On Saturday I was chosen to cap a conference, Soul In Buffalo; A three-day free conference aimed to celebrate and explore Charles Olson’s legacy and extension through A Curriculum of the Soul.
This honored closing position expressed a counter-intuitive programming choice, because I am not an Olsonian. Yet, obviously, since I wasn’t going to weigh in at the end with poetry, poetics, research, or scholarly fireworks, I was, nevertheless, given the opportunity to bring some other set of capabilities to bear on the proceedings.
What I could do and what I did sort of manage to do is bring the conference to a close on wings of experience and play and collaborative grappling with a very simple creative problem. Taking this creative problem first, I asked the group to participate in a squareONE tool, Hunting and Gathering, and use it to bring several explicit things into greater focus, and, as well, bring whatever the process might evoke into their collaborative field of experiential play and creativity.
I will tender the explicit things momentarily. What might of happened references what is my usual way of facilitating Hunting and Gathering. This usually happens within a slice of time able to support my gentle guidance of an experiential process to its important goals. Those goals exist on a continuum stretched on one end between learning with enough gravity to support testing or further experimentation, and, on the other end, learning which is galvanizing to the point of an a-ha.
Yet, this time out the time slice ended up being compressed to about an hour. As Idries Shah once put it, “time takes time.” So, with this lessened time I quickly had to make a few strategic decisions. This has happened on a few occasions in the past, but I have never intentionally turned a finely tuned process into a grand experiment–as I ended up doing on Saturday.
I framed, (or ‘primed,’) the group’s experience by introducing several factors, in the form of musings. I told the group I wasn’t an Olsonian, but had come to this conference by virtue of remarkable serendipities having to do with encounters with friends-who-were Olsonians. Then I very briefly pointed out that soul might have something to do with creating together via relationships, and using as its raw stuff the discoveries found in exploration. I hoped the experience I was offering would drive some into the experience of soul in real-time. And, my personalization brought up what seem to me an essential feature of soulful working together: its human contingencies are fragile, and yet, are loving too.
(I recognize here my prejudice too: deep soul is very human, rather than very esoteric!)
The sharpest suggestion I made was this: whatever learning comes to happen may be referenced in his or her reflection on a personal intention I had them generate. However, in my strategic alteration of the process I understood going in to it, I would never learn anything about their learning.
What unfolded was pretty damn amazing, even by my experienced standards. I do not debrief my work for all the world to read and see, but it is enough to tell of a quickening vibration that rose like heat waves off a desert.
I had split the group into two sections and both worked on their collaborative graphic. The differentiation of approach, as I felt it and as I mused over the ‘consequence of approach,’ was very telling about challenges not much spoken of in the two days of stunning contributions I witnessed. The general challenge is about how various bodies of work come to persist, be sustained, grow, and, in the soulful turn, come to have positive effects on the growth of consciousness as this is individually rendered in the alchemical cooker of devoted, unsparing, deeply humanized, relationship.
straight no chaser
spot your choices
still have to live