G21 Contributions Page 2


Robert Kowalczyk traveled to London, Moscow and Oxford between March 18th and April 5th.
Following is his report:

A day after arriving in London, FERNANDO MONTES, a Bolivian artist and supporter of Group 21, and I traveled to Totnes in Devon to meet SATISH KUMAR at Schumacher College. Upon arrival we found Satish in the school's kitchen busily involved in preparing what proved to be an outstanding Indian dinner for the "Soil, Soul and Society" group which was the current three week session. FRANK CHASE was a member of this group and seemed to be highly pleased and invigorated by the experience. During dinner we talked about the coming Moscow Symposium with Satish. He agreed to come, but said that he preferred to travel by train to "feel the land" on his way into Russia. He hopes to bring along his wife, JUNE MITCHELL. Satish suggested that we invite ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN and YURI YEVTUSHENKO to speak at the meetings. We also talked about a possible theme for the symposium and, after a number of revision, came up with "Beyond the Divide," meaning beyond all the divisions that separate humanity: old and young, rich and poor, north and south, men and women, socialists and capitalists, etc. Satish was about to leave on a lecture tour of the U.S., but, as always, was in high spirits and sends along his best to everyone.

* PAUL LESLIE introduced me to PHILLIDA PURVIS, director of "Links Japan," over tea in central London. Paul, like Satish, is also very busy with his work, but we were able to have a quiet hour or so together discussing last year's symposium and future plans. Phillida said she would be happy to have her non-profit organization involved in any future joint program with Japan. This might include bringing Japanese students or teachers to England for a symposium at some future date. Paul hopes to visit Japan again sometime in the near future and, like Satish, sends along a wide "Yoroshiku!"

* Moscow still had snow on the ground, but I was welcomed by the familiar warm hearts. ELENA VERSHININA, an old friend who is an Associate Professor at Moscow State University, met me at Sheremetyevo Airport and escorted me to the Hotel Warsawa where I was to spend a comfortable ten nights at $30 per sleep. Elena, who is also a close friend of JOHN EINARSEN, has been invaluable on other projects that have been held in Moscow and will be our liaison on this project, also. The next day, Elena introduced me to OLGA V. ALEXANDROVA, the dean of the department of philology, and other professors in the department. All seemed favorable, and some quite excited by the idea of holding a symposium at Moscow State in early March, 2001. Later in the stay I gave talks to groups of students at the college and they showed an equal amount of interest and enthusiasm.

* ALEXIS DIDUROV is another old friend of John and I. He is a poet, singer-songwriter who has run an "underground" cabaret in Moscow for the past twenty years. Recently, his autobiography and a collection of poems, songs, stories and memories of his cabaret were both best sellers in Russia. Alexis is a very intelligent and caring mentor of young Russian creativity, who has a particularly insightful understanding of the Russian soul. Mr. Didurov has agreed to be one of our speakers at the Moscow symposium and would also like to bring current members of his cabaret to perform for the Delegates and participants.

* Alexis introduced me to MIKAIL PIYANUCH of "Video Portal Russia." One can view his incredible webpage, albeit in the Russian language only, at . It includes streaming video of the Didurov cabaret and also of the Bolshoi Ballet. Much to my surprise and happiness, Mr. Piyanuch suggested that we broadcast the symposium live via his internet site. This would make the symposium available to all universities in Russia and, indeed, throughout the world. Discussion on this possibility will be held during the summer. Also, Mr. Piyanuch has contact with ELENA BONNER and suggested that we invite her to the symposium.

* An interview with the Moscow State University News was held on March 25th. It appeared in the newspaper, circulation 10,000, two days later. An English translation appears at the bottom of this report.

* On March 26th, Dean Alexandrova, Professor Vershinina and myself met with ALEXANDER V. SIDOROVICH, Vice-rector of MSU in his office. Dr. Sidorovich was highly interested in our proposal and suggested that we invite Mr. Primakov, former prime minister of Russia, as one of our speakers. I told him that we would like to invite one or more of the following: Mr. Solzhenitsyn, Mr. Yevtushenko, Mrs. Bonner and MR. MIKAIL GORBACHEV. Dr. Sidorovich suggested that, if the final approval is given by the Rector's Office, the university make the attempts to contact both Mr. Sozhenitsyn and Mr. Yevtushenko and that Group 21 try to invite Mrs. Bonner and Mr. Gorbachev. He promised to "make every attempt" at guiding the proposal through to acceptance. Subsequently, I was told that it would take at least a month for the proposal to be accepted, perhaps longer. Therefore, we are continuing in these early planning stages with the hope that an affirmative will come our way before the summer.

