29 August 2010

Reflections on the Thomas Edison “Trip of Inspiration”

Posted by Admin under: Creation; Events; Evolution; Forum; Future; Inspiration; Leadership; Organization; People; Religion; Science; Story; Sustainability .

My thanks to everyone who attended the Edison Museum Tour and the lunch at Bob and Thelma Levy‘s (and especially to the Levys for hosting this). In my view, something remarkable happened in our conversation after the tour, in that people spoke of their own passions and visions, and began to share ideas and possibilities for a more sustainable future.

This is, of course, the purpose of the Sustainable Leadership Forum. It is to bring people together to share ideas, insights, questions, and intuitions in order to create a possible future for intelligent life on this planet.

By “intelligent life” I mean, however, something different than — something more than — what we usually mean, which is really human beings or “sentient life”: I mean beings who are not only conscious but are “conscious of themselves as an integral part of the web of life,” and present to the universe’s consciousness of itself.

This is something of a tall order, but it is possible. It might be, in some sense, a new awakening, like the Renaissance or the Reformation. Arguably, if humanity as a species is to survive, we will need this kind of revolution in thinking — a revolution that embraces all cultures, all present scientific knowledge, all modern economics, and all of our institutions — and that recognizes who and where we are in the universe as a whole.

There is an emerging story about this (and we spoke about stories and their power to inspire us at the lunch) — sometimes called “the new cosmology” (one of whose principal practitioners, Miriam MacGillis, is nearby at Genesis Farm), or “evolutionary consciousness,” or “new thought,” or “transformation.” Buckminster Fuller told us about it in terms of “Spaceship Earth.” In the Pachamama Symposium, it’s a story of “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream.” This is indeed a very powerful idea, not merely a metaphor but a call to awareness and to action.

Someone suggested an SLF session on the topic of stories, which is very much in keeping with our intention to move from “presentations” to a “challenge and strategy session” format for our monthly meetings this fall. The aim of these sessions is to engage some of our best minds in working on the large problems — the “big picture,” as someone put it — that we face in our era, and discuss what we, as individuals and as a team, can do about them. This is not simply an academic or abstract discussion. We have some very practical, very urgent, and very immediate projects, both here and in Haiti, that need our attention; but it’s equally important to keep expanding the frontiers of thought in order to arrive at more powerful and more integrative solutions to our planetary problems.

It is also in keeping with our ideas for the one-day Transformational Leadership for Sustainability course, which we intend to re-create later this year. Even without a scheduled date, we currently have a number of registrations for this, and we would welcome your participation in it. (Just email me if you are interested in co-creating and/or participating in the course.)

A number of other ideas and pieces of information were shared at the lunch. Rich Goldberg, one of the organizers of the Garden State Green Fest (October 1-3, Garden State Exhibit Center, Somerset, NJ) spoke not only of the event but also his take-away from the Landmark Forum: that life is short, so you should follow your passion. Simple to say, but as Edison showed us, not always easy to do. It may require us to embrace failure, persistence, vision, hard thinking, and inspiring others. Joanne Gere is President of the Central Jersey chapter of Women in Science, which has an event coming up at Rutgers on September 23 on writing successful NSF grants. Someone mentioned the new Garden State Urban Farms (formerly Brick City Urban Farms) hydroponic greenhouse in Orange, and suggested that more “field trips” — and perhaps more shared meals, though from here on out we hope they’ll be potlucks — would be welcome events also. Someone also mentioned Louise Guido and the Foundation for Social Change in NYC, which we’re also happy to give a plug to. In reality, we’re one of the more than 2 million grassroots nonprofit organizations worldwide that Paul Hawken refers to in Blessed Unrest as “the largest movement in the world.”

Edison Lab — photo by Wanda Knapik

Thinking about this, it occurs to us that humanity’s greatest chance for success and survival is if more and more people are fully self-actualized. We face a situation on the planet today that is entirely of our own making. Like an animal population that has exceeded its habitat, we are headed toward ecological collapse, and seemingly bent on taking many other species with us (we are right now in the midst of one of the largest mass extinction events the world has ever known). What we’ve been doing, our current “business as usual,” is what has gotten us here; but it cannot continue. We need to replace it, and we need to replace it with something that’s not just another ideology (bigger government or smaller government, capitalism vs. environmentalism, etc.) or just another incrementalist policy (cap and trade, infrastructure reconstruction), but is indeed transformational. We need to reform the foundation of our economy, our relationship to the environment, and our relationship to each other. Anything’s possible, and we can make a difference.

