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What qualifies as success as a weaver?

Our mission is pretty clear: to weave inclusive communities (currently virtual) and help end our national predicament of isolation and hyper-individualism. It’s a huge and excellent project, so it’s important to have a metric of progress that we can embrace. That had me stuck for quite a while because it was intimidating to think I had to reach out and change hearts and minds in observable ways. Impractical, I know, and unstated, but the impression was there, and it was keeping me on the sidelines.

But then I remembered the Butterfly Effect. Remember that one? A part of Chaos Theory, it’s the principle that says that tiny variations in one place can have enormous effects in another. Theoretically, a butterfly flapping its wings sets into motions air molecules, which in turn sets into motion other air molecules, and so one, until at some point that initial flapping of the butterfly’s wings results in massive changes to whole weather systems on the other side of the world.

If we’re going to create a culture of connection maybe it’s enough that we simply make the attempt to reach out and let what happens, happen. Flap our wings. If the data from Pew Research are accurate, this is a very opportune time to do exactly that.

First, we’re polarized. No news there. Pew’s studies show that just a month before this last election roughly 80 percent of both registered Democrats and registered Republicans said their differences with the opposing side were about β€œcore American values,” and 90 percent said they believed this country would sustain β€œlasting harm” if the other side won. However, again according to Pew, this is a yawning divide that no one really wants. Large majorities of both Donald Trump (86 per cent) and Joe Biden (89 per cent) supporters surveyed this fall said their candidate, if elected, should prioritize addressing the needs of all Americans, β€œeven if it means disappointing some of his supporters.” So we’re divided, and don’t want to be.

This fundamental discontent motivates me, and I hope it does you too, to risk making contact and not worry about β€œsuccess.” No matter how effective it appears to be at the time, the smallest attempt can yield significant results far beyond our horizons. Remember those butterflies.

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I love this conversation. It gets at the heart of what creates change - relationships - and at the challenge of trying to invite people to put aside fear and connect. Roger, I've spent much of my career working to create systems that connect people and inspire a shared understanding of the world. If we have a shared understanding, we can approach problems with curiosity and each other with respect, even if we disagree on what needs to happen to create a better world. I was a journalist for many years and founded many projects, from online news games to crowdsourcing networks, designed to involve people in news coverage. Yet I found that working on a systems level wasn't enough to create a culture of connection... relationship inevitably had to be created person to person. Your reference to the butterfly effect is brilliant - it is a great way to think about starting small and building. Penny, it is hard to objectify others when you see points of connection with them, like caring about family, or wanting a secure neighborhood, or loving cats or cooking. I, like you Penny, have always felt urgency around change, which is why I wanted to work at a systems level that could be scaled quickly. I'm working now on being patient. I recognize that connection involves trust and trust requires time and reinforcement. It may feel like we are just butterflies, but enough of us could create tsunamis of change across the globe. At least, that is my hope and why I'm attracted to weaving.
Michael Skoler
Roger, thanks so much for your spot-on post. I’ve been thinking about how we go about starting since the happy hour discussions we’ve been having. It is interesting that each of the three happy hours I’ve attended eventually came around to a deep desire to come together with those who think differently. Perhaps it was the timing of the happy hours so close to the election. It doesn’t matter because those conversations got me thinking more deeply and talking with others. The butterfly effect, perhaps?

My thinking is starting to take shape but is not fully there yet. First, I had to be honest with myself that each time I think of reaching out to conservatives to have a conversation my stomach tightens and I feel my chest constrict. When I explored that sensation, I realized the feeling was fear. So I followed that feeling. What am I afraid of? I came up with several imagined outcomes, such as getting frustrated and triggered and eventually ending with a wider wedge than before. The key word in that description is β€œimagined.” We all do this. In fact, my work often involves helping people identify this process for themselves.

This realization has led me to several thoughts. They aren’t quite connected yet, but coming together. The first is to re-remember that bravery is not the absence of fear; it’s moving forward despite one’s fear. The follow-on thought was that when I come from a place of love, fear disappears. I also contemplated the idea of β€œobjectifying” the other. I’d shared in the last happy hour I attended the idea that malevolence happens when we objectify another/others. In a recent conversation a friend commented about how hard it would be to get β€œthem” to even come into conversation. I replied that they are not all the same just like we aren’t. There are gradations. So let’s start with the easy ones, those with as deep a desire to come together in our humanity as we have.

I’m feeling torn between a sense of urgency and making sure we proceed in the best way for the best outcome. I know from my own work that staying fully present in conversation and holding the space for others is hard work and requires practice, especially when the topic is something we deeply care about.

Looking forward to the next happy hour tomorrow and seeing what comes about. I must say that β€œhappy hour” has taken on a whole new meaning for me!
Penny Potter
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