* Back in London, I had dinner with MS. LIZ HOSKIN, director of the Gaia Foundation, and with one of its trustees, MR. EDWARD POSEY at the Montes home in Wimbledon. Ms. Hoskin is a young, intellectual and highly involved woman who is quite personable and well informed. Through the Gaia Foundation, she has numerous contacts with concerned individuals throughout the world. She and Edward are very good friends of Satish Kumar. After an evening of discussing the Moscow project, I invited Ms. Hoskins to join us in Russia as one of our speakers. She hoped that it would be possible, adding that she will travel to Moscow via train with Edward, Satish and June. Having said this, Fernando and his wife, MARCELA MONTES, said that they would like to join the train in order to attend the symposium. So, perhaps Satish, once again, has started the train moving. I wonder how many others might be on that train?

* At the same dinner party, I also met MR. STEPHEN LAW, director of the "Environmental Monitoring Group of South Africa," who was in London for a conference. He said that he would be happy to help spread the word about our activities to others in his country.

* In Oxford, I met GRAHAM SIMPSON, director of the Oxford English Centre, a graduate of Pembroke College at Oxford and an old friend. We talked about the possibility of holding a fourth symposium (after Moscow and the planned October 2001 event in Kyushu, "Asian Identity / Asian Values") at Oxford in March of 2002. Graham suggested the Oxford Union as the organization to contact concerning this possibility. He said he could help in making this contact. We mulled over a potential theme: "Preserving Indigenous Cultures in a Global Society." More later.

** With this report, I believe we have wonderful opportunities in front of us, but also there needs to be a lot of careful planning and tons of tedious details to cover. Aside from the Moscow, Kyushu and Oxford possibilities, there is also the potential for a California symposium which we will be discussing shortly. We would be most happy to hear from others concerning these ideas and would highly appreciate whatever support, advice or suggestions you might have. Group 21 will keep you posted of further development via this newsletter. Wishing everyone the very best from Kyoto.

A Schumacher Experience

Frank Chase

I'm convinced there are no wholly personal journeys, essentially only sequences of relationships that provide enrichment to better select which fork in the road leads to wholeness and a life well spent. The events leading to my journey to Schumacher College is a case in point.

A few years ago a group of us expatriates and Japanese friends came together to discuss our concerns about the primacy of the profit motive that is threatening human spiritual and physical health. Our question: What is it about the human condition, especially taken collectively that results in the ravages of globalism? The answer remained elusive, but with Kyoto hosting the COP3 Climate Change conference, we realized that our shared energies could find expression in a media event that supported the NGO-Small Island Nations' position of a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Realizing that our questions were also shared by young people, we later organized a Youth At The Millennium conference in which young people from over fifteen countries discussed their anxieties, hopes and personal aspirations with a group of "elders," seven panelists from five countries. What was most striking to me about the conference was the degree to which the delegates bonded with one another and the panelists. Education is truly a matter of connection leading to visceral identification and understanding. Satish Kumar, one of the panelists and editor of "Resurgence" magazine in the UK, told me the conference approach to education was consistant with the holistic pedagogy used at Schumacher College. When I expressed my interest in taking one of the seminars there, he said, "Sure, come on. It's all about connection."

The course that drew my attention, "Soul, Soil and Society," brought together the elements of what we are personally, collectively and even, for those like myself, similarly intrigued with. That is ultimate meanings of "connection" and what we are cosmically. A group of people in Kyoto pondering what we're all about and my sensing the personal meanings of connecting soul, soil and society had created the opportunity. The timing was right (spring break); the next stop was a 14th century estate-turned college in Devon, U.K.

I soon learned the value of a holistic approach to academacia. Education at Schumacher includes working in small groups as cooks, dish washers, and housekeepers in which participants become part of an overall intentional support system that focuses on sharing experiences, insights and information in addition to assimilating readings. The participants come from a wide range of backgrounds and ages and are encouraged to share their deepest feelings and groundings, all of which are honored by the others.

Lectures, small group discussions, field trips, quiet time to stroll along the Dart River, celebrations, an excellent library of books and video tapes, and informal chats at morning and afternoon tea all create a flow that is caring, inclusive and stimulating. The instructors bring rich backgrounds of experience that are offered and shared. What was most stimulating about this inclusive approach to eduction was the extent to which one discovers how much the participant's own backgounds embellish course content. There was a murmuring going on in my thoughts about connection, unity, oneness.

"Soil" contains the basic elements of which we are composed and to which we belong. The ideas espoused by Arne Naess in his Deep Ecology which emphasizes the inclusiveness of Nature as opposed to the anthropocentric idea of human stewardship of nature were given relevance by experiences related in readings, those of instructors as well as of the participants, themselves.

