Chautauqua Revival

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig describes a 17-day journey of father and son across the U.S., on secondary roads where possible, as a sort of Chautauqua:

“Like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America…an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer.”

We now live in an uber-plugged in world. Citizens anywhere can access the outside world at will. And yet the idea of a Chautauqua, going on the road to visit these remote and isolated places, is appealing. I’ve been re-reading Wallace Stegner’s Wolf Willow, his story of growing up in the Cypress Hills in pioneer days. And I’m drawn to know more about these wild and difficult places, their all-encompassing sacredness and how people live in their midst. Alberta and Saskatchewan are going through tough times right now, and we’ve been through tough times before. Beyond the highlights in glossy tourist brochures, I want to understand this landscape and learn what it has to share about living in the West and about progress and resiliency.

This is my Chautauqua. … More Chautauqua Revival

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Sleeping with an Elephant

We are indoctrinated to believe that relationships are full of drama; in fact we have entire industries built up around soap operas and reality television, and our news and history books reinforce a continual story of good vs bad, stronger and weaker, the conqueror and the vanquished. These opposing forces feed competition and a fear of being left behind, whether you are the bullied or the bully, with someone just waiting to take your spot. A healthy relationship, what I’m calling graceful, is made up of shared power, mutuality and belonging, and inherent value or dignity.

Shared power is fed by free expression, by being whom and what you are, and not by being what you think you should be or a limited version of yourself. Belonging is fueled by connection, by understanding and forgiving ignorance and transcending differences.  Finally, dignity is the simple recognition that despite any differences, there is an unconditional value to human beings as individuals, and collectively, including as citizens of a country. This value is honoured when we allow people and nations to have their own power, when we don’t try to solve all their problems for them, when we mind our own business as well as we do others.

In super-simplified terms, Canadians could potentially benefit from a more explicit sense of self and Americans a more explicit sense of other. By working together we expand the capacity of our citizens to continue the still young legacy of leading in the world. … More Sleeping with an Elephant