Insights on the nature of the times

I am here in the Morton Arboretum in Chicago where we are at the end of the first day of an Art of Hosting with our friends in the Illinois community of practice.  We have just been harvesting out of a World Cafe that was held on the question of  “What time it is in the world?”  We used a design I have been using with teams and communities that are needing to do deep sensing.  We went for three rounds on the same question and had the hosts at each table go and deeper into the conversations that were emerging.  At the end of the Cafe, the hosts gathered in a fishbowl in the middle of the rest of the group and shared their insights, sensing into the patterns that were emerging.  I listened with a poet’s ear tuned to the harvest and this is what I heard:


You have to be ready to die on the hill atop which you have heard the deepest call of the world


When you open the smallest space in your life, passion can erode obligation. You become more social, unable to be unaware.


You cannot see yourself in the window of a rushing train but only for a second.  You need to slow down so that the reflection can be studied, a life examined.


What would a world looki like that is flowing in responsibility, courage, reverence and wakanza?


Responsibility and courage are individual acts.  Reverance and wakanza are products of the collective context, they are responses that are woken up in us by the times.


Our children our the gift we make to the future, they are the long stake in the long view, the holders of wisdom, those carriers of what we have learned about how we have lived.

We are the ones we have been waiting for, and we have been waiting for lives and times beyond our own, living in lives and times beyond our own.  We see ourselves as the gift to ourselves when others make it clear in relationship.


Our conversations touch every single other conversation.  The world unfolds as one point presses upon another in a great chain of implication and connectivity.  The technology of interconnection is vulnerability – the capacity to be open to one another.  In that small open space, influence takes root.  Ideas enter in that seem to have always been there.


I move and leave pieces of myself behind, and I have no story of grieving?  No way to midwife the new in the hospice of the dying?  What is being born when things are dying, what enters in when there is a puase in the breath between generations, between conversations, between breaths and between heart beats?


In the moments of silence that open between sounds, there is a chance for the smallest voice to be heard.  The babble dies down and there is a pause and a small call has its chance to invite.  Judgement kills that voice – sometimes aborts it before it even ever enters the world.


All we have are ideas – take a stand, do what you can to help others to stand.  You can reach back to the head of every river to see why it is full of what it is full of.  Every tributary signs its joining with specific minerals, with salts and metals, with vegetation and fish.  You can find home by simply following the taste of it.


Host others, but host yourself first. Listen to others but first learn to listen to the wind, to listen to the birds and the way the ground moves beneath the feet of the deer.  Learn to listen to why people say the things they say.  To what soil or water fills their syllables with longing.


Presence.  When you host you can become the vehicle through which the world speaks its story.  And you hear what you are built for and you speak what you see in yourself.


We are not too busy for change, we are instead addicted to avoiding what is real and what needs doing.  People are the agents for their own freedom.  But that freedom cannot be won without something being let go.  We are in a culture that doesn’t end things very well, but instead loads layers and layers of more on top of the foundation.  With no rite of passage available, nothing gets completed and ushered out, there is no way to make space for the new.  Honour and reverence.


We are crying for passages through and for the rites to understand them and to be invited into them.


Can you be authentic in your work if you’re not authentic in your personal life?  How do you discover you are not aware of yourself without rites of passage and ceremonies that acknowledge what is coming and what is gone, what is to be picked up and what is to be put down.


How do we foster self-awareness when we perceive crises and emergency?  We tell the truth and we tell all the stories, even the ones that represent success and resilience and that buck the trend of the depressing scarcity that keeps us embedded in fear, we insert pauses where previously we would rush to solutions.


We are a greedy culture, but we can be greedy for community and that hurts no one because it only activates the abundance that sleeps in a cradle of scarcity.  We can’t afford to throw a few things on the grill and offer some to the neighbours?  Come to me in the late sun of the evening when the wind is still and the birds think before they sing, and cars pass by quietly in the languid air.  Come and share a meal, and tell me what is in your heart.


Like Meg says,

Notice what is going on.

Get started.

Learn as you go.

Stick together.



  1. WOW…this was an amazing moment to be in the room when Chris wrote this piece. I still have chill bumps. He is truly an amazing artist in every sense of the word. Thank you Chris, for being WHO you are ALL that and then SOME! YOU are appreciated. SSAA

  2. That’s quite a knack you have going there Chris … poetry is an art.

    And thanks to you from me for the idea to blend a Cafe with a Fishbowl.I read your post an hour before a video conferencing workshop and it worked beautifully.

    I had never facilitated with the full teleconference set up before and was quite nervous about how it would work. Here’s what I did:

    Sat the 8 people in Sydney and 16 in Melbourne in horseshoes facing the screen which gave the effect of the whole group sitting in a circle – the quality of the audio visual was much better than I expected.

    Our group was a learning community and our cafe question was, “What are you really excited about at the moment? What are the models, mindsets and practices that you are exploring and playing with right now?”

    After our 3 rounds the 6 hosts (2 in Sydney & 4 in Melbourne) created a small, virtual circle and reflected on what they heard. During their conversation, 4 people harvested the hosts’s insights onto a Wave Analysis model drawn on the wall.

    The whole thing worked a treat and everyone was staggered that the workshop was so intimate and flowed so well. The technology seemed to melt into the process.

    Thanks again for sharing Chris! Geoff

  3. Nice. What’s “wakanza” mean?