I was impressed by an anecdote written by Aldo Leopold in which he watched the "green fire" disappear from the eyes of a mother wolf with pups he had just shot as a federal employee eliminating the wolf population so that hunters would have more deer for game. He wrote that he felt at that time "the mountain had died." He became a leading voice in the U.S. for preserving wild nature and its fined-turned ecological systems. His life-altering experience revealed a vision similar to Naess's that we manipulate nature for our profit or entertainment only with the danger that the "mountains will die." Then, too, there was my buddy, Jim, struggling to keep the landfill contractors from Los Angeles from bringing their waste to the Mojave Desert which would pollute underground water systems and damage a world heritage quality stand of Joshua (a specie of yucca) trees. And John, too, chaining himself to cement blocks to stop loggers from clear cutting pristine rain forest in New South Wales, Australia.

We found the connection established when we shared our experiences of anger and/or sadness at the on-going destruction to be far more meaningful than statistics. We are aware of our connection to life and balance in Nature, yet, at the same time, realize the destructive, destabilizing activities in which we, consciously or unconsciously participate. We, therefore explored further a sense of connection that could unite us as a responsible society.

"Society" reflects our deepest insecurities as well as our collective power structures to overcome them. It also reflects our deepest desires for social recognition that creates psychologically destabilizing identities with the ethics, however distorted, of these power structures. We've aways recognized a certain madness in our collectivity. We write poetry, clear-cut, start campaigns, clean up by shipping toxic wastes to impoverished nations, secure our children's eduction by making wise investments the capital of which is used to destroy environments and marginalize villagers, we give speeches and look the other way (especially if when consumed by problems with our 9- iron).

And we wonder why the malaise? The emptiness?

Miyazawa Hayao, in his animation, "Princess Mononoke," dealt with this question (and convinced this sceptic of the relevence of animation as a powerful adult art form). The chaotic mix or motives of warring life forms on the planet is shown to be rooted in anger/ego insecurities that turn humans into beasts and cause them to kill gods. The brew of emotions and purposes that become destructive can only be reversed in his animation by humans transcending anger/ resentment/revenge and returning the severed head of the Spirit of Nature.

Miyazawa touches upon some primal responses that only a higher consciousness identifing with our life 'connection' can overcome. "Anger" was also a topic at Schumacher and learning how to process it was discussed. Certainly denying or letting anger become a source of guilt would be unhealthy. But, if the meaning of Soul is the spiritual vision that sees beyond distinctions to the ultimate connectedness/ silence/undifferentiated flow of arising existence, then perhaps we would be well advised to listen to Miyazawa's message of sustainable, harmonous lifestyle based on understanding and honoring our inclusiveness. Could it be that the connectedness that reveals Soul is a product of art (all of us being artists) and identification with our 'oneness?'

"Soul" takes on cosmic dimensions beyond soil and society. If we believe that nature is a lifeless mechanism, then we believe we can understand and manipulate it for our purposes (a separation from nature Leopold had assumed). Our technologies then reflect our beliefs. We look upon animals and people as complex machines to be altered, spliced and rewired to eliminate the dysfunctional and accentuate information processing. Could it be that in the process we lose our souls? Soul?

A critical question to answer before we restructure our consciousness through genetic modification, laser surgery, and other ways devised by our ingenuity. What if, as Ervin Laszlo says in his book, The Whispering Pond, "the entire cosmos throbs with the creative energy of self-organization," that is constantly evolving. What if its basis is Mind? Cosmologists and biologists speak openly of the universe as consciousness, itself. We share consciousness in an evolving flow, hardly at the highest level of its evolutionary potential, but with enough reflection that we can sense the ultimate connection, i.e., "Soul!"

Our problems on the personal level, societal level and even the cosmic are all grounded in separation. Only a vision of an interconnected world of life forms in subtle yet profound ways that sees our reflections in one another, a world that speaks when we listen to it, a vision assimilated by intelligence and embraced by the heart will end the exploitation by angry, alienated beings.

Modern science is offering scientifically consistent theories that are backed by both observation and mathematical logic that there is an ultimate unification going beyond the physical to include life and mind. To "know" the connectedness of all things as a Flow (William James' image that we are islands only separate on the surface but connected fundamentally on a deeper level) is to find Soul in one another and all of life. If we are One, who are we angry with? Sermonizing? Maybe.

Go and spend a few weeks encountering ideas and the experiences of others at Schumacher and I think you'd find it a sorting-out experience that encourages such things. For me, it was some time to clarify some basic questions which first led me to our Kyoto group and the questing we try to facilitate.

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