This is what the SLF is all about. Thank you for your participation, and I hope you’ll continue to join us for these world-changing conversations. On September 18 from 10-1 we’re invited to Chris Kellog’s and Helen Kaar’s new solar house for a tour and potluck (RSVP to [email protected] and we’ll send directions; limited to first 30 people; we also need folding chairs).

P.S. If you’re not already a member, you can download our sign-up form and either fax it back to us, hand it to us at a meeting, or mail it to us with a check. We’re working on a way to join online, but until it’s in place this is the most secure way to contribute to the organization. Please bear in mind that we are a new nonprofit “collaboratory,” not yet a 501c3 (but applying for it), and that these funds go to creating a fund for projects and for building the organization. We have a unique membership structure, where you can choose whether to commit financially, or through volunteer hours, or through some combination of both. You can help us make this a shared vehicle for education and for action. Thank you.

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Past Events

Correction: We'll be hosting this year's holiday potluck — "Bringing Solar Power Home for the Holidays" — on Saturday, December 15, from 4 to 9 p.m. Click here for more details. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Sustainable Neighborhood & Community Conversations (III).
Saturday, October 13, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Transforming Neighborhoods and Communities II.
Saturday, September 8, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Transforming Neighborhoods & Communities.
Saturday, June 16, 2012: SLF Potluck June 16: Sustainable Living Communities.
The Sustainable Haiti Conference took place April 23-25, 2012 in Miami.
"Inside Job" Movie Party. Saturday, February 11th, 6:00 PM, Liberty Ridge, The Hills, Bernards Twp, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920.
2nd 'Buy Haitian, Restore Haiti Conference', January 26, 2012, Karibe Convention Center, Petion Ville, Haiti
Dec 11 SLF Potluck: "Bringing Sustainability Home for the Holidays" Basking Ridge, NJ. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, July 9, 2011, 4 p.m. Open House Party & Potluck, Saturday, July 9, 4 p.m., Basking Ridge, NJ.
RSVP to [email protected]
Saturday, May 21, 1-4 p.m. EcoCenter Update. At the Morristown EcoCenter, 55 Bank Street, Morristown, NJ 07960.
Saturday, April 16, 1-4 p.m. "Haiti & Us: The Leading Edge of Sustainable Development." At the Morristown EcoCenter, 55 Bank Street, Morristown, NJ 07960. A copy of the update presentation has been posted here.
Saturday, March 19, 1-4 p.m. "Creating the Morristown EcoCenter." Held at 55 Bank Street, Morristown, the site of the proposed EcoCenter.
Saturday, February 19, 1-4 p.m. Monthly meeting, ""A Profound Transformation in Consciousness," Morris County Library, Whippany, NJ. Click here for details.
Saturday, January 15, 1-4 p.m. Putting Idealism into Practice: Tour of Half Moon House. Click here for details.
Saturday, December 18, 1-4 p.m. Challenge & Strategy Session: "Reinventing Wealth," followed by our annual "Potluck for the Planet" from 4 to 8. Click here for details.
Saturday, November 20, 1-4 p.m. Challenge & Strategy Session: "How Do We Measure Sustainable Value?". Click here for details.
Saturday, October 16, 1-4 p.m. Challenge and Strategy Session: "Toward a Sustainable Growth Strategy for New Jersey".
Download the slide presentation here, and the discussion paper here.

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Leadership Quotes

"Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged."
(Thomas A. Edison—thanks to Regan Caton)

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” (G.B. Shaw)

"There is the true joy of life: to be used by a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; to be thoroughly worn out before being thrown on the scrap heap; to be a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that life will not devote itself to making you happy." (G.B. Shaw)

"Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed." (Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya - thanks to Christine Comaford, Rules for Renegades)