system, a new dimension of self-authoring that few of us have confidence or knowing of. All of this is disruptive, and it seems to me often those in positions of influence have a subtle knowing about the potential upset of the status quo all this may implie. From that perspective, they are right to refuse - but it is a backward looking, risk averse and short-sighted step. We cannot warm ourselves in the light of the sun that has set.

 

We are all of us in our constructed worlds self-limited in what we can understand, and it seems to me that those who hold the delegation-power-authority-entitlement (yes, most often the men) are often constrained, and surprisingly even less-able to think or act freely - caught in role - a system at play - inhabited by a system or system of systems - a larger-wider reality, again invisible but tangible too.

 

History invites us always, and echoes of an earlier step towards democracy shout back through the gatherings in the squares and streets of Athens in these present days.

 

It was this hard-to-see thing that my clumsy post wants to refer to. No sharp edges intended.

Thank you for explaining so patiently where and why you and others are there. You and others taking to the street fill me with a hope too.

Comment by Sarah Whiteley on June 19, 2011 at 7:23am

Hi Simon - In honesty I have found it somewhat disconcerting that the personal story I offer here – and the perspectives and insights drawn, from having lived an experience being ‘hard to read’.   This is my story – and I offer to our field here, in order to be of service.  Yet, your comment have also called me to reflect again on the events two nights ago – and see more levels of what was alive for me.  So, I thank you for that!

 

To be of service to the field here is the same motivation I/we stepped into what is unfolding in Syntamga and the inquiry around real / direct democracy.  This is my place and my right too, as a resident of Greece. Just as those who are already showing up - hosting, holding, offering, participating – I sensed my timing that the view of life I hold and the practices I live by could be helpful.  I sensed that it was time to step in with generosity and service.  I stepped in with Maria and Anthi, who held the same intent.

 

I absolutely do not sit in judgement of what is unfolding – or the events that transpired that night.  I live my life with the practice of ‘whatever happens is the only thing that could have…’ and I feel my account states this clearly.  I simply know ‘another way’, as I live by another way – and know its power and potential.  To name that I see it, does not mean others will.  There is every chance that those who ‘don’t see it’ – yet, or ever - will embrace it.  We as hosts were not naïve to think so either.  This time, those in the core group embraced it in concept but not in reality.  Yet our willingness to be there and be ready to host another form of dialogue was an open offer and not a ‘trojan horse’.  To reference in this way judges our intent as being deceptive or subversive – and is a deep disservice and misinterpretation to our intent.  We were open, available and ready to show up as citizens and as leaders – and to sense with those already in the field, again and again whether it was right timing or not.  This we did – and this we danced together, arriving at collective clarity.

 

What we experienced this night is a legitimate and well-practiced form of gathering – a much needed and much appreciated form.  What we were ready to offer was another form - simple as that. 

 

I believe we are in an era where we need to embrace the many truths, forms, perspectives, possibilities – and be willing to stay together even if we disagree.  I am seeking the places of overlap, newness and evolution.  I am seeking to bring the urban and rural perspectives together as valid places to learn, live, contribute, make meaning and offer from, in service to the whole.  I am seeking the gifts of the patriarchy and the matriarchy.  I am seeking to understand what is really needed in any given time –and to step forward or stand steady as needed. 

 

For me, this experience was a powerful experience of being immersed in real time direct democracy – the purpose of the movement and inquiry in motion in Syntagma.  I entered the field with no judgement.  I am ready to step in again, when I sense the time is right, with no attachment, other than wishing to be in generative life with others, in service of the whole.

 

 

Comment by Simon d'Orsogna on June 19, 2011 at 2:25am

It is hard to read this.

Familiar too.

 

It's hard to say yes to something i cannot imagine.

(there are words we all use - but no common words for that beyond our ken, in my blindspot)

Without experience of the process, how can anyone trust words you say that promise-offer so much?

(we have all been over-promised)

How comforting to hear the firm and strong voices - the vibration of the ‘patriarchic’ presence.

Familiar, yes. Athen's patrician class was ever so -
(mp3 http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2011/06/lnl_20110606_2240.mp3)

 

You come to make this offer to listen, to hold space, to invite dialogue (the flow of meaning), to welcome divergence-and -what-comes-after-that...

 

They 'rightly' are cautious, they can intuit the disruption in your gift, they have seen Trojan horses before, and have heard what the maenads could do to a Pentheus...

 

And a capitalism 3.0 might be attractive and desperately needed too - but who could be trusted but a deep-voiced leader, a known quantity?

(who are these farm women down from the hills? speaking of bringing the rites and good practices, to establish dance groups -thiasoi- and more)

 

So speak to the artists AND invite the numbers-men as well to small tastes of the wine you bring that they too might join in the dancing.

 

and i name an intent to care deeply for those who speak in the one-register, who have much to lose, whose over-invested language contains their anxiety, who will stare with wide eyes at what seeks to be spoken - thrilled and horrified together.

May we all learn to love silence, listening, welcoming the other...

Comment by Helen Titchen Beeth on June 18, 2011 at 4:17pm

Awesome, Sarah, Maria! This is what I was sensing yesterday evening. Folk are still in the mono-logic space. It's hard to say yes to a process one cannot imagine. Hosting the core team would be a sensible next step, if that works. And working at small scale - but visibly - with the artists who want to give it a try.

I see it time and again, also in the Commission: "We're doing this already", they say. And they really believe it. But of course, they aren't. And they cannot see it. It takes the time it takes. We're still thinking politics